Ivy League educator

Challenging Bible professor beloved at OC

Teaching is my calling, and I love it. I love the students. I love the work.

You have to get the real scoop from his wife, because Professor of Bible Dr. Jim Baird is too humble to give many details, but he gets plenty of calls with offers of more lucrative positions, more prestigious appointments.

After all, an Oxford-educated professor with a national reputation is in high demand in academic circles.

But he doesn’t take those offers.

He’s content where he is, teaching at Oklahoma Christian University. He’s a favorite among students – a demanding and challenging teacher. And even for the students who won’t get anywhere near his classes, he’s still a favorite campus personality whose gigantic laugh is very well known.

“Teaching is my calling, and I love it. I love the students. I love the work,” said Jim Baird, the son of the late James O. Baird, OC’s second president, and Avanelle Baird.

Growing up, Baird was one of those kids who asked a lot of questions – about religion, the church and why we believe what we believe. He said it was questions that a lot of adults didn’t want him to ask – for fear it would cost him his faith.

Still, he was driven to get the answers and, ultimately, when he found the answers, his faith was strengthened.

“It turns out that the Christian faith can withstand all of the answers – something other religions can’t do,” he said.

For today’s young people who have deep questions, Baird connects with them as one who will never turn down a lively debate. And his approach gives great comfort to parents.

“Parents will write to thank him because they didn’t have answers to those questions,” said Jim’s wife, Yodi. “They appreciate that he encourages them and helps them to dig in to find their own answers.”

Jim and Yodi met as undergraduates at Oklahoma Christian in the late 1970s. They admit that it was both freaky and wonderful to see the kids of their college friends come to OC … with their sons. James pursued an engineering degree at Oklahoma Christian and Taylor studied psychology.

“They both know they get a lot more attention from their professors than they would at a state school or a research institution,” Jim said.

“One of the best benefits of attending OC is the opportunity to integrate your spiritual life and your school life,” Yodi said.

Yodi fondly remembers being pleasantly surprised the day one of her professors prayed before beginning a lecture.

The Bairds note that today’s students show more compassion and are always looking for ways to serve others, stop suffering, feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

If there’s one bit of advice he would give to incoming students, Jim Baird – as a dad and as a professor – says students should not blow off their freshman year as a cushy transition time between high school and college.

He says it’s tough, but at OC, there is plenty of encouragement and support to help them through.

By Dawn Shelton