Recently I purchased a “OBU Green Book: 1928-1929” which I describe here and compare with a 2013-14 Academic Catalog. [1] Several Baptist post-high school institutions preceded OBU, the first being in Hasting on the Red River and the second, the Oklahoma State Baptist College in Blackwell which operated until 1913.

Recently I purchased a “OBU Green Book: 1928-1929” which I describe here and compare with a 2013-14 Academic Catalog. [1] Several Baptist post-high school institutions preceded OBU, the first being in Hasting on the Red River and the second, the Oklahoma State Baptist College in Blackwell which operated until 1913. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma [BGCO] was formed in the First Baptist Church of Shawnee in 1910 and authorized construction of OBU. Classes began in 1911 in the basement of the First Baptist Church and the Convention Center downtown. The first building, Shawnee Hall, was completed in 1914 and housed classes, faculty, and administration. The campus was connected to downtown by a streetcar on Broadway.

There is no Mission Statement in the 1928 Green Book , but judging from its structure, majors, faculty, and course offerings it was clearly to provide a classical liberal education suffused with both course content and enculturation in religion and Baptist theology . The current Mission Statement includes, “To serve the Baptist constituency through the development of informed, enlightened, sensitive leadership.” [1] Presumably “leadership” includes pastors.

The most important fact to know about OBU is that it is directly owned and operated by the BGCO. “There is a very close relationship between the history of higher education in America and revivalism. Of the nine colonial colleges, six had some relationship with the great colonial awakenings. Of the forty colleges and universities established in the U.S. from 1780 to 1830, twenty-nine were established by Christian denominations. Of the colleges founded west of the Allegheny Mountains during the first half of the last [nineteenth] century, an overwhelming majority were established [and fostered by the revivalist churches.”[2] Few of those Universities continue to have any explicit Christian character because men of faith on university board were replaced by persons of wealth. OBU has had persons of wealth on their board and received many donations from wealthy persons, but OBU has retained its Christian character because its ownership and control have remained firmly under the BGCO.

In 1928 there were about 4 major buildings compared with 34 now. Enrollment was 585 then compared with 2100 now. Then there were 33 faculty with these degrees:5 Ph.D.’s, 13 M..A.’s , 10 B.A.’s or B.S.’s, and 4 without degrees. OBU now has 117 faculty tending toward Ph.D.’s or ThD’s in the Religion Field [mostly from SBC seminaries]. Only one Dean and two colleges are listed in 1928 e.g., Fine Arts and Arts and Sciences. Other ‘departments’ are listed along with many courses in theology and teaching. The university now offers 10 baccalaureate and 5 masters’ degrees in 87 ‘areas of study’ [avg. = 1.3 faculty per area.] Emphasis on liberal education has continued through the 30-34-hour Common Core curriculum.

“Boarding students are required to attend daily chapel services ….and services on Sunday at the church of their choice.“ [1] In 1928 OBU operated ‘in loco parentis’ with authority and responsibilities similar to those of biological parents e.g. they could act as they saw fit and without due process. Following the 1961 case Dixon v. Alabama, in loco parentis ended in colleges. A strict point system enforced rules about class attendance and punctuality. Students were not allowed to smoke or have electrical appliances in their rooms. Chapel attendance remains mandatory but was daily in 1928 and weekly now.

A freshman’s first week in 1928 was totally planned from Friday morning till bedtime through Tuesday and including mandatory worship services at the First Baptist Church on Sunday. Discipline has always depended more on enculturation than rules. The Bison played football, including opponents Tulsa and Arkansas, until WWII took their players. Bison were prominent in both the fight song, Ka Rip , “”Beller, Bisons—Let ‘er roar,” and the alma mater, “Yes, we’ll let that Bison roar.” [Bison don’t roar, they grunt, but try it and you’ll understand why they didn’t use the latter.]

Future

OBU has gradually attracted non-Oklahomans, non-Baptists, and international students making the student body far more diverse than in 1928. Academic fields have expanded to include more secular curricula matched to the labor market. Students now have automobiles with most going home on weekends. The average annual cost of attending OBU from five web sites including OBU and excluding aid was $36,000 which totals $144,000 for four years--three times the median Oklahoma household income in 2015 of $48,568.

Two trends are now underway on campus. Southern Baptist universities nationwide have beefed up their religion faculties and curricula-rivaling those of SBC seminaries. Although the nearest SBC seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary [SWBTS] in Ft. Worth holds classes on the OBU campus on Monday nights, OBU’s on-line offerings in similar subject matter but non-duplicative at the Baccalaureate and lower academic levels have gradually expanded. I was unable to obtain Fall 2017 enrollment in on-line courses of the School of Christian Studies.

OBU has a golden opportunity to expand into pastoral education on line given the need. One-half of Oklahoma’s SBC pastors have no seminary education and 1100 out of our 1800 pastors are bi-vocational e.g., hold secular jobs. I was told only 4 of the 250 American Indian churches had pastors with a seminary education. [3] Clearly, there is an opportunity here for on-line education. Ironically, OBU’s latest on-line education by the School of Christian Studies includes some on-campus classes in Stubblefield Chapel-the original First Baptist Church where it all began. [It was moved on campus in 1964.] Hard copy of the 2017 Academic Catalog weighs 64 times the 1928 version—a metaphor of how far it has come.

[1] OBU Green Book 1928-1929.

[2] Sweet, Wm., Warren, NY : Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944, 147-150

[3] Clyde Cain, formerly on staff with BGCO.