Naomi Mueller (‘58) has been connected to Oklahoma Wesleyan University for over 50 years, serving the school in a number of capacities with grace and dedication. During Saturday’s Commencement Ceremony, President Dunn will present her an award reserved for only a select few throughout the university’s long history—an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.
Through the decades, Mueller and her husband, Don, have worn several hats at OKWU. They began as students, receiving their associate’s degrees from Colorado Springs Bible College, a preceding institution to the current university, in 1958 and 1954, respectively. And while they would go on to further their education at other locations—Naomi at the University of Tulsa and Don at Asbury Seminary—their ties to CSBC and the schools that followed never wavered.
“[My time there] was more than I ever dreamed it could be,” Naomi said. “The impact that CSBC had on my life was the impetus to continue my passion for Central Pilgrim College, Bartlesville Wesleyan College, and [now] Oklahoma Wesleyan University.”
That passion has manifested itself in a number of different ways over the years, but the result has been consistent: a quiet impact on the lives of students and the culture of this community.
“What I had done was for the Lord, and I didn’t need the acclaim… I am greatly humbled by the attention this award has brought to me. I just give God all the glory—it’s all about Him!”
Naomi’s connection to the school was obvious from the start, as her father worked in Kansas as a Pilgrim Holiness pastor. It was through this work that she first learned of CSBC, and when the time came to continue her education, the fit seemed clear.
“I never thought, initially, of attending any other college,” Naomi said. “God was directing my steps.”
After graduating with her associate’s degree, Naomi would go on to achieve a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music education from the University of Tulsa. She formulated connections with The Gideons International and taught music—at the university level at Central Pilgrim College and Bartlesville Wesleyan College, and also to countless students as a private piano teacher, a role which continues to this day. Since 2002, she has served on the OKWU Board of Trustees, though the position is presently in Emeritus status.
But it’s Naomi’s spirit of grace and hospitality that is most remembered by those in the university community who have been impacted by her, her “quiet and profound support” for individuals.
“One of the things [Don and Naomi] did was to host visiting families, as students toured and enrolled at OKWU,” President Jim Dunn recalled. “One of those family’s was First Lady Wendy Dunn’s mother, when Wendy came to BWC/OKWU as a student from Phoenix, Arizona in 1986.”
The Honorary Doctorate on Saturday is but the latest in a line of recognition from the university. In 1985, Naomi was named BWC’s Alumnus of the Year, and she received the President’s Award in 2012.
For her part, Naomi remains humble. “I was astounded when Dr. Jim told me they wanted to give me an honorary doctorate,” she said. “I told him that I was 83 years old and not worthy of it. I hadn’t done anything worthy of receiving that!… What I had done was for the Lord, and I didn’t need the acclaim… I am greatly humbled by the attention this award has brought to me. I just give God all the glory—it’s all about Him!”
Now, as she ponders the latest chapter in her OKWU story, Naomi is pleased with the state of the university. While noting that things have changed—which, she says, they should—she is gratified that the mission today is the same as it was when she came as a student.
“It has been 66 years since I was a freshman in college, but OKWU has kept its focus on an excellent God-centered college education for its students,” she said. “The focus must remain the same: providing an excellent education in the major area of study so students become leaders, and continuing to give the foundation of Christian values, so each student will be a ‘bright and shining light’ in the world to which God directs them.”
Congratulations to Naomi, Don, and the entire Mueller family on this tremendous honor.