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A Lifetime of Service Leads to a Family Legacy - Fall 2021

by Jana Steelman

Woman and man side by side
JoAnn and Burrel McNaught at their home in Oklahoma City. Photo provided

“I feel grateful for what OCU has done for us as individuals and for our families,” Burrel McNaught said.

His wife, JoAnn, explains, “We both went to OCU on scholarships, as did our daughter and granddaughter. Without those it would have been very difficult. Impossible.”

Originally from El Reno, Oklahoma, Burrel and JoAnn McNaught grew up in the Methodist church. “The church has always been an integral part of our lives,” Burrel said.

After attending El Reno Junior College (now Redlands Community College), Burrel was on a path to the ministry and his pastor recommended OCU. While he only attended OCU his sophomore year, 1951-52, he said it was a very special year in his life, “I remember it very well and was very grateful for it.”

JoAnn followed Burrel on a similar path just one year later. The couple married in 1953 and JoAnn graduated from OCU with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education the following year.

Although a career opportunity at the First United Methodist Church in Edmond called Burrel to Central State University (now University of Central Oklahoma), where he later graduated, he said that OCU “has always been my school.”

Burrel went on to graduate from Southern Methodist University’s School of Theology and spent 41 years as a Methodist minister in the Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church, including serving as district superintendent for the Clinton District.

JoAnn also spent much of her career serving the Oklahoma Conference, starting out as the assistant director of the Annual Conference Council.

After going back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, JoAnn became a CPA and returned to work at the conference office. She later became the first woman and the first non-clergy to serve as conference treasurer, retiring in 2006. OCU recognized JoAnn's years of leadership with the Bishop Paul W. Milhouse Award in 2008.

During their careers, JoAnn and Burrel each served on the OCU Board of Trustees. Burrel recalls the opportunity to help raise money for the school during an especially challenging financial time. On a visit to Okeene, Oklahoma, he helped connect Owen Wimberly, manager of the Okeene Milling Company, with former OCU President Jerald Walker, which led to a significant gift that established OCU’s Wimberly School of Religion.

“We’ve always been advocates of OCU,” Burrel said. One could argue that the McNaughts’ passion for OCU is inherent. Daughter Sally (McNaught) Kilby says she always knew she was going to attend OCU.

“Growing up as the daughter of a Methodist minister, I knew that OCU was very important to my parents, and I loved it as well,” Kilby said.

In 1985, on the same day Kilby graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, OCU awarded her father with an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity.

Two women and a man seated in a crowd, all wearing glasses
Sally Kilby (’86) and her parents, JoAnn and Burrel McNaught, attend OCU’s commencement in 2016. Photo provided

Kilby’s youngest daughter and Burrel and JoAnn’s granddaughter, Emily (Kilby) Schwartzman, also followed in the family’s footsteps, graduating from OCU in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.

“My parents truly established a legacy of leadership for our family,” Kilby said. However, the McNaught tradition at OCU is just getting started. Now retired, Burrel and JoAnn McNaught say they plan to continue giving back with their resources so they can help provide other families with the opportunity to attend OCU. In fact, the couple has designated a portion of their estate to support their alma mater, ensuring the McNaught legacy will continue for years to come.

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