Oklahoma Baptist University will award an honorary Doctor of Humanities to Dr. Jay P. Chance, ’56, and an honorary Doctor of Business to Mary Ellen Wall during OBU’s Spring Commencement May 19 at 3 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium.
The presentation will be made by OBU President Dr. David W. Whitlock. John Wesley Raley III, nationally renowned Texas attorney, senior partner at Raley and Bowick, and grandson of former OBU President and Chancellor Dr. John Wesley Raley, will deliver the commencement address.
Chance graduated from OBU in 1956. He was an outstanding student and a nationally recognized track athlete. He was named “Outstanding Athlete” in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference’s track meet three years in a row. In 1952, he finished second in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles in the NAIA national outdoor meet and third in the 440-yard-high hurdles at the Drake Relays. In 1954, he won the 400-meter hurdles at the Kansas Relays and finished fourth at the Drake Relays in that event. He was OBU’s track team captain in 1955-56.
He earned a master’s degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Mississippi State University. He worked for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Brotherhood Commission’s Royal Ambassador program before joining the staff of Mississippi State University, where he worked in community development. He served as vice president for development at California Baptist University, vice president for institutional advancement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and as president and chief operating officer of The Trust, a support foundation for the Baptist Health Systems of Mississippi. After retiring from The Trust, he taught at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. He currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the Baptist Spanish Publishing House Foundation. The Jay P. Chance Track Building on the OBU campus is an example of his generosity and of his great love for both his alma mater and the OBU track program.
Mary Ellen Wall and her late-husband, James Newton Wall, used their vocation to pursue their heart’s desire of pointing others to Christ. Many are familiar with their vocation because of one simple word, “Walls.” In 1950, Mr. Wall co-founded the Newton Wall Company with his father and brothers. When he joined the company, there was a store in Shawnee and another in Seminole. Newton Wall Company began as a “salvage and sale” business plan that was considered a crazy new retail concept, a gimmick that would never last. Now, three generations later, they own and operate 15 Walls retail stores, three Wall 2 Wall Flooring Stores, a bound rug manufacturing facility, and 250,000 square feet of warehousing and processing centers.
In 1983, Newt and Ellen founded Rivergate’s Men’s Retreat. The purpose of the retreat was to gather men around the person of Jesus Christ. Men were invited to attend the four-day sessions by personal referral at no cost. One of their greatest joys was to see the changed lives that came from Rivergate retreats. Ellen walked side by side with Newt preparing for each retreat. While their hearts were being touched by the Holy Spirit, she was praying for them and preparing their meals. This ministry continues today.
James Newton Wall passed away in 2006. Ellen continues to enjoy life to the fullest by working in the home office, traveling nationally and internationally, spending time with her children and their families, serving faithfully as a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, serving on the board of Vision Bank and serving on the Advisory Council for the OBU Women of Vision board.
The OBU Women of Vision board is just one way Ellen has invested in Oklahoma Baptist University over the years. She, along with her husband and their company, have given sacrificially to support the College of Business, College of Nursing, Friends of the Arts, numerous scholarships, Stavros Hall nursing building, multiple campaigns and the annual fund.