Five OBU professors will be installed into academic positions during the University’s annual Convocation Wednesday, Aug. 28. Convocation is the first Wednesday chapel service during the fall semester in which the university president inspires the campus community for the year ahead. University faculty and administration don their academic regalia and process in a similar fashion to commencement for the special ceremony.
As part of Convocation, new recipients of endowed chairs and professorships are installed into their academic positions. Endowed chairs and professorships are awarded to select professors who are outstanding teachers and who have demonstrated exceptional ability in their academic disciplines. Endowed positions are funded by gifts to the university which are specified for this purpose. The funds are then invested in the University’s permanent endowment fund, and the annual earnings are used to assist with the chair or professorship’s compensation.
Dr. James Vernon, professor of music, will be installed into the Burton H. Patterson Professorship in Music. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. In addition, he earned both a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Vernon also completed further study in music composition and electronic music at the University of North Texas in Denton. He teaches courses in music composition, music theory and fine arts, and also direct the Bisonette Glee Club. He also composes music and directs the OBU music composition program. He has composed works for vocal idioms, instrumental, choral, and a multitude of pieces for stage play productions as well as an opera. His work has been performed throughout the United States and in parts of Western Europe.
The Burton H. Patterson Professorship in Music is named for Burton H. Patterson, an entrepreneur, attorney, educator and musician who has a longstanding relationship with OBU. He graduated from high school in El Paso, Texas, where his parents, Frank W. and Pauline G. Patterson operated the Foreign Mission Board’s Spanish Publishing House. His father graduated from OBU in 1928. Burton followed suit, graduating from OBU in 1956, from the Northwestern University School of Law in 1959, and from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1962. Licensed to practice law in Texas in 1959, he taught at Texas Christian University from 1959-68 and taught for one year in the law school at Cleveland State University.
Following his teaching career, he served as securities lawyer with El Paso Natural Gas Company for five years before opening his private practice. He retired in 1999 as the senior partner of Patterson, Sargent and Glanville. He has pursued varied business ventures since 1970, including a very successful waste management business. In retirement, he incorporated The Foundation for the Advancement of Christianity. Patterson and his wife, Ginger, live in Texas. He has honored his mother and father both with endowed professorships at OBU. He has received both the Profile in Excellence Award and the Alumni Achievement Award, and OBU presented him with an honorary doctorate in 2002.
Dr. Kaylene Barbe, professor of communication studies, will be installed into the Frank W. Patterson Professorship in Communications. After graduating from Baylor University with a bachelor’s degree, she worked for a year as a legal secretary for an attorney in Waco, Texas. She later completed her Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Communications at the University of Oklahoma. Barbe likes to travel, hike, read, watch movies and work on home improvement projects, in addition to spending time with family and friends. She is an active member of University Baptist Church, volunteers for Family Promise and works with first through sixth grade GA’s.
The Frank W. Patterson Professorship in Communications was established by Dr. and Mrs. Burton Patterson in honor of his father. Dr. Frank Patterson was a 1928 OBU graduate, who worked for the University Press while at OBU. After pastoring churches in Oklahoma and Arkansas, he was appointed for service at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House in El Paso Texas, where he was the second general director and served for 33 years.
Dr. Louima Lilite, associate professor of music and coordinator of voice studies, will be installed into the McGavern-Montgomery Professorship in Music. He has served OBU’s Division of Music since 2008. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Performance in Voice and Piano at Biola University Conservatory of Music. He then earned a Master of Music in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from Penn State University. He went on to earn a Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice Performance and Literature, from the prestigious Eastman School of Music, where he was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Prize in 2007. He was honored with OBU’s 2015-16 Distinguished Teaching Award, the 2013 Provost Award of Excellence, the 2009-10 Promising Teacher Award, and the Seven Who Care Award. Beyond OBU, Lilite is the Oklahoma District Governor of the National Association of Teachers of Signing (NATS) and known as a recitalist, soloist, and pianist, having taught and coached in the U.S. and overseas.
The McGavern-Montgomery Professorship in Music honors the memory of three individuals. Clair R. McGavern, known to his friends as “Mac” and to his students as “Mr. Mac,” served as a member of the OBU faculty from 1949-75, working as a piano faculty member, associate dean of fine arts, men’s varsity golf coach, curriculum adviser and piano technician. He was a master concert pianist, giving many recitals, concerts and workshops throughout his life. In 1974, he helped establish the Concerto-Aria Concert, an ongoing tradition which features auditioned OBU music majors performing selected works with a full orchestra. He was inducted into the OBU Faculty Hall of Fame in 2011.
