In 1904, eight years after the founding of Oakwood University, Ellen White addressed the students and faculty on campus. She said: “In regard to this school here at Huntsville, I wish to say that for the past two or three years I have been receiving instruction regarding it—what it should be and what those who come here are as students to become.” For more than a century, visionary staff and dedicated teachers have recognized Oakwood’s divine mandate, and worked toward making the school what it should be—as an institution and as reflected in its students.
At a time of financial stress, Oak-wood University has grown its student body, exceeding 1,900 students over the past three years, a great difference from the 50-some students who sat before Ellen White back then. We are thankful for the sacrifices of parents and caregivers, for students willing to work through financial challenges, and for teachers and staff willing to forgo excessive compensation—even as we set out on greater goals for providing the servant-leaders needed in the communities of the future.
Interior view of the remodeled cafeteria
Oakwood has also made extensive improvements to its infrastructure, including the construction of two new buildings; extensive renovation of two existing facilities; reroofing of all campus buildings; new roads and parking areas; and improved, secure access to the university. The Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks Leadership Center was opened in 2008, along with the complete renovation of the C. E. Moseley Religion Complex.
In 2009 Holland Hall was completed and occupied, the first men’s residence hall constructed since the 1970s. And the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year marked the opening of the newly renovated student dining hall in Blake Center. The old cafeteria was completely redesigned to provide improved food service, a greater variety of menu choices, and an enjoyable atmosphere for students. The City of Huntsville, Alabama, has granted Oakwood its coveted Beautification Award for eight consecutive years.
Commencement 2009 was representative of the academic strides that Oakwood University has made over the years. The first graduates of the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies received their degrees. To further enhance its university status, the academic division is in the planning stage of a Master of Education degree. Graduate degrees require faculty development, and three of our current 108 faculty members received doctoral degrees in the past year, bringing the total to 67, with 70 percent of Oakwood University instructors having terminal degrees.
Conferral of the first Master of Arts degrees
Expand Your Mind
Oakwood University granted its first honorary doctorate last year to Wintley Phipps, an honored alumnus. Phipps is founder of the U.S. Dream Academy, an innovative program operating in 10 cities nationwide to provide “one-on-one mentoring, strong academics, and technology-driven activities and curricula.” U.S. News & World Report has listed Oakwood University as one of the top-tier institutions of higher learning in its region for 12 years in a row, in recognition of the maintenance of high academic standards on our campus.
The institution continues to recognize the importance of challenging young minds with experience and concepts beyond textbooks. In the past year intellectual luminaries, such as Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Anthony Campolo, and Dr. Cornel West, have visited Oakwood to offer their perspectives on current events. Student involvement has ranged from active participation in the past presidential election to community service at various local schools, agencies, and clubs. Students also engage in humanitarian work and evangelism around the globe, having provided relief during natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the recent Haitian earthquake.
Oakwood University has a bright future, and despite financial and social challenges, the administration and board have maximized the institution’s development. Oakwood has maintained consistent financial solvency and remains one of the most inexpensive institutions of higher education in the United States. A proposed health and wellness center is currently on the drawing board. This facility is much needed since the current gymnasium dates from the late 1960s. Further campus development is needed as Oakwood looks toward a future student enrollment of more than 2,000.
For the current improvements we are blessed to report, we thank the General Conference for its unwavering support and funding. The continued goodwill of our world leaders is vital to Oakwood’s future. The North American Division, the Southern Union, and the regional conferences have also been stellar in their support. And, of course, Oakwood’s alumni and friends have stood tall in their contributions to the campus. As president of Oakwood for the past 14 years, I can say that the success of the institution is built on the shoulders of past leaders and on the foundation of current support. Ellen White would be gratified to see the spirit that has made the university the success it is today—and what it will be tomorrow.
Thanks be to God for this church’s educational system and the work it has done in preparing each new generation for service to God and to communities around the world. Oakwood University is proud to be a Seventh-day Adventist educational institution.
This article was published June 24, 2010.