The scene of my success

My alma mater is about to tear down a building where I have some very fond memories — and from which I still have a scar

John I. Carney
6 min readOct 28, 2023

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Photo of Howard Auditorium, on the campus of Oral Roberts University, a gold geodesic dome supported by white stucco arches.
Howard Auditorium. Image from Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/8373949291644669/

I found out this week that my alma mater, Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is going to tear down Howard Auditorium some time next year.

I have written before about my complex relationship to ORU. I had a generally good experience there. I didn’t work hard enough, and didn’t have a clear enough idea of what I was working towards, but that was my fault, not theirs. Nevertheless, I began to question some of the underlying principles of televangelism while I was there, and a few years later, during the televangelist scandals of the late 1980s, I felt even more that way. I am still proud to have attended ORU, but I’m less than proud of everything the Oral Roberts TV ministry did, and even when I was a wide-eyed ORU student I did not care one little bit for Oral’s son and successor Richard Roberts. Richard’s scandal eventually caused a severance of the formal and financial ties between the university and the TV ministry, but the university still takes a rose-colored view of its founder and origins.

Anyway, I had been socially awkward in high school. I found my tribe and did somewhat better in college, but I was still awkward.

One highlight of my time at ORU was my involvement in student activities. In the second semester of my freshman year, I became campus film chairman, in charge of the Student Association’s regular 75-cent movies on campus, in Howard Auditorium. I loved it. I loved picking the movies, and I especially loved introducing my fellow students to some classic that they might have missed. I was film chairman for 2 1/2 years, and then was elected Vice President for Student Activities by an overwhelming margin over two opponents (including Joel Osteen’s sister!), based on my name recognition from the campus movies and my humor column in the campus paper.

Some ORU students came from normal public school backgrounds, but others had attended Christian schools their entire lives, living inside a bubble of sorts. Some of those bubble students reacted to the sudden freedom of college life by rebelling; others became self-righteous. Generally, any content complaints about the…

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John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at http://www.lakeneuron.com/dislike