Ouachita hires Dr. Lewis Shepherd in full-time role to support students, faculty and staff of color

Dr. Ben Sells, president of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, announced today that Dr. Lewis Shepherd, Jr., will join the school’s executive leadership team as special assistant to the president.

Man wearing suit

Dr. Shepherd’s hiring represents the first-time in Ouachita history to have a full-time position devoted to advancing racial diversity.

“Ouachita, with minority enrollment 16.4% of the student body, is more racially diverse than any time in its history; however, there is more progress to make,” Sells said. “This historic commitment by our university will help make Ouachita a more welcoming and supportive campus for students, faculty and staff of color.”

Dr. Shepherd is a double graduate of Ouachita, having earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and a master’s degree in education. He earned a doctorate in higher education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

From 2009 to the present, Dr. Shepherd held senior leadership roles at Henderson State University focusing on student life, external relations and community engagement. He previously served 29 years in a variety of roles at Ouachita. Since graduating from Ouachita, Dr. Shepherd has been a bi-vocational pastor and has served since 2000 at Greater Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Arkadelphia, the largest Black church in the community.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to return to my alma mater and in such an important capacity,” said Dr. Shepherd. “I want to help everyone associated with Ouachita and our community understand racial diversity and its impact.”

Ouachita’s current strategic plan has a goal to “expand campus diversity while improving support for minority students, faculty and staff.” It resulted in Dr. Sells establishing the Office of Multicultural Student Programs in 2017, which Dr. Shepherd will also oversee and expand.

“As a graduate of Ouachita connected with many of our alumni of color and as someone who has been the pastor of many black students, faculty and staff, I’m pleased with the progress that Ouachita has made,” Shepherd said. “I’ve worked closely with President Sells on community efforts since he came to Ouachita in 2016. I appreciated his June 1 statement that ‘Ouachita has more to do to advance racial justice and human dignity’ and I’m excited to help lead my university in this area.”

“Increased racial diversity represents intentional university efforts, contributes to a richer learning environment, and reflects changing demographics,” Sells said. “It’s also a priority for us as a Christian university because all people are created in the image of God.”

In addition to his career in education and ministry, Dr. Shepherd has been involved in numerous civic endeavors, including having served on the Arkansas State Police Commission, as past president of the Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce and as a founding member of the Arkadelphia Sunrise Rotary Club. He currently is chair of the Board of Directors of the Percy and Donna Malone Child Safety Center.

Ouachita establishes Annie Abrams Living Legacy Award for black students, Tyrese Allen and Dayja James named first recipients

Ouachita Baptist University has established the Annie Abrams Living Legacy Award, a new scholarship to recognize black students. Tyrese Allen of Savannah, Ga., and Dayja James of McGehee, Ark., have been selected as the scholarship’s first recipients and each will receive $2,500. A matching gift is in place to endow the scholarship, allowing it to be awarded annually for years to come.

Dayja James

The scholarship will honor students involved in Ouachita’s Multicultural Organization Reaching Equality (MORE) student organization who have demonstrated leadership, exemplified the university’s mission and shown promise to positively influence the world.

“This scholarship is another step by Ouachita to do more in advancing racial justice and human dignity by further investing in black student leaders,” said Ouachita President Dr. Ben Sells. “To receive the Annie Abrams Living Legacy Award will be an honor, as it is intended to recognize and develop leadership.”

Tyrese Allen

The award honors the living legacy of Arkadelphia native Annie Abrams – a civil activist, pursuer of social justice, educator, culture worker and museum curator – whose achievements include working alongside Daisy Bates to desegregate Little Rock Central High School, establishing the city’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. parade and leading the campaigns to rename High Street in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and 20th Street after Little Rock’s first black mayor, Charles Bussey.

Abrams was named to Arkansas’ Black Hall of Fame in 2010, and she is the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Award given by Coretta Scott King, the First Lady’s Women in Public Service Award and the Brooks Hays Award for Civil Rights Champions.

