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Nine OBU Faculty Installed to Endowed Positions

February 8, 2023

Academic installations and presidential words of advice highlighted Oklahoma Baptist University's Founders’ Day Chapel, Wednesday, Feb. 8, in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium.

More than 1,500 people attended the ceremony where OBU President Dr. Heath Thomas provided the Founders’ Day Chapel message.

During the installations of chairs and professorships, the recipients were presented with certificates in recognition of exemplary scholarship and excellence in teaching along with medallions representing the chairs and professorship.

Nine faculty members were installed to endowed academic positions during the 10 a.m. service. They include Dr. R. Lucas Stamps named to The Dickinson Chair of Religion; Dr. Liying Xu named to The Albert J. Geiger Chair of Business; Dr. Elizabeth Justice named to The Lawrence C. and Marion Harris Chair of Education; Dr. Stephanie Parker named to The Lawrence C. and Marion Harris Chair of Nursing; Dr. Rafael Bello named to The Ida Elizabeth and J. W. Hollums Chair of Bible; Dr. Timothy Darr named to The Lawrence Peitz Chair of Business; Dr. Keith Hess named to The Jewell and Joe Huitt Professorship in Religious Education; Dr. Kellie D. Young named to The Violet Sturgeon Minton Professorship in Early Childhood Education; and Dr. Jonathan Ashbach named to The Elizabeth Randel and Ann Scales Professorship in American Constitutional Law.

Endowed chairs and professorships are awarded to select professors who are "outstanding teachers and who have demonstrated exceptional ability in their academic disciplines." Gifts to establish chairs and professorships are invested in the University's permanent endowment fund and the annual earnings are used to assist with compensation.

Dr. R. Lucas Stamps, The Dickinson Chair of Religion

In 1986 Paul Dickinson, in addition to other generous gifts to OBU, endowed the Dickinson Chair of Religion and in 1987 endowed the Dickinson Chair of Business. Upon Dickinson’s death in 1991, the Ruth Dickinson Chair of Religion was established in memory of his wife.

Stamps serves as chair of the Hobbs School of Theology and Ministry at OBU. Previously, he taught theology at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina, and at California Baptist University in Riverside, California. He is the author or editor of several published and forthcoming books and has written numerous journal articles and book chapters in the area of systematic theology. He received a Ph.D. in systematic theology and a Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and a Bachelor of Arts in history from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. A native of Alabama, Stamps lives with his wife and five children in Shawnee.

Dr. Liying Xu, The Albert J. Geiger Chair of Business

The Albert J. Geiger Chair of Business was filled in 2007 due to the generosity of Albert J. and Laura Belle Geiger, longtime Tulsa area residents. Because of Dr. Geiger’s many involvements with the University, his friends sometimes called him “Mr. OBU.” A former chair of OBU’s board of trustees, Geiger held many leadership positions at OBU. Throughout the years the Geigers, longtime members of First Baptist Church, Tulsa, provided financial support for the University in numerous ways.

Xu is an interdisciplinary expert integrating finance and economics with energy production. She received a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, in applying finance theory to energy production; an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, in energy and mineral resources - economics and management; and a B.S. from Zhejiang University, China, in chemical engineering.

Xu received awards including the American Association of University Women Fellowship, Washington State University Summer Doctoral Fellows, Washington State University Advance Excellence in Science and Engineering award, and SPE Star Academic Fellowship in Mid-Continent North America Region. Xu taught and has been teaching business and engineering subjects for diverse students with different cultural and educational background, including business finance, corporate finance, energy finance, international finance, portfolio management, financial management, reservoir engineering, natural gas production, and formation evaluation.

Dr. Elizabeth Justice, The Lawrence C. and Marion Harris Chair of Education

The Lawrence C. and Marion V. Harris Chair of Education was endowed in July 2007 by alumnus Larry Harris and named for him and his late wife. Harris was born in Pleasant Valley, Oklahoma. He attended public schools in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. He became a student at OBU in 1937, majoring in economics. Harris was a member of the OBU Emethean Club, president of the B-Club and a quarterback on the football team. He graduated in 1941.

Justice joined the OBU faculty in 2015 after spending 20 years in public school education. She serves as the chair and director of the Henry F. McCabe Family School of Education at OBU and teaches much of the coursework for the special education preparation program.

Justice taught in various schools in Kansas and Oklahoma, teaching both general and special education classes to K - 8th grade students. Prior to coming to OBU, she was the director of special education service for Elgin Public Schools. Justice holds an Oklahoma teaching certificate in elementary education and mild-moderate disabilities. She also holds an Oklahoma principal certificate at the elementary and secondary levels.

Justice earned a Bachelor of Science in special education from Oklahoma Baptist University. She then earned a Master of Education in administration from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a Doctor of Education in organizational leadership with an emphasis in special education from Grand Canyon University.

Dr. Stephanie Parker, The Lawrence C. and Marion Harris Chair of Nursing

The Lawrence C. and Marion V. Harris Chair of Nursing was endowed in July 2001. The endowed nursing chair is the first in the history of OBU’s nursing program. Larry Harris also contributed more than $750,000 to OBU in 2008 for the completion of a new track complex and made the request that it be named to honor Eddie Hurt Jr. who was one of Harris’ coaches at OBU. Harris played quarterback on the Bison football team. During his senior season, OBU won the conference championship. Marion Harris, a 1940 graduate of Indiana University, died in 2004 at the age of 86.

