I nearly forgot that I was committed to something on this blog today. What is that something, if you may ask?
It was to say a little about where I went to college. You see, today is Founders' Day for Ouachita Baptist University, where I went, and graduated from, about 10 years ago.
So, what should I say about Ouachita? Well, first of all: "Wash-it-aw," ok? Not "O-u-a-cheet-ah" or any other strange pronunciation. Got it? Good. There's a few other observation to make, so I'll compile them as a list:
1. There is another school that claims to be "OBU" and it's in Oklahoma. However, the internet directs www.obu.edu to Ouachita. As clearly as the ending to Miracle on 34th Street, where the Post Office clearly identifies Santa Claus, so the Internet identifies OBU as a school located in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The other is clearly OKBU.
2. One of the best things about being an OBU Alum in Arkansas is that we wear Purple and Gold and shout "GO TIGERS" and it has no bearing on our feeling towards the Razorbacks. People do look at my Tigers hat funny, though, until they see the big "OBU" on it.
3. OBU, as a college, actually doesn't have that many buildings. Sure, there are a lot of names on 1 building, but if you know your way, Lile, McLellan, the Evans Student Center, and Mabee Fine Arts buildings are actually connected, so that's just one big building. I still think there are tunnels connecting the rest, but I never found my way.
4. OBU, and this may be true of other schools, but I don't know, is a great shared experience, and fellow alumni are more like distant relations than strangers. We went to OBU Night with the Arkansas Travelers, and the general greetings involved an exchange of names and graduation years. Beyond that, there was a mutual bond that you felt. Odd, though, is that I don't really remember that going to school, but I see it, and feel it now as an alum. I feel it in the jealousy that a fellow alum here in Almyra has for my OBU license tag (I have an actual OBU tag, the extra cost above the Arkansas State Tag Fee goes to the scholarship fund), because you can't get them, apparently, in Arkansas County.
We share a special place in our memories, and have room at the table in our hearts for each other for sharing it. Did we save the world from there? No, but for many of us, OBU was the place where the world was saved for us. It was the place where we learned that our faith in Christ and academic excellence weren't contradictions, but rather two ideas that reinforced, even demanded each other. We learned to interact with people, whether they were very different, like my summer roommate from Kazakhstan (whose dad ran a vodka factory), or very similar, like Frank, who I went to high school with (who, finally, thanks to OBU and the US Army, graduated from OBU, having finished while deployed to Iraq). We learned to deal with each other's bad days and good days. We learned, sometimes painfully, sometimes joyfully, that both actions and ideas have consequences. We saw that other people sacrificed for us to gain knowledge and experience, and we learned to treasure the wisdom we saw. We also knew we had to commit ourselves to sacrifice for the good of others. It truly was the preparation for the days ahead.
5. OBU will always be special because it's where God used to connect me with my wife. I went to OBU on a scholarship, stayed there when my parents moved from Arkansas to Georgia, and, in the process, met many people. One of them was a year ahead of me, and she was a Missionary's Kid at OBU because, at the time, OBU had a financial aid package that covered 100% of MK tuition, room, and board. So, here were two people at a college neither could afford, thanks to the generosity of others. One day, after 3 years of passing acquaintance, same church attendance, and a few false starts (on my part), we came to realize our path from OBU led the same way, and that we should walk in it together. So, for 12 years now, we've been together.
We've just recently started being able to go back for OBU activities like Homecoming, and I've been at the OBU Pastor's Conference the past two years (probably miss this year's, but that's ok). The grounds have changed. A lot. Some of the faculty have changed. Dr. Vang went to Florida. Dr. Buckelew went to eternity. Dr. Westmoreland went to Samford (nice place, I was there last summer). Walt (from the cafeteria that's been bulldozed) went to eternity as well. The students sure look younger than they once did, and the football team seems better than it was.
Yet Ouachita is still a place of preparation, and a place dear to my heart. My retirement plan is to someday, after completing an advanced degree to qualify for it, to find my way to an office in Verser, in the Speech Department, and live out my days helping students. Helping them overcome their fears and anxieties, their pride and their stubbornness, and help them to become who they were created to be.
Each year I'm gone, I realize what a treasure my OBU days were. I hope that others will find their way to OBU. It's not a bubble or a cocoon, but it's a place where preparation for the days ahead are there for you.