By Elise Miller with contributions from Madison Hagood
Devoted to faith, family and fitness, a beloved member of the Oklahoma Christian University, Darci Thompson, died Friday, Feb. 14, after a seven-year battle with breast cancer.
After transferring to Oklahoma Christian from Harding University following her first semester of college, Darci met Summer Lashley, who now serves as Oklahoma Christian’s spiritual life coordinator and Ethos director. The two became good friends, rooming together on their study abroad trip to Vienna, Austria, and back on campus when they returned.
“We sort of had an instant connection and a bond that we had ever since,” Lashley said. “We ended up traveling on the Vienna Studies program together and when you go on a trip like that, you are bonded for life. We just shared life together for almost 20 years—first loves, first heartbreaks, first child, second child, the good, the bad and the ugly—we saw it all together.”
Post-graduation, Darci accepted a role working for Oklahoma Christian’s admissions department. According to Risa Forrester, Darci excelled in her work, inspiring thousands of students to attend Oklahoma Christian.
“Darci was the kind of person that whoever was in front of her, she made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to her at that moment,” Forrester said. “She had dozens of really great best friends. She could just move in and out of groups so easily and make everyone feel absolutely special.”
After the birth of her first daughter, Darci worked as the director of the fitness and wellness program for six years, building the TeamOC program. As an avid runner and mountain climber, Darci traveled all over the world, completing two Oklahoma City Memorial marathons and summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
“[Darci] crossed the finish and received her new body, the one she so desperately wanted to have here on earth—a body that is healthy and strong and free of pain, and one that could run,” Lashley said. “Every TeamOC event and race is because of Darci and her passion for running and fitness and helping to make the OC community healthy and united. Just being affiliated with Darci was my privilege and honor.”
According to Chief Student Life Officer Neil Arter, Darci’s passion for fitness was shared by her husband Mark, an Oklahoma Christian adjunct instructor of physics.
“Mark ran fast, and she ran long distances, so when she was looking for a change of pace once her daughter was born, Darci stepped out of the admissions role and came down here to work with us in student life to begin her work with TeamOC,” Arter said. “I think Darci had a spiritual gift of encouragement, and that is so important in what she did with the fitness and wellness stuff. She was basically trying to get you to do something you did not want to do, in order to help yourself, so there are a lot of people on this campus, especially faculty and staff, who really owe her so much for their health and happiness because she really drove them to do better and to be better.”
Darci had an immense impact on her friends and colleges through her loving spirit and positive attitude on life. Professor Bobby Kern said Darci supported him when he discovered his unborn son would have Down syndrome.
“Darci was a force on our campus,” Kern said. “Not because of her battle with cancer but because of who she was at her very core. She loved people and wanted the best for them. She was the very best of us, living out Jesus to everyone she met.”
Oklahoma Christian Assistant Athletic Director Teresa DeBoard has known Darci since she was 12 when the two attended summer camp together. The pair became best friends when Darci transferred to Oklahoma Christian during the second semester of her freshman year.
“She is one of the kindest people you will ever meet,” DeBoard said. “I cannot think of anyone who would not think she was just kind in every aspect. She was always looking for the opportunity to be kind to anyone.”
According to her friends and colleagues, Darci’s unmatched spirit and determination affected every person she met.
“She was the most positive and determined person I have ever met, and because of that, she faced this entire challenge, which went on for years, with courage that could only come from the Holy Spirit,” Lashley said. “When she was weary and discouraged, which I know she got sometimes, I would tell her, ‘Darci, it really appears to me that you are full of the Holy Spirit and you have so much courage. I can only hope I can face a tragedy in the same way.’”