We stand at the forefront of one of the greatest opportunities in Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) history. As the April 19 tornado tore across the OBU campus, ripping off roofs, uprooting trees and tearing holes in walls, God protected the lives of our students, our employees and our entire community. We praise Him for that miracle!
But the storm left in its path of destruction significant damage to more than 1.4 million square feet, including 167 total structures, of which 50 were main buildings. This was the worst natural disaster OBU has ever experienced in our 113-year history.
We have moved from the wreckage of that moment to a renewal and indeed to a revival of OBU’s campus. Although some of our most significant buildings are out of commission due to the destruction, our students are back on campus and thriving. And so, renewal to me, to the students, to the staff, to the faculty, to you and especially to us together, represents OBU’s greatest opportunity!
Why is this a great opportunity? Because no one was hurt, OBU was protected and now we are poised to renew, poised to shape the future. This renewal is not just about rebuilding and updating our buildings and our damaged campus grounds and structures; it’s about having the opportunity to emerge out of this disaster prepared to transform lives and communities.
Our goal is not to repristinate the past; our goal is to shape the future. To do that effectively, we have looked to our communities to find out where the needs are. And to that end, right now, OBU is investing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), in health sciences and in the arts. We’re providing new engineering degrees, advanced health care degrees and new cybersecurity degrees. And we’re going to build those on top of our world-class Christian liberal arts foundation.
To move our goal forward, we are completely rebuilding OBU’s most historic building, Shawnee Hall, following significant damage from the tornado. This building has served every student on Bison Hill since it opened in 1915, and with this renewal, it will continue to serve as the center of learning where future shapers are equipped for the next 100 years.
Thurmond Hall is also undergoing a complete renovation to prepare the structure to house new state-of-the-art engineering classrooms and labs. Our new engineering programs began in August and already have 37 students enrolled in classes this fall. These students are practically guaranteed jobs, as the demand for engineers is so extraordinary. Wood Science building is being updated to meet the needs of the future in scientific research, medicine and forensic science among others.
Many areas in our residence centers need renovation, and we are in the planning phases of replacing residential buildings that were lost to the tornado.
OBU’s most iconic building, Raley Chapel, the home to chapel services, concerts and recitals through the years, received extensive damage from the tornado rendering the top floor with Potter Auditorium completely unusable. The spire, tiled roof, stonework and Potter Auditorium will require major rebuilding and replacements.
Oklahoma Baptists stepped in to support us immediately after the tornado, and we’re going to need Oklahoma Baptists to support us in the days ahead. While we have financial needs that outstrip our current capacity, we believe God has a plan for our future, and we trust in Him. Our huge need has provided us with a huge opportunity. We need your help as we walk through these next 18 to 24 months of rebuilding, renewing and transforming the OBU campus. We ask you to join us as we embrace the greatest opportunity Bison Hill has ever experienced!
For more updates, view a special video at okbu.edu/renewal.