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Swan Song for AdamsBeloved Music Professor Retires After 40 Years
He has changed the world, one student at a time.
That was the sentiment of one of Dr. Ken Adams’ many students upon hearing word that he will retire this year.
For 40 years, Dr. Adams has been one of OC’s musical leaders. Chorale director. Music professor. Conductor of musicals, operas, cabarets and countless concerts.
For 40 years, he played his own part in orchestrating the rise of a fledgling Christian college into a vibrant university that has held true to its mission to transform lives for faith, scholarship and service.
After 40 years, it is time to retire, though it is hard to imagine OC without him.
Many of his students are warming up their voices, brushing up on Latin and French pronunciation, and planning a trip back to the Hardeman stage to sing under his direction, one last time.
To honor Ken and his wife Lindy (69), Chorale alumni have been invited back to campus March 30 through April 1 for a reunion and rehearsal weekend.
Activities will culminate in a Sunday afternoon special performance featuring the current Chorale, alumni and a 50-piece professional orchestra presenting Karl Jenkins’ monumental composition, “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace.”
The voices traveling back come from far and wide, include Dr. James Hallmark’s. He is the student who commented that Dr. Adams has changed the world, one student at a time, adding, “I am honored to be one of those students he changed.”
Dr. Hallmark (83), longtime provost/vice president for academic affairs at West Texas A&M University, is now the acting vice chancellor for academic affairs of the Texas A&M University System.
Still others are too far away to return, such as Randy Hatfield (85) in Pakistan, who wrote on the reunion event’s Facebook page, “I appreciate Ken for introducing us to such passion and intensity through music. I still have good memories of Dona Nobis and Rex Celestes around Christmas. Occasionally, something will trigger me to hum Trois Chansons or Klagich Schrei. Thanks, Ken for opening the door to the world with this music.”
As he prepared to invite his students back, Ken said he was struck with a vision: if he could line up all of the students that he knew something about – could recall their name, maiden name, hometown, career accomplishments or some detail – the line would span hundreds and hundreds of students.
“That means so much to Lindy and me,” he said. “I consider myself very blessed that as a result of doing work I love, I have been blessed with so many friendships. There are not many other professions where you could claim that.”
When he started as a faculty member at Oklahoma Christian in 1972 (after being an OC student and meeting his bride), he was scarcely older than his students.
Back then, he had an opportunity to know more non-music majors. One reason was that the music room was in the current financial services office with the big windows. Virtually everyone from the entire campus would walk by and wave.
Those early days also were unique with the faculty, who communed daily in the faculty lounge during the 30-minute open time between the end of Chapel and 11 a.m. classes.
With no office coffee pots or mail delivery in those days, everyone was in the lounge. Harold Fletcher. Raymond Kelcy. Elmo Hall. James Cail (58). Mike Gipson (66). Darvin Keck. Gary Shreck (62).
Ken and Lindy fondly recall the legendary and always good-natured debates among OC’s faculty giants. They say, in many ways, it was the golden age.
“The campus was not segregated by architecture and we really were in a village where we saw and knew everyone,” Ken said. “It was a special time.”
But time marches on. With progress came more buildings, students and faculty. No one would trade that success, but Ken and Lindy count the memories as treasures in their hearts.
He doesn’t know what life will look like in retirement. But before that new journey begins, Ken and Lindy have a new adventure ahead. After leading students on countless Chorale tours across the United States, and twice as sponsors of the Vienna Studies Program, Ken and Leady will lead students on OC’s Pacific Rim (China, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii) program next fall.
A Facebook comment by Spencer Goad (09) sums it up for many of us: “You both have been a blessing to tons of students through the years. PacRim is a pretty good way to retire. Maybe you’ll just stay in Hawaii when the group flies away!”
But before that bon voyage, Ken will lower his baton one final time at the April farewell concert. And we will all sing, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”
By Dawn Shelton (90)