Oklahoma Baptist University recognized outstanding alumni with special awards during its annual Harvest Dinner Friday, Oct. 14. The event took place during The Weekend, the University’s homecoming celebration at OBU’s campus in Shawnee.
Multiple awards were presented including the Alumni Achievement, Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) and Profile in Excellence (PIE) Awards.
Dr. Laura Hillman, class of 1990, and president of the OBU alumni board of directors, presented the alumni awards while OBU President Dr. Heath A. Thomas joined her in congratulating each award winner. A video tribute highlighting each recipient’s achievements was featured.
The highest honor bestowed by the OBU Alumni Association, the Alumni Achievement Award is given in recognition of outstanding life service which has brought honor to the University.
Receiving this year’s Alumni Achievement Awards were David Garland, class of 1971, Dan Garringer, class of 1970, and Colonel Shon Anthony Remich, class of 1989.
Garland received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from OBU and went on to receive a Master of Divinity and his Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He studied at the US Naval Academy and pursued postgraduate studies at universities in Germany and Australia. Garland currently serves as professor of Christian Scriptures at Baylor University and while at Baylor has served as dean for the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, as interim provost, and twice has been named interim president. He has authored and edited over 20 books, journal articles, and Christian theology and educational book reviews.
Garringer, a 1970 OBU graduate, earned a Bachelor of Arts in history at OBU and was a student athlete on the basketball team. He went on to receive a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Central Oklahoma. An influential educator, coach, and mentor to hundreds of young people, he has served schools in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma for more than 40 years. His educational leadership roles include serving on the state social studies committee for the development of criteria and objectives for the Missouri Mastery Test Program, leading teacher in-service programs, and serving as department chair for high school social studies. He was named Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year in 2014 by Fort Smith Media, Conference Girls Basketball Coach of the Year on eight occasions, Conference Baseball Coach of the Year for five years and Conference Boys Basketball Coach of the Year five times. He also serves as a pulpit supply preacher at various churches and as an adult Sunday School teacher and deacon in his local church.
Remich graduated from OBU in1989 with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in psychology and biology. He received his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in 1994 and a post-doctorate degree from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2008. Remich has had an active career as an officer, physician and clinical researcher in the Army for 23 years. Currently concentrating his efforts in public vaccine development, he has led teams working on a treatment for malaria in Kenya, on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief in Kenya, and the military’s ebola vaccine. Recently, he served as senior director for vaccine clinical research and development and headed a team that worked on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine. He currently serves as the vice president for clinical development and operations for Takeda Pharmaceuticals. During his career he received numerous awards and honors including the Legion of Merit, two meritorious service medals, four Army commendation medals and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and many others. He is a current member of the American College of Physician Executives and a certified member of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. An ordained minister, he serves as an elder at Calvary Fellowship Church in Downingtown, PA where he and his family reside.
The Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award is presented to a young alumnus or alumna, not necessarily a graduate, who in his or her life and career has demonstrated outstanding achievement and brought pride and honor to the University.
This year’s recipient of the GOLD Award was Austin Manger, a 2014 graduate, who received his Bachelor of Arts in communications. While a student, Manger was a two-sport athlete, playing both tennis and football. Following graduation, he worked for Access Midstream as a community relations representative and then for Congressman James Lankford as the field representative for the fifth district of Oklahoma. When Senator Lankford was elected in 2015, Manger transitioned to a job in the US Senate as a field representative and policy advisor for the Central Oklahoma area. In 2017, he began his work as the regional manager of community relations for Oklahoma Natural Gas leading the company’s statewide outreach and public policy strategy. Currently, he serves as senior director of investor and community relations for Hall Capital. Manger is a graduate of the Oklahoma City area Leadership and Reputation Academy and the Leadership Exchange Academy. He is a Next Gen Under 30 Award recipient and serves as secretary of the OBU Alumni Board and on the board of First Tee of Central Oklahoma, the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce and the Talor Gooch Foundation. Austin is a trustee for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum and is a campaign cabinet member for the United Way of Central Oklahoma.
The Profile in Excellence Award (PIE) is given to a former student, not necessarily a graduate, who has demonstrated recognizable accomplishment in his or her profession, business, avocation or life service in such a way as to bring pride and honor to the University. This year’s Profile in Excellence Award recipients include Michael Burns, Chris and Ashley Campbell, Dr. Kent Choate, Christie Johnson Erwin, David Manner and Robert Arleigh White.
