Strait set standard by living out his faith
By Allen Palmeri
August 9, 2005
BOLIVAR – Darrell R. Strait, the man for whom the Center for the Integration of Science and Christian Faith at Southwest Baptist University is named, was known as “Mr. General Chemistry” on campus, according to Gary O. Gray, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at SBU who directs the center.
Strait was a long-time SBU dean and professor and winner of the Missouri Governor’s Excellence in Teaching Award. He hired Gray in 1989, and when Gray, who became dean in 2001, wanted to name the new center after him, he agreed. The center was born in February 2004.
“His reputation on campus was he had a heart as big as Missouri,” Gray said. “He never had a class without prayer. He brought into the classroom who he was as a Christian, which was a warmth and receptiveness that was disarming. You knew within two minutes of talking to Darrell that he knew you and sincerely cared about you because of who he was as a Christian. You couldn’t not love him.”
Strait is a tall, gangly man who lives out his faith with great dignity, Gray said. Health issues forced him into an early retirement.
“He has that grandfatherly appearance,” Gray said. “He’s one of only two or three people in my entire life I could say I never have known him to misrepresent or lie about anything ever.”
He studied physical organic chemistry at the University of Missouri-Rolla and graduated as an academic leader in that discipline, Gray said.
“He’s a top-drawer chemist who stayed in Christian academics,” Gray said. “He came back and taught and lived out what we want our kids to be able to do effortlessly. I don’t think Darrell really understood how powerful the Lord had made him over the years, To this day I’m not sure he appreciates how well thought of he is because of that.”
The first three graduates of the Strait Center are scheduled to come out next May. All are biology majors who are considering careers in science. Gray said the intent of the Strait Center is to cater to chemistry and biology majors at Southwest Baptist who are looking for careers in health sciences or research-related fields.
“I see them as being doctors, scientists, school teachers, mathematicians—the same folks that we are graduating from science majors anyway,” he said. “It’s just that I’m hoping to see them as a new breed.”