O.C. Gains University Status,
Intros Master’s Program
BY MARK A. KELLNER, Adventist Review News Editor
akwood College, one of four Seventh-day Adventist tertiary educational institutions owned by the world church headquarters, may formally adopt “university” as part of its name as early as 2008, Dr. Delbert W. Baker, the school’s president said. The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in Decatur, Georgia, voted June 21 to allow Oakwood, which is headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, to advance from “Level II” to “Level III” status, allowing the school to offer graduate degrees.
A Master’s in Pastoral Studies will be the first graduate degree offered by the 111-year-old school, he said, noting that others are in the planning stages: “This will be the beginning of a series of programs we will offer in coming years,” Baker said in a telephone interview July 3.
“We think it’s a great thing, we’re moving to the next level and offering our constituents another opportunity” for educational advancement, he said. Baker noted Oakwood received accreditation for its baccalaureate program in 1958; this new step comes nearly 50 years later. Notable alumni of the school include U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black; Adventist world church vice president Dr. Ella Smith Simmons; North American church secretary Dr. Roscoe Howard; former NAD president Charles E. Bradford; evangelists E.E. Cleveland and C.D. Brooks; and Philadelphia mayor John F. Street. The school has approximately 1,800 students enrolled annually.
EDUCATIONAL ADVANCEMENT: Dr. Delbert W. Baker, president of Seventh-day Adventist-owned Oakwood College, Huntsville, Alabama, says the school will offer its first master’s degree program this year and hopes to decide on a new name reflecting university status in 2008. [Ron Quick/Adventist News Network File Photo]
As to what the new university will be called, Baker admitted that while “Oakwood University” is a leading candidate, the decision is not yet final: “The plan is, now that we’re offering graduate programs, we can move into, and take on, in fact, the name university,” he said, adding that the final choice will come from a “process we have to take through with our constituents.”
Asked about the choice of a Master’s in Pastoral Studies as the first graduate degree to be offered, Baker stressed that this is not a Master’s of Divinity, nor is it designed to compete with programs offered by the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Instead, the Oakwood program, to be offered by the school’s department of religion and theology, is intended for workers already in the field who believe they need additional resources.
The program, he said, would “suit older workers, lay people, who want to come to the school. It would provide a service which is being requested by the constituents: to equip for leadership, administration and training in the local church.”
Baker credited the “Committee of 100,” a group of Oakwood supporters, with supplying $250,000 in funding to get the master’s program going. He also praised religion and theology department head Dr. Agniel Sampson, who worked with academic vice president Dr. John Anderson, to “make the program a reality.” Credit was also due, Baker indicated, to provost Dr. Mervyn A. Warren and financial affairs vice president Sabrina Cotton for their roles in the project. Ms. Cotton, he said, was instrumental in preparing the documentation needed to show the Southern Association that Oakwood could fund and maintain a graduate program.
He also noted the soon-coming completion of two construction projects: the he Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks (BCB) Leadership Center, due to open later this year, and Holland Hall, a new male residence for approximately 300 students, due early next year.
“I really believe that the graduate program, complimenting the leadership center and the expanded capacity to enable more students to live on campus, and the solid financial picture, puts us in a good place to move to the next level in providing services,” Baker said.

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