Michael Burns earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and biblical languages in 2003 and went on to receive a master’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma in 2009. He is currently working toward a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies with an emphasis on higher education from Oklahoma State University. His career began as resident director in Agee dormitory at OBU. He then became the OBU Director of Residence Life and Student Activities on campus and is merited for being a pacesetter in creating positive culture. Burns currently serves as the dean of students at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor in Belton, Texas. His leadership scope includes coaching flag football, leading small groups, and being a camp sponsor. He is a husband and father of four and is an active member of Vista Community Church in Belton.
Chris and Ashley Campbell are 2002 graduates of OBU. Chris received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical arts and went on to receive his master’s degree from Oklahoma State University in 2006. Ashley graduated from OBU with a Bachelor of Arts in public relations. The couple received the award jointly based on their mutual impact and influence on a host of different audiences. He is the Executive Director of 111Project which exists to mobilize the local church in an effort to see that every child has a family. 111Project mission is the belief that if every church commits ONE family for ONE purpose the impact of children without a family would be greatly lessened. He was recently issued the “Angel in Adoption” award by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, the National Leadership Award by CarePortal, and the Community Partner of the Year by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Ashley, wife and mother of five, is the originator of Under the Sycamore blog which offers a strong online social platform coupled with her photographer skills. Her creative projects have been featured on websites, blogs and magazines including NBC New York, Women’s Day, The Stir, RealSimple, HGTV.com and CafeMom. She created SnapShop online photography workshops providing basic and creative photographic learning opportunities for viewers.
Dr. Kent Choate earned his Bachelor of Arts in religion and youth recreation ministry in 1982. He went on to receive a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1985 and a Ph.D. in family studies from Texas Women’s University in 2001. He served at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for seven years as a family ministry specialist. He has served on the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee for eight years and two years as the chair of that committee. He has also served in pastoral roles at several Oklahoma churches and is currently a pastoral counselor providing individual, pre-marital and marital counseling in Sapulpa and Claremore. The recipient of numerous awards, Choate received the Forbes Yarborough Religious Education Award in 1981 and 1982 and the Outstanding Alumni of the School of Christian Service at OBU in 2007. He also served on the Governor and First Lady’s Marriage Initiative from 1999-2006. He is president of TOUCH (Tulsans Operating in Unity Creating Hope) and serves as a board member for Cypress Global.
Christie Johnson Erwin graduated from OBU in 1982, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in sociology. She has a deep legacy of foster care, and she and her husband have fostered over 50 children in a 20-year span. She now serves as the executive director for Project Zero in Little Rock, Arkansas. Project Zero began as the Pulaski County Adoption Coalition more than 15 years ago to further the cause of adoption in the county and state. Erwin is the author of the book “The Middle Mom – How to Grow Your Heart by Giving it Away.” The book is a call to foster and to become adoptive families who will love, nurture and provide for those children. She is a 2009 Congressional Coalition on Adoption “Angel in Adoption” award winner and represented Arkansas as the American Mother of the Year in 2016.
Dr. David Manner earned a Bachelor of Music in church music and voice from OBU in 1980. He went on to receive a master’s degree in church music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1982 and a Ph.D. of worship studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies in 2009. Following graduation from OBU, Manner served for 20 years in music and worship ministry with congregations in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. In 2000, he joined the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists with responsibilities in the areas of worship, leadership, and administration. He now serves as the executive director-treasurer for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. Manner has led worship and leadership conferences for numerous conventions, churches, and educational institutions and also writes for various publications. He authored the book, “Better Sundays Begin on Monday: 52 Exercises for Evaluating Weekly Worship.” He was honored with the Herschel H. Hobbs Award for Distinguished Denominational Service by OBU in 2021.
Robert Arleigh White graduated from OBU in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. An advocate for the arts, White has produced and directed theatre productions and has been honored with numerous awards in the Jacksonville, Florida, vicinity. Those awards include Outstanding Arts Advocate by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville and the Fellow Man and Mother Earth Award, given by the Stetson Kennedy Foundation. He has served on the Jacksonville Public Library Foundation board of directors, the Jacksonville International Airport Public Art Commission, and as president of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville. He is currently the artistic director for the Asheville Community Theatre in Asheville, North Carolina.
The Harvest Dinner concluded with OBU vocal music major, Emily Day, leading attendees in The Hymn to the Alma Mater. She was accompanied by piano performance and pedagogy major Abigail Ekrutt on the piano.