“Ouachita Voices” borrows its name from the university’s 125th anniversary commemorative coffee table book that features essays from a number of notable Ouachitonians. This is an excerpt from the personal entry of Philip Williamson.
In my attempt to reflect on my time at Ouachita, I tried to start with activities and organizations I had been in. Several attempts later, I realized that I had been writing from a completely backwards perspective. In truth, I did not and do not love Ouachita because of the things in which I was involved; I became involved because I loved Ouachita, for a number of reasons I would like to share.
Ouachita was home. My immediate predecessor as Senior Class President, Jeff “Juice” Garner, was once asked to sum up his OBU experience in one word. His now-famous reply was “Life-changing … and that’s hyphenated.” Members of the class of 2010 were put to the same question as our graduation approached, and overwhelmingly the word of choice was “Home.” That sense of family was something I started to feel before I even considered attending Ouachita.
I may be more sentimental than most, but having your birthday remembered is a big deal, especially when it’s someone who has no particular reason to do so. During both my junior and senior years of high school, I remember receiving birthday cards from my admissions counselor. And these were not your stock “I hope the day is great, don’t forget to finish your application” birthday cards you might expect an admissions team to send out. Rather, the messages I received indicated that my counselor remembered not just what was on my admissions profile, but things I had talked about on visits and off-hand comments I had made on the phone. The feeling of being wanted at OBU proved to be a major factor in finally deciding to come here.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge that I had a plethora of opportunities to impact my school, meet interesting and influential people (including two governors and a former president), and grow academically and personally. Ouachita set me up for success, as it does for so many of its students. But at the end of the day, everything good about Ouachita can be traced back to the people who occupy its offices, classrooms and dorms. To that end, Ouachita is an unashamedly Christian university. The presence of God on the campus makes an immeasurable difference. Everything about the school, from the choice of students to the intentional promotion of community, is touched with the school’s Christian mission.
During my four years at Ouachita, I sat under at least 30 different professors from across the academic disciplines, and I owe an immense debt of gratitude to all of them. I learned from my professors that I could succeed not only in college, but in life after Ouachita. They taught me how to think, to argue, to write and to ask, “Why?” I discovered that “it depends” is a perfectly acceptable answer, even in physics; that history matters; Pop-Tarts are dangerous; and there is a wide world worth exploring. I learned how to speak French and buy insurance. My professors gave me a love for classical music, and yes, Professor Handiboe, an ongoing love of the theatre.
In sum, when put to the question of what I want Ouachita to be in its future, it would be much the same as what I experienced in my time there: A deeply committed Christian university where the Kingdom of God is the first consideration and students are cared for and given a genuine opportunity to succeed. This is the place I called home for four years, and what I hope will be home to many students in years to come.
Philip Williamson, a 2010 summa cum laude graduate of Ouachita and senior class president, was named Ouachita’s 2010 Top Academic Achiever. He graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2013 and is now an associate at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Ouachita Voices blog is a place for the people of Ouachita to tell the stories of Ouachita. Lend your voice to the conversation. Submit your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.