Here Comes the New OBU President
SHAWNEE-David Wesley Whitlock was named the 15th president of Oklahoma Baptist University on Oct. 10. The 46-year-old educator is a loving husband, father, son and grandson, an avid reader, a dabbler in pottery/ceramics and a motorcycle enthusiast.
That’s right. Don’t be shocked when the president of Oklahoma’s only Baptist university, skids up in front of your church on his street bike, dressed in a suit and tie, with helmet and Bible in tow.
When asked if he would be seen driving around the OBU campus on his bike, he replied, “I certainly hope so.”
He said his interest in motorcycles began when his parents bought one when he was 9. Then on his 40th birthday, his wife, Dana, surprised him with a new motorcycle.
Even as the educator was presented to the OBU faculty, staff, students and media on the day of his election, he seemed right at home. Perhaps that’s because he’s known for some years that OBU would indeed be his home someday.
Whitlock said he came to faith later in life, and was struggling how to merge his calling to higher education with his faith, when he visited the OBU campus.
“I was on staff at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, and we were building a new business facility,” Whitlock explained. “The dean and I flew into Shawnee, Pat Taylor met us and took us to the Bailey Business Center.”
The two SWOSU faculty members were so impressed with Bailey Business Center that they hired the architects to construct their facility. But that wasn’t the most important thing that happened that day.
When Whitlock returned home, he told his wife that he wanted to work on that campus.
“I realized that’s what I’d been working for,” he said. “That’s the way I could integrate my faith with my background calling to higher education.”
Taylor, who was then OBU’s provost, was so impressed with Whitlock that he wanted to hire him right then, but there was no opening at OBU.
Then about 12 years ago, Taylor moved to Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. as president.
“About two years into my administration, our dean of the college of business left, and I knew I wanted David for that position,” Taylor said. “But he was bivocational pastor of Silo Church (in Bryan Association), and they had just gone into a building program, and he said he couldn’t leave then. We told him we would wait, and a year later he came.”
Taylor, who recommended Whitlock to OBU, said he did so because, one, he loves OBU and knew Whitlock has the experience, knowledge and ability to be a good president, and two, because “I knew he was ready, and he feels called to do this.”
And admitted Taylor, there is a pride factor.
“It looks good for someone from our college to be president of a sister Baptist institution.”
But the bottom line, said Taylor, is “I felt he would be good for OBU, and I cared about who the next president would be.”
Taylor said Whitlock is committed to the integration of faith and academic disciplines, is very energetic, has a great work ethic, possesses outstanding leadership skills, understands that collective wisdom is better than individual wisdom, is very personable, has a great sense of humor and is very good with people.
“Besides, he is an Oklahoma boy, who grew up in a small town,” (Whitlock was born in Purcell and graduated from Wayne High School), said Taylor. “He has been a bivocational pastor, so he is good with churches as well as having academic credentials. He is very theological, conservative and intellectual.”
Taylor added, “Like most of us, when he got married, he outkicked his coverage. He has a very supportive wife, who will be a great campus mom for the students.”
Whitlock agrees. “My wife is a marvelous person full of wisdom,” he said. “She’s the best thing, outside of my salvation, that’s happened in my life. We are lifelong partners.”
Whitlock met Dana Searles when she moved from Duncanville, Texas to Durant to be near her father who had cancer. They were married in 1987 and are the parents of four sons.
Joshua Christian is 21 and in the Navy. Ryan Wesley, 19, is a student at SBU. David Searles, 16, is a high school junior, and Landon Allen, 12, is seventh grader.
Whitlock said although the family lived in Missouri for nine years, Oklahoma is home, and they are glad to be back among parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, bothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Whitlock’s father, also an educator, is retired from Mid America Area Vo-Tech School, where he served as principal. His mother, Shirley Millsap, lives in Sand Springs.
Whitlock’s grandfather, Harold Whitlock, served as an Oklahoma pastor for 11 years, including Newcastle, First; Wayne, First and Oklahoma City, Millwood, before moving to Ohio where he was involved in pioneer mission work. He moved back to Oklahoma in 1989, and is now a member at Hinton, First, where his father, A.L. Whitlock, who died in 1984 at the age of 104, formerly served as pastor.
Whitlock said he is excited about stepping into the presidency, and looking forward to getting out and meeting the Oklahoma constituency. The Sunday after he was named president, he spoke at Oklahoma City, Southern Hills that morning and at Enon Association’s annual meeting that night. On Monday, he spoke at Bryan Association’s Pastors’ Conference and associational meeting.
He said his chief goals are to help increase enrollment by connecting the Oklahoma Baptist constituency so OBU is the first choice of a college for students, and to make sure the university stays true to its mission of providing education that integrates faith. He added that OBU’s greatest asset is its reputation for Christ-centered excellence and his own biggest asset is that “I love the Lord, and He’s already given me a great love for this university.”