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Posts Tagged ‘Ohio Valley University’

I just spent a couple of days on the campus of Ohio Valley University, a small liberal arts university established by Churches of Christ over fifty years ago in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  In spite of its longevity, many members of Churches of Christ have probably never heard of this college because it is far removed from the mother lode of churches in the Bible belt states and because OVU does not really compete for students with the bigger universities like ACU, Harding, Lipscomb, Pepperdine, Oklahoma Christian, and Lubbock Christian.

It’s been a bad season for our smaller colleges/universities. Western Christian in Regina, Canada, just closed permanently. Not long ago Columbia Christian/Cascade College in Portland, Oregon, took down its flag.  York College (York, Nebraska) went to the brink, but seemingly has turned the corner and is resurging—for which we should all be very thankful!  These smaller institutions serve the fellowship of churches in a very important way:

  • They often serve students in areas where churches of Christ are not numerous. Educating their students in this areas reduces the number who migrate to the Bible belt—which just makes those smaller churches even smaller.
  • They serve students who want or need a more intimate environment for higher learning than they would get even at our larger institutions. At OVU, I spoke to two  first-year classes with six students in each one and one upper level course with about 15. (Of course, smaller classes are both a blessing and a curse for these schools who depend heavily on student tuition for survival.)
  • At smaller schools, a student can be on the soccer team, sing in the choir, be in a social club, be in student government, and be a part of a LST mission team that makes plans to go to China!
  • At smaller schools, students receive more personal mentoring from their professors and from the school staff. At OVU, the Executive VP leaves his door open for students to pop in when he is there. There is no secretary between him and the students. I could not get a seat in Harry Ogletree’s office, the dean of Spiritual Formation, because there were so many students hanging out in there. The professors attended a student-organized variety show and ate among students in the cafeteria on Octoberfest night while I was there!
  • I met with the Academic dean Jim Bullock and the director of International Studies Steven Hardy and no matter which student’s name that I mentioned, they not only recognized the name, but they knew the personal story of that student. I was very impressed.

Sure, there are academic programs, social activities, and other experiences that a small school like Ohio Valley University cannot offer, but for many students, not only Christian students, but also others who want a strong, faith-based education, a school like Ohio Valley University provides a uniquely appropriate environment for growing in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and their community.

One more observation:  Dr. Harold Shank, a great preacher and scholar, is the new president of Ohio Valley University. He left a faculty position at Oklahoma Christian because he is from the Northeast and feels a special calling to minister to and support the churches in that region. He and Sally bring an unsurpassed passion to a very difficult task, but great people have never shirked great challenges.

Dr. Shank has begun bringing other good people to Ohio Valley, people who have the same missional heart for the task.  Jeff Dimick left southern California and his job in rocket engineering just five years short of qualifying for his pension to become the Executive Vice-President for Dr. Shank.  Jeremy Jacoby joined the team as VP for marketing and recruiting.  In conversations with these men, both talked mostly about how important it was for the school to continue as a beacon of light.

Then there are also those professors and staff members who have served this school for many years, through the few fat and the many lean years—I met several, but if I start to list them I’ll probably leave the most important ones out.

As with churches, so with Christian schools and colleges, there should be no competition among light houses!  Thank God for all who minister at these schools.  We should do more to support them!

God bless Ohio Valley University!

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