“We are in hallelujah territory right now,” OBU President Heath Thomas said in a video message posted on Twitter. Students are able to return to the Shawnee campus April 29 and classes will resume May 1. The university plans to finish the semester in person and will hold graduation as scheduled on May 20.
Outpouring of support
In the wake of the storm, Todd Fisher, Oklahoma Baptists’ executive director-treasurer, called it the worst natural disaster the school has faced in its 113-year history. On Twitter, Thomas called the turnaround “a miracle of God.” He also noted the school has seen an outpouring of support since the April 19 tornado.
“One week ago … we were planning in a dark room with flood lights because we didn’t have any power,” he said Thursday (April 27) in a Twitter post. “And we were working with our contractors and partners and friends, an army of volunteers, to pick up the debris, to cover our roofs, to ensure that we had a plan for power and heat and air back onto our campus.”
The campus has been assessed to ensure the health and safety of all OBU employees and students, Thomas said. The school is using the hashtag #RenewOBU to share updates on clean-up efforts.
No fatalities or injuries were reported on campus, but at least three people died as a result of storms across the state. Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were onsite quickly in affected areas to assess damage, clear debris, serve meals and offer chaplaincy services.
In announcing OBU’s reopening, Thomas focused on the university’s bright future. “I’m so excited to see what God has done. I’m excited to see what God is going to do. Because if this can be accomplished in a week, my goodness, what can be accomplished in a month? In two months?”
OBU isn’t in “wreckage mode,” he said, but has moved into “renewal mode.”