Oral Roberts University Category

On the occasion of the death of Jerry Lewis, Harry Shearer has posted his contemporaneous feature story about the 1976 Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. That was the year that, during a live appearance by Frank Sinatra, Lewis was reunited with his old partner in comedy, singer Dean Martin. The 11 MB 16-page PDF scan of the article obscures the name of the publication, and I don't recognize the style. (Esquire, maybe?)

The telethon was a fixture of my childhood. 1970 was the first year I remember watching, while visiting my great aunt and uncle at their trailer house on Grand Lake for Labor Day. It was fascinating to watch the tote board spinning ever higher and to see all the big stars of the day on one great big variety show.

There's a Tulsa connection in Shearer's story. Oral Roberts made an appearance on the '76 telethon, presenting a check for funds collected from the ORU student body.


Aside from Jerry [Lewis] and [comedian] Jan [Murray], this is a very non-Jewish show. Jerry's kid-adult tug of war is also a contest between the Jew he is and the Christian he's becoming. So his office door in Century City bears a plaque that says "Super Jew." On the other hand, there is this blossoming relationship with Oral Roberts.

Oral Roberts was the first nationally-telecast faith healer, and he used to lay on hands and transmit through them the healing power of the Lord. But Oral has now classed up his act considerably. The announcer on his weekly television show introduces him as "author-educator-evangelist Oral Roberts." And he's become the benefactor of a charity that supports medical science. Look, Lord -- no hands.

Last year Oral made his first appearance on the Telethon on behalf of Oral Roberts University, a major power in both spirit and basketball. Then Jerry and his wife Patti made an extremely rare joint appearance last spring on an hour-long prime-time Oral Roberts special. Jerry did parts of his nightclub act, leaving out the rash bit, and then he and Patti chatted with Oral about life.

Now Oral has brought his whole revue to Vegas: Richard and Patti Roberts, the World Action Singers and the Ron Huff Orchestra on a pre-recorded track, and the Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, Cloggers. This act could headline at Knott's Berry Farm, it's that polished. Then Jerry introduces Roberts as "a true gentleman and one of God's chosen people," and Oral takes center stage.

"I said to the students at Oral Roberts University, 'Think of your love for crippled children. Think of your love for Jerry Lewis. Think of your love for God.'" Not bad. Second place -- behind the Deity, ahead of the kids. Oral gives Jerry a hefty check from the students at ORU. Som eof Lou Brown's musicians start whispering behind the curtain during the Oration. Jerry shushes them. "I pray," Oral finishes up, "that every friend and every partner of the Oral Roberts ministry will step to the phone right now. God bless you, Jerry."

As Oral strides purposefully out of the Space Center, Jerry tries to explain to the Jews watching what their boy has gotten into. "It gives you a strange kind of strength to know Oral Roberts. I think it's just because basically he's a nice man, and that's all we really want in life is to deal just with nice people." (A week after the Telethon, a Los Angeles station carries another prime-time Oral Roberts special, "Don't Park Here," directed by Jerry Lewis.)

That's just a tiny piece of a detailed and fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and if you grew up in the '70s or love that era of American pop culture, you'll want to read the whole thing.

Shearer's story captures Oral Roberts at the peak of his period of mainstream respectability. ORU's campus was shiny and new. Sawdust and canvas had given way to slick TV specials that rivaled (and strongly resembled) the network variety shows of the day. Oral's kids were students at Holland Hall. He had left the Pentecostal Holiness movement, joined Boston Avenue Methodist Church, and was admitted to the ministry in the United Methodist denomination. In 1974, the ORU Titans narrowly lost the NCAA Midwest regional basketball finals to Kansas in overtime, and in the latter half of the decade, the team managed an eight-game winning streak against their crosstown rivals, the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane -- a streak that wasn't broken until Nolan Richardson's arrival at TU for the '80-'81 season.

In 1976, Oral Roberts had not yet overreached himself with the creation of the City of Faith (that announcement would come in 1977) or ORU's law school (which opened in 1979), moves that would put him at odds with Tulsa establishment figures who were benefactors of Tulsa's existing hospitals and law school.

