OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Oklahoma Christian University (OC) honored a living legend Friday by renaming one of its historic lecture halls as Cail Auditorium.
James Cail taught psychology at Oklahoma Christian for 31 years, entertaining and enriching students with his wit and wisdom in Davisson American Heritage Auditorium.
Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the completion of a $500,000 renovation of the 45-year-old auditorium through OC’s Thrive campaign. The university surprised Cail at the event by announcing that the hall will now carry his name.
“I hereby repent of every cynical thing I ever said about naming stuff after people,” Cail said to a chorus of laughter from the friends, family and supporters in attendance. “Life can be defined as a series of surprises and I have to say this is one. (OC) has done a lot for me and is doing a lot for me now. I’m grateful for what it did for me by way of my discipline, letting me practice something I love. And lovely, lovely, lovely friends – just the greatest bunch of people that you could ever imagine.”
Cail has been a fixture at Oklahoma Christian since 1956, when he enrolled as a student at what was then known as Central Christian College in Bartlesville. He won two junior college debate titles, had a regular presence on the theater stage, and performed in the school’s popular original show, Songs America Sings.
He graduated in 1958, the same year the school relocated to Oklahoma City, then came back to lead Oklahoma Christian’s Admissions Office from 1963 to 1969. After earning his doctorate in psychology from Baylor University, he returned again in 1972, this time as a faculty member.
Over the course of his career, Cail earned many honors for his teaching and family seminars, including OC’s Gaylord Chair of Distinguished Teaching in 1980. The university honored him as a professor emeritus shortly after his retirement in 2003 and as a distinguished alumnus in 2012.
Cail and his wife Judy met at Oklahoma Christian and have been married for almost 50 years. All three of their children also graduated from OC; Trey Cail and Mindy Lemons are both medical doctors while Liz McElroy followed in her father’s footsteps to teach psychology before becoming student leadership coordinator at Oklahoma Christian.
“Great universities are great because of their heroes, and we stand in the presence of one of our heroes,” President John deSteiguer said. “Hundreds upon hundreds of OC students learned at his feet, and we’re thrilled to know that generations more will learn in his seats. It’s a real honor to be at this place right now where we can say, ‘Dr. Cail – We thank you and we love you.”
Including Cail Auditorium, five initiatives have been fully funded since Oklahoma Christian launched the Thrive campaign in June. A $1 million commitment by Benton and Paula Baugh of Houston, Texas, is providing the startup capital for OC's College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Funding also is complete for: Das Millicanhaus, OC’s living-learning facility in Vienna, Austria; high-definition projection systems in Hardeman Auditorium and Judd Theatre; and a strategic planning fund.
In addition, OC has announced an anonymous $2 million gift to help fund multiple projects, including the launch of the Ethos spiritual life initiative, as well as a separate $1 million gift from U Dining to go toward renovation of the university’s dining hall.
More information about helping those projects become fully funded and donating toward other Thrive initiatives is available at oc.edu/thrive.
Recognized as one of the best universities in the western United States by U.S. News and World Reportand The Princeton Review, Oklahoma Christian offers undergraduate programs in more than 60 fields of study, an undergraduate Honors Program, and graduate programs in accountancy, business administration, engineering, Christian ministry, divinity, and theological studies.