Orchestra celebrates Hansford’s final concert before retiring

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

The OBU Division of Music will soon bid farewell to one of its longest-serving individuals.

Dr. Jim Hansford has already been retired from his role as of Burton H. Patterson Professor of Music for quite some time. However, this spring the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra’s spring concert marked Hansford’s retirement from his role as the orchestra’s director and conductor – a role he has filled since the group began 20 years ago.

“We have been so lucky to have Dr. Hansford here at OBU,” junior music education major and flutist and piccoloist Lauren Rivers said. “He truly cared for each and every member in the orchestra and the fine arts program would not be the same if it wasn’t for all of the years and wisdom he put into this program.”

Other students agree.

“Dr. Hansford is a dedicated musician and has given so much time to help this orchestra, I say this because he deserves to be recognized as this is his last concert,” freshman worship studies and women’s ministry major and second violinist Alethea,” Jade Coffey said.

Hanford passion for music has fueled his long career as a music educator and conductor.

“Just seeing Dr. Hansford conduct, it is evident that he loved music and loves being a director,” Coffey said. “His passion for music just reminded me that no matter the age always do what you love.”

This same passion for music shows in his enthusiasm during rehearsals.

“He would get so excited when a piece came together, as we have so many instruments that it is very easy for one little thing to go wrong,” Coffey said. “He just gets so excited for the little victories.”

All of the little victories the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra makes helps the students in the orchestra develop artistically.

“I have enjoyed seeing the growth of the orchestra,” Rivers said. “Throughout my time in the orchestra, we have made tremendous progress throughout the music we have played.”

Hansford encourages the students to take on difficult musical tasks.

“During the time I’ve been in the orchestra, Dr. Hansford always challenged the orchestra,” Rivers said. “This last year, he had me playing the piccolo part which has been extremely challenging. After a lot of hard work, I have learned to enjoy this instrument and I owe it all to Dr. Hansford.”

The OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra is a joint musical effort of OBU students, faculty and community members that was founded by Hansford. The ensemble comes together in weekly rehearsals to prepare for its performances.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we only meet once a week which isn’t always enough time to put together an entire concert,” Rivers said.

Like many OBU music ensembles, handling these scheduling difficulties in one of the largest challenges the group faces, especially during busy parts of the spring semester.

“Some challenges for be-ing in the orchestra this year was mainly trying to juggle the degree, homework, study sessions, and practicing all in a week or even on days or rehearsal,” Coffey said. “Yet Dr. Hansford was very understanding of life getting in the way but made sure we kept up the amazing standard that the orchestra has.”

This spring, as it bids its director and founder goodbye, the orchestra prepared for its spring concert 7:30 p.m., April 26, in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium. The concert featured many pieces that hold a special place in Hansford’s heart.

“I decided to include several of my favorite musical works for this final concert with the orchestra,” Hansford said in a press release April 16. “Upon reflecting on my 46 years as a band director, I have programmed a couple of my favorite wind band works that have been transcribed for orchestra.”

The works performed included a variety of musical styles, ranging from John Barry’s “Somewhere in Time,” to Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” to Alfred Reed’s “Russian Christmas Music.”

“This year has gone by so fast, we have performed and are preparing to perform so many amazing pieces,” Coffey said. “They all emphasize different instruments and are completely different.”

After the performance, a reception was held to celebrate Hansford full retirement from the OBU faculty and staff, and students also planned a surprise for their director.

“The orchestra has planned on having all the members sign a framed picture of the orchestra,” Rivers said. “Many members have also put together money for a gift card.”


McWilliams recounts journey from undergrad to professor

By Morgan Smith, Assistant Faith editor  (Photo by Jonathon Soder/The Bison)

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” –J. R. R. Tolkien

Dr. Warren McWilliams, the Auguie Henry professor of Bible, said Tolkien’s quote is one of his favorite quotes, and it’s one he hopes he has been wise enough to live by.

In the time he’s been given, McWilliams has graduated from OBU, studied at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, received a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University and taught at Stetson University in Florida.

He returned to teach at OBU eight years after graduation, and has remained with the university for what will be 42 years this summer.

McWilliams said that, while he did not start out with the aspiration to return to OBU as a professor, he has enjoyed teaching theology as well as his interactions with the university’s students and staff.

“I don’t want to trivialize the term providence, but, for me, it was a wonderful opportunity,” he said.

Originally, McWilliams came to OBU as a ministry student and graduated with a major in psychology.

“I felt called to a ministry; I presumed, at that point in my life, I’d be pastoring. In fact, I pastored a little church part of my senior year,” he said. “I did a double minor in religion and philosophy, pretty sure I’d go in the seminary and then pastor, so I didn’t get an inclination that I was going to be a college teacher until I was in seminary, actually.”

McWilliams said the idea to get his Ph.D. was first planted by one of his professors during his senior year at OBU.

The idea began to germinate when he started working under one of his professors in seminary.

“Over time I felt more and more comfortable with the idea that I might be a college or seminary professor, but I was doing church staff work part time all through my Ph.D. work, because I still thought there might be a chance the door might open to pastoral ministry more than college teaching,” McWilliams said. “But I got a college teaching job, and that’s all I’ve really done for a long, long time.”

He said he was drawn to the study of theology through his work in philosophy.

“The philosophy minor got me kind of interested in the big questions,” McWilliams said.

“Philosophy and theology are related fields. I was drawn to certain theological issues, but I knew to teach I needed to have a general background in Biblical theology, historical theology and so on.”

McWilliams’ landed his first job out of graduate school at Stetson, which he said was “a great job.” He taught for two years before returning to OBU in 1976.

He said the campus had not changed too much in the time between his graduation and his return as a teacher, and that he recognized his former teachers amongst new faces.

“I had to get used to calling some of my former professors by their first name,” McWilliams said.

Over the last 42 years, McWilliams has taught theology courses, freshman Bible courses and ethics.

Senior Caty Bridges said she has loved his classes and that she has found McWilliams to be a very interesting professor.

“His material is easy to comprehend, but you have to study very thoroughly to do well on his tests,” she said. “He’s still an excellent professor.”

McWilliams said he’s generally found his students to be both bright and dedicated, and has made friends amongst the faculty as well.

“I’ve had some great co-workers, faculty and staff,” McWilliams said. “People in other departments, being at a small undergraduate liberal arts school, have a lot of interdisciplinary interaction.”

However, this semester will mark the end of McWilliams’ time as a full-time professor at OBU.

Although he said he does not yet have any big plans for retirement, he hopes to continue to use his time wisely, and will continue to visit campus and the friends he’s made at the university.

“There’s a chance I might get to teach a course occasionally, part time, because I’m going to stay in Shawnee,” he said.