Ruth Clark McGavern graduated from Syracuse University in 1934 and was the wife of Clair R. McGavern. They moved to Murray, Kentucky, where she taught piano at Murray State College. Clair and Ruth then moved to Shawnee in 1949. She continued teaching piano at OBU until 1978. From that time on, she taught piano privately until her death.
Nancy Montgomery graduated from Bartlesville High School in 1935. She enrolled at OBU as a voice major and performed with the University’s women’s quartet, “The OBUtifuls,” throughout her four-year student career. After teaching music in Kansas schools for two years, she attended the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. She resided in Chicago for nine years, directing three choral groups, performing in a variety of roles, and working at the University of Chicago for seven years. She moved to New York City in 1950, completing a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1953. Montgomery returned to OBU in 1955 as assistant professor of music, teaching voice, music education and music appreciation. She was a member of the Music Educators National Conference, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the Shawnee Fine Arts Club and Altrusa.
Dr. John McWilliams, professor of natural science, will be installed into the W.B. Blackstock Family Chair in Science Education. He earned his Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Ed.D. all at the University of Arkansas. He began his career in secondary science, teaching for 18 years in both Christian and public schools. For the past 20 years at OBU, he has supervised science education majors and has taught the science content courses for elementary education majors. He has served on the board of the Shawnee Conservation District Outdoor Learning Center, and was instrumental in its development and construction. He was co-author of the SOAR science curriculum and continues to be involved with the Regional STEM alliance, supporting educational activities for local K12 students. He has been co-developer and instructor in numerous workshops for K12 teachers, including the Oklahoma Math and Science Partnership and the OK Einstein Project. He has also authored several computer-based packages and other supplemental resources for Prentice Hall Biology, and is currently writing a text for undergraduate biology. In 2007, OBU awarded him the Distinguished Teaching Award.
McWilliams has a passion for Christian apologetics, especially as it relates to science. He has presented apologetic classes and seminars both at OBU and for area churches, often incorporating the OBU Planetarium, which he directs. In 2017, he published the novel “The Lights Over Middle Creek,” which uses a fiction-format to introduce and explore several scriptural and apologetic concepts.
The W.B. Blackstock Family Chair in Science Education honors W.B. Blackstock, an oil man, and his wife Clara Mae, an elementary school teacher. Both have a long association with and interest in education at all levels. Blackstock was particularly interested in the natural world and many fields of science, thus his bequeathing of today’s W.B. Blackstock Family Chair of Science Education, an extension of his lifelong dedication to education.
Dr. Heath Thomas, dean of the Hobbs College for Theology and Ministry, associate vice president for church relations and professor of Old Testament, will be installed into the Floyd K. Clark Chair of Christian Leadership. An OBU graduate, with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, Thomas also holds a Master of Arts in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Old Testament from the University of Gloucestershire. Prior to arriving at OBU, he served as director of Ph.D. studies and associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
He has served on staff at churches in Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina and in the United Kingdom. Passionate about opening up the Scriptures for today, he preaches and teaches regularly, and serves as interim pastor when he is able. He sustains a recurring interest on the biblical books of Lamentations and the Minor Prophets, and he has published a number of works related to these. He also maintains research interests on lament literature in scripture, a Christian theology of lament and theological interpretation of scripture.
The Floyd K. Clark Chair of Christian Leadership was made possible when OBU alumnus Al Clark gifted resources for an endowed academic position in honor of his father, Floyd K. Clark. The gift recognizes Floyd Clark’s commitment to providing educational opportunities through OBU to his sons and to the undertaking of Baptist higher education. A native of Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, Floyd joined the U.S. Army, serving as the supply sergeant in an ammunition company, participating in the Normandy Invasion and the occupation army in France. Later, he served in Korea with the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry Division. In 1958, the family moved to Midwest City, Oklahoma, where he worked at Tinker Air Force Base until his retirement in 1974. Clark, ordained as a deacon by the First Baptist Church of McAlester, held many roles of service and leadership at Midwest City’s Country Estates Baptist Church, including chairman of the Deacons, along with being chairman of the finance committee, personnel committee, and the building committee.