An outdoor celebration marked with a number of special recognitions highlighted Ouachita Baptist University’s 122nd annual spring commencement held Saturday, May 9, on the lawn in front of Cone-Bottoms Hall.
University officials conferred a total of 233 degrees on 231 graduates, including 192 Bachelor of Arts degrees, 24 Bachelor of Science degrees, 14 Bachelor of Music degrees and three Bachelor of Music Education degrees.
Ouachita’s 2009 graduating class featured more than 100 honor graduates, including 32 who graduated summa cum laude with a grade point average of 3.95 or higher, 33 who graduated magna cum laude (3.75 GPA) and 39 who graduated cum laude (3.5 GPA). Officials also recognized 11 graduates who completed the university’s Carl Goodson Honors Program.
Six graduates of Ouachita’s Pruet School of Christian Studies who earned 4.0 GPAs read Scripture during the commencement ceremony. The six included Casey Bushman of Burleson, Texas; Labin Duke of Arkadelphia; Cameron Magby of Benton; Abby Martin of Brentwood, Tenn.; Hayden Tucker of Arkadelphia; and Becca Woodall of Bryant.
Also participating in the ceremony was Jon Neal, senior class vice president from Laveen, Ariz., who led the invocation. OBU President Rex M. Horne Jr., also recognized Army Lt. Franklin Vaughn, who returned to complete his degree after serving in Iraq. Vaughn was greeted with a standing ovation from the commencement crowd.
OBU commencement marshal Dr. Tim Knight (left), J.D. Patterson Professor of Biology, is joined by honorary marshals Dr. Alex R. Nisbet (center), professor emeritus of chemistry, and Troy D. Garlin, who is retiring as assistant professor of education. (photo by Callie Phelps)
In addition to the numerous student recognitions, two retiring faculty members were named honorary marshals for the commencement processional. Dr. Alex R. Nesbit, who retired after 46 years on the OBU faculty, previously was named professor emeritus of chemistry by the Ouachita Board of Trustees. Also recognized was Troy D. Garlin, who retired as assistant professor of education after teaching at Ouachita since 1996.
Dr. Horne also recognized Rosemary “Mom” Chu, who retired after more than 42 years as a residence hall director at Ouachita. He announced that one of the houses in Ouachita’s new student village will be named in honor of Chu to “guarantee that future generations of Ouachita students will know of the dedication and service of this remarkable woman.”
Ouachita trustees also voted to present Judge John C. Ward, a member of OBU’s class of 1960, with the university’s prestigious Distinguished Alumnus Award. The award is presented to individuals who “have rendered outstanding service to the university, who have attained significant achievement in their field of endeavor, and whose lives have reflected credit on Ouachita.”
Ouachita President Rex M. Horne Jr., introduces Judge John C. Ward, a 1960 Ouachita graduate who received the university’s prestigious Distinguished Alumnus Award. (photo by Callie Phelps)
Judge Ward, who also is a graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law, is serving his fifth term as a member of the Ouachita Board of Trustees. After a 24-year career as a trial lawyer, he was appointed Chancery Judge in 1988 and became a Circuit Judge in 1989. He also served three terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives. An active member of Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock, he has served as state president and international chaplain of Gideons International. Ward and his wife, Mary Louise, reside in North Little Rock.
Introducing Judge Ward, Dr. Horne noted, “Whether in his profession in law or following his passion as a Gideon, John has been a faithful witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.
“In John Ward, an institution can have no better trustee. In John Ward, an individual can have no better friend,” Horne added. “I am blessed to call Judge John Ward our trustee and my friend.”
Briefly addressing the graduating class, Judge Ward said lessons he has learned in life include, “Get on your knees every morning and beg God for wisdom.” He also challenged the graduates to pray each day, “Lord, today I want to volunteer for whatever You have for me to do in Your Kingdom.”
Additionally, Ward said, “There are only three things valuable in this world and you can’t buy any of them. They’re all relationships – the first with your God and then with your family and then with others.”
Also addressing the graduates, Dr. Horne emphasized that students, faculty and staff are indebted to Baptist Christians who founded Ouachita in 1886, “to God who continues to sovereignly bless Ouachita” and to “friends who believe in us and families that trust us with their sons and daughters.”
Dr. Horne said graduates also have a debt to the faculty who “have impacted our country, our culture and others around the world through you. You owe them. Go out. Do your best. Make a difference.
“The payback of your debt begins today,” he concluded, “not in a negative way, but with a joyful embracing of this journey – so God bless you all, the class of 2009.”
The May 9 ceremony also featured the debut of Ouachita’s university hymn. The hymn, “See God’s Light,” interprets the three words that appear on the university seal: vision, service and integrity. The text was written by Dr. Terry W. York, a published hymnist and professor at Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas. The tune OUACHITA was composed by C. David Bolin, a published composer and music minister at First Baptist Church of Waco.
By Trennis Henderson, OBU Vice President for Communications