MORE: Here's a stock photo of Evelyn and Oral Roberts with Patti and Jerry Lewis on an Oral Roberts TV special called "We the People". Also in 1976, Oral Roberts filmed a TV special at the Singing on the Mountain gospel music convention at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, directed by Jerry Lewis and featuring Richard Roberts and the World Action Singers. Jerry Lewis participated in the tribute video played at Oral Roberts's memorial service.

Jerry Lewis's other Tulsa connection: His son, Gary Lewis, had a band called the Playboys. Pianist Leon Russell (from Tulsa) and guitarist and producer Tommy Allsup (from Collinsville) were session musicians on the group's first hit, "This Diamond Ring," and in later years Tulsans Carl Radle, Tommy Tripplehorn, and Jimmy Karstein were members of the band. (Those links go to photos on the Gary Lewis and the Playboys website.)


Michael Ramirez, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial cartooning and senior editor at Investor's Business Daily, will give a free public lecture on Thursday, September 18, 2014, at 7 p.m., at Oral Roberts University in Zoppelt Auditiorium. Ramirez's lecture, "Editorial Cartooning, Journalism and a Citizen's Responsibility," is presented by three ORU departments: History, Humanities and Government; Communication, Arts and Media; English and Modern Languages.

Ramirez has been honored four times (2006, 2008, 2011, and 2014) as editorial cartoonist of the year by the National Cartoonists Society.

At noon on Friday, BatesLine is proud to host a small luncheon with Michael Ramirez. Seats are extremely limited; cost is dutch-treat. If you're interested, please email me using mailbox 'blog' at this domain.


Oral Roberts University has posted video of their recent town hall events, sponsored by the ORU College Republicans, with Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich:

Rick Santorum speaks at Oral Roberts University, February 9, 2012

Newt Gingrich speaks at Oral Roberts University, February 20, 2012

I've added three more blogs by and about Oklahoma to my blogroll. You'll see new entries from these blogs pop up on the powered-by-NewsGator blogroll headlines page. (I'm thinking it may be time to break out the Okie blogs to a separate page. What do you think?)

Random Dafydd (that's the Welsh version of David) grew up in Tulsa but now lives in Bartlesville. His blog covers Tulsa history, ancient manuscripts, and many other topics. Here are a couple of his recent historical entries: Tulsa before the railroad: Taylor Postoak Home and Tulsa Architecture, Hooper Brothers Coffee. The latter entry includes photos of the historic building on the edge of downtown at Admiral and Iroquois.

Green Country Values, which covers politics and regional events. Here's an entry about a trip last Saturday to the Lavender Festival and Stone Bluff Cellars. Blogger Jenn also has the scoop on U. S. Rep. John Sullivan's Private Property Rights Protection and Government Accountability Act, which addresses eminent domain abuse in the wake of the Kelo v. New London decision.

Finally, Save ORU chronicles the rebuilding of Oral Roberts University's finances and credibility. reacts to the AP report of declining enrollment:

It's something that should have happened long ago, after years of struggling with a crushing debt and a corporate culture of fear, Oral Roberts University has another major hurdle to overcome. Since its beginnings, ORU has taken on the role of a "surrogate parent/guardian" for its students. Whether you were 18 or 40 -if you lived in the dorms -you had a curfew and an RA telling you to clean your room. Adding insult to injury, it cost you a pretty penny too, and up until 2001, you had to wear business attire to attend classes.

With tuition costs soaring and more students footing the bill for their own education, they want to be in control of their college experience. ORU has improved over the years with the adoption of more customer-service oriented approaches, but the recent scandal has made many of the most forgiving students and parents take a step back and ask "what am I really getting for my money?"

(I found that last blog via Club Fritch, the blog of two ORU graduates, Ryan and Gillian (Rowe) Fritzsche, who are now in the film industry. They have a category called ORUgate.)

