Oklahoma Christian University will host its 14th annual Associates Gala Thursday, April 6, at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. According to its website, the focus of the event will be to honor the Green family, the founders of Hobby Lobby, and the impact on the have had on the Oklahoma Christian community.
Will Blanchard, director of advancement operations, said this year they will be giving the Lee Allen Smith Spirit of Oklahoma award to the Green family because the legacy and goals of the family embody the foundational ideals of Oklahoma Christian associates.
“This year it’s Steve Green, who’s the son of David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby,” Blanchard said. “They’re a wonderful family — big players in the Oklahoma City community, great philanthropists and good, Christian people. They’re right in line with who we are, so we want to honor them.”
Bland said the event first began under former President Mike O’Neal and current President John deSteiguer. He said the primary focus of the dinner is to thank the associates for their contributions to the budget of the university.
“What the program is about is it’s for alumni and friends or anybody else who wants to invest $1,000 or more a year in the student body,” Blanchard said. “The benefits of the program are primarily the moniker itself — that you’re an associate — you get some special communication from the president and things throughout the year, and then you also get invited to this celebration dinner that we hold.”
Blanchard emphasized the need for students to be in attendance at the gala. He said it is important for donors and associates to interact with the students they are investing in. Blanchard said one way of facilitating interaction is by having specific students represent various departments from the university.
“Since the event is about the students, at the end of the day everybody coming to this event is investing in you, so obviously we want students there,” Blanchard said. “We will have a lot of different departments sponsor tables and send students.”
Junior Logan Banister said he is performing at the gala with the jazz band this year. He said it is an honor to be asked to play, as it is not an annual feature of the event. Banister said the jazz band’s set will consist of music they have been working on throughout the school year.
“The jazz band has never gotten asked to play, so it’s a really big deal,” Banister said. “It is some of the stuff we’ve done over the course of the year — just kind of some highlights from the year.”
Banister said he is excited to play for the people who contribute to his education. He also said he appreciates the associates’ willingness to invest in Oklahoma Christian and its students.
“I think it’s really cool,” Banister said. “It’s a selfless thing for them to do. I really appreciate the opportunities we have here, so it’s good for us to get to give back to the people who make that possible.”
Sophomore Tyler Clark said he attended the Associates Gala last year as a representative for the Presidential Leadership Class at Oklahoma Christian. He said attending the event helped him recognize the different ways donors support him and his education.
“It’s incredibly inspiring to me to see that so many people are passionate about Christian education — it gives me an appreciation for it,” Clark said. “Also it makes me want to utilize it to its full extent that we can. We’ve been given a gift. We have these people who are donating such large amounts of money to make school here at OC possible and I think we often overlook that.”
Blanchard said he hopes students are aware of how much associates invest in education at Oklahoma Christian. He said although it is expensive for students to attend the university, there is a portion of funds not covered by tuition, which must come from other sources. He said the associates being honored at the gala have entirely covered those deficits.
“I really want the students to understand how important this group is,” Blanchard said. “This year there’s a two million-dollar need just to pay the salaries, keep the lights on and do everything like that. That is not met by tuition, that is met by these folks just giving because they want to. They have already invested that two million dollars this year. That’s something that kind of stops me in my tracks, and when you really stop to think about it I hope it stops students in their tracks.”
Every year, new graduate and young alumni associates receive one ticket to the dinner—all other associates receive two tickets. Anyone who wishes to purchase additional tickets should contact the Advancement Office.