C.B. and Mabel Colaw’s legacy is inextricably tied to the college that became Oklahoma Wesleyan University. In fact, without C.B.’s chance encounter in Bartlesville in 1958, OKWU may not exist as it does today.
While driving through the town on his way to Blue Jacket, Oklahoma, C.B. had a flat tire, forcing him to stop in Bartlesville to have it repaired. At the service station, a poster hung on the wall advertising the sale of the former property of oilman H.V. Foster. Intrigued, Colaw decided to take a look; the denomination had been discussing relocating Colorado Springs Bible College for some time, and he sensed the providential hand of the Holy Spirit in that flat tire.
The mansion mesmerized Colaw and his son, Max. When he brought the property to the attention of the denominational board, they agreed to take a look. On July 16, 1958, seven representatives met on the front lawn of the La Quinta mansion to determine the site’s feasibility, voting after much deliberation to buy the land and establish Central Pilgrim College. A plaque now stands between the mansion and Colaw Hall to memorialize the space where those men stood and prayed.
During Friday’s Foster Bonanza event, C.B. and Mabel’s son Stephen accepted the 2021 President’s Award on their behalf, and he stressed the significance of this moment.
“These men of God were united in spirit that it was in God’s purpose and plan for La Quinta Mansion to be the new home for their Bible school and institution of higher learning,” Colaw said.
And it wouldn’t have happened without C.B. realizing that a flat tire could be a push from the Lord.
“My desire is that every BWC graduate enters the world seeking ways they can help others, and not looking for what they can receive for themselves. I want students to leave the college motivated to make the world a better place… each student that leaves Bartlesville Wesleyan College should be marked for service to others.”
A Monumental Legacy
It’s hard to even begin to describe the magnitude of the legacy C.B. and Mabel Colaw left behind when they passed away in 2012 and 2010, respectively. Perhaps foremost is their 73 years of marriage. They met at the one-room schoolhouse near Fredonia, Kansas, and were married in 1937. Their union produced six children—all of whom have attended OKWU’s preceding institutions—17 grandchildren, and 50 great-grandchildren. Many in the family continued on as pastors, and 34 members of the Colaw family received their education at Oklahoma Wesleyan or its preceding institutions.
C.B. and Mabel accepted the Lord’s call to full-time church ministry in 1947 and pastored numerous small churches in Kansas and Oklahoma during their lifetime. After discovering the site that would become OKWU, the family moved to Bartlesville and founded First Wesleyan Church in 1959, which is pastored today by their son, Joe. C.B. served as the District Superintendent of the Tri-State District of the Wesleyan Church for 34 years, and also served the denomination on their General Board of Administration, General Executive Council, General Commission on Administration, General Commission on Christian Education, Chairman of the Wesleyan Pension Fund, General Committee on Special Nominations, secretary of the General Commission on Educational Institutions, and chairman of the General Officers Salary Committee.
C.B.’s involvement with the college in Bartlesville went well beyond helping find the site. He served on the Board of Trustees for decades, serving as chairman for 20 years. For 51 years of involvement with the college, he never missed a board meeting or graduation. In 1979, C.B. was honored as Bartlesville Wesleyan College’s Alumnus of the Year and in 1986 was presented an honorary doctorate by the school. In 2001, C.B. and Mabel presided over the naming of a dormitory in their honor.
To those that knew the couple, it was evident that Mabel was the strong foundation in the marriage. She was beloved by all who knew her, known for her sense of hospitality and for being a mentor to others in the ministry. The couple traveled the world during their lives, often visiting and strengthening those in the mission field.
During an interview for The Tower in 1981, after C.B. was honored for 25 years of service in the Tri-State district, he spoke of the legacy that he hoped BWC, and thus OKWU, would carry in the world.
“My desire is that every BWC graduate enters the world seeking ways they can help others, and not looking for what they can receive for themselves,” he said. “I want students to leave the college motivated to make the world a better place… each student that leaves Bartlesville Wesleyan College should be marked for service to others.”
Those words certainly ring true for both C.B. and Mabel—they were marked for service to others, and their service has yielded an eternal benefit to countless students. OKWU is honored to recognize both C.B. and Mabel with the 2021 President’s Award.