Ouachita honors 293 graduates at 130th spring commencement

Ouachita Baptist University celebrated 293 graduates during its 130th spring commencement on Saturday, May 13, with university officials conferring Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Music Education, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Associate of Arts degrees. Dr. Ben Sells, Ouachita president, presided over the annual commencement exercises.

“Class of 2017, congratulations!” Dr. Sells said in his commencement address. “You completed a rigorous liberal arts program. You studied with talented faculty and worked alongside committed staff. You served your classmates, your campus, your community. … You worked hard. You had fun. You made lifelong friends. You are older and wiser. You finished. You are ready for service and success. We are proud of you!”

This year’s graduating class featured 135 honor graduates, including 25 who graduated summa cum laude with a grade point average of 3.95 or higher, 44 who graduated magna cum laude (3.75 GPA) and 66 who graduated cum laude (3.5 GPA). University officials also recognized 16 graduates who completed Ouachita’s Carl Goodson Honors Program and 30 members of the Alpha Chi national honor society.

“You will take Ouachita with you wherever you go,” Sells told the graduates. “Live out our Christ-centered vision and mission and live in the light of why Christians should be truly happy. As you do, you will find personal contentment, you will serve the common good and you will help advance the Kingdom.

“When we look at you – and remember all that you have done and consider all that you will do – it has been our privilege to live and learn with you,” Sells added. “Today our hearts are full. Our cups runneth over. We love you.”

Senior Class President Jodie Webb, an elementary education major from Arlington, Tenn., led the commencement invocation. Scripture reading was led by three students from the Pruet School of Christian Studies: Mikala Butler, a Christian studies/Christian missions and sociology double major from Paragould, Ark.; Libby Hilliard, a biblical languages major from Van Buren, Ark.; and Emma Riley, a Christian studies/Christian ministries and biblical studies double major from Fort Smith, Ark.

Dr. Stan Poole, vice president for academic affairs, also recognized Ryan Alexander of Haysville, Kan., as the first graduate of Ouachita’s new fully online degree programs that were launched in 2015. Alexander began his college career at Ouachita in the 1990s and completed his Christian studies degree this year while serving as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in North Platte, Neb., and associational missions leader for the Oregon Trail Baptist Association.

“His diploma represents a historic milestone for Ouachita,” Poole said. “We take great pride in awarding Ryan’s diploma, which represents the completion of the work he started here 20 years ago.”

Dr. Ray Granade, director of library services and professor of history, and Dr. Mike Reynolds, professor of kinesiology and leisure studies, served as commencement marshals. Honorary marshals were Dr. Joe Jeffers, professor emeritus of chemistry, and Julia Jones, assistant professor emerita of Spanish. who also were honored during the commencement ceremony along with Executive Secretary to the President Emerita Charolette Allison.

Allison, a former Ouachita student, has served in the president’s office since 1986, working in the administrations of Dr. Daniel Grant, Dr. Ben Elrod, Dr. Andy Westmoreland, Dr. Rex Horne, Dr. Charles Wright and Dr. Ben Sells.

Dr. Jeffers has served at Ouachita since 1972. He has served since 2013 as the Charles S. and Elma Grey Goodwin Holt Professor of Chemistry and Pre-Medical Studies in the Patterson School of Natural Sciences. He previously served 10 years as the founding dean of the Patterson School and held the W.D. and Alice Burch Chair of Chemistry from 1995 to 2003. A 1966 Ouachita graduate, he holds his Ph.D. from Purdue University.

Julia Jones, a graduate of Henderson State University, has taught Spanish at Ouachita since 2001. She previously taught English and Spanish at several high schools throughout southwest Arkansas as well as at Rich Mountain Community College and Cossatot Community College.

Ouachita Baptist University, a leading liberal arts university, is ranked nationally among “America’s Best Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report and Forbes magazines. Founded in Arkadelphia in 1886, Ouachita seeks to foster a love of God and a love of learning in a Christ-centered learning community.


For a full list of students who were recognized at the May 13 ceremony as well as a video of the event, visit https://www.obu.edu/news/2017/05/16/spring-commencement-2017/.