SHAWNEE, Okla. – The Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) board of trustees voted Friday, Nov. 8, to elect Heath Thomas as the university’s 16th president during its fall meeting on the OBU campus in Shawnee. Thomas currently serves at OBU as the dean of the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry and the associate vice president for church relations. He will assume the role of president in January 2020.
In addition to his duties as dean and associate vice president, Thomas also serves as interim dean of the divisions of behavioral and social sciences and language and literature, the Floyd K. Clark Chair of Christian Leadership and professor of Old Testament. He joined the OBU faculty in 2015 after serving as director of Ph.D. studies and associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
A 1998 OBU graduate, Thomas earned a bachelor of arts in English literature with a religion minor. He then earned a master of arts in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Old Testament from the University of Gloucestershire (UK). He also earned a certificate for leadership in higher education from Baylor University in 2016. He has served on staff at churches in Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina and in the United Kingdom. He preaches and teaches regularly and has served as interim pastor for several Oklahoma churches during his time at OBU, currently serving at First Baptist Church of Moore.
He and his wife Jill reside in Shawnee with their four children – Harrison, Isabelle, Simon and Sophia.
Thomas was selected following a nine-month process, which included the use of a national search firm in conjunction with the elected presidential search committee. The committee was chaired by OBU trustee Ben Stewart and included seven additional trustees as voting members, along with four ex-officio, non-voting members representing OBU faculty, alumni, current students and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO).
Thomas is grateful for the opportunity to lead his alma mater and excited to impact students in the years to come.
“I am thrilled and deeply humbled to serve as president of our University,” Thomas said. “For over 100 years, OBU’s distinctively Christian liberal arts education has formed students so that they might meaningfully engage their world. I am excited to be a part of OBU’s story, and I believe the brightest days lie before us. I ask all to join me to pray that God would continue to bless OBU.”
Hance Dilbeck, executive director-treasurer of the BGCO, served as an ex-officio member of the search committee.
“The search committee spent much time in prayer, asking the Lord for direction,” Dilbeck said. “They also followed a very intentional and thorough process. The Lord has been faithful to lead them to a distinguished scholar, capable preacher and a committed Baptist churchman who exudes enthusiasm and vision for the future of OBU. Dr. Thomas loves the Lord and he loves OBU. I join all Oklahoma Baptists in supporting him. I believe we will see the Lord do great things in the years to come.”
Stephen Allen, chair of OBU’s trustee board and senior vice president, general counsel and assistant secretary for natural gas company ONEOK, also served as a member of the search committee.
“The Board of Trustees was delighted to elect one of our own, Dr. Heath Thomas, as the 16th President of OBU,” Allen said. “As a student, Dr. Thomas experienced OBU’s Christian liberal arts tradition. As a dean and a member of the faculty, he understands the importance of integrating faith and knowledge as we train the next generation. As a president, he has the vision to continue the mission of OBU well into the future.”
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.