Dr. Harold Fletcher, a legendary professor of music and philosophy at Oklahoma Christian University, died May 27, 2017, at the age of 93. 

The very first faculty member hired by this missional institution, he was revered and loved by students – from his first day in 1950 until his last class in December 2014. 

One of the longest tenured professors in the nation, Dr. Fletcher was born Dec. 4, 1923, in Hamlin, Texas.

He and his beloved wife of 57 years, Mary Helon McAnulty, met as music students at Abilene Christian and married August 16, 1944. Together, they raised four loving children, and Mary Helon enthusiastically and joyfully supported Harold’s work. She preceded him in death in 2001.

Dr. Fletcher left college to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II and attended Midshipmen’s School. 

After the war, in 1948, he earned a bachelor in music degree and a bachelor of arts degree, both in music theory, from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. He also received a master’s degree in music from Hardin-Simmons.

Later in his career, he returned to school, and in 1988 received a Ph.D. in the philosophy of education from the University of Oklahoma. 

In 1950, Harold and Mary Helon made a commitment that endured their lifetimes. Dr. Fletcher was the first and ultimately the longest serving faculty member at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City (originally Central Christian College in Bartlesville).

Dr. Fletcher composed the university’s alma mater, was the first director of the Chorale, and composed and directed many of the school’s original musicals, entitled “Songs America Sings.”

He was the first recipient of OC’s Gaylord Chair of Distinguished Teaching in 1975, was named a Professor Emeritus in 1991, and in 2003, was among the first inductees into the OC Master Teacher Hall of Fame. The university named him a distinguished honorary alumnus during Homecoming in 2004.

In 2005, OC established the Harold and Mary Helon Fletcher Center for Music to honor their founding and pivotal influence on music and music students at the university.

His interests were boundless. A gifted composer, pianist, conductor, teacher, historian, musicologist, theologian, philosopher, scholar, gardener, and craftsman, he wore well the mantle “Renaissance Man.”

In the 1970s, he won a competition for “Songs of Oklahoma” by the Oklahoma Heritage Society and the Oklahoma Broadcasters Association with “The Oklahoma Set,” six songs commemorating the Land Run and Statehood.

In 2009, the Oklahoma Legislature adopted the song “The Oklahoma Run” as the state’s official song for April 22, 1889, Land Run Day. 

In 2008, the prestigious Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame inducted him as a member, and in 2015, the Oklahoma Legislature honored him for his contributions to higher education.

Memorial donations may be made to the Friends of Music at OC. Gifts may be made online ( or mailed to the Oklahoma Christian University Music Department, P.O. Box 11000, Oklahoma City, OK 73136.

Many alumni from the OC Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Ken Adams, returned to use their musical gifts in tribute to Dr. Fletcher at his memorial service. You can download live recordings from the service at

AVANELLE BAIRD (1919-2017)

Mary Avanelle Elliott Baird, the second First Lady in Oklahoma Christian history, passed away August 7, 2017. 

Avanelle served as Oklahoma Christian’s First Lady for 20 years. Her husband, Dr. James O. Baird, accepted the presidency of then-Central Christian College in 1954 and helped move the school to Oklahoma City in 1958. He served as Oklahoma Christian’s president until passing the mantle to Dr. J. Terry Johnson in 1974.

Avanelle and James, who were married for 51 years, always had a passion for missions. Many summers were spent in mission fields, and their Edmond home had an upstairs apartment built to house visiting missionaries. 

Avanelle’s work with missions and Oklahoma Christian made her well-traveled, and she enjoyed visiting six continents and 49 states. 

When Avanelle was no longer able to travel, she became active in working with the International Class at Memorial Road Church of Christ. People from all over the world have been impacted by her desire to share God’s love.

Avanelle did not believe in being idle and kept herself busy as a wife and mother, Bible scholar and teacher, First Lady, author, missionary, prayer warrior and counselor. 

She was always gracious and hospitable – having learned those values early from her parents. Avanelle had high expectations for herself and worked hard to accomplish her goals. 

She loved her husband, James, and was always a credit to him. Avanelle was devoted to her family and enjoyed nothing more than being surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Avanelle is survived by her children – Harriet Estep; Lynn Jones and husband Jerry; Frances Epperly and husband Bob; Jim Baird and wife Yodie; and Morrow Beth Forrester – plus many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Oklahoma Christian General Scholarship Fund.

MACIE JACKSON (1925-2017)

Macie Jackson passed away August 30, just four days after her 92nd birthday. She served OC in various roles from 1985 to 2015, including event hostess, special projects coordinator, study abroad sponsor, and landscape designer. 

Macie loved children and was an excellent Bible teacher. She loved to travel, and every trip was a learning experience. She was preceded in death by her parents (Merle and Sadie), her two older sisters (Lessie and Josie), and her husband Carl. She is survived by her four sons: Andy, Pat, Chris, and Doug and their families; including six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 

Memorial gifts can be made to The Macie Jackson Memorial Fund, c/o Oklahoma Christian University, P.O. Box 11000, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73136 and/or The Village of Hope, P.O. Box 670394, Dallas, Texas 75367 (or online at

CARL PHELPS (1952-2017)

Carl Phelps, who became part of the OC family this year as he struggled with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), passed away September 8.

Carl and his wife Janice were featured in Vision’s Spring 2017 cover story (available at 

Early in 2017, the Phelps met OC engineering students who were working on VisuALS, which features eye-tracking technology and text-to-speech functionality that allows ALS patients to communicate again. When he tested OC’s VisuALS system, the first thing he said to Janice was “I love you.”

In late January, the team installed the system at Carl’s home in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Using VisuALS to “type” his thoughts, Carl said, “This literally gave me a lift in life. It was a lifesaver. I love this class and I thank God for them.” Janice said OC’s system was a timely, precious gift after Carl lost the ability to use other communication aids.

Carl and Janice were on the OC campus just days before he passed away. Using the system, Carl gave a speech as part of VisuALS’ official launch as a full-fledged entrepreneurial startup on August 31.

Memorial contributions can be made to VisuALS Technology Solutions, the Tipton Children’s Home, or the Carl and Janice Jennings Phelps Scholarship at Oklahoma State University.

Fall 2017

View more stories from the Fall 2017 issue of Vision magazine.