Oakwood University

Oakwood University is a private, historically black Seventh-day Adventist university in Huntsville, Alabama. It is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Oakwood University
Former names
Oakwood Industrial School
Oakwood Manual Training School
Oakwood Junior College
Oakwood College
MottoEducation, Excellence, Eternity
TypePrivate, HBCU
Religious affiliation
Seventh-day Adventist Church
PresidentLeslie Pollard
Location, ,
United States

34.756°N 86.653°W / 34.756; -86.653
CampusSuburban, 1,185 acres (5 km2)
ColorsBlue and gold         
AthleticsUSCAA Division I
NicknameAmbassadors / Lady Ambassadors
MascotThe Ambassador

Oakwood University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Department of Education of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (through the Adventist Accrediting Association) to award the associate, baccalaureate, and master's degrees. Oakwood University has been a member institution of the United Negro College Fund since 1964.

Oakwood University owns and operates the Christian radio station WJOU 90.1 FM, formerly WOCG.[2]


Oakwood University was founded in 1896 as Oakwood Industrial School. Legend has it that the school was named for a stand of oak trees found on the campus.

The school first opened in 1896 with 16 students. Classes were offered in various trades and skills. In 1904, the name was changed to Oakwood Manual Training School, and it was chartered to grant degrees in 1907. In 1917, the school offered its first instruction at the postsecondary level, and in that same year it changed its name to Oakwood Junior College. In 1944, the name Oakwood College was adopted. The first bachelor's degrees were awarded in 1945. Oakwood College received its initial accreditation from SACS in 1958, and in 2007, the college received approval to award graduate degrees. In response to this higher accreditation, the school's Board of Trustees and constituents voted to change the name of the institution again to Oakwood University of Seventh-day Adventists.


Oakwood University owns 1,185 acres (5 km2) in Huntsville, Alabama. The main campus consists of 23 buildings spread across 105 acres (0.4 km2). Another 500 acres (2 km²) is under cultivation. Building developments are continuing. The J. L. Moran Hall, completed in 1944 and named after the first black president of Oakwood, stands with more recently erected buildings such as the McKee Business & Technology Complex, completed in 2002.

The institution also houses a branch office of the Ellen G. White Estate.

The Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks (BCB) Leadership Center which opened in October 2007 houses a training center for evangelists and ministers as well as provide additional classroom space for the Department of Religion and Theology. This building is also home to the classes for the first master's degree program for the university (Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Studies). The newly completed Holland Hall accommodates about 300 males, primarily freshmen, and housed its first students in the 2008–2009 school year.

Student housing

Students at Oakwood, or "Oakwoodites" as they are sometimes called, either live on campus in any of the five residence halls/areas, rent an apartment from the school's own West Oaks Apartment Complex, or live off-campus in the surrounding area. Oakwood is a boarding institution, and any student under the age of 22 not living with an immediate family member over age 22 in the area is required to live on campus. Freshmen males live in the Holland Hall dormitory, which is a new residence hall for freshmen males and selected upperclass males, while freshmen women live in Carter Hall. There are two more residential complexes for women: Wade Hall and the Annex are for senior female students. Edwards Hall is the dormitory for senior male students. Two additional dormitories, Peterson Hall and Cunningham Hall, are currently vacant and awaiting renovation.


Oakwood University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees through the following schools:

  • School of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Business
  • School of Education and Social Sciences
  • School of Nursing and Health Professions
  • School of Religion

Adventist Colleges Abroad

Adventist Colleges Abroad is a program that allows Oakwood students to spend time studying at Adventist universities outside of the United States while earning credit for the degree they are pursuing at Oakwood. Some of the colleges participating in this program are in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, France, Spain, Austria, Italy, Greece, Germany, Ukraine, Thailand, and Japan. Most Oakwood students study in Argentina, France, Mexico, Spain, and Greece.[3]

Student activities

Spiritual life

Oakwood University is committed to the spiritual nurture and character development of each student with the goal of ‘developing servant leaders’. The Office of Spiritual Life, in conjunction with the Oakwood University Church, the USM, and the residence halls offers numerous programs and services for spiritual enrichment including weekly chapel services, Sabbath church service, Adventist Youth Society, residence hall worships, student missionary program, and club and outreach activities. The institution extends to each student the opportunity to participate in the Literature Evangelism Training Center (LETC) program. This program is designed to assist in helping students acquire scholarships for tuition and spread the Gospel in print to a world in need of a Savior.


