Oral Roberts University inaugurated its new president Friday during a ceremony attended by over 4,000 students, faculty, staff, and alumni, with community leaders and friends.
The inauguration of Dr. Mark Rutland as the third president in ORU's history marked the culmination of a nearly two-year effort toward recovery from the scandal that rocked the historically charismatic school in 2007.
Since the resignation of ORU's former president that November, the Tulsa, Okla.-based school has been making very large leaps and bounds to recover, whittling away at the more than $55 million debt that it had accrued while also investing in projects such as establishing endowed scholarships, attracting and retaining quality faculty and staff, academic program upgrades, other campus improvements, and more.
Two days before Friday's ceremony, ORU's board of trustees revealed that the school had resolved all of its long-term debt through the contribution of donors and a $25 million matching campaign.
According to Board Chair Mart Green, the reduction of the school's debt has been strengthening the new ORU and paving a "clear path" for it as the new president.
"ORU's long-term debt was a major dragon to slay for future success. We can now move forward with confidence and continue to make this university the best it can be," Green said Wednesday.
During Friday's ceremony, Rutland said he was aware that he is coming into "a great university already in progress."
"It will be rolling on for years to come," added Rutland, who led Southeastern College in Lakeland, Fla., as its president for around a decade. "ORU is attached to an enduring vision and we are united under a Leader who transcends us all. The ultimate leader of ORU is still Jesus Christ."
Among the well-wishers present during Rutland's inauguration were Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor; Dr. Paul Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; and ORU Founder Oral Roberts, who had turned over the mantle to his son, Richard Roberts, in 1993.
Governor Brad Henry also addressed the ceremony via video.
Though not officially inaugurated until Friday, Rutland, who was elected in January following a 14-month search, marked his first official day as ORU's third president and the first without the Roberts name on July 1.
Rutland had remained as Southeastern's president until this past year's spring commencement on May 2.