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Oklahoma Christian’s Alumni Banquet

At Homecoming, Oklahoma Christian University offers many events for both current and former students to attend, including pep rallies, a musical, basketball games, and more.

While the Alumni Banquet, like the other events, allows alums to see old friends, it remains a little different.

“The Alumni Banquet is a dinner for alumni and for friends of the university, and the alumni office recognizes some distinguished alumni awards during that dinner,” said Chris Adair, a former employee of the alumni office.

Among the alumni awarded this year were Mel Latorre Sr. and his wife Marly along with Sydney Reneau, Allison Garrett, Jose Cruz, and Benton and Paula Baugh.

Daniel Griffin, a 2016 graduate, said Mel Latorre’s story inspired him.

“I was really inspired by how Mel Latorre came to Oklahoma Christian not even really knowing what it was, not even being a Christian, becoming a Christian in six months and then being a lifelong missionary in Brazil,” Griffin said. “It’s really inspirational.”

The Latorres were this year’s recipient of the Mission Service Award. They have been in the mission field for over 30 years and are currently on their third mission to Brazil.

Another 2021 award recipient, Sydney Reneau, a 2016 graduate and former basketball player for Oklahoma Christian, went to school with Kendre Talley, a 2014 graduate and the current men’s basketball coach for Oklahoma Christian.

Talley said he had not realized the rigor Reneau had endured.

“I didn’t understand what her career path was and how rigorous it was,” Talley said. “How much time it took being an athlete and doing that. So, it was good to see her get recognized tonight.”

Reneau received the Young Alumna of the Year award.

Reneau has been honored as a “Rising Star in Construction” after working as a Project Engineer for three years with CMS Willowbrook, a commercial construction company. Reneau was also one of the project managers of a Homeland grocery store built at Northeast 36th and Lincoln, an area described as a “food desert.”

The Young Alumnus of the Year was awarded to Jose Cruz, a first-generation college graduate of 2012. After graduating, he went to law school and has now served as the state representative for House District 89 in South Oklahoma City since being sworn in on Nov. 11, 2020.

Allison Garrett, a 1984 graduate, earned the Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award. Over the years Garrett has served at many universities, including Faulkner University College of Law, Oklahoma Christian University, Abilene Christian University, and Emporia State University in Kansas.

Serving as President over the last five and half years at Emporia, Garrett helped the college set records in student retention, fundraising, graduation rates and more. Now, she is set to begin her new role on Nov. 8 as Chancellor and CEO of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.

Benton and Paula Baugh were also among those awarded, earning the title of Honorary Alumni of the Year. The Baugh Auditorium was re-named after them in honor of their gifts to Oklahoma Christian over the past ten years.

They first got involved with Oklahoma Christian when Benton Baugh, an inventor of oilfield drilling tools, decided to help fund and host a wind energy competition that the engineering students participate in every year.

“Once they got involved, he and his wife, Paula, have stayed involved at the university in other major ways,” Adair said. “They funded a chair of preaching in the Bible school, [and] they funded the gaming and animation motion capture lab. They have funded a lot of things at the university. Oklahoma Christian decided to recognize them as honorary alumni this year.”

Overall, John deSteiguer, President of Oklahoma Christian, said the Alumni Banquet means friends, family, and honoring good people.

“The alumni banquet is always a lot of fun because people come back from all over the place for this and yet everybody knows each other. It’s almost like a family reunion,” deSteiguer said. “And it’s really great to honor people that deserve it.”

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