Parker received her Doctor of Education in leadership from Hardin-Simmons University and both her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and her Master of Science in Nursing administration from the University of Texas, Arlington.

Most recently, Parker worked as a clinical educator for the Avem Health Partners in the Oklahoma City metro area and was responsible for planning, coordinating and overseeing the educational needs of the employees while meeting all required regulatory mandates. Prior to that position, Parker served as director of nursing at Paris Junior College in Paris, Texas. She has more than 15 years of experience in the higher education realm as a member of the nursing faculty, coordinator of associate degree nursing, interim director of health occupations and interim dean of health occupations and divisional chair at Paris Junior College. Parker began her journey as a registered nurse in 1994.

Dr. Rafael Bello, The Ida Elizabeth and J. W. Hollums Chair of Bible

The Ida Elizabeth and J.W. Hollums Chair of Bible was funded by Mrs. Hollums in memory of her husband who served as a longtime pastor in Texas and Oklahoma. Mrs. Hollums served alongside her husband until his death in 1953. She taught Sunday School for 56 years as well as being involved in the Woman’s Missionary Union.

Bello earned his M.Div., Th.M., and Ph.D. in systematic theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before joining OBU, Bello served as professor of theology and interpretation at Martin Bucer Seminary and academic editor at Fiel Publishing House.

He is the recipient of several international grants and awards including the John Stott Award for Pastoral Engagement, New Visions for Theological Anthropology (NViTA) Award, and The BluePrint 1543 Award for Engagement in Science and Religion (2020). His research interests include the intersection of Christology, trinitarian theology, metaphysics, and moral theology and philosophy. His first book, "Sinless Flesh" was published by Lexham Press and is featured in the Studies in Historical and Systematic Theology Series. He is currently working on a forthcoming monograph to be published with IVP Academic on the dogmatic location of the doctrine of sanctification.

Dr. Timothy Darr, The Lawrence Peitz Chair of Business

In 1990 the Tulsa Royalties Company provided funds to establish the Lawrence Peitz Chair of Business. Peitz, who handled the business details of the company he helped to create in 1951, had been a generous donor to the University dating back to the mid-1960s. Peitz, a member of First Baptist Church, Tulsa, for more than 60 years, died in 2004 at the age of 92.

Darr joined OBU with more than 20 years’ experience in the computer science and computer information systems industry. He earned his doctorate, masters and bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering from the University of Michigan.

Darr is passionate about preparing students for careers in computer science and information technology by providing the skills and tools that employers value. He is an ongoing artificial intelligence technology researcher and practitioner with particular focus on knowledge representation, human decision modeling and intelligent agent modeling. He has practical experience in applying a multitude of cutting-edge technologies to real-world problems, including natural language processing and understanding, data mining, machine learning, deep learning with neural networks, sentiment and opinion mining, social network analysis, and social media analytics. He has working familiarity with a variety of programming languages, data and knowledge models, programming methods, and software project management methods.

Dr. Keith Hess, The Jewell and Joe Huitt Professorship in Religious Education

The Jewell and Joe Huitt Professorship in Religious Education was funded by Joe Huitt, who served two separate terms as an OBU trustee. He worked for many years as an independent oil operator in Tulsa and died in April 1991 at the age of 87.

Hess has a B.A. in biblical studies from The Master’s College, an M.A. from Biola University in philosophy of religion, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His dissertation focused on the nature of human persons. Dr. Hess has published several scholarly articles and book reviews. He has a passion for teaching students to love God with all their minds. Together with Dr. Matthew Flummer, he started The Great Books Project to promote the great books in the history of the church among church laypeople.

Dr. Kellie D. Young, The Violet Sturgeon Minton Professorship in Early Childhood Education

The Violet Sturgeon Minton Professorship in Early Childhood Education, established in 1994, was endowed through the estate of Violet Sturgeon Minton. A psychiatric counselor, Sturgeon Minton was the first woman to serve on OBU’s board of trustees. She served on the board for 12 years and died in April 1980 at the age of 72.

Young joined the OBU faculty in 2014 after spending 14 years in public school education. Before coming to OBU Young spent five years at Moss Public Schools teaching second and fifth grade and nine years at Grove Elementary School teaching kindergarten, second and fourth grade. She holds Oklahoma certification in early childhood education, elementary education, middle school language arts and middle school social studies.

Young earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. She then earned a Master of Education in educational technology from East Central University and Doctor of Education in early childhood education from Northcentral University, Prescott Valley, Arizona.

Jonathan Ashbach, The Elizabeth Randel and Ann Scales Professorship in American Constitutional Law

The Elizabeth Randel Scales and Ann Scales Professorship in Constitutional Law was established in 1993. Tom McCasland and his wife, Phyllis, independent oil producers from Duncan, built a successful family business and made their company, Mack Energy, into an industry leader. The Elizabeth Randel Scales and Ann Scales Professorship in Constitutional Law was established by former OBU president James Ralph Scales to honor his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Ann.

Ashbach is OBU assistant professor of political science. Before accepting a position at OBU he taught at Baylor University. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in politics and economics from Humboldt State University and then received two master’s degrees in Christian apologetics and politics from Biola University and Hillsdale College. He went on to get his doctorate in politics at Hillsdale College.

Ashbach teaches a variety of courses related to contemporary and historical American politics as well as political theory. His research interests include the political and constitutional theory of the American Founders, the conservative-libertarian debate and Shakespeare's political thought. He also retains an interest and active research agenda in natural theology--the study of the evidence for theism provided by the natural world.