Oklahoma Baptist University will host four days of events on the Shawnee campus from March 24-27 celebrating the inauguration of Dr. Heath A. Thomas as the University’s 16th president. Thomas assumed the role of OBU president Jan. 1, 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, inaugural ceremonies have been delayed until 2021.
The inauguration ceremony will take place Friday, March 26, at 2 p.m. on the south lawn of Raley Chapel. The ceremony will take place outside to allow for physical distancing. Dr. David S. Dockery, founding president of the International Alliance for Christian Education and renowned Christian higher education leader, will deliver the inaugural address. A reception will follow the ceremony.
An inauguration week chapel will take place Wednesday, March 24, at 10 a.m. in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium. Thomas will speak during the chapel service, while the Charlie Hall Band and Jami Smith King will lead worship. The chapel service will be held for students only and is not open to the public due to capacity limitations to allow for physical distancing. An all-employee celebration will take place at 2 p.m. that afternoon.
The University will host a reception for pastors Thursday, March 25, at 4 p.m. followed by a special prayer service for the president and his family at 5:30 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium.
Friday evening, March 26, the University community is invited to a Bison football scrimmage at 7:30 p.m. The annual Harvest Court, honoring six outstanding seniors, will be announced during halftime of the game. Harvest Court is typically presented during homecoming in the fall; however, the selection and announcement were postponed due to COVID-19. A special fireworks display will take place at the stadium following the game.
Numerous student activities will take place around campus Saturday, March 27. The Office of Admissions will host a Preview Day, welcoming prospective students to Bison Hill. The “Sweet 16 Student Celebration” will take place on the intramural fields from noon to 4 p.m. A community-wide parade will kick off at 5 p.m. from the Homeland on Kickapoo and Independence and will travel down Airport Drive, turning onto campus on University Street.
That evening, the campus community is invited to enjoy the Bison Concert Festival hosted by the University Concert Series. The event will begin at 6 p.m. in front of Raley Chapel and will include food trucks in the Noble Center parking lot and a concert headlined by Colony House.
Thomas was selected as the University’s 16th president by the OBU Board of Trustees in November 2019. Prior to assuming his duties as president, he served as dean of the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry and associate vice president for church relations, as well as the Floyd K. Clark Chair of Christian Leadership and professor of Old Testament. He joined the OBU faculty in 2015 after serving as director of Ph.D. studies and associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
A 1998 OBU graduate, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English literature with a religion minor. He then earned a Master of Arts in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Old Testament from the University of Gloucestershire (UK). He earned a certificate for leadership in higher education from Baylor University in 2016. He has served on staff at churches in Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina and in the United Kingdom. He preaches and teaches regularly and has served as interim pastor for several Oklahoma churches during his time at OBU.
Dockery, in addition to serving as president at IACE, also serves at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as distinguished professor of theology, editor of the “Southwestern Journal of Theology,” special consultant to the president and theologian-in-residence. He previously served as president of Union University for nearly two decades and served for more than five years as the 15th president of Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Prior to his service at Union and Trinity, Dockery served as the chief academic officer at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also held a tenured faculty position in theology and New Testament.
View the full list of inaugural events.