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Alumni Spotlight Dr. Randy O’Brien ('85)

Alumni Spotlight Dr. Randy O’Brien ('85)

 A man smiling at the camera


Dr. Randy O’Brien (‘85) serves as the Superintendent of Schools for Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District in Baytown, TX. The following remarks are Dr. O’Brien’s reflections on the meaningful ways in which ETBU paved the path and continues to impact his life and career.
As the firstborn of four boys and a first-generation college student, I had become accustomed to trying new things, exploring if you will. Our parents had provided a solid foundation in each one of us, developing our character while focusing primarily on our work ethic, spiritual walk by way of consistent church attendance, and the drive to become contributing members of society.

Working several part-time jobs throughout high school, upon graduating, I became a welder’s helper or apprentice, following in my father’s footsteps. I had completely ignored several scholarship offers to play sports at the next level, as higher education was never spoken of in our home. That all changed a year later when I approached my father at work one day, asking him how he’d feel about me going to college. To say the least, he was dismayed that I would consider “quitting work” to go backward in my career path.

Arriving on the picturesque hill on the day of basketball tryouts was impactful. The way the coaching staff treated me as a valuable part of their team from day one is what got me there, but to then learn that each and every professor that I would have would be just as caring was quite a paradigm shift from feeling like I was fighting an uphill battle alone in the world since I had graduated high school and moved out on my own.

My scholarship did not cover all expenses, so I worked part-time jobs throughout my time on the hill. Those jobs enabled me to meet the wonderful people of Marshall, Texas, from working nighttime security at an energy producer to lifeguarding at the local country club on weekends to construction and remodeling homes and stocking shelves at the local grocery store. I even tried retail sales at a local men’s clothier and a local jeweler. What I learned from all these encounters with people was equally as important as the business degree conferred by the university.

Dr. Bruce Tankersley became a true mentor and role model for me as I considered what type of man I would become. While he taught religious studies, he also taught me about life and eventually became my landlord as well. From cycling through town to how he treated his wife to how he listened with an open mind to all student perspectives, I learned much from Dr. T.

Coach Jim Webb, who made the phone call to invite me to the hill, played an instrumental role in my life. I came to ETBU having achieved some degree of success as a high school athlete, believing much more of my talent than I should have. At one point, I decided to go home and that I could do better. Through the intervention of this man and his ability to teach me about humility in a way that I could receive it at such an immature point in my youth, and by the grace of God, I persevered and completed my tenure through to completion. Without teaching me about finding the balance between the human ego and a hungry spirit and a humble spirit, to the point of humility, I may not have made it through. So, a huge thanks to my coach, Dr. Jim Webb. I can literally say that without him, as well as the support I received from each of my professors, I would not be the man that I am today.

The quad, the student center, the library, intermural sports, different churches, Neely’s pig stand, late night runs to Churches Chicken or the Pitt Grill, eating two or more servings at McDonald’s after a long hard practice, hanging out in the lobby of the girl's dorms, Hotel Marshall, Ant festival, lighting of the tree, stagecoach road, bowling and, yes, occasionally dancing are just a few memories that I get to enjoy when I reflect on my time at the hill.

 My time at East Texas Baptist University helped shape me into the man I would become. This experience was more than going off to college. It was, in fact, the process of receiving an education about life. The academic and spiritual growth that I experienced while on the hill provided me with a purpose for my life.