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St. Gregory's University Benedictine Hall from southeast.
St. Gregory's University Benedictine Hall from southeast.

SHAWNEE – Early this month the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University grew by 73 acres.

The jump in size came from a donation by the Hobby Lobby corporation and the Green family, which consisted of the entire campus of what once was St. Gregory’s University. Hobby Lobby, which is based in Oklahoma City, purchased St. Gregory’s 73-acre property for $8 million in 2018 after SGU declared bankruptcy. Once one of the oldest higher education institutions in both Oklahoma and the United States, St. Gregory’s, a private Catholic liberal arts university, had campuses in Shawnee and in Tulsa. The university closed its operations at the end of the fall 2017 semester. At that time, OBU officials offered a teach-out agreement to current SGU students, allowing them to finish their degrees at OBU. On Dec. 11, Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family, donated the property to OBU.

Les Miller, real estate analyst for Hobby Lobby Stores, said the donation gives the Green family the opportunity to invest in OBU. “It is an honor for the Green family and Hobby Lobby to present this property to Oklahoma Baptist University; to the future benefit of generations of students, on mission for Christ,” he said. Oklahoma Baptist’s president-elect, Dr. Heath Thomas, called the donation “historic.” He said the SGU area would be called the Green Campus. “It is an exciting moment in the history of OBU,” he said. “We are excited about the future of this Green Campus as we continue our mission to transform students’ lives by providing distinctively Christian liberal arts higher education at OBU.

“It carries on the legacy of education that has gone on here for over a century. I join the chorus of those who have spoken this morning to express my heartfelt gratitude and say thank you to the Green Family, and to all who facilitated this generous gift to OBU. This is indeed a day of celebration.” Thomas said the donated campus will be used to transform the lives of future students. “As we move forward, we will work carefully and deliberately to ensure that this campus extends the legacy of Christian higher education begun by St. Gregory’s University for over a century,” he said. “And for that legacy, we are grateful, and we will carefully consider how best this campus will facilitate OBU’s mission of transforming lives through a distinctively Chris- tian liberal arts education.”

The St. Gregory’s property is about 72 acres, with seven large buildings totaling about 286,600 square feet. St. Gregory’s Abbey and Monastery will continue to occupy its current property, as will the Mabee-Gerrer Museum. Those facilities will operate as separate entities from the university. Miller, the real estate analyst and a 1981 graduate of OBU, said St. Gregory’s had a major impact on the state for more than a century.  “The Greens would also like to recognize the long and outstanding contribution that St. Gregory’s University made to the Shawnee community, to Oklahoma and far beyond,” he said. “The importance of this property to the community, the alumni, faculty and administration of St. Gregory’s University does not go unnoticed. “To the Benedictine Monks of St. Gregory’s Abbey, thank you for your stewardship of this property and ministry to Oklahoma and points beyond,” Miller said.

Located in Shawnee, Oklahoma Baptist University offers 10 bachelor’s degrees with 88 fields of study and five master's degree programs. The Christian liberal arts university has an overall enrollment of 1,868, with students from 37 states and 40 other countries. University officials say OBU has been rated as one of the top 10 regional colleges in the West by U.S. News and World Report for 28 consecutive years and Oklahoma’s highest rated regional college in the U.S. News rankings for 25 consecutive years. OBU is one of three universities in Oklahoma and the only private Oklahoma university listed on Great Value College’s rankings of 50 Great Affordable Colleges in the Midwest. The Wall Street Journal ranks OBU second in the nation for student engagement among all U.S. colleges and universities.