“It is an honor to be able to name this prestigious award after Annie Abrams, who served as an extraordinary civil rights activist and world-changing leader from Arkadelphia,” said Nicole Porchia, Ouachita’s director of Multicultural Student Programs. “This scholarship also is offering black students at Ouachita the opportunity to have some financial ease and be acknowledged for the wonderful and strong attributes that make them both a deserving individual and influential leader not just to the black community but the campus community as a whole.

“This is another step toward progress that will move our Ouachita community forward in understanding the importance of standing together in support of equality,” Porchia added. “It makes me proud to be a Ouachita alumna knowing that we, as a university, are moving in this direction.”

Allen, a senior biology and psychology double major, recently was voted as Ouachita Student Senate’s student body president for the 2020-2021 academic year. He also has served as vice president of MORE, where he coordinated much of Ouachita’s Black History Month campus events in 2020 and assembled a Tiger Serve Day team. 

James, a junior biology major, has been selected as president of MORE for the 2020-2021 academic year. She is involved in EEE women’s social club and has been actively involved in MORE since her freshman year. James also is a member of Ouachita’s Carl Goodson Honors Program.

“Tyrese and Dayja exemplify the leadership skills needed to make a positive impact and change on our campus,” Porchia said. “They are passionate about striving for justice and peace among all people and understand the importance of racial reconciliation.

“They both have shown us that they are a listening ear to the black community, but also that they recognize the importance of walking alongside others to make a difference; it is about unity,” she continued. “I consider them difference makers, and I know when they leave Ouachita, they will continue to lead in their communities.”

The Annie Abrams Living Legacy Award took shape earlier this month following a $1,000 gift by former Ouachita student Stephanie Rodgers and a matching gift of $25,000 from an anonymous donor to further grow and endow the scholarship. Rodgers’ gift came after a challenge given by North Central University President Scott Hagan on June 4 during the memorial service for George Floyd. During the service, held on NCU’s campus, Hagan announced that the Christian university would start a scholarship in Floyd’s name dedicated to inspiring young black leaders.

“It is time to invest like never before in a new generation of young black Americans who are poised and ready to take leadership in our nation,” Hagan said. He challenged other university presidents to made additional investments in scholarships.

Rodgers was watching the televised memorial service when she heard Hagan’s challenge. Both Ouachita and NCU are members of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), an organization with the mission “to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and help its institutions transform lives by relating scholarship and service to biblical truth.”

An advocate herself, Rodgers works as director of development for Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes in Little Rock. Growing up in the foster care system through the ABC Homes, Rodgers later attended Ouachita like her foster father, a Ouachita graduate.

“I knew that it was God tugging at my heart and calling me once again to stand in the gap, this time for black students at Ouachita,” Rodgers said. “Knowing the integrity of Ouachita, I jumped quickly knowing that I had to, in order to be the first to give.”

“I was inspired by my fellow Christian college president, as well as by alumna Stephanie Rodgers who, at her own initiative, made the first gift to Ouachita to establish a scholarship for black students,” Sells said. “In response to this, and adding momentum, an anonymous matching gift of up to $25,000 was given.”

After Ouachita received news of Rodgers’ and the anonymous donor’s gifts, MORE student leadership began working with university administration to name the scholarship, and a committee of faculty and staff members selected the first award recipients.

According to MORE student leaders, bestowing Annie Abrams’ name on the award makes the scholarship “more personal to the Ouachita community.”

“Annie’s achievements and works speak for themselves and act as a great example of the kind of recipient for such an award,” MORE student leaders wrote. “Two words that best describe her are ‘love’ and ‘action’: two of the most important attributes of a civil rights activist and world-changing leader.”

The daughter of the late Mrs. Q.V. Reed, who influenced many young lives in the Arkadelphia community as an educator, Abrams attended Dunbar High School in Little Rock, graduated from Dunbar Junior College with her certification in education and later earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from Philander Smith College.

In addition to her many achievements, Abrams has been involved in numerous community service organizations. Abrams served as a commissioner for the Fair Housing Commission and a treasurer of the Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus, and she was the first black president of the Parent Teacher Association at Little Rock Central High School. She continues to serve as honorary co-chair of the state Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission.

