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More than just an Oxford degree – the continuing legacy of Jim Baird

In an upper level journalism class, 13 students featured faculty and staff members for a personality profile assignment. The students were not allowed to interview the faculty or staff member, but were instructed to interview their friends, family and co-workers. 

Throughout his life, Dr. Jim Baird has worn several prestigious titles — Oxford graduate, professor of Bible and philosophy, Honors Program director — yet Baird cannot simply be confined to these titles. The life and legacy of Baird lies not only in being a scholar, but also a family man, Dungeons and Dragons aficionado, world traveler, friend and much more.

Baird was born Oct. 1, 1956 to James Oscar Jr. and Mary Avanelle Baird in Bartlesville, OK. Jim’s father served as the president of Oklahoma Christian College. The college relocated, after Jim’s birth, and the Baird family moved to Oklahoma City.

After graduating from Oklahoma Christian in 1978 with a double major in English and Bible, Jim went on to receive his master’s in divinity from Harding Graduate School and his Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from Oxford University.

Jim serves as a professor of Bible and philosophy at Oklahoma Christian, as well as the director of the university’s Honors Program. Along with teaching, Jim is the pulpit minister of Wilshire Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.

Jim is married to his wife of 38 years, Yodie. The couple has three children — James, Taylor and Elizabeth, along with five grandchildren and one on the way.

Jim’s connection to the Oklahoma Christian goes beyond his time as a professor on campus.

Fellow Oklahoma Christian professor David North has known Jim since he was born, and said he considers him a brother. According to North, whether they are climbing pyramids in Egypt, discussing Lord of the Rings or sharing a meal, it is nearly impossible to not have a good time with Jim.

“He’s fun to be with,” North said. “It’s pretty hard to be with him and not have fun. He has a great, infectious personality, and people just like being around him.”

According to North, Jim had the opportunity to choose a profession beyond teaching at Oklahoma Christian, but chose to remain at the university because of his passion for students.

“He could’ve done lots of other things, so his choice to be here and share what’s important to him with students, what’s important for them to know — a belief in God and for them to develop as people, to have successful careers and lives — those things are important to him,” North said. “I think that comes through in how he acts on campus and his interests in his students.”

Beyond his genuine investment in the lives of his students, Jim’s daughter-in-law, Stephanie Baird, said Jim’s key qualities include his quiet humility and immense love for his family.

“You don’t meet someone like this everyday,” Stephanie said. “He has a lot of stature. You know he’s smart, you know he’s distinguished, but he is really down to earth and very funny and easy to talk to, and I think it’s impressive to have those qualities at the same time.”

As Jim’s family has grown with marriage, adoption and grandchildren, Stephanie said he makes intentional efforts to keep the family close. These efforts include Sunday lunches after church services, game nights on Tuesdays, family reunions every other year and always bringing an element of fun whenever the family is together.

“That’s the Baird family,” Stephanie said. “It’s loud and it’s crazy and it’s busy and it’s goofy, and I think a lot of that feeds from Jim, just the fact that’s his personality. That’s just what he exudes.”

Jim’s interest in his family is also evident to his daughter, Elizabeth Baird. Elizabeth said Jim goes out of his way to prioritize spending time with her, whether it is making breakfast, playing board games or watching Netflix.

According to Elizabeth, not only is his family a priority, but also his profession. Elizabeth said Jim makes sacrifices daily to ensure both his family members and students knows he cares about them.

“He’s dedicated to being a father, grandfather and a professor,” Elizabeth said. “I think you can see his dedication in how hard he works in late hours or early morning, and he’s always willing to help people, and just dedicate his time to helping others.”

Yodie said Jim’s investment in students comes from growing up full of questions that no one was willing to answer. According to Yodie, Jim is a strong proponent of students having courage to ask important questions.

“He has such a heart for students who have questions, because he always had questions,” Yodie said. “The response that he used to get when he was younger was, ‘We don’t ask those questions,’ and he felt that was more or less saying that what we believed in we were afraid of.”

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