Basketball and football are the major sports on campus, with intramural basketball activities taking place during the spring semesters. The school's basketball teams are the Oakwood Ambassadors and Lady Ambassadors. The Ambassadors male basketball team won the 2008 National Championship for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) in March. This school year was also the team's first year as part of the league. The Ambassadors won their second USCAA National Championship in March 2012, and their third in March 2016, against Concordia College.

Musical groups

The Aeolians, Oakwood University's premier touring ensemble, was founded in 1946 by former professor, Dr. Eva B. Dykes.[4] This choir has 45–60 members from various disciplines, and the group travel nationally and internationally as musical ambassadors for the University. The choir has visited Romania, Great Britain, Poland, Jamaica, and Bermuda among other locations. The group has also performed at the White House for President Bill Clinton and at the Kennedy Center, both in Washington, D.C. The current conductor of the ensemble is Jason Max Ferdinand, M.M., a graduate of Oakwood University and Morgan State University and a former Aeolian. He is also the current conductor of the Oakwood University Choir. Other musical ensembles on campus include gospel choirs Dynamic Praise, Voices of Triumph, the group Serenity winners of the First Season of "Making The Group" reality show competition. Oakwood University is known for its legacy of great music. In 2010, Oakwood's group, "Committed" won the national competition The Sing-off.[5] The group is featured in Jacob Collier's 2019 recording and video of Lionel Richie's song All Night Long (All Night).[6]

The university has a rich musical tradition and its musical alumni include singer and pastor Wintley Phipps, Natalie Cadet of the Cadet Sisters and the original founding members of the a cappella gospel group Take 6.

Academic competitions

At the 2008 Honda Campus All-Star Challenge National Championship Tournament in Orlando, Florida, Oakwood University team members brought home the trophy. This competition featured 64 teams from historically black colleges and universities around the nation. In addition to winning the championship, Oakwood University received a grant of $50,000 from the American Honda Motor Company. Both the quiz bowl and basketball teams adjusted their playing schedules to not play on Saturday, the day observed as the Sabbath (Oakwood University is a Seventh-day Adventist institution), and both teams still emerged as champions over Alcorn State University. At the 2009 Honda Campus All-Star Challenge National Championship Tournament, the team, led by captain Alesis Turner, returned to again be named the champions (the team played in the final rounds against North Carolina Central University). In 2017, Oakwood for the third time won the HCASC Tournament, defeating Bowie State University in the finals without losing a game the entire tournament. 2017 marked the 28th season of the tournament. The school joins Tuskegee University, Florida A&M University, and Morehouse College, as the only schools to win back-to-back championships at HCASC.[7]

Notable alumni

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Dr. Delbert Baker 1975 Administrator, educator, author and former president of Oakwood University (currently serves on the White House Board for HBCUs) [8]
Barry Black former U.S. Navy Chief of Chaplains and Chaplain of the U.S. Senate
Ronald Brise Florida State Representative
Angela Brown Soprano Opera Singer
Natalie Cadet Singer, member of Cadet Sisters
Alvin Chea Member of the gospel group Take 6
Clifton Davis Actor, Pastor, Singer, Songwriter
Hallerin Hilton Hill radio talk show host, WNOX Knoxville, Tennessee
T. R. M. Howard 1931 Civil Rights Leader, Surgeon, Entrepreneur, Mentor to Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer
Heather Knight 1982 President of Pacific Union College
Davido Nigerian Afropop musician
Brian McKnight R&B Singer/musician, and also brother of alumnus Claude McKnight
Claude McKnight Member of the gospel group Take 6
Toni Neal Traffic Anchor, WSB-TV Atlanta, Georgia
Wintley Phipps Pastor, Singer, Founder and President of U.S. Dream Academy
John F. Street Former mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mervyn Warren Member of the gospel group Take 6
Committed Winners of Season 2, NBC's The Sing Off
Amber Bullock 2011 Winner of Season 4 BET's Sunday Best
Little Richard American recording artist, singer-songwriter and actor.