“After personally meeting Annie Abrams and learning about her life and legacy, including her ties to our community, it seemed ideal for Ouachita to honor her in a way that also recognizes and invests in black student leaders on our campus,” Sells said. “Abrams was moved by and affirmed this decision.”

To donate to the Annie Abrams Living Legacy Award fund, visit obu.edu/give and list “Annie Abrams Living Legacy Award” in the instructions line. The first $25,000 given will be matched, doubling the impact. For more information, contact Terry Peeples, vice president for development, at peeplest@obu.edu or 870-245-5169.

Ouachita waiving test score requirement for fall 2021 applicants

Ouachita Baptist University is waiving its usual admissions requirements for ACT and SAT standardized test scores for the 2020-2021 recruitment cycle. This will apply to students enrolling as freshmen for the fall 2021 semester, with their acceptance to the university dependent, instead, on their high school grade point average (GPA).

The temporary policy change was approved by university administrators as well as Ouachita’s Curriculum and Academic Standards Committee due to nationwide standardized testing cancellations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left members of the high school Class of 2021 concerned about their college applications.

“Ouachita understands the challenges, stresses and pressures high school students and their families are facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Keldon Henley, Ouachita’s vice president for institutional advancement and chief of staff. “We want to be considerate of students and their families at this time.”

For students who may benefit from submitting an ACT or SAT score in addition to their high school GPA, scores will be accepted. Additional details about the adjusted policy and scholarship information for students accepted for fall 2021 will be available later this summer.

Ouachita’s 2018-2019 yearbook named Pacemaker Finalist by Associated Collegiate Press

Ouachita Baptist University’s Ouachitonian yearbook has been named a Pacemaker Finalist by the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) for its 2018-2019 edition, “Untold.” The Ouachitonian is one of seven finalists from around the country to be eligible for the Pacemaker Award, which will be announced at the ACP and College Media Association’s (CMA) National Collegiate Media Convention Oct. 21-25, 2020, in Atlanta.

“It is a very special honor to be named a Pacemaker Finalist by Associated Collegiate Press,” said Dr. Deborah Root, advisor for the Ouachitonian and chair of Ouachita’s Rogers Department of Communications. “Only seven yearbooks in the nation received this honor, and Ouachita is by far the smallest university represented.”

Ouachita’s yearbook was named a finalist alongside Baylor University, Kansas State University, Loyola Marymount University, Southern Methodist University, Texas Tech University and University of Miami’s yearbooks. While all seven universities will be recognized at the national convention in October, only three will be awarded the Pacemaker Award, which according to ACP Executive Director Laura Widmer recognizes “the best of the best.”

This national recognition is the third in a series of 2020 awards given to the “Untold” 2018-2019 yearbook, including General Excellence for Yearbook of the Year from the Arkansas College Media Association and seven individual awards given by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association to Ouachita student writers, designers and photographers for their work on the book.

“I am very proud for editor Addy Goodman and her staff,” Root said. “The 2019 book was an outstanding publication, and it is nice to be recognized as one of the top yearbooks in the nation.”

The ACP Pacemaker Award is one of the oldest awards for collegiate journalism. The association began presenting the prestigious award to collegiate newspapers soon after the organization was founded in 1921 and later adding yearbooks, magazines and online sites to the competition.

“These yearbooks deliver engaging verbal and visual stories, showcasing superior photojournalism, writing and design,” said Gary Lundgren, ACP associate director and coordinator of the Pacemaker competitions. “These yearbooks cover universities with 1,600 to 63,000 students, and the spirit and diversity of those collegiate communities come alive on their pages.”

Ouachita students receive seven national awards in Columbia Scholastic Press Association yearbook competition

Ouachita Baptist University students recently were awarded seven Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) Gold Circle awards for their work on the Ouachitonian yearbook’s 2018-2019 edition, “Untold.” The CSPA’s 37th Gold Circle awards attracted more than 5,700 yearbook and digital media entries from student yearbooks and digital publications at colleges, universities and secondary schools in the United States and abroad, with a total of 656 winning entries.

