Dr. Kelly delivers the Last Lecture on the Kingdom of God

By Abigail Chadwick, Assistant News Editor  (Photo by Jonathan Soder/The Bison)

Ruth Dickinson professor of religion Dr. Bobby Kelly delivered the Last Lecture in the Tulsa Royalties Room Friday afternoon.

Kelly has been a professor at OBU since 1997 and was chosen to speak by OBU’s Mortar Board. Kelly’s lecture was titled “Purple Reign: the Story of How God became King” which focused on the kingdom of God.

“The topic was focused on the kingdom of God. It is the most important single theme in the Gospels and formed the thesis of Jesus’ teaching and preaching,” Kelly said.

“To understand the nature of the kingdom of God as God’s rule rather than a physical location and to recognize the aspects of it that are already present as well as aspects that are yet future is at the heart of New Testament theology.”

Last Lectures are sponsored by the Mortar Board. Their purpose is to give professors the opportunity to lecture on what they think is most important, what they would choose to say if it was their last chance to give a lecture.

“The Last Lecture is a Mortar Board tradition,” senior family and community services major and president of OBU’s chapter of Mortar Board Jamie Knox said.

“The members of Mortar Board select a professor, and that professor is asked to speak on a topic that they are really passionate about or what they would talk about if it was actually the last lecture of their life.”

Kelly chose to talk about the kingdom of God because, as he says, it is the most important topic he teaches.

“I think at this point I just thought I would do the lecture that if there was only one lecture that I could do in a semester, what’s the topic, what’s the lecture that I would want to talk about,” Kelly said.

“I say this every time I cover it, this is the most important topic I cover, so I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t go ahead with it and so I’m going to talk about the kingdom of God.”

The tradition of Last Lectures started with Randy Pausch, a professor who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and had only a semester left to teach.

“If you’re not familiar with the concept, it originated with a professor of computer science,” assistant professor of English and faculty advisor for OBU’s chapter of Mortar Board Dr. Brent Newsom said.

“He received a very severe cancer diagnosis and it became evident that he probably had one semester left to teach and so he really took that as an opportunity to bring to his students what he felt were the most important lessons he could learn, and he packaged them into one inspiring message.”

Kelly’s approach differed from some topic choices chosen by others, such as how to live a good life.

“I did not choose to go the route of ‘here’s my recommendations of how to have a good life’ or ‘tips that I’ve learned over 21 years,’” Kelly said. “I think I’ll save that one for my last lecture, like if I’m retiring and I know it’s the end.”

Mortar Board is a national honor society made of college seniors who exemplify scholarship, leadership and service.

“Mortar Board is a national senior honor society that focuses on the three pillars of scholarship, leadership and service,” Knox said. “The members consist of seniors that exemplify these three pillars throughout their college career.”

Kelly was chosen as speaker by the Mortar Board because of his passion and embodiment of Mortar Board ideas.

“He connects well with his students, Newsom said. “He’s clearly passionate about his area of expertise, he’s passionate about the gospel and embodies quite well the Mortar Board focus on scholarship, leadership and service, so we couldn’t ask for a better representative to speak to us.”

Last Lectures are not only sponsored at OBU, but are sponsored by Mortar Boards nationally.

“[It] became an event that not only our Mortar Board, but Mortar Board chapters around the country have sponsored,” Newsom said.

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