On a beautiful Oklahoma Friday morning, Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) officially ushered in a new era of leadership.
Dr. Jim Dunn was inaugurated as the sixth president since the university’s founding, in a ceremony that made his vision for the school crystal clear. It also showcased a unique kind of generosity, as Dunn’s first act as a ceremonially inaugurated president was to give away $100 dollars and to cancel the next hour of classes.
“And that was the biggest ‘amen’ I’ve gotten from the faculty since I’ve been here,” Dunn said jokingly.
Equally full of humor and gravity, the ceremony served as a poignant celebration of new beginnings for the university. The theme of the program, “Transformed by Grace and Truth,” served as a kind of rallying cry for the inauguration, and it will continue to be a thematic roadmap as this new era of university leadership takes effect.
“OKWU’s message must be counter-cultural, not anti-cultural,” Dunn said, “so that we might win some for the cause of the Good News: that Jesus saves.”
The inauguration, which took place October 11 in OKWU’s Lyon Chapel and Fine Arts Center, marks the official beginning of a tenure that truly began this summer, when Dr. Dunn and first lady, Wendy Agner Dunn, arrived on campus to give leadership. This is a university that he’s already been deeply involved in during his life. Having attended OKWU – then Bartlesville Wesleyan College – as an undergraduate student, Dunn has served The Wesleyan Church in many different capacities, leading as General Director of Spiritual Formation and Executive Director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship. He also taught at Indiana Wesleyan University and, most recently, served as the Vice President of Church Relations at the Wesleyan Investment Foundation. And throughout all the different roles that he has filled, Dunn believes that he was always being prepared for this task: to lead OKWU into the future.
The Future Looks Bright
Dr. Steve Babby delivered the inaugural address, and outlined some of the challenges facing the university — and Christian higher education in general. “It’s difficult for a university to survive today,” Babby said. “How can OKWU remain relevant… now and in the future?”
“OKWU’s message must be counter-cultural, not anti-cultural, so that we might win some for the cause of the Good News: that Jesus saves.”
This address, full of the same lighthearted humor and joyfulness that Dunn brings to his administration, likened higher education with the MLB playoffs, urging OKWU to take an approach more like the St. Louis Cardinals and not Babby’s lamentable hometown San Diego Padres. “We are in the playoffs for the survival of this university and other likewise Christian universities,” he said. “With Dr. Jim Dunn, we are hitting a grand slam home run.”
After acknowledging the challenges facing OKWU today, Babby was quick to point out how much there is to be grateful for, such as the tremendous financial strides the university has taken in the past years under the leadership of Dr. Everett Piper.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is that we went from a weak university to a very strong university.” And Babby is confident that the school will only become stronger in the years to come, under Dr. Dunn’s leadership.
Along with new leadership came the strengthening of a new tradition at the university — ringing of the OKWU Bell. Dr. Dalene Fisher opened the inauguration ceremony by dedicating this bell to the memory of Sam Shannon, the son of Professor Mark Shannon, who passed away on October 11, 2005. Shannon took to the stage to emotionally ring what will now be known as Sam’s Bell.
A number of visiting dignitaries, from both the political and academic worlds, attended the event, including State Senator Julie Daniels, and Congressman Kevin Hern. Mr. Dale Copeland, the mayor of the city of Bartlesville, was also in attendance, and anticipates with excitement the years to come at OKWU.
“OKWU has long been a vital part of our community,” said Copeland. “The faculty and student body serve as outstanding local citizens. Their engagement and leadership have always been a benefit over the decades. I look forward to a bright future with Dr. Dunn at the helm of this fine institution. These are exciting times in Bartlesville.”
Senator Daniels concurs. “We celebrate the promise that new leadership brings to a university that has grown and enjoyed much success over the past fifteen years,” she said. “OKWU is a blessing to Bartlesville and plays a large role in making us the unique little city that we are.”
“With Dr. Jim Dunn, we are hitting a grand slam home run.”
University leadership from a number of Christian institutions was also in attendance. The Wesleyan Church was represented by dignitaries from Houghton College, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, Southern Wesleyan University, and Kingswood University. Dr. Wayne Schmidt, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, was also involved in the program, presenting the presidential medallion to Dunn along with Roger Metcalf, the Chair of OKWU’s Board of Trustees, and Dr. Mark Weeter, University Provost.
A number of Christian universities outside the Wesleyan sphere also sent dignitaries, including Oklahoma Baptist University, Southern Nazarene University, MidAmerica Nazarene, and others. These universities partnered with OKWU to witness its changing of the guard, all the while reflecting on Dr. Dunn’s installment.
“Jim Dunn is a wonderful servant leader who is passionate about discipleship and the way Christ centered higher education can extend the ministry of the local church,” said Dr. Kevin Newman, president of Southern Nazarene University. “It will be exciting to watch his impact at OKWU.”
Dr. Pat Taylor, the interim president of Oklahoma Baptist University, reflected on what the concept of an inauguration can mean to a university.
“Inauguration is a time of celebrating a new beginning for the University,” he said. “It is a time the new president can formally outline goals and objectives for the University for the next several years. Basically, inauguration day is a celebration of the historical values and heritage of the University.”
Transformed by Grace and Truth
Dr. Dunn’s address acknowledged this history, noting the strong spiritual foundation that OKWU has stood on it since its beginning over 100 years ago. He also placed a high emphasis on the OKWU community joining together with him as prayer partners. He is seeking 1,000 prayer partners to join with him in praying for two things – first, that God would provide exactly what the university needs, and secondly, that God would supernaturally work in and through the mission of OKWU.
“You’re invited to join me in committing to prayer for this endeavor every day,” Dunn said. In fact, all are encouraged to partner with the university in this goal. Please consider joining together with Dr. Dunn to lift up this new era at OKWU in prayer. Become a prayer partner at: www.okwu.edu/prayerteam.
Dr. Josh McNall, a professor in the School of Ministry and Christian Thought, perhaps summed up this need for prayer partners best in his invocation, by quoting the words of Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”