“We were the smallest university to receive a Gold Circle Award,” said Dr. Deborah Root, professor of communications and advisor for the Ouachitonian. “It shows the quality of our students and the work they produce.”

Addy Goodman, a senior communications & media/communications studies and political science double major from Arkadelphia, Ark., who served as editor of the 2018-2019 Ouachitonian, received first place in Sidebar Writing for “Finding A Home for Life UNTOLD,” third place in Theme and Concept, third place in Division Page Design, third place in Feature Presentation for “Roadtrips” and third place in People Spreads Without Mug Photos: Multi-Page Spread for “Who’s Who.” She also received an honorable mention in Cover Design.

Alex Blankenship, a 2019 communications & media/communications studies graduate from Little Rock, Ark., received second place in Photo Portfolio for his images in the Ouachitonian.

“I’m excited for the Ouachitonian to win these Gold Circle Awards,” Root said. “Addy Goodman and her staff worked very hard to produce an excellent yearbook, and I’m excited for Addy and Alex to receive this recognition.” 

Goodman and Blankenship competed against award-winning entries from Baylor University, Indiana University, North Carolina State University, Southern Methodist University, Texas Tech University and University of Miami.

The Gold Circle Awards program is an international competition that aims to recognize superior work in student yearbooks and digital media publications by student writers, editors, designers and photographers. Qualifying entries are student publications from colleges, universities and secondary schools in the United States and abroad between October 2, 2018, and October 1, 2019.

Ouachita students earn three of seven top awards in 2020 Arkansas College Media Association competition

Ouachita Baptist University students earned 36 awards at the recent Arkansas College Media Association (ACMA) conference, three of which were awards in General Excellence for Yearbook of the Year, Yearbook Editor of the Year and Website Editor of the Year. The awards were three of seven overall General Excellence awards given to student publishing in news, magazine, yearbook, online, radio and television divisions from two-year and four-year colleges and universities around the state.

Addy Goodman, a senior communications & media/communications studies and political science double major from Arkadelphia, Ark., was named Yearbook Editor of the Year for her work on the Ouachitonian yearbook, which earned Yearbook of the Year in General Excellence for the 2019 volume “Untold.” Ethan Dial, a senior communications & media/multimedia journalism major from Little Rock, Ark., was named Website Editor of the Year for his work with The Signal student newspaper.

“I am extremely pleased with the General Excellence Award for the 2019 Ouachitonian yearbook,” said Dr. Deborah Root, advisor for the Ouachitonian and professor of communications at Ouachita. “The book had a wonderful theme of telling the untold stories at Ouachita. From writing and design to photography and theme development, the staff did an excellent job of providing a look back at the year.”

“I’m so excited for Addy to win this award,” Root continued. “She had in her mind her goals for the book and worked to develop a theme and concept that was outstanding. Her leadership was amazing, and her professional approach to her responsibilities were admirable. She deserves this award for not only producing an outstanding yearbook, but for the leadership and process she provided for her staff.”

Of the 25 individual awards the Ouachitonian staff received, 17 were claimed by Goodman.

“Working on the Ouachitonian as editor-in-chief has been a childhood dream of mine,” Goodman said. “I used to read Ouachita yearbooks for fun as a child when my dad would bring them home from work. When I was given the job last year, I knew it was a job I was going to dedicate my year to, as it was a dream finally come true.

“The Ouachitonian is a tangible book of moments and relationships – Ouachita captured into a few pages,” she added. “I imagine my classmates opening up their yearbook years down the road to show their kids how precious life was here. I was so honored to play a part in that.”

For Dial, the 2020 ACMA conference marked his third consecutive year to receive the Website Editor of the Year award for The Signal.

“It’s a great honor to win an Editor of the Year award, but it’s unprecedented to win it for three consecutive years,” said Dr. Jeff Root, advisor for The Signal and dean of the School of Humanities. “Ethan transformed The Signal website his sophomore year, and he’s continued to upgrade it with fresh ideas for the past two years. He’s a tremendously talented young man, and we’re excited to see what he’ll achieve as an alumnus.”

