Thursday, November 14, 2013

Four Faculty Inducted into Hall of Fame at Homecoming Chapel

Last weekend, hundreds of alumni descended on Shawnee to celebrate Homecoming on Bison Hill. Among the throngs were many of my friends from OBU. I went to Homecoming last year, capping a year of sustained activism, listening, learning and blogging about my alma mater's deliberate and decisive rejection of the relatively more moderate faculty and administrators who throughout the 20th century turned OBU into a first-rate Christian liberal arts university.

This year, with my work and child care responsibilities, it was simply not possible for me to travel from Washington to attend.

I was glad to see the list of four professors emeritus/a (living and deceased) who were inducted into the Faculty Hall of Fame during the Homecoming Chapel service on Saturday morning.

I'm grateful to the administrators who assisted in making the presentations, especially those for whom it must have been particularly painful and difficult to smile and say nice things about professors they would do everything in their power to avoid hiring at OBU today.

Professor Opal Frazier Craig taught speech at OBU during the Raley, Scales, and Cothen years.  A former student noted that Craig's influence "still permeates pulpits around the globe."  Professor Craig taught students to "converse from the stage or the pulpit in a manner that would persuade rather than preach."  Imagine how disappointed certain people must be to learn that a woman taught hundreds of men (and a few women) a thing or two about preaching!

The Reverend Dr. Dick Rader was the dean of religion and ministry while I was at OBU.  He died shortly after I graduated in 2002 following a difficult, yearlong battle with cancer.  I remember Rader as a traditional Baptist conservative, but not as a fundamentalist.  I met with him in an "exit interview" process to discuss my plans for graduate study.  During that meeting, he was very gracious and encouraging.  He did not seem distraught that I would be asking OBU religion professors to write letters of recommendation to a seminary that was very different from OBU.  Several recent OBU graduates have reported that their exit interview with the incumbent dean does not go as well as what I experienced.  Some of you will no doubt argue this point, but I won't claim definitively that it would be impossible for Dick Rader to be hired at OBU today.  I'll just say that, if he interviewed for the Hobbs College deanship, there would obviously be candidates who are more in step with today's SBC and BGCO elite leadership.  Dick Rader's experience and wisdom would be rejected in favor of a true believer and foot-soldier in ideological battles he had little interest in waging.  Rader was apolitical, and these days a first-tier candidate has to whole-heartedly endorse the fundamentalist agenda.

After two decades in parish ministry, the Reverend Dr. C. Mack Roark held administrative and teaching positions at OBU over a span of nearly 25 years.  During his tenure, Roark, like all of his School of Christian Service colleagues, frequently taught in Oklahoma Baptist churches and served interim pastorates around the state.  Though there is no reason why he would remember me, Dr. Roark's influence was profound.  He made me want to be a better Bible student, a better Christian, and a better man.  I personally witnessed him gently and patiently teach students who had been taught what to believe about the Bible but who had never been encouraged to study it.  Tragically, Mack Roark would be rejected as an applicant for a position at OBU in favor of a post-Takeover fundamentalist who takes the Bible literally, not seriously.  Due to the unpardonable sin of preaching and teaching in churches affiliated with the moderate Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma, OBU Dean BGCO Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony Jordan would personally intervene to block Roark's appointment today.  Sad but true.  As many of you know, Dr. Roark is the epitome of the Christian teacher-scholar-pastor.  I would have loved to have been there to see him receive this honor, as he is one of the best teachers I ever had at any level.

Professor Mary White Johnson taught at OBU for 44 years.  She was part of inaugural faculty for the nursing program.  Johnson received OBU's Meritorious Service Award in 1993.  Having taught from 1953 until her retirement in 1997, Professor Johnson influenced generations of OBU students in the healing arts and sciences.  Now that a long-serving moderate nursing dean has retired, several people have brought personnel concerns in the nursing department to my attention.  I don't want to say more at this time, but one wonders if the new dean, a Tea Party activist, would have much use for old-school moderates like the legendary Professor Johnson.

These professors collectively gave well over a century of service to OBU.  Honoring them was the right thing to do.  I'm sure the ceremony was dignified and without controversy.  But the fact remains that these fine people would face an uphill battle to be hired at OBU today, and that's an understatement.  Why is that the case?  No, really.  Why?  Stop and think about what is so offensive or unchristian about these honorees that would render them unacceptable today.  It's ridiculous!  Are you okay with this?  Are you content knowing that OBU administrators will praise these people out of one side of their mouths, but when no one is looking, do their best to make sure these kinds of people will never be hired again?

If this troubles you, then you understand what Save OBU stands for and why we need to remain strong.  In the end, awards are just plaques hanging on walls.  The real way to honor these professors is to insist that OBU welcome faculty like them in the future as heirs and successors to the distinguished legacies they established during their years of service.  That these honorees would be unwelcome today is a huge problem.  To this alum, it's unacceptable.

Here are a few posts I wrote last year after attending Homecoming 2012:
Saturday morning
Saturday evening
Sunday morning
Sunday evening (recap of our Save OBU meeting)

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