Succeeding Scott LaMascus as the new Honors Program director, is Jim Baird; 20 year professor and son of former Oklahoma Christian University president James O. Baird.
“This was not something I have sought or planned for,” Baird, a professor of bible and philosophy, said of becoming the new Honors Program director. “I was happy to accept and excited for the opportunity.”
Scott LaMascus moved into the vacant Vice President for Academic Affaris office, leaving the title of Honors Program director and coordinator for The McBride Center for Faith and Literature open.
Baird, an Oklahoma Christian alum, has taught at Oklahoma Christian since 1992. He has been a part of the honors program since its conception.
“I helped design the original slate of the honors courses, and I have taught Bible, Science and Human Values since the beginning,” Baird said. “I’ve been a fan of the Honors Program all along – a big supporter.”
Baird graduated from Oklahoma Christian in 1978. He went on to earn a theology degree from the Harding Graduate School of Religion in 1982 and a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford in 1992. He currently serves as a minister for the Wilshire Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.
In 2001, Baird won Oklahoma Christian’s Gaylord Chair of Distinguished Teaching.
“Baird is the perfect choice to continue the OC Honors pattern of engaging, visionary leadership – pioneered by Bailey McBride and Scott LaMascus – that inspires students to be more than they thought possible,” Oklahoma Christian president John deSteiguer said in a recent press release announcing Baird’s selection.
Baird, with Professor of Physics Len Feuerhelm, developed and taught a core honors class, The Bible, Science and Human Values, which won a $10,000 prize for classes dealing with science and religion from the Templeton Foundation.
Sophomore honor student Megan Reed said that Baird was the logical choice for filling the open position.
“He’s a really fun person to talk to, and I feel really comfortable speaking to him about my schedule and just asking questions,” Reed said. “I think that just having a fresh director will give a new flavor to the honors program.”
LaMascus left his position as honors program director early last semester to become Oklahoma Christian’s new vice president of academic affairs. He held his former position since 2009.
“I think LaMascus has helped build an amazing program, but I’m really looking forward to the new excitement and energy that Jim Baird is going to bring,” sophomore honor student Tyler Parette said. “I’ve really enjoyed his classes in the past and I know he’s a great motivator and leader.
Reed said LaMascus took the honors program to a new level.
“Dr. LaMascus did a great job at getting the Honors program recognized and making it more prominent,” Reed said. “I hope that Dr. Baird can take that a step further.”
Reed said her only concern about Baird becoming the new director is that he may be overworked.
“He is in such high demand,” Reed said of Baird. “I hope that he has the time and doesn’t get too busy with it all.”
In semesters to come, Baird will teach less.
“In the future, like a chair of a department, I will teach a three-quarter load,” Baird said. “This semester it doesn’t affect my classes at all.”
Baird plans on growing the honors program and improving its current programs.
“I’m happy to pitch in now and do my part in taking it to the next level,” Baird said of the program. “Eventually there are plans to expand honors in other ways so that it will actually become an even broader program than it is now.”
Oklahoma Christian’s honors program was a major factor for some students to choose Oklahoma Christian over other universities.
“Honors isn’t for every elite student or academically excellent student but it does offer an enticement for some academically advance students who might not otherwise choose Oklahoma Christian,” Baird said. “So it’s very important for us as a university to have a robust, effective, honors program.”
Baird has high hopes for the future of the program.
“Honors has a really wonderful tradition at OC, and obviously I think it has a great future – with or without me,” Baird said. “I’m excited about being a part of that”