Alumni Luncheon Held June 1st

The Oakland City University Alumni Association board of directors held their annual Alumni Luncheon on the OCU campus Saturday, June 1, 2025.  Members from the classes of 1974 and 1999 were celebrated as having graduated 50 and 25 years in the past from Oakland City College/University. 

Our esteemed attendees were welcomed "Back Home Again" to their alma mater, OCU, with the theme inspired by the iconic song associated with the Indianapolis 500, 'Back Home Again in Indiana.  'They were treated to the warm and renowned Hoosier hospitality unique to our beloved state. 

The program portion of the day was kickstarted with a beautiful performance of the National Anthem by Abby Gates, a 2024 Wood Memorial High School graduate, who played the anthem on her flute and showed the attendees why she was chosen to join a State of Indiana band that performed in Europe last summer.    

OCU alum Mark Cowsert emceed the program, which featured a free buffet lunch followed by a look back by OCU's writer-in-residence, Dr. Randy Mills, whose presentation focused on the two celebrated classes and historical photos of the campus from those years.   

Former University President Dr. Ray Barber delivered a heartfelt tribute to the late Dr. Rae Murray, a beloved figure in the OCU community.  As a former first lady and dedicated staff member, her contributions and presence were deeply cherished and will be forever remembered. 

The Alumni Association proudly recognized the outstanding achievements of six OCU graduates.  Individuals who have made significant contributions in their respective fields serve as a testament to the quality of education and the values instilled at OCU. 

Alumnus of the Year

This prestigious award, given annually, recognizes an OCU alumnus who has not only excelled in their chosen profession but has also made significant contributions to civic, philanthropic, and community church activities.  It celebrates the holistic achievements of our alums, considering the total person and their impact on society.

Alumni Board member Matt Malin presented the 2024 Alumnus of the Year award.  The award was given to Oakland City Mayor, 1981 graduate James Deffendall.

Special Achievement Awards

Two Special Achievement awards were presented.  The Special Achievement award is given at the discretion of the Alumni Board and may or may not be given each year.  It is designed to recognize the accomplishments of a person who has excelled in their chosen profession and does not necessarily take into account civic and church activities.

Dr. Ray Barber presented this award.  The award was given to a 1999 OCU graduate and staff member who held executive positions at OCU for over two decades, Mr. Brian Baker. 

Todd Mosby presented the second Special Achievement Award.  The award was given to 1975 graduate Greg Dillon, who was trained in the VoTech program and recently retired after 32 years in the electrical utility industry.

Special Service Award

The Alumni Board gave A Special Service award at the luncheon.  The Special Service Award is given at the discretion of the Alumni Board and may or may not be given each year.  It recognizes individuals who have given notable and/or lengthy service to OCU.

As emcee Mark Cowsert described the Special Service award, the program turned very emotional when he told the audience that the board selected posthumously board member and 1987 graduate Derek Barton.  Derek was a member of the Alumni Board from its inception in 2022 and attended nearly every meeting and function the board was associated with until his illness kept him away.

Derek was a music educator at the K-12 level, in his church, and when volunteering for other organizations.  He showcased his versatility as a musician by actively participating in local bands and orchestras.  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.

Accepting the award on Derek's behalf was his companion, Ms. Gloria Rheinhart.  In her emotional acceptance, she contributed to the next OCU Alumni campus project.  She presented President Dr. Ron Dempsey with a check for $25,000 from the estate of Derek Barton.  

The funds will be used for a project identified by the OCU student government.  To improve their campus experience, the student government asked for a new sidewalk between the Student Life Center and Williams Residence Hall.

True Blue Award

Next, Todd Mosby presented the True Blue Award for 2024.  The True Blue Award recognizes those who love, support, honor, and bring positive attention to OCU.  It is given to those who have positively contributed to OCU and may or may not qualify for other awards presented by the board.  The individual promotes the true mission of OCU daily.

The True Blue Award was given to James Wilder.  James is a 2023 graduate of OCU.  He works at OCU in the Development, Marketing, and Communications department.  He also is working on his Master of Business Administration degree.  James is from Oakland City and has completed his entire education on Franklin Street.  He and his family, mother, Kelly Hopper (past winner of the True Blue award), and grandparents, Don and Mary Ann Wilder, truly bleed OCU blue.     

Matador Award  

The final award of the program is the famed Matador Award.   This award was first instituted in 2008.  It is a Director's Choice Award.  It is given to an individual who has uniquely contributed to OCU by "taking the bull by the horns and getting the job done." 

Mark Cowsert presented the Matador Award to 1994 graduate and OCU interim CFO and Director of the Business Department, Liz Carlisle.  In her 25-plus years of employment at OCU, Liz has worked in every job in the business office.  She learned her craft in the business office as a student worker for all four years, working alongside Rae Murray.  In 1995, she was hired as a full-time collections officer, and except for a short stint in public education as a teacher, Liz's professional career has been on the campus of OCU. 

Closing Remarks

Alumni President Debra McIntosh took to the podium to provide closing remarks and thank those in attendance and those who worked to bring the 2024 luncheon to life.   

Debra then turned everyone's attention to the video screen, where everyone was treated to the yearly ritual of singing the OCU Alam Mater.  However, Debra introduced the performer of the closing song in the video as none other than honoree Derek Barton.  Derek was filmed years ago, and that version allowed those in attendance and those watching the video to sing along to Derek's performance on the piano. 

With that, the 2024 Alumni luncheon came to a close. 

Two days later, on Monday, June 3, 2024, plans and improvements were discussed at the regular monthly board meeting of the OCU Alumni Association Board of Directors.