Legacy of Generosity: The Campbell Story
By Kameron Nettleton
Bob (’62) and Joyce Campbell’s relationship with Oklahoma Wesleyan University goes back over 60 years.
They can trace their roots to the Miltonvale Wesleyan College (MWC) days, where Bob attended for three years, starting during his junior year of high school and continuing through his first year of undergrad. Joyce came to MWC as a senior in high school. For Bob, MWC was always the place – his sisters had attended before him, and he had looked forward to it since he was young. Joyce chose it after years of attending public schools, eager for the Christian atmosphere. They were engaged following their freshman year, and they’ve been a team ever since.
Though their time at the university was relatively short, it was foundational for the rest of their lives. They maintained close ties to their alma mater in the decades since. For Bob, his time at the college sparked in him a love of science that would define his career.
“Science and faith have been so important in my life. The science came because of what happened at the university,” he said. “The faith was there first, beginning with godly parents, and it was reinforced by a wonderful home church. What happened in college was like how steel reinforces concrete. It provided a foundation for the rest of my life.”
“The spiritual atmosphere was always present,” Joyce said. “Every class began with prayer. Always.”
Bob earned his degrees from Kansas State and Purdue, but his interest was kindled on the campus at Miltonvale.
“My first science class at the university was chemistry,” he said. “Professor Ted Suffridge made the subject come alive to me. It totally changed my life.” Campbell earned his PhD in organic chemistry, and he worked in the research and development of materials like plastics, fibers, and adhesives.
While he earned his doctorate, Joyce became the family’s breadwinner, taking secretarial and bookkeeping work to provide for their young family. Following Bob’s graduation, his first job took them to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in 1966.
They arrived before the opening of the Bartlesville campus, but their close proximity gave them a chance to be involved. Their three children were on campus often since it was within walking distance of their home. In the 1980s, Bob was recruited by the science faculty to teach an adjunct course. He taught organic chemistry at the college until a new job took the family to Ohio in 1988.
Shortly after they settled into a new home in Ohio, Bob received a phone call asking if he would consider joining OKWU’s board of trustees. He agreed and has been a supporter of the university ever since.
Lifetime of Giving
The Campbells have been pillars of generosity for years. “Our first gift to the university was when we were graduate students,” Bob remembers. “Throughout time, we’ve had an awareness that a school like OKWU relies on gifts for viability.”
When presented with the vision for the NOW Campaign, the Campbells agreed to partner with the university once again, providing a generous lead gift to the campaign that included the establishment of the Dr. Ted Suffridge Professorship, part of OKWU’s endowment plan for the future.
“The NOW Campaign is about making sure that OKWU will be ministering to as many students as possible for life-changing opportunities.”
“The NOW Campaign is about making sure that OKWU will be ministering to as many students as possible for life-changing opportunities,” Bob said. “It’s our hope that those students will encounter the same Biblically-based worldview that we did as students.”
There is a personal element for the Campbells as well. Over a decade ago, they established a scholarship fund to incentivize their own grandchildren to spend time as OKWU students. Their granddaughter, Cori Campbell, graduated from OKWU in May 2023, a living embodiment of what the Campbells believe OKWU can do.
“Giving to the university changes lives,” Joyce said. “We want to impact people and change their lives so they will go out and be a witness to the world.”
And naming the professorship after Dr. Suffridge is a way of completing the full circle that began when Bob was a teenager sitting in Suffridge’s classroom.
“We named it after him because of the impact he had on my life. It’s a way of honoring him.”