I Heart OBU

I am a terrible salesperson. Once, against the better judgment of everyone who knew me, I took a sales job that paid straight commission. If it weren’t for Ramen noodles I probably would have starved that month.  I have only been good at two sales jobs: Selling Girl Scout cookies and convincing people to take a look at Ouachita Baptist University. Why? Because they’re both so good they just sell themselves.

It was my senior year of high school and I had been accepted to Samford University in Alabama, but  my parents had a friend who had attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. For some reason unknown to me, Doug was certain my life would be incomplete unless I made  a visit to OBU. He was sure  if I just gave Ouachita a chance, I’d fall head over heels in love. He was so obnoxiously convinced, in fact, I finally made plans to visit this little school near Lake DeGray so he’d stop talking to me about OBU.

I hadn’t lived in Louisiana long and I knew even less about Arkansas. I felt pretty sure there would be banjos and bare feet and possibly toothpicks. My plan was to check out the school so  I could get Doug off my case and then I would move ahead with my life as planned.

I had no idea  my weekend in Arkansas would completely change my plans.

I can’t tell you the one thing that made me fall in love with Ouachita that weekend. I’m sure it was a combination of people and events. But when I got back home from Arkansas, I told my parents I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Ouachita was where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life.

It sounds like I was talking about choosing the man of my dreams rather than my selection of a higher education institution.  But in a way, finding Ouachita was a little like meeting Mr. Right. My four years there changed my life.  OBU wasn’t just the place I went to school, it became my home away from home.

My professors knew me by name and cared about what was happening in my life. During my sophomore year, I was going through a tough time that I hadn’t talked about with any of my friends.I thought I was doing a pretty good job of keeping it together on the outside although I felt like I was falling apart on the inside. I was walking to class one day and saw Mr. Lavell Cole sitting on the steps outside  the history building that used to be between Flippen-Perrin and Francis Crawford dorms. I didn’t have a class with Mr. Cole at the time, which was unusual because I tried to schedule at least one class with Mr. Cole per semester. His history lectures were legendary. I tried to get in his Tuesday-Thursday classes because he was the only professor who could make an hour and fifteen minutes feel like half an hour.

“Ables! Come here a minute.” (He always called me by my last name which I enjoyed because it made me feel like the athlete I wasn’t.)

I walked over to where he was sitting and he said, “You don’t have to tell me what’s going on, but you just don’t seem like yourself these days. I just wanted you to know I’d noticed and if you need to borrow my office to throw some books around or talk it out, you’re always welcome.”

I think I thanked him, at least I hoped I did, but I was just so blown away that he’d noticed and that he cared. I never took him up on his offer….at least not that semester. I think just knowing I had that option was therapy enough.

The professors were amazing. And although I probably couldn’t pass Dr. Auffenberg’s geography test today or properly complete one of Dr. Wink’s grammar tree diagrams or pass a single one of Dr. Wight’s pop quizzes, I still remember a good deal of what they taught me. Most of what I remember is what they taught me about life and how to be a good student and steward of it.

It wasn’t just the professors I loved, as wonderful as they were, it was also the friendships I made. It was standing in line to be at the grand opening of the Taco Bell. It was late night cookie runs to Subway. It was piling as many people as would fit in a car to go look for the mysterious light on the railroad tracks in Gurdon. It was speeding back from Hot Springs to make it to the dorms before curfew our freshman year. It was sharing makeup for first dates….and offering a Kleenex to wipe away mascara-stained tears after last dates.

It was a mission trip to South Africa that forever changed the way I looked at the world and watched the news.

It was buildings like Berry Chapel and “Walt’s” Cafeteria and the Evans Student Center. It was hours spent in psychology classes in McClellan Hall.

It was out-of-town trips to watch the boys’ tennis team play.  It was Saturday night trips to the Arlington in Hot Springs to listen to the house jazz band play “Watermelon Man.” It was a Tri Chi retreat to a house in the woods. It was classes planned around fun-time at Lake DeGray.

They say you never forget your first love. I think I’m just as in love with Ouachita Baptist University as I was my freshman year. Maybe in about eight years, a young man, in an attempt to get his mom off his case, will take a little weekend visit to her alma mater. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll realize OBU is even better than a Samoa or a Tag-A-Long and he’ll fall head-over-heels in love. You just never know…

Thanks, Lori, for coaxing me out of my blog hiatus long enough to participate in this “blog-about” in commemoration of OBU’s Founders Day. OBU, you’re 124? You don’t look a day over 21. Check out the OBU BlogAbout page to read more OBU love letters from fellow bloggers.


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24 responses to “I Heart OBU

  1. carpoolqueen

    And it goes unsaid that the best thing about OBU was you.

  2. I’m reading a lot of these blogs today…well, all of them…and you just made me cry. I’m just sayin’

  3. Deena

    Yeah – I’m glad you’re back – for at least a day!

    I had that same “one visit” experience. I just knew!

    The people are what made OBU so special. You were one of my favorite people. I really looked up to you then, and I still do.

