OBU graduates 104 during Mid-Winter exercises.

Hearing a message encouraging them to start a new beginning, 104 Oklahoma Baptist University graduates received their diplomas during OBU’s 2013 Winter Commencement.

The ceremony combined graduation for undergraduate students from OBU’s Shawnee campus and graduate students from the OBU College of Graduate and Professional Studies in Oklahoma City.

During the ceremony in OBU’s John Wesley Raley Chapel, the graduates heard from W.C. “Nick” Garland, Jr., senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow, and current president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Garland encouraged students to keep their focus on Jesus Christ as they encounter their greatest exam until now ¬– life.

Garland told graduates that a new beginning has arrived.

“Today, you are stepping out into the world and stepping up to be all that God created you to be,” he said.

Garland identified three new beginnings or commencements in life: birth, academic graduation, and the day Christians begin eternal life.

“This commencement is to recognize the beginning of your journey toward your dreams, aspirations, calling, commitments, and your life,” he said.

The program included recognition from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which founded the university in 1910. Dr. Anthony Jordan, executive director and treasurer, brought greetings on behalf of the BGCO. The graduates were inducted into the OBU Alumni Association by Lori Hagans, executive director of the association.

Cody Moser, president of the Student Government Association and a junior from Noble, Okla., and Dr. Stan Norman, provost and executive vice president for campus life, presented the undergraduate graduating class. Rachel Potts, who received her master of business administration degree, and Norman presented the Graduate School graduating class. Shelly Francka, director of the OBU College of Graduate and Professional Studies, led the benediction.

With campuses in Shawnee, Okla., and Oklahoma City, OBU offers 10 bachelor’s degrees with 84 fields of study and three master’s degree programs. The Christian liberal arts university has an overall enrollment of 2,097, with students from 34 states and 30 other countries. OBU has been rated as one of the top 10 regional colleges in the West by U.S.News and World Report for 22 consecutive years and has been Oklahoma’s highest rated regional college in the U.S. News rankings for 20 consecutive years. Forbes.com consistently ranks OBU as a top university in Oklahoma and the Princeton Review has named OBU one of the best colleges and universities in the western United States for nine consecutive years.