On Robert Oglesby’s office shelf sit scholarly books of every length about Christian ministry along with with framed pictures from family vacations beside group photos of himself with colleagues and students. All receive prominent placement at the front of the shelves. And each item adds to the layers of Oglesby’s life.
On these same shelves, set a little farther back, very much out of the spotlight but center-shelf, sits a large plaque that reads “ACU’s 2013-14 Teacher of the Year.” Though it looks somewhat offset from the others, upon closer notice, it becomes clear this framed award’s placement was purposeful because it is a combination of the mementos that surround it.
In his 15 years at ACU, Oglesby has taught over 500 full-time youth ministers, and twice as many students have passed through his classroom. In his 30 years at Southern Hills Church of Christ, he has counseled up to 600 engaged couples and blessed countless others.
Oglesby’s 18 years in youth ministry have rewarded him connections throughout the nation. Mark Phillips, assistant professor of management, describes Oglesby as somewhat of a celebrity in the Christian community.
“I think if there’s anyone that’s in a ministry position in a Church of Christ in the state of Texas, Robert probably knows them,”Phillips said.
Oglesby’s wisdom is sought after by students and alumni alike. Rodney Ashlock, chair of the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry, said a constant barrage of people come and go to Oglesby’s office daily.
“There’s a line outside his door of everybody wanting to spend 15-20 minutes with Robert to talk about what’s going on in their lives,” Ashlock said.
Oglesby graduated from ACU in ’81 and dove into youth ministry at Western Hills Church of Christ in Temple.
Two years later, he accepted Rick Atchley’s invitation to be the youth minister at Southern Hills where he spent the next 15 years investing in the lives of students.
Atchley was a senior at ACU while Oglesby was a freshman, and, even then, he said he noticed something different about Oglesby.
“Early on, I just noticed Robert was respected and had a high character and high integrity,” Atchley said. “He’s the kind of guy that you would want to be a role model for students.”
For Oglesby, youth ministry is more than just educating students.
“Youth ministry is especially important to me because these are the students that haven’t decided if they buy Jesus or not,” Oglesby said. “I think the battle is won or lost in the early teenage years.”
Oglesby never thought he’d end up in youth ministry but said he’s loved every minute.
“I’ve never had a moment where I didn’t get to do exactly what I wanted to do,” he said.
The importance of church is evident in the Oglesby family. In February, Robert Oblesby, Sr. will celebrate 52 years as preacher at the Waterview Church of Christ in Richardson.
Oglesby said his father’s commitment to the church has played a huge role in his life.
“He always told me, ‘You can move to a different church and figure out there are the same problems there or just get along with the people where they are,'” Oglesby said.
While growing up as a preacher’s kid fired Oglesby’s passion for church, being a youth minister was not his first choice of career.
“Everyone asked if I wanted to preach, too, and I said I’d actually like to do anything else but that,” Oglesby said. “I wasn’t planning on doing ministry.”
But a few internships changed his mind. He realized youth ministry was where he was needed, and he’s never looked back since. Oglesby said he doubted his life could get better, until he started teaching at ACU.
“I get to meet with some of the best students in the world and I get to share not just the classroom with them, but also life,” Oglesby said. “They’re encouraging to me and I hope I am to them.”
The sentiment is shared as multiple students recall that Oglesby was their biggest encouragement throughout college.
Carleigh Wieder, who graduated in ’14 with a youth and family ministry degree, said he was one of the reasons she attended the university.
“When I was looking at schools, I was leaning towards theater. I came in and talked to him and he was so excited to have another female youth ministry major,” she said. “It was really cool to have him excited for me to come to ACU and be a youth ministry major from the get-go.”
As Wieder went through school, Oglesby was the one who provided constant support.
“When I was taking Greek, I would come to him, freaking out,” Wieder said. “He would tell me he always had a poor grade in Greek, too, but he still made it as a youth minister.”
From the first day of class when Oglesby invited his students to his house for dinner with his family to the way he quickly learned each student’s name, Cameron Morris, ’14 graduate, said Oglesby’s care was apparent.
“Oglesby shows a level of care for his students that is so genuine, you just can’t help but love him,” Morris said.
Phillips said Oglesby’s concern extends outside the classroom. He also helps students during their internships as well as after graduation.
“He’s genuinely interested in them,” Phillips said. “He really genuinely cares about what’s going to happen to them, and he wants them to do well.”
Ashlock said even past Oglesby’s vast years of experience and knowledge, what students really benefit from is his strong faith.
“Underneath it all, Robert has a deep love for God and that’s what drives him,” he said. “I think he wants to share that love and help others appreciate God’s love in their lives.”
Returning to the book shelf in Oglesby’s office, in the middle of every book of ministry knowledge Oglesby has acquired and each photograph from days past, is the Teacher of the Year plaque. And on the back of this award, scrawled in ink, is the name of every person Oglesby said makes up a layer of who he is. These names include his wife Jenny, and his three children, Lauren, Greg and Leslie.
Oglesby said he is still embarrassed he received the award when so many other faculty deserve it. He attributes his success to everyone who helped him reach it.
“I wrote those names down to say, even though my name’s on the front, these folks really are the reason I’m here,” he said.
And, he said, he’s thankful for each layer he’s received, because it’s enabled to him to better enrich the lives of the students he’s come to love. He’s energized every time they enter his classroom and misses them each time they leave.
“I love ’em; I didn’t realize how much I would love students here,” Oglesby said. “I just thought you’d kind of keep this little wall between you, but you actually love these kids.”