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Monday, September 23, 2013
New ORU President Focused on Equipping Spirit-Empowered Leaders
Billy Wilson, during his presidential inauguration at Oral Roberts University.Billy Wilson, during his presidential inauguration at Oral Roberts University.
Dr. William M. Wilson—better known as Billy—was inaugurated Friday as the fourth president of Oral Roberts University. I had the privilege of enjoying the pomp and ceremony, and of being reminded of the special vision that birthed this great educational institution.

What does this new administration mean for the future of ORU and even Pentecostal/charismatic colleges and universities in general, since many look to ORU as a trendsetter? What, if anything, does this mean for the future of higher Christian education-a cause for which I'm passionate? These were some of the questions I had when I flew to Tulsa.

As a young teen, I remember when ORU started in 1963. The fact that Billy Graham gave the opening address sent shock waves through the Christian community-the reason being that the gap between Pentecostals (the term charismatic hadn't been coined back then) and the wider Christian community was much wider than it is now. In his lifetime, Oral Roberts went a long way toward bridging that gap. Even inviting Billy Graham was an example of this.

The fact that Graham accepted was monumental. A clip from Graham's address was shown at Wilson's inauguration. In it, Graham pronounced blessings on the fledgling institution. But, he said, if it ever drifted from its Christian values, he pronounced a curse!

Even though I never attended ORU, a few years after it was founded I visited my cousin, who was in one of the first graduating classes. It wasn't until 1980 that I personally met Oral Roberts. In the next nearly 30 years, he had a huge impact on my life as I interacted with him many times and in many ways, becoming very familiar with ORU in the process.

A few years ago, ORU nearly went under financially after a series of problems prompted the second president, Richard Roberts, to step down. The Green family that owns Hobby Lobby in nearby Oklahoma City came to the rescue by pumping tens of millions of dollars into the university to pay off its debt and fix its aging properties. Four years ago, I attended the inauguration of Mark Rutland as ORU's third president. Oral Roberts was there. It was the last time I saw him, and it was his last time to visit the ORU campus.

Now a man I consider a personal friend is taking the helm. And while I have very close ties to several Christian universities, I wanted to attend to show my support and to find out ...

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