If you have a blog that you think would be of interest here at BatesLine, drop me a line at blog at batesline d0t com.

Blogger Sterling Camden of Chip's Quips fesses up to being an ORU grad and although he's proud of the education he received, he's not proud of calling himself an ORU alumnus, and he reacts to the decision by Richard Roberts to resign as president:

No, what has embarrassed me about ORU ever since I was a sophomore is its hollow, camera-facing facade: the image portrayed to television viewers across the nation of a highly homogenous, straight-laced but happy population of brothers and sisters in Christ who all think that the Oral Roberts ministry is the best thing since the original Pentecost.

Despite his showmanship, I've always believed that Oral was basically sincere. I really do think he believes that what he preaches is the truth. I don't feel the same way about his son, Richard. Even back when he and his first wife, Patti, led the World Action Singers (we liked to call them the "Worldly Action Swingers") on stage, he has always impressed me as the central incarnation of the insincerity and hypocrisy that infected the Oral Roberts ministry and spread into the university. He was the spoiled child of a great father. Before he divorced his first wife, the official policy of the University and the Oral Roberts Evangelical Association was to terminate anyone who got divorced. Any guesses as to when that policy was modified?

UPDATE: Added the link to the entry, which I had inadvertently omitted.

From an e-mail sent from Jeremy Burton at ORU:

Today, a letter was sent from Richard Roberts to the Board of Regents of Oral Roberts University tendering his resignation as President of Oral Roberts University effective today, November 23, 2007.

The Board of Regents will meet Monday and Tuesday, November 26 and 27, 2007 to determine action in the search process for a new president.

Executive Regent Billy Joe Daugherty will continue to assume administrative responsibilities of the Office of the President, working together with Chancellor Oral Roberts, until the Regents meeting.

In his letter of resignation to the Board, Richard Roberts said, "I love ORU with all my heart. I love the students, faculty, staff and administration and I want to see God's best for all of them."

Via Tyson Wynn, who has the AP news bulletin.

UPDATE: Michael Spencer rejoices:

I think we all have to give a round of applause to the ordinary folks at Oral Roberts University who said "Enough is enough." Richard Roberts- while far from being the worst offender in this collection of Tetzels- exemplified everything that is wrong with the Tulsa/TBN version of Charismatic evangelicalism. Smarmy, unscrupulous, self-serving and slick: Roberts' departure should encourage the "little people" in abusive ministries everywhere to blow the whistles and tell the truth.

MORE: ORU alumnus Greg Bledsoe has started a discussion thread about the lawsuit and resignation over on the TulsaNow.net forum and invited fellow alumni from around the world to join in. He provides his own legal and ethical analysis of the situation and also reproduces an anonymous alum's post wondering whether Richard Roberts suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Bubbaworld isn't so sanguine about the resignation:

Undoubtedly supporters of "change" at ORU will welcome the exit of Richard Roberts and proclaim a "new day" for ORU amid high hopes for a bright future. Unfortunately, the university and the Roberts family are so intertwined that they can not survive without each other. They are like conjoined twins sharing a common heart and brain. No amount of surgery to separate them will permit either to survive and that is where ORU finds itself this holiday season.

I hope he's wrong, for ORU's sake and Tulsa's sake.

And Stan Geiger says that before Sen. Charles Grassley worries about the way private colleges spend private donations on their presidents, he should take a close look at the way public colleges spend on their execs.

Chris Medlock is reporting that Oral Roberts University faculty met Monday and passed a resolution of no confidence in ORU President Richard Roberts. Roberts had stepped aside as president of the school pending an investigation into allegations of financial wrongdoing raised as apart of a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by three former professors.

According to Medlock's source, the faculty also called for greater financial transparency and greater faculty involvement in university governance, in setting criteria for the search for a new president, and in the actual process of selecting a new president.

It seems to me that if ORU is to recover from its current problems, it can no longer be or even seem to be a hereditary monarchy, where the whim of the royal family is law.

UPDATE: Medlock has posted a scan of the motions approved by the ORU tenured faculty.

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