Local Alumni Get the Rutland Report
By Danielle Parker 07
On Sept. 15, President Mark and First Lady Alison Rutland attended their first ORU Alumni Connection Luncheon and got acquainted with the Tulsa alumni community, giving former students a chance to meet their alma mater's new leader and his wife.
Only days before his official inauguration and mere weeks into his presidency, Rutland talked about his journey to Oral Roberts University and what his new job has been like so far.
"I am delighted to be here. It has been a joyful transition experience," he said. "We are delighted with the sense of energy and morale here. We are beginning to see many, many signs of a real revitalization."
Candid about the state of the university, where it has been and where it is going, Rutland revealed news about a rise in enrollment for the fall and the plunge of another major concern.
"This fall before the inauguration, the $55 million in long-term debt will be resolved," he said. "The resolution of long-term debt is the resolution of an issue. But there are other issues. We are heading toward those; we have identified them; we know what to do. Those issues can and will be resolved. In the long run, financial viability and vitality are ahead for us."
More than a year ago, Board Chair Mart Green spoke with Tulsa, Oklahoma-area alumni about the "four dragons of ORU." During this OAC luncheon, Rutland announced those once-massive problems are diminishing.
"Enrollment is increasing. Long-term debt is gone, deficit spending we are attacking in every way and deferred maintenance is underway. Those are the four principle issues we have faced," he said.
The good news kept coming during a Q&A session, including the announcement of a higher student retention rate and the fact that for the next year, gifts to the Quest Whole Person Scholarship Program will continue to be matched dollar for dollar, with no limit.
The partnership between ORU and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference was another hot topic. Rutland described how ORU's unique diversity as well as its distinction as a Christian university caused him to seek after more than just multiculturalism.
"Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC, explained it this way: 'Multiculturalism is not what you are after. You want a single culture, and that is a culture of faith; you want a multi-ethnic expression of a culture of faith.' And that is what we want -- allowing the sense of diversity and expression inside the community and affirming it, but inside the context of a unified culture of faith," Rutland said.
Rutland shared the personal motto he has adopted since arriving at ORU -- "In every way open up, lighten up, brighten up and loosen up" -- and told alumni and guests that all are welcome to visit the entire campus, including the seventh floor, and attend chapel, activities and events.
He encouraged Tulsa alumni to get onboard with what is happening at ORU, particularly within the student community.
"The alumni in Tulsa and those who are connected to the university as friends, you are in a unique position to be of great assistance to the student body, like through the Wingbackers program," he said.
Dexter Sullivan, Student Association president, reinforced this by reminding attendees just how important their role is to the student body.
"As students, we do need you," he said. "We covet your support, your blessings and your prayers. We appreciate the relationship we have with you all."
ORU alumni are getting involved like never before, with more than 800 first-time alumni donors in the past year, according to Rutland.
"I have been in education now for more than a decade and this is the most passionate, engaged, emotionally involved body of alumni worldwide that I have ever encountered," Rutland said. "There are some great strengths at ORU. The alumni are one of those great strengths."
With all the accomplishments the university has seen in recent months, Rutland has his eyes set on ORU's horizon and what God has in store.
"I am persuaded that ORU has a great past, a great history and a great heritage, and I still believe the best is yet to come."