Saturday’s graduation ceremonies marked the end of an era at OKWU, as three foundational professors—Dr. Mike Fullingim, Dr. Beverly Hartter, and Dr. Bill Vieux—stepped away from full-time teaching.
All three of these professors have been part of the OKWU community for decades, with Fullingim leaving as one of the longest-serving professors in the university’s history. Each has left their mark on the students they’ve interacted with, and we at OKWU are grateful for their time, energy, and dedication.
Different Callings, Radical Impact
For Beverly Hartter, retirement will mark not just a decade-plus of teaching at OKWU, but a career that spans 50 years at various levels. She’s known that she wanted to teach math since the 7th grade, and had the calling reaffirmed many times throughout her life. At first, though, she questioned how long she’d be able to keep it up.
“I realized that I probably would not teach longer than 10 years because I would probably be out of touch with the students,” she said. “But here I am, fifty years later.”
Throughout those fifty years, Hartter has managed to accrue a wide experience. She’s taught at high schools, state schools, and research universities, arriving at OKWU in 2007. Since then, she’s taken advantage of the smaller setting to connect more with her students, paying special attention to the freedom she has to invest in them spiritually.
“That’s a special blessing to me to be able to start each class with a devotion or talk to the students from a spiritual standpoint if they’re having issues,” she said. “What has the Lord shown you here? Have you prayed about this? That’s just been a wonderful opportunity… this has been a wonderful way to end fifty years of teaching.”
Now, as she contemplates launching out into the next phase of life, Hartter is excited to spend more time traveling and with her family, specifically her grandchildren.
While Hartter felt a calling to teach immediately, the process was more elongated for Fullingim, who signed on to teach at OKWU in 1987 for only one year. The role was initially supposed to fill the gap between stints in the mission field at Papua New Guinea, where the Fullingim family had served, and where Mike had been working in linguistics.
It was initially a challenge for Fullingim to accept when that one-year contract turned into a lengthy career.
A quote from D.L. Moody served to provide a mission statement for this new career phase. “He had made the comment that it’s better to train ten people than to do the work of ten people. This is the same work as mission work,” Fullingim said. “I felt like there was a message that came to me… mine was to stay here and train more people.”
The decision to retire came from a number of different factors, one of the most notable being a changing dynamic in the way mission work is done. And while he’s excited for what the future holds, what Fullingim really holds close are his memories of the work. Specifically, he thinks back to the mission trips he led with OKWU students in the 1990s, as mission workers rushed to enter the former Soviet Union. The OKWU groups worked multiple summers at youth camps sharing the gospel, and Fullingim says it changed his view on short-term missions.
“The collapse of communism created the opportunity to spend a short time with people overseas,” he said. “There was a way to participate in bringing a gospel message…. That would be one of the highlights, stepping into the gap for post-communist nations.”
“He had made the comment that it’s better to train ten people than to do the work of ten people. This is the same work as mission work… mine was to stay here and train more people.”
For Vieux, the highlight of teaching psychology at OKWU was the same thing that attracted him to the role in the first place: being able to connect his profession and passion to a Christ-centered environment.
“I love being able to share with people the fact that, to be good at psychology or psychotherapy or case management – anything that has to do with interacting with other people – you must have a supernatural love for people,” he said. “For me, I know it is from the Holy Spirit. There are days that I suppose I can go through the paces, but when I’m in my right mind I feel comfortable when I’m sitting with someone because I sense that the Spirit is coming and is with us. Once that happens, I’m okay. I don’t have anxiety anymore; I don’t worry about it.”
Throughout Vieux’s 14 years of teaching here, he’s appreciated the opportunities to connect this practice with the Gospel, something he acknowledges is unique to OKWU’s context. “To be able to teach people that, in this setting, it would be hard to do that at a regular university,” he said. “I’m grateful. I love to be able to tell my students that I love them. I always tell them, I know it sounds weird, but I still love you anyway.’”
We are grateful for the incredible service of our professors as they help students seek out God’s calling on their lives. Thank you to Drs. Fullingim, Hartter, and Vieux!
Keep an eye out for Dr. Fullingim’s full story in this fall’s Tower magazine.