  4. I love this AMY!!! You guys are my heroes!

  5. So glad your back…you are back right…

    I was too chicken to go to college and after reading some of these stories, I am amazed at how you just knew it was the place for you…
    Really feeling like I missed a major event in my life.

  6. Oh Lord have mercy….reading that just made me cry like a baby. How blessed we are to have Ouachita as part of our lives!

  7. I wrote about Dr. Cole today, too.
    He was a gem.
    As is everyone in my OBU memories.

    Almost seems impossible that such an amazing place exists, doesn’t it? I feel so lucky that I get to live here and look at it all the time.

  8. I totally forgot about Lavell Cole! He was one of my favorite teachers ever. He made lectures on levees interesting.

  9. Laura

    Amy- loved your memories! I was also a one trip changed my life girl! I was only at OBU for one year, one of the best in my life! It is a special place. South Africa changed my life too, so thankful God had it in His plans for me. Thanks for writing!

  10. Gayla McKinney

    Amy, You spoke so eloquently what I’m feeling! And by the way, I always thought you and Susan were the coolest things! Seriously, you two are why I wanted so badly to be a TriChi! Aren’t we all so incredibly blessed to have experienced OBU? I, too, pray that my children will one day have all those experiences! Now I’m a bit homesick for the old days!

  11. Mr. Cole is the best story teller, hands down. The history department lost it’s best asset when he passed away. No one brings history alive like he did.

  12. Jeff

    I’ve been blog stalking this evening, reading all the OBU entries. I’ve been laying low, hoping that I’ll not be the lone male entry. I might need to Facebook Mitch or Darrell Potts and get them to dust off their estrogen pens.

    You are such an amazing writer! But you had an easy subject this time around. It wasn’t so much an assignment for any of us as it was a privilege to say, “Happy birthday, OBU. And thanks!”

    Thanks for your memories!

  13. I didn’t go to OBU (I went to PCC in Florida), so I hesitated before commenting. But you just awakened my own wonderful college memories, and I have to say, Thank you!

    And also, It’s good to read you again!

  14. Amy, I couldn’t comment when I read your post this morning because I was crying. I cried again just now. I know we didn’t know each other well when we were at OBU but I’m so thankful for second chances (and crazy circumstances) via blogging!

  15. I’m so glad you blogged today! I didn’t go to OBU, but I almost did (I ended up at John Brown), and I understand the affection you feel for it. I loved the campus when I visited in high school and it has so many of the same characteristics that I love about JBU.

    It’s been so fun to get to know you and a few other OBU graduates as bloggers. You are all very special!

  16. Amy,
    I still remember when I came to OBU to check it out. I stayed with you and Cindy. You were so zealous about OBU and what it had to offer. I was hooked. And I am so thankful!! I am even more thankful that we are friends now, thanks to the world wide web. If you ever are this way, let us know. Would love to see you and your family in person!!

  17. Katherine

    Thanks for checking out my blog about obu! I enjoyed reading yours as well, so neat to hear everyone’s experiences. They all make me miss it so much!

  18. Thanks for the comment on my blog 🙂

    I always think people will think I’m crazy when I describe my love for OBU and how it’s a feeling you just can’t explain or get rid of. It becomes part of your blood, and it becomes your home. I’m so glad to know, I’m not the only one! 🙂

  19. Yes Amy, it is the same family. Sydney is the older daughter, who was in Ireland when Mary passed away. It has been a VERY hard week for our church family. Caylie has a super hard time with it. She and Emily are friends and just starting their Junior year. Mary was the Junior class mom, and had a meeting planned next week to get things kicked off for the year. Her death was so unexpected, and her influence was so far reaching. What a small world, that you heard about Mary’s story from two totally different directions. She will be greatly missed.

  20. Susan Chaney

    I have missed your blogs. Waiting patiently for the timing in your life to allow your return. Grateful heart.

  21. Is it weird that I’m just now commenting? I was thinking of you today. I miss your blog voice. 🙂

  22. Becky Smith

    I haven’t been reading blogs in a while. I read this today and it made me miss the good ole days. I was a quiet, shy homebody that was extremely worried I would end up with a nut for a college roommate. I did, but in a good way. So glad God led me to OBU and you. I probably would have cried and gone home if not for your encouragement. While I was packing for college, my mom kept telling me to put things back and that I didn’t need to take so much. When we saw the trailer outside the dorm the day we were moving in, my mom laughed and said, “Look at all that stuff. It would be funny if that was your roommate.” Do you remember how much stuff you brought? I didn’t have to worry about forgetting anything because my roommate had it all! I remember your first time hearing them Call The Hogs. That was priceless! My son is a football fanatic and wants to be a Razorback. I try to tell him and my students about OBU any chance I get. It is amazing how many people you meet that have ties to Ouachita. My car broke down in Pine Bluff once. I was by myself and scared to death. The people the restaurant called to help me knew Dr. Elrod, took care of my car, and got me on my way. OBU alumni and friends are special people indeed.

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