O'Neal leads Mercy, Rotary trip to Rwanda

Oklahoma Christian University president emeritus Mike O’Neal helped lead a recent survey trip to Rwanda with leaders from Oklahoma City’s Mercy Hospital and Rotary Club 29.

During the 10-day trip, the group assessed medical needs at four hospitals in Kigali and evaluated how Mercy Hospital can partner with health professionals to improve healthcare for the people of Rwanda. O’Neal chairs Mercy Hospital’s Board of Trustees.

The visit also featured the dedication of water wells drilled by OC’s Rwandans4Water students and funded by Rotary Club 29, which is partnering with Rwanda’s six Rotary Clubs for a future humanitarian project.

“The most inspirational part of our trip was traveling into the poorest and driest parts of Rwanda to see where our Rwandans4Water students were drilling water wells and the hundreds of families whose lives they are changing. What a joy to see the gratitude of these economically impoverished people,” O’Neal said. “I am personally very proud of the work our Rwandan Presidential Scholars are doing to bless their fellow citizens, even while still in school. I believe their servant spirit and community commitment will continue beyond their graduation.”

Oklahoma Christian has had a strong and vital relationship with Rwanda since 2006, when Rwandan President Paul Kagame visited the OC campus to establish the Presidential Scholars Program.

President Kagame returned to Oklahoma Christian to serve as commencement speaker for the class of 2010, which included the first graduates from the Rwandan Presidential Scholars program.

On the recent trip to Rwanda, O’Neal and the survey group met with President Kagame and many other officials, including Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Minister of Education Dr. Vincent Biruta, U.S. Ambassador Donald Koran, Rwandan Ambassador to the United States Mathilde Mukantabanda, former ambassadors Dr. Zac Nsenga and James Kimonyo, Kigali City mayor Fidele Ndayisaba, and vice mayor Hope Tumukunde.

This trip also gave O’Neal the opportunity to visit with current students and graduates from OC’s Rwandan Presidential Scholars and with 30 students who are pursuing their MBA degree through OC’s Learning Support Center in Kigali.

“Rwanda’s future is extremely bright due to the exceptional quality of the leadership and the amazing economic, social, educational and spiritual momentum of this small nation,” said O’Neal, whose 10-year tenure as OC’s president included many visits to Rwanda. “I have never felt the depth of receptivity, welcome and generosity that I felt this trip. From top to bottom, the people know that those who come from Oklahoma and OC are genuine and have their best interests at heart.”

The survey group included Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City president Jim Gebhart and Dr. Alan Spies, professor of pharmacology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Dr. Spies and his wife Laurie are leading supporters and mentors of OC’s Rwandan Presidential Scholars.

Four OC alumni connected with Mercy Hospital also were on the trip: Dr. Adam Cotton; Cindy Carmichael, vice president for strategic development; Reagan Hightower, registered nurse; and Rwandan John Nkuranga, senior financial analyst for Mercy Health Plans. Click here to read the Mercy team’s blog or click here to see photos on the team’s Flickr page.

“The relationships between OC and Oklahoma City and the people and leaders of Rwanda grow stronger each year as more people get to know and appreciate one another,” O’Neal said. “Rwanda is a great place for OC to share its special brand of education. And the students are an extraordinary blessing to our campus.”