By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- It's a fresh start for Oral Roberts University. The school's new president marked his first official day on the job on Wednesday. Dr. Mark Rutland says ORU is turning the corner.
Dr. Rutland says the university is at an historic intersection between the old ORU and the new ORU. He says there are signs all around that the school is headed in a new direction.
Handshakes and smiles greeted Dr. Rutland as he began his first official day on the ORU campus.
"I am excited. I'm delighted to be in Tulsa," said ORU President Dr. Mark Rutland.
The former president of Southeastern University in Florida takes over at a time when ORU is struggling to maintain its image as well as a sound bottom line.
Lauren Stanley's father is an ORU grad. But, recent controversies over former president Richard Roberts, who resigned in 2007, and a $55 million pile of debt caused her family to have second thoughts about letting her go to school at ORU.
"Two or three years ago when it started going downhill I said, 'Lauren, I don't want you to think of ORU as an option because we don't know what direction it's going,'" said Jane Stanley of Jenks.
Dr. Rutland touts change at ORU with new gardens and new parking lots. He even points to his own hiring as evidence of the change at ORU. He's the first president outside of the Roberts family.
Now, two years removed from Richard Roberts' resignation and Mart Green's multi-million dollar donations, the $55 million debt is nearly gone.
Dr. Rutland says he seeing more alumni, staff, and faculty members getting involved to help move the school forward.
"I think it's about the sense of vitality that people are sensing here, the renovations, the morale, the energy," said ORU President Dr. Mark Rutland.
The Stanleys have noticed the change as well. After Dr. Rutland took over, they changed their tune and decided Lauren could be a Golden Eagle.
"I think all of what they've done together is making it, putting it back to where we want it to be," said Jane Stanley of Jenks.
Dr. Rutland says his priority is to increase enrollment. Last year, a little more than 3,000 students enrolled at ORU. He's confident the numbers this year will be higher.