“It was such a pleasure telling Ouachita’s stories, and some of my favorite moments were spent in the newsroom,” Dial said. “I’m so grateful that I was able to capture just a bit of Ouachita’s history and so proud of my staff who helped me accomplish a great newspaper.”

ACMA Ouachitonian staff awards include:

  • 1st place, Feature Layout for “Who’s Who” – Addy Goodman
  • 1st place, Layout-Organization/Greek for “Rush” – Addy Goodman
  • 1st place, Student Life Layout for “Tiger Serve Day” – Addy Goodman
  • 1st place, Sports Layout for “Men’s Basketball” – Addy Goodman
  • 1st place, Academics Writing for “Experience proven crucial, meaningful” – Gracen Goudy, a junior communications & media/communications studies major from Benton, Ark.
  • 1st place, Sports Writing for “Tigers march to conference championship undefeated” – Ben Swanger, a senior communications & media/sports media major from Forney, Texas
  • 2nd place, Sports Photo for “Wrestling dominant photo” – Alex Blankenship, a 2019 communications & media/communications studies graduate from Little Rock, Ark.
  • 2nd place, Layout-Organization/Greek for “Women of EEE” – Addy Goodman
  • 2nd place, Portrait Layout for “Junior Portraits” – Addy Goodman
  • 2nd place, Academics Writing for “Passion found in God’s calling” – Ashly Stracener, a senior communications & media/strategic communications and English double major from Cabot, Ark.
  • 2nd place, Feature Photo for “Catie Shirley” – Justin Trostle, a senior music industry major from El Dorado, Ark.
  • 3rd place, Cover for “Y1-Yearbook Cover” – Addy Goodman
  • 3rd place, Divider for “People Divider” – Addy Goodman
  • 3rd place, Closing for “Closing” – Addy Goodman
  • 3rd place, Endsheets for “Endsheets” – Addy Goodman
  • 3rd place, Feature Layout for “A Spirit of Diligence and Passion” – Addy Goodman
  • 3rd place, Academic Layout for “Fine Art Music” – Addy Goodman
  • 3rd place, Layout-Organization/Greek for “Men of Eta Alpha Omega” – Addy Goodman
  • 3rd place, Student Life Layout for “Tiger Tunes” – Addy Goodman
  • 3rd place, Sports Writing for “Lady Tigers prove talent on the court, forceful”– Ben Swanger, a senior communications & media/sports media major from Forney, Texas
  • Honorable Mention, Writing-Organization/Greek for “Hands on learning” – Caleb Byrd, a senior communications & media/integrated communications, political science and Spanish triple major from Little Rock, Ark.
  • Honorable Mention, Introduction Theme Page/Opening for “Untold Theme + Title Page” – Addy Goodman
  • Honorable Mention, Divider for “Student Life Divider” – Addy Goodman
  • Honorable Mention, Academic Layout for “Humanities” – Addy Goodman

ACMA Signal staff awards include:

  • 2nd place, Meeting/Speech for “Board of Trustees meets about strategic plans” – Sara Patterson, a junior English major from Wylie, Texas
  • 3rd place, Personality Profile for “Goodman and Tucker tackle Ouachita tradition” – Caity Hatchett, a junior history and communications & media/sports media major from Keithville, La.
  • 3rd place, Sports Feature for “Swoboda brothers celebrate in end zone” – Caity Hatchett, a junior history and communications & media/sports media major from Keithville, La.
  • 3rd place, Feature Writing for “Archer’s service uplifts Arkadelphia community”– Sara Patterson, a junior English major from Wylie, Texas
  • 3rd place, Feature Photo for “Addy Goodman and Selby Tucker” – Justin Trostle, a senior music industry major from El Dorado, Ark.

