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Alumni Spotlight: Robert Herndon and General John Admire

Oklahoma Christian University alumni General John Admire and Robert Herndon both serve as guides and educators, or docents, at world-renowned museums in Tulsa, OK. Admire, a ’64 graduate, is a docent at the Gilcrease Museum of Western Art, while Herndon, a ’68 graduate, is a docent at the Philbrook Museum of Art.

Gilcrease is home to the world’s largest collection of art and artifacts of the American West. Housing vast amounts of original artifacts and art pieces, the art at Gilcrease plays a key role in showing the history and culture of early Western civilization.

“It’s my belief, and a lot of others believe too, that [Gilcrease] is truly a national treasure,” Admire said. “Most of the art there deals with the discovery of the Americas. There’s quite a bit of early American history there. The main focus is on the colonial period and western art. It’s truly iconic.”

According to the Gilcrease website, the museum prides itself as “one of the country’s best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history.”

“Columbus’ journals of his original visits to the Western Hemisphere—he made four different visits—his original journals are at Gilcrease Museum,” Admire said. “During the Revolutionary War, Marquis Lafayette, the French general, was a major factor in helping [America] win that war. There was a famous artist named Houdon who did sculptures of Washington and Lafayette. He did two sculptures of Lafayette, and these are originals. One is in the Gilcrease Museum, and the other is in the Louvre, the most famous art museum in the world.”

On top of all the “iconic art” housed in Gilcrease, Admire, as well as other docents, finds ways to help give back to the community.

“We have outreach programs where we go out into the community to different retirement homes, civic clubs and rotary clubs,” Admire said. “We also speak to a lot of the first-graders in the Tulsa public schools. We provide a tour of some of the art for the younger people, to get them interested in art. We also have art programs where they can create their own art and art projects. It’s a multifaceted opportunity to be quite honest, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity a lot.”

Just down the river, Herndon volunteers as a docent at the Philbrook Museum of Art. Herndon said he became a docent after his scare with cancer, when he decided he needed a hobby other than work.

“The Philbrook is a world-class museum,” Herndon said. “It’s been around for 85 years now. We have a large collection of Renaissance art, which is priceless, and we have a large collection of Native American art. We also have two museums now. We have a space downtown called ‘Philbrook Downtown,’ where we have a whole floor dedicated to modern-contemporary art and a whole floor of Native American art.”

Herndon said he uses his position as a docent to spread the Word of God and minister to others by showing people of all ages God’s love through art pieces, such as the Deposition of Christ.

“Art allows me to minister to people who otherwise may not hear the Word of God,” Herndon said. “You’d be surprised how many of the elementary school kids that come through the Philbrook haven’t heard of Jesus. Through the art, I am able to explain to them the biblical meaning behind some of the pieces, and I feel that it’s a great way to plant a seed in someone who may not have otherwise heard about God.”

These two world-renowned museums are located in Tulsa, OK, and are open to the public. The Gilcrease Museum has an $8 admission fee for adults, and the Philbrook has a $9 admission fee for all ages.

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