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Retton Delivers Inspiring Message at OBU Scholarship Gala

March 9, 2018

Mary Lou Retton, Olympic gold medalist, delivered the keynote message at Oklahoma Baptist University’s sixth annual Green and Gold Gala. OBU hosted the event Thursday, March 8, in Oklahoma City at the Chevy Bricktown Events Center. The Green and Gold Gala raises funds each year for student scholarships, helping to make an already affordable OBU degree even more affordable for students.

Attendees range from OBU staff, students and alumni to various members of the community. While some attendees begin with a deep understanding of the University, others are introduced for the first time to the life-changing Christian education an OBU degree provides. Before the event concludes, all are inspired by the powerful stories of students and alumni and the impact they are making on campus and around the world.

The event was emceed by Coy Cypert, director of academic technology and creative communications. OBU student Ashley Maxwell, a junior business management and social entrepreneurship double major from Newcastle, Oklahoma, led the invocation.

OBU President Dr. David W. Whitlock, along with Dr. Will Smallwood, senior vice president for advancement and university relations, presented the presidential leadership award. The award is presented annually in recognition of exemplary leadership and support for Christian higher education. This year’s award recipients were Stan and Renee Lingo, owners and founders of Lingo Construction. Their firm has partnered with OBU on numerous capital projects over the last several years.

Whitlock then addressed the crowd, highlighting the impact OBU makes on so many students.

“These are good days on Bison Hill,” he said. “God is blessing our University with new students, new faculty and new opportunities. For the fourth time in the last five years, we welcomed a freshman class of more than 550 students and we are expecting another large class of incoming freshmen in August. These new students will join thousands of others who have journeyed to Bison Hill to receive a Christ-centered education that emphasizes academic quality and spiritual growth, provides a strong sense of community, and prepares students to live lives of purpose and consequence.”

He then addressed the donors in the room specifically, thanking them for the difference they make in students’ lives and the impact they make around the world.

“When you assist an OBU student, you touch the lives of everyone they encounter, whether they are teaching high school physics, providing life-saving care as a doctor or a nurse, starting an innovative business on the other side of the world, sharing the Gospel in the local church or serving as a missionary in some remote corner of the world. Your generosity empowers OBU students to be transformed, not just on Bison Hill, but for them then to go out and transform others around the world.”

Following dinner, Jill Spencer, president of First United Bank in Tecumseh, offered brief comments before introducing the keynote speaker.

“At First United, we operate under the mission to ‘spend life wisely,’” she said. “We incorporate that into all of our company’s marketing, customer relations and daily operations. We hold to the philosophy that we should all be good stewards of what has been given to us, investing in the most important things in life. We believe that the work of this University is one of those things.

“First United believes in the power of the life-changing education that OBU offers to its students. We pray that as the evening progresses, many of you will likewise be inspired, as we have been, to support the work of this great institution. OBU truly is making a difference in our world by educating students with rigorous academic standards, by building their character through numerous service opportunities and worldview development, and by deepening their faith through countless spiritual growth experiences. These young people then take their knowledge and go out into the workplace as world-changers, impacting those they encounter through the quality of their work, the sincerity of their compassion and the authenticity of their convictions.”

Retton took the stage following a video of her gold medal victory in the 1984 Olympic women’s gymnastics all-around competition, becoming the first American woman ever to win a gold medal in gymnastics. She also won silver medals for Team and Vault, and bronze medals for Uneven Bars and Floor Exercise. Her five medals were the most won by any athlete at the 1984 Olympics.

“I want to share something tonight and how it relates to each and every one of you out there, whether you’re a student, whether you’re a business man, whether you don’t know what you want to do with your life. If you have a dream, my story relates to you.”

Retton then delivered an inspiring message, as she detailed her unlikely path to Olympic gold, from her roots in West Virginia to a seemingly chance meeting with a legendary gymnastics coach. She detailed how God opened doors for her, and how she fought tirelessly to take advantage of those opportunities.

“To make it to that medal stand, I had to take risks,” she said. “I had to seek out challenges. I had to recognize my own strengths, which were speed and power, and make them work for me. I had to learn to be resilient. But most importantly, for me, I had to learn how to seize the moment. Any champion needs those qualities, they aren’t limited to just athletic champions. We all need them, including anybody in this room tonight who has a dream or a goal and who wants to make that real.”

Retton challenged the audience to believe in themselves and to never be held back by the opinions of others.

“Don’t let other people put limits on you. If you believe that you can achieve something, and if you’ve got your faith, then I promise you that you can do anything if your heart is in it and if you’re passionate enough about it. Don’t let other people put limits on you.”

She also challenged the crowd to be risk-takers and to dream big.

“You can always avoid taking those risks and meeting challenges, because those are the things that are really dangerous to your comfort zones. But taking those risks and meeting those challenges head-on is sometimes the only way to make your dreams come true.”

She closed with a message of gratitude and a call for support of OBU.

“I thank you all for coming tonight, for supporting this great University, for giving money for scholarships, maybe for kids who have never even been introduced to God, or Jesus, or our faith. So, thank you so much. Go get your dreams.”

The event concluded with a special video featuring OBU football player Cagney Roberson. A junior natural sciences major, he detailed his calling to one day work as a primary care physician assistant in a non-profit clinic. He discussed his summer internship doing such work, and how OBU has prepared him for the next steps in his career.

Numerous sponsors helped make the event possible and led the way in contributing to student scholarships. Lead sponsors included First United and the Massey Family Foundation. Premier sponsors included Kirk and Danna Humphries, as well as Harold and Patricia Mathena.

Gold sponsors included Allied Engineering, Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, Chartwells, CJC Architects Inc., Express Employment Services, Hobby Lobby, Lingo, and Sparks Reed Architecture and Interiors.

Green sponsors included Aramark, AT&T, BancFirst, Bank of Oklahoma, BOTT Radio, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, J. Roger Henson, HoganTaylor, Home Instead Senior Care, INSURICA, Jasco, Stan and Joy Norman, OBU Athletics, OBU College of Graduate and Professional Studies, Quail Creek Bank, Sutton Medical Corporation, Will and Caroline Smallwood, Dr. Denver Talley Family, Trilink Restoration Services, The UPS Store, and Vision Bank.

To consider giving to support student scholarships or other initiatives at the University, visit