ACMA “Roar Rundown” staff awards include:

  • 1st place, Sports Reporting – Tiffany Lee, a 2019 mass communications graduate from Benton, Ark., and Josh Salim, a senior communications & media/sports media major from Dallas, Texas

Ouachita team wins two first place prizes and $30,000 in Arkansas Governor’s Cup business plan competition

Four Ouachita Baptist University seniors earned the top awards for undergraduates in the 20th annual Arkansas Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition for their plan, ImmunoSense. Ouachita seniors Olivia Brown, Savannah Edwards, Brandon Matros and Sheldon McCown and their faculty advisor, Dr. Blake Johnson, won first place in the overall undergraduate division as well as the undergraduate innovation award.

Two young men and two young women pose for a photograph
(From left) Ouachita students Brandon Matros, Savannah Edwards, Olivia Brown and Sheldon McCown

“We’ve been competing in the Governor’s Cup for 11 years, and we’ve placed in the top three several times – including third place last year and second place the year before – but this is our first year to win the undergraduate category. So we couldn’t be happier,” said Bryan McKinney, dean of Ouachita’s Hickingbotham School of Business. “And for ImmunoSense, I think this absolutely legitimizes their business plan.”

More than 90 students on 38 teams from 9 universities across Arkansas competed in this year’s Governor’s Cup in undergraduate and graduate divisions. The final awards were announced via livestream on Thursday, April 9. The Ouachita team won a total of $32,000 in prize money – $25,000 for the first-place overall win in the Simmons Bank undergraduate division, $5,000 as the undergraduate team winner in the Innovate Arkansas and Winrock Automotive Innovation Division and $2,000 for the faculty advisor.

ImmunoSense proposes a diagnostics company specializing in the early detection of Type 1 Diabetes via noninvasive tests. Brown is a senior biology major from North Little Rock, Ark.; Edwards is a senior biomedical sciences major from Searcy, Ark.; Matros is a senior finance major from Arkadelphia, Ark.; and McCown is a senior biology major from Nacogdoches, Texas. The team was advised by Dr. Blake Johnson, Ouachita assistant professor of biology.

“This accomplishment is more evidence that Ouachita’s focus on high-impact learning, which explains our high graduation rate and high job and graduate school placement rates, also prepares students to compete academically at the highest level,” said Ouachita President Dr. Ben Sells.

“This win should give our students the confidence that they can compete with the best,” McKinney continued. “Frank Hickingbotham – for whom Ouachita’s School of Business is named – said this in an email of congratulations to the team: ‘Like Roger Bannister, when he broke the four-minute mile run, you have proven that first place can be achieved and set a standard for all to reach who follow in the years ahead.’”

“This was such a great win for our team and for Ouachita,” Matros said. “Ouachita has consistently placed amazing business plans in this competition, but none of them had ever won. It is an honor to be the first team to win first place overall.”

Soon after entering the Governor’s Cup Competition, the ImmunoSense team learned they had placed in the top 12 teams. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team had to adapt in order to present remotely. They then competed in the first round of the competition on March 19, then again on March 20 in the final round of the overall competition and as one of three finalists in the innovation division.

“Thankfully, due to the hard working team at the Arkansas Capital Corporation, these presentations still took place despite the virus, and our team was able to present remotely from Arkansas, Texas and Florida,” McCown said. “All four of us agree that entering these business plan competitions has been one of the most beneficial and memorable experiences of our senior year.”

Each year, the Governor’s Cup is presented by Arkansas Capital Corp. of Little Rock and encourages student entrepreneurs from around Arkansas to build a business plan that brings a competitive product to market. Team members are required to have management positions in the company, and teams are judged according to identification of problems in the marketplace, how their business ideas will solve them, demonstrations of customer discovery, identification of potential competitors and possible risks to the business, among other things.

Before entering the Governor’s Cup Competition, the ImmunoSense team first presented their plan in the fall of 2019 during Ouachita’s 11th annual OBU Business Plan Competition, which is modeled after the Governor’s Cup. There, the team placed first and received a $4,000 cash prize.

The OBU Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Hickingbotham School of Business, encourages Ouachita students of all majors to submit their ideas and business proposals for cash prizes.

“We began our competition with a desire to elevate the importance of entrepreneurship across campus,” McKinney said. “That’s exactly what happened this year with ImmunoSense. They were a team of science students advised by a biology professor, and then they integrated a senior finance student to assist with the business elements of the plan.”

