Born and raised just 35 miles south of Tulsa, Dr. James Russell had never set foot on the ORU campus before his interview to become a professor at the university.
During his youth, James was active in football and Future Farmers of America (FFA), even riding bulls for a while. He spent a year at Oklahoma State University, and then for three years he led an army tank troop, including one year spent in Vietnam.
When he returned home, he completed his bachelor and master's degrees at Oklahoma State and then went to Virginia Tech for his Ph.D. He taught for seven years at Oklahoma State, did a short stint as a professor at the University of Florida, Gainesville and then he received the offer of a lifetime to teach at the University of Maryland. He spent seven years as a full time consultant, but his life was about to undergo a dramatic change.
On a trip back to Oklahoma, he visited a church where Christians were praising God through the raising of hands and singing. James kept finding himself bumping into someone, so not looking; he kept scooting over on the pew. Finally, he looked to his side and was shocked to find no one was there. He immediately began speaking in tongues. He commented, "The first time I ever heard anyone speak in tongues, it was me." For the next six months, God put him on a spiritual fast. He did nothing but read the Bible, pray, speak in tongues and jog. He ate only when the Lord told him to eat and lost 80 pounds within six months. Amazingly, he had more energy than ever before.
In 2000, God led Dr. Russell to the ORU campus as a member of the School of Business faculty. Since then, he has led multiple business mission trips to South America, most recently over spring break 2009. The students put on business workshops during the day, and 1,000 to 1,500 people attended each one. In the evenings, 3,000 people would gather for worship in buildings equipped to handle no more than 2,500. "Business mission trips have resulted in thousands of physical healings. Blindness, legs that needed lengthening, arthritis - God took them all away. There were financial healings, too, as we prayed into the night that homes would be saved, jobs found and financing secured. Many of the students on the trip told me their lives were forever changed by what we experienced in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Paraguay," Dr. Russell explained. Their hosts provided each person with a soccer shirt as a momento of their trip.
"More than anything else, I value ORU's spiritual atmosphere. I have been a professor at some of the best universities in the country, and nowhere can compare with the faculty and students we have here at ORU."