Attempting wide-scale celebration in an otherwise highly challenging year, Oklahoma Christian University’s Homecoming 2020 stands out from those that have come before it through its emphasis on connection and encouragement even in the most discouraging of times.
According to Student Leadership Coordinator Katie Martinez, Homecoming 2020 has several goals this year.
“I think a big reason why so many of us love OC is the community and the lifelong friends that you gain here,” Martinez said. “Homecoming is a time to bring that together and appreciate all that we have on campus. I think by cultivating friendships, there’s an aspect of appreciation in there as well.”
One of the ways it has focused on bringing about encouragement and connectivity is by having an event dedicated to uplifting Lois Hill, the widely known Gatekeeper of the Cafeteria. Due to the coronavirus, Lois Hill has not been able to be on campus this semester, isolating her from the students of Oklahoma Christian. This loss has been felt by students such as senior biology major Jacob Knox.
“I miss Lois so much and I hope she knows how much OC misses her and her presence,” Knox said. “She brings the community of campus to life. She just wants to be kind to everyone. She wants to recognize your face and know your name and make sure that you’re welcomed and that you feel special.”
Not only is she missed, but the full force of her legacy is being felt in her absence. Homecoming Outreach Officer Hannah Durham emphasized that Lois’ service to the Oklahoma Christian community is one that carries significant weight across campus.
“It’s clear she has had a huge impact on campus given the fact that we have a whole Homecoming event dedicated to encouraging her during this time,” Durham said. “A lot of people haven’t realized the impact that she has on the culture of OC until now that she’s gone. Being a physical, present representation of sacrificial service on campus is huge on Lois’ part. I can’t imagine there are many people that want to sit at a desk watching college students sipe in to get their caf food. I can’t imagine that there are a lot of people who desire to do that but she does it and she does it well. She doesn’t just sit there, she builds relationships. I don’t think that’s taken lightly. If anything, Lois contributes to the culture of being present, available, vulnerable and relational with the students on campus.”
As students and staff feel the absence of Lois throughout this semester, they hope for a reunion to come soon, and in the meantime they recount favorite memories they have shared with her to ease the waiting.
“She always dressed up for Halloween, which was one of my favorites,” Martinez said. “I can always remember her in a clown costume one year, fun stuff. She’s a real riot. She’s a skydiver, enjoyed skydiving as a senior. And then her big earrings, she always has fun, decorative earrings. Those are some fun Lois things that I remember.”
“One time she was wearing this owl necklace,” Knox said. “I made a comment on it. Well, she loves owls. So, she sat me down to tell me all the facts she knew about owls and then started telling me about the little owls on her little stand that she had at the old Caf. She had all her little owls there. She told me about each one and it was the sweetest thing.”
Students all over campus are being encouraged to write an uplifting message to Lois today at 4:30 p.m. in the Conservatory as a way to reconnect with her and to celebrate her with fellow students.
“A big part of the goal for Homecoming is to provide an atmosphere of encouragement on campus,” Durham said. “Writing notes to encourage somebody who is an icon on campus that can’t be here because of COVID is important. I think it ties into this overarching theme of getting people involved not only to be represented, but also so that they can encourage others and keep the culture of OC that is uplifting, personal and relational.”