According to McCown, the idea for the ImmunoSense business plan was a result of an assignment in histology class “where our professor and advisor, Dr. Blake Johnson, encouraged us to design a product or service that could improve the diagnostic process for a disease or other healthcare issue.”

“Having a solid grasp on the scientific and technical components needed to propel their product, the team then began focusing on the business-related items necessary to launch their product,” said Johnson. “This victory highlights the need for emerging technologies across difficult-to-diagnose disorders, while also proving that classroom concepts can lead to successful business applications that are capable of instilling a spirit of entrepreneurship among the next generation of business leaders.”

“Given the times in which we live, it’s noteworthy that the Ouachita team combines business and science students with a focus on public health,” Sells added. “I’m so proud of our students and Dr. Johnson.”

Ouachita appoints alumnus Larry Grayson as chair of the Department of Worship Arts

Ouachita Baptist University’s School of Fine Arts has appointed alumnus Larry Grayson as chair of the Department of Worship Arts and instructor of music. Originally from Camden, Ark., Grayson previously served 10 years as music and worship consultant for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) in Little Rock, Ark.

Photograph of man wearing glasses and dress shirt
Larry Grayson

“We are delighted that Larry Grayson will be joining Ouachita to provide leadership for our worship arts program,” said Dr. Stan Poole, vice president for academic affairs. “Our students will benefit from his depth of ministry experience, strong teaching record and extensive network of relationships with churches and worship pastors. He will be a tremendous asset as he models for our students the qualities most needed by churches and other ministry partners.”

As chair of the Department of Worship Arts, Grayson will serve on Ouachita’s School of Fine Arts committees as well as recruit prospective students for the Worship Arts Program and advise those who choose the major. Grayson also will teach the department’s worship arts courses and oversee worship arts internships and senior worship projects.

“We are very fortunate to have Mr. Grayson join our music faculty at Ouachita,” said Dr. Gary Gerber, dean of the School of Fine Arts and director of choral activities. “He will bring a wealth of knowledge and leadership in the field of worship arts. While serving the Arkansas Baptist State Convention for 10 years, Larry has formed a positive relationship with the worship pastors in the state of Arkansas and the state music consultants in the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Larry also has been teaching as an adjunct professor for the past few years and knows our students,” Gerber added.

Since 2010, Grayson has served as music and worship consultant for the ABSC, coordinating PraiseWorks and JoyWorks worship arts camps for youth and children, directing the Master’Singers statewide worship choir (including leading two mission trips with the choir to Ukraine) and building camaraderie among worship pastors through RoundTable events, among other responsibilities.

“It has truly been an honor serving Arkansas Baptists in this role, and it has been a ministry opportunity beyond what I ever dreamed,” Grayson said. “While serving at the ABSC, the constant conversation has been the shortage of trained worship leaders to serve our churches. Now, I have an incredible opportunity to pour my life into the students at Ouachita through instruction, shared experiences and meaningful conversations to meet that need.

“My heart’s desire is that every student who leaves Ouachita with a Worship Arts degree will be fully equipped to walk into any church – any style, any size – and lead in authentic, biblical worship. I am truly honored by this opportunity,” he added.

Grayson has served churches in Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas, including leading worship choir, orchestra, contemporary worship and student choirs and engaging in mission trips across the U.S. His longest tenure was serving as worship pastor for First Baptist Church of Lewisville, Texas, for 13 years.

Grayson graduated from Ouachita in 1975 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree and from Samford University in 1987 with a Master of Music Education degree. He also attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Ouachita students earn nine finalist honors in state NATS competition

Seven Ouachita Baptist University music students earned nine finalist honors at the 2020 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition. Over 170 students from colleges throughout Arkansas competed for a place in the final round of auditions, which were held at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., earlier this semester. Of those competing, 25 Ouachita students earned finalist or semifinalist honors.

The competition is judged by member teachers of the Arkansas Chapter of NATS. They evaluate the technical proficiency, interpretive skill and overall artistry of each singer and provide written critiques and feedback. Following the preliminary round, students advance through a semi-final round and then, depending on their scores, a final round. Finalists are awarded first through fifth place or receive an honorable mention.

