Dear OCU Faculty, Staff, and Alumni Board Members,
At 4:00am December 21, 2023, 1987 Oakland City University education graduate and OCU Alumni board member Derek Barton was called home to join our Father in Heaven.
Derek grew up in Petersburg, Indiana, and lived in Ft. Branch, Indiana. Derek was a music and eighth-grade history teacher at Fort Branch Community School. While at the school, for over 20 years, Derek directed the English handbell choir, one of his proudest achievements because, as he stated, "The students do not get a grade, but instead, they do it out of a love of making music." Derek's commitment to music education was unwavering, and his impact extended far beyond the walls of the rehearsal room. He believed in the transformative power of music and dedicated himself to nurturing his students' musical talents. Through his guidance, they developed their technical skills and learned important life lessons such as teamwork, discipline, and the joy of creating music together. Derek's passion for music education was contagious, inspiring his students to explore their creativity and reach new heights in their musical journeys.
Derek's love of music-making started in his family. His mother, Sue Ellen Barton, and his grandmother, Ruth Swain Atkinson, primarily influenced him. They used to sing in the car or at church, and he began taking piano lessons when he was younger. Lestle Atkinson, his grandfather, helped pay for part of the cost of his first piano.
Derek showcased his versatility as a musician by actively participating in local bands and orchestras. He contributed his skills to the pit orchestra at Gibson Southern High School. One instrument that held a special place in Derek's heart was the saxophone, which he mastered during high school. His proficiency in the saxophone allowed him to explore different genres and express his musicality in unique ways. He also had an uncanny ability to switch between instruments and solidify his reputation as a talented musician.
Derek's singing remained a ministry even during his many years as the pastor of Princeton's Broadway Christian Church and later as the piano teacher for the Sunday school class at Mount Tabor Baptist Church, where he was raised.
As an Alumni board member, Derek attended every meeting until his illness kept him away. He volunteered to participate in every OCU Alumni activity.
The Oakland City University Alumni Board will miss Derek's guidance and dedication to OCU.
May he rest in peace!