SNU President Emeritus Dr. Ponder Woodrow Gilliland leaves behind an exemplary life

       (BETHANY, OKLA.) --- Southern Nazarene University (SNU) President Emeritus Dr. Ponder Gilliland peacefully passed away Saturday morning, July 11, 2009.  Dr. “G”, as he was so lovingly called, was exemplary in his life as a churchman and educator.  He served SNU as a Trustee member, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and then as SNU President from 1985 to 1989.


“In 1985 Gilliland was elected President of (then) Bethany Nazarene College (BNC) and during his years at the university instigated the change of the name Bethany Nazarene College to Southern Nazarene University (SNU),” said Dr. Loren Gresham, President of Southern Nazarene University. 

He served the Church as pastor, District Superintendent, NYPS President, General Board member, and in other key roles.  He pastored at Bethany 1st Church of the Nazarene for 15 years (1970-1985) and preached for 11 years on the weekly TV program “A Life Worth Living.” 

“He felt that the changes in nomenclature occurring in the Oklahoma state system wherein the regional 'colleges' changed their names to 'university', and the community colleges changed from 'junior' colleges to 'state' colleges, left BNC in a confusing position as to the type of institution we were,” said Dr. Loren Gresham.  “He was a leader in this regard as subsequently all other Nazarene colleges changed their names to 'university', and the Oklahoma private institutions changed their names as well.  Accompanying the change of name was an academic restructure from a college to a university organization. This type of bold change typified his life and service.” 

“The Southern Nazarene University Foundation was incorporated during Dr. Gilliland's presidency.  The development of this group of loyal resource persons has become a vital part of the funding source for the university. In retrospect, this may be viewed as the most important contribution made by President Gilliland,” said Gresham. 

“The only endowed Chair of the university was established under the Gilliland residency. He worked with the Garner family to establish the Garner Chair of Missions, a move that represented the strong commitment the institution has always had to fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ.  Also begun in his time as president was the W. N. King  Professorship in Theology, named for the longtime faculty member in that discipline. These contributions will continue to benefit the institution on into the future,” said President Gresham. 

“Webster Commons was constructed and opened for use during his presidency. This facility continues to be the center of campus life in so many ways. During a time of economic stress for Oklahoma, he led the campus and governing board to step out and take the risk to build when the construction market was soft and a favorable cost could be obtained. His vision in this regard has been rewarded with the beautiful building that continues to serve us 20 years later,” said Loren Gresham. 

“These are a few of the more significant contributions made by Dr. "G" in his tenure as our leader.  Southern Nazarene University owes much to Dr. Ponder Gilliland. I hope many readers of this communication will join in the celebration of his life on Tuesday, July 14, at 11:00 am in the sanctuary of Bethany First Church of the Nazarene.  May God bless his memory,” said Gresham. 

Donations, in lieu of flowers, can be sent to Southern Nazarene University at 6729 Northwest 39th Expressway, Bethany, OK  73008 in care of the Dr. Ponder W. Gilliland Ministerial Scholarship.  

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