Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Bishop Milhouse legacy continues


Deadline is Oct. 1 to nominate a layperson for the 2011 Milhouse Award. For an application, contact Maggie Ball at OCU, mball@okcu.edu,  405-208-5060.

Beginning in 1982, OCU has given this award to recognize outstanding United Methodist laypersons who are devoted to strengthening the partnership between OCU and the Church.

This award is presented annually at the OCU University-Church Relations Christmas dinner.

Recent Milhouse Award recipients include Morris Permenter, JoAnn McNaught, Elliott Fenton and Ruby Lu Simpson, and Cary Pirrong.

The University-Church Relations office for OCU is seeking nominations for the 2011 Bishop Paul W. Milhouse Award.

The award bears the name of Bishop Milhouse, who led the Oklahoma Conference from 1968 to 1980.

Milhouse gave no greater service to OCU than his leadership when the school was in difficult financial straits in 1979, according to Margaret Ball, vice-president for University-Church Relations. At a recent university banquet, David Severe offered his reflections on that time. Here is an excerpt.

By DAVID SEVERE, Executive Director South Central Jurisdiction

On March 30, 1979, the announcement was made that OCU was in financial exigency. The deficit by the end of the fiscal year was projected to be $650,000, with the dire prediction that in another year it would reach $1.6 million. This marked the second financial exigency in 27 months.

University leaders and Oklahoma City business moguls came to the conclusion that the days of OCU were numbered. Commercial loan funds had been denied. The future of the University was bleak at best. Local newspapers announced its imminent demise, and publicly advised OCU trustees to close the school and offer the property to the University of Oklahoma, for an Oklahoma City extension campus.

In a meeting, Dean McGee reminded those urging to give the university to OU that the trustees did not have that power. The United Methodist Church was the holder of rights of disposal. Accordingly, a meeting was sought with Bishop Paul Milhouse.

Bishop Milhouse told the gathering he had not come to Oklahoma to preside over the closing of a school, and said he would take up the matter with Oklahoma Conference leaders.

By the time of Annual Conference in May 1979, a plan developed to ask the Conference to raise $3 million by December 1980. It was approved.

Milhouse addressed that Annual Conference on the gravity of the situation. His impassioned plea to save OCU, marked by his own tears of anguish, moved the members to fill out pledge cards and write checks. As we sang "I Love to Tell the Story," streams of clergy and laity came forward and laid their cards and checks at the altar in Boston Avenue church.

Almost $200,000 were given or pledged that afternoon. In the weeks to come, church members from across the state responded with similar enthusiasm, and the $3 million campaign was off and running. The university was saved.

The 1979 Annual Conference also voted to increase annual giving to OCU from $500,000 to $750,000. It was my privilege to make a motion that the Conference request the OCU trustees "to expand and strengthen the Religion Department." This passed as well, and ultimately led to the creation of the School of Religion.

A new OCU president was introduced at that Annual Conference: Jerald Walker, a 1960 graduate of OCU.

In eighteen months, the school was debt-free.

In September 1980, Milhouse retired and became Bishop-in-Residence at OCU. He befriended the students, especially the international students, for whom he became an encourager, a confidant and, to some, a lifelong friend.

In 1993, I attended a 25th-anniversary celebration of the union of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches, held at Lake Junaluska, N.C. Milhouse, living in Indiana by that time, represented the former EUB church. It was not long before the Council of Bishops was to gather in San Diego, Calif.

I asked the bishop if he and Mrs. Milhouse were going to the Council meeting.

He replied, "No, one of the OCU grads, a young Chinese woman, now has a good job in New York City, but has called and said she is coming to Chicago for a conference, and could she stay a day or two with us before the meeting. Mrs. Milhouse and I thought that sounded like more fun."


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