“Our students who participate in state and regional NATS conferences most always achieve a higher level of singing than their counterparts,” said Dr. Jon Secrest, Addie Mae Maddox Professor of Music and coordinator of Ouachita’s vocal studies program. “They are exposed to many different singers during this event by attending recitals, master classes and observation of the final round of competition. These elements of the experience teach them so much about what to do, and what not to do, in their own performances.

“Ouachita continues to enjoy a strong representation of singers in the finals each year and affirms the work ethic of our students, as well as the investment of time and talent put forth by our faculty,” Secrest added.

NATS auditions provide students with an opportunity to receive professional critiques, audition experience and cash awards.

“The judges and other students have taught me a lot about the art of singing and performing, and it’s inspired me to see how hard students work for what they love,” said Chaney Campbell, a freshman musical theatre major from Rogers, Ark. Campbell was named a finalist and earned second place in the lower college music theatre women division.

“This competition is an opportunity to perform and share what I love to do with others,” said Kinsey Potts, a sophomore musical theatre from Wylie, Texas. Potts was named a finalist and earned third place in the lower college music theatre women division. “I was very proud of myself for it being my first time to make all the way to finals.”

The following are finalists from Ouachita, listed in order of hometown:

Allen, Texas – Logan Dooley, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned third place in the junior men division and fourth place in the upper college music theatre men division.

Arlington, Texas – Bonnie Gentry, a senior musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned third place in the upper college music theatre women division.

Rogers, Ark. – Chaney Campbell, a freshman musical theatre student of Dr. Glenda Secrest, earned second place in the lower college music theatre women division.

Siloam Springs, Ark. – Payton Hickman, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned second place in the sophomore men division and was a semifinalist in the lower college music theatre men division.

Waxahachie, Texas – Sammy Campione, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned second place in the lower college music theatre men division.

Wylie, Texas – Clay Mobley, a senior music industry student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned first place in the senior men division and second place in the upper college music theatre men division. Kinsey Potts, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned third place in the lower college music theatre women division.

Other Ouachita students named semifinalists, in order of hometown, include:

Alexander, Ark. – Hannah Adair, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre women division.

Benton, Ark. – Briana Penn, a junior music and choral education student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the junior women division.

Cabot, Ark. – Elizabeth Ring, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the junior women division.

Caraway, Ark. – Karlee Sanders, a sophomore choral music education student of John Alec Briggs, was a semifinalist in the sophomore women division.

Cleveland, Texas – Hannah Gothard, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the sophomore women and lower college music theatre women divisions.

Conway, Ark. – Abby Shourd, a junior choral music education student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the junior women division and upper college music theatre women divisions.

Fort Smith, Ark. – Eryn Riley, a freshman choral music education student of Dr. Natilan Crutcher, was a semifinalist in the freshman women division.

Greenwood, Ark. – Alex Marrin, a senior musical theatre student of Dr. Glenda Secrest, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre men division.

Little Rock, Ark. – Mallory Cain, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theatre women division.

Plano, Texas – Paige Price, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre women division.

Prattsville, Ark. – Anna Holiman, a freshman music and choral education student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the freshman women division.

Rose Hill, Kan. – Carlin Campbell, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre men division.

San Pedro Sula, Honduras – Keren Fernandez, a sophomore music student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the sophomore women division.

Sheridan, Ark. – Madeline Martin, a junior musical theatre and communications & media/multimedia journalism student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre women division.

Texarkana, Ark. – Makenna Schaeffer, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garret, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theatre women division.

White Hall, Ark. – Clara Taylor, a sophomore choral music education student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the sophomore women division.

Wichita, Kan. – Hailey Smith, a junior musical theatre student of John Alec Briggs, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theatre women division.

Ouachita’s collaborative pianists for the competition included Kristen La Madrid, Susan Monroe and Phyllis Walker.

For more information, contact Dr. Jon Secrest at secrestj@obu.edu or (870) 245-5134.