When transfer student Randy O’Rear became a Crusader in the fall of 1986, he truly became a Crusader for life.
After spending several weeks during the summer playing baseball and doing mission work with Athletes in Action, O’Rear was asked to speak at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting.
There he met his future wife, Julie. O’Rear said that he can still remember what she was wearing.
“Actually, we started dating soon after that. We both kind of hung around a little bit after the meeting that night,” he said.
A couple of weeks later, he asked her out.
“I think our first date was to Sonic,” he said. “And then we came up to the gym and played some basketball.”
O’Rear graduated from the university in 1988 with a B.A. in business administration. His soon-to-be-wife, Julie, graduated in 1990 from the nursing program.
But O’Rear didn’t leave with diploma in hand; instead, he chose to join the Crusader athletic staff, becoming the assistant baseball coach.
He never would have guessed that, nearly 20 years later, the couple would become the university’s president and first lady.
“I never would have believed it,” he said. “I certainly had, (even) back then, a great love and great passion for Mary Hardin-Baylor, … but I never would have (believed it) at the time,” he said.
The journey began to take shape in 1997, when O’Rear received an MBA in business administration.
Then in 2004, he graduated from Baylor University with a doctorate in higher education management.
In addition to the new position, the O’Rear family is excited about moving into the new presidential home next year, with construction set to begin in October.
The previous home to university presidents such as Bobby Parker and Jerry Bawcom is being repurposed.
The Parker House is being renovated to become the Music Alumni Center and Museum.
The president and first lady are thrilled to serve the university in their new positions.
He said, “It’s really just a very high honor and privilege to be blessed by God to serve here at this time at Mary Hardin-Baylor because Julie and I do love the school so much.”
The president’s blood has been purple since he walked the halls as a student.
He has served in various capacities since his graduation, including working closely with the university’s previous President Jerry Bawcom.
Bawcom said, “I have great confidence in him as an individual. He has success as a leader.”
He has held positions including, executive vice president and chief operating officer, associate director of advancement, director of development, associate vice president for enrollment management, vice president for external relations and assistant baseball coach.
He believes the transition in leadership from Bawcom to himself has been as seamless as possible.
“I really do not know how it could have been more smooth,” he said.
He attributes this to “the privilege of working together (with Bawcom for)18 years.”
O’Rear said Bawcom still gives him counsel.
“He’s been a great mentor. And more than that, he’s a great friend.”
O’Rear believes his vision for the future has been affected by his personal experience as a Crusader.
Student Body President Tommy Wilson said he can lead because he has lived it himself. O’Rear believes that his success as a leader in the public eye is dependent upon his family support.
“I certainly wouldn’t be able to serve as president without a wife that has been very loving and encouraging of my work,”he said. “(Julie) feels the same calling to serve Mary Hardin- Baylor that I do.”
The O’Rear children, Ryan, Taylor and Reed “have a real deep love and passion for the school …. They were raised here.”
Senior Vice President for Administration and Chief Operating Officer Steve Theodore also attended the university with O’Rear.
Theodore said, “He is dedicated to Christian higher education. He has a proven track record of successful fund-raising and administrative leadership.”
Though it is not the direction he would have guessed his life would have taken while attending the university, O’Rear said, “It feels like really a dream come true.”