A rendering of the new Shawnee Hall
Features Spring 2024

Shawnee Hall: Shaping the Future with a Historic Touch

The first building constructed on the OBU campus, Shawnee Hall has served an estimated 40,000 students since its beginnings, survived an act of domestic terrorism in 1964 when it was struck by an airplane, and withstood an EF2 tornado in 2023. The historic building hasn’t just withstood the past, it’s firmly positioned for an amazing future atop Bison Hill.

OBU is thrilled to announce a groundbreaking renovation project that will breathe new life into its historic Shawnee Hall. This ambitious undertaking aims to revitalize the first, second and third floors of Shawnee Hall, a cornerstone of OBU since its opening in 1915.

The Shawnee Hall Campaign is driven by a few fundamental objectives, each designed to enhance the educational experience for students and address critical needs in the community.

A primary project goal is to bring OBU’s educational facilities in line with best practices by modernizing educational space. Shawnee Hall will undergo a remarkable transformation, with 12 newly updated classrooms boasting a total of 472 seats. These state-of-the-art learning environments will provide students with cutting-edge spaces to enhance their education, hone their skills, and prepare for a bright future.

The campaign also seeks to increase the number of faculty offices within Shawnee Hall. This expansion will create valuable space for various schools and divisions, fostering collaboration and innovation among educators. It will further strengthen OBU’s commitment to nurturing its academic community.

As part of the renovation, Shawnee Hall will see significant improvements in energy efficiency and safety. The replacement of the HVAC system will align the building with CDC guidelines, ensuring a comfortable and healthy learning environment. Additionally, the installation of new fire suppression and alarm systems will enhance life safety measures, while updated ADA-compliant restrooms will promote inclusivity and accessibility on all floors.

Shawnee Hall plays a pivotal role in OBU’s mission, offering core education courses for all students and catering to specific needs within the Henry F. McCabe Family School of Education and the Marriage and Family Therapy program.

In recent years, the demand for emergency teaching certificates in Oklahoma has surged dramatically, from 32 certificates in 2011-2012 to a staggering 4,574 in 2022-2023. OBU is committed to supporting students who hold these one-year certificates in their journey toward full certification. The university has initiated the Alternative Teaching Certificate program, known as ACCESS, to address this pressing need and make a lasting impact on education in the state.

Moreover, the field of certified marriage and family therapists is experiencing rapid growth, projected to increase by 14 percent from 2021 to 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. OBU’s Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program equips students to provide therapeutic services from a relational and systemic perspective, serving diverse settings such as counseling agencies, schools, hospitals, churches, and private practice.

“This renovation project at Shawnee Hall is not just about updating a building; it’s about transforming lives and communities, or as we say on Bison Hill, shaping the future,” Dr. Heath A. Thomas, OBU president, said. “The enhanced facilities will not only benefit our students and faculty but will also serve as a testament to our commitment to providing a faith-forward education that prepares individuals for the world.”

By embarking on the Shawnee Hall Campaign, OBU aims to address critical educational needs, boost student engagement, and create a lasting legacy in the heart of its campus. The campaign’s impact will extend far beyond the walls of Shawnee Hall, strengthening OBU’s recruitment efforts and its dedication to serving both its students and the community for generations to come.
To learn how you can contribute, visit okbu.edu/giving/shaping-the-future.

Shawnee Hall: The Early Years

A photograph of Shawnee Hall from 1915

1911: The annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma reported that the cornerstone for the building had been set Feb. 22, 1911, but later, work on the building had been halted. “. . . owing to various reasons, and the general depressions existing throughout our state.”

1913: Reflecting the period of “suspended animation,” Mary Blake Hixson, daughter of W.P. Blake, trustee chairman from 1909-17, wrote, “They got the building up, the walls, etc., finished the interior, and then they ran out of money. There was danger of vandalism, and, in order to collect insurance on the building, it had to be occupied, so in the fall of 1913 the Blakes left N. Harrison street in Shawnee and became residents of that empty building. It is shocking that a house, though bare, can become a home. The building did. We used the large basement room off the West entrance as a kitchen and dining room and large room across the hallway as a storeroom. Corresponding rooms upstairs were our living room and bedrooms. A curtained partition provided necessary privacy. . . . It was home until early in the year 1914 when building was resumed.

1914: The Board of Trustees report given to the BGCO discussed the need for completion of the Administration Building (named Shawnee Hall in the mid-1920s) and recommended that the convention “begin at once to provide for the equipment of the building and make other necessary provisions for the opening of school in September, 1915.”

1915: A total of 143 students enrolled for the fall semester, and classes were held in Shawnee Hall.

1917: The first graduation ceremony held on the OBU campus was in Shawnee Hall’s auditorium.