  • Baker, B.J. 2007. A Place Called Oakwood. Huntsville, AL: Oakwood University Press.
  • Baker, B.J. 2005. Crucial Moments. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  • Baker, D.W. 1996. Telling the Story. Loma Linda, CA: Loma Linda University Printing Services.
  • Brown, W.J., comp. 1972. Chronology of Seventh-day Adventist Education. Washington: Department of Education, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
  • Cadwallader, E.M. 1958. A History of Seventh-day Adventist Education. Lincoln, NE: Union College Press.
  • Dudley, C.E. 1997. Thou Who Hast Brought Us. Brushton, NY: Teach Services, Inc.
  • Dudley, C.E. 2000. Thou Who Hast Brought Us Thus Far on Our Way. Mansfield, OH: Bookmasters.
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  • Greenleaf, F. 2005. In Passion for the World. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
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  • Hilde, R. 1980. Showdown: Can SDA Education Pass the Test? Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  • Hodgen, M. 1978. School Bells and Gospel Trumpets: A Documentary History of Seventh-day Adventist Education in North America. Loma Linda, CA: Adventist Heritage Publications, Loma Linda University Press.
  • Knight, G.R. 1999. A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  • Justiss, J. 1975. Angels in Ebony. Toledo, OH: Jet Printing Services.
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  • Land, G. 2005. Dictionary of Seventh-day Adventists. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
  • Malcolm, Roy, ed. 1999. The Aeolians: Directors Recall Precious Memories. Huntsville, AL: Oakwood College Press.
  • Marshall, N., and S. Norman III, eds. 1989. A Star Gives Light. Decatur, GA: Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
  • Olsen, M.E. 1925. Origin and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  • Pollard, L.N, ed. 2000. "Embracing Diversity." Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  • Pollard, P. E. 2012. "Raise a Leader, God's Way." Hagerstown MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  • Reynolds, L.B. 1984. We Have Tomorrow. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  • Rock, C.B. 1994. Go On! Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  • Rock, C.B. ed. 1996. Perspectives. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  • Schwarz, R.W. 2000. Light Bearers. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press.
  • Sepulveda, C., ed. 1997. Ellen White on the Color Line. Huntsville, AL: Biblos Press.
  • Sepulveda, C., ed. 2003. The Ladies of Oakwood. Huntsville, AL: Oakwood College Press.
  • Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. 1976. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
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  • Spalding, A.W. Lights and Shades in the Black Belt. (unpublished book manuscript) Washington, DC. Ellen G. White Estate File: DF3471-1.
  • Warren, M.A. 1996. Oakwood! A Vision Splendid. Collegedale, TN: College Press.
  • White, A.L. 1981-1986. Ellen G. White, vols. 4–6. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association.

Further reading

Two books have been written about the history of Oakwood: Oakwood! A Vision Splendid and A Place Called Oakwood:[9]

Oakwood! A Vision Splendid
Written by Dr. Mervyn A. Warren in 1996 to celebrate Oakwood's century of existence. The book is 280 pages long and contains information and photographs not previously published about Oakwood. Dr. Warren is currently the Provost and Senior Vice President at Oakwood.
A Place Called Oakwood
A 180-page history of the first 20 years of Oakwood and its founders' key statements on the school. It was edited by Benjamin J. Baker, PhD, an alumnus of Oakwood and historian.

See also


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