Gary Oster ’78

GARY OSTER was born in 1956 into a U.S. Navy family in Newport, Rhode Island. His brother Dan was born a year later. Soon, his father became a naval reservist and the Osters returned to their native Michigan. Gary grew up in Kentwood, near Grand Rapids. Gary and his brother Dan were raised in the Boy Scouts, with their father as Scout Master. Gary became an Eagle Scout at age 13, earned his way to Scout camp and soon was added to the staff for the next few years. At East Kentwood High School, Gary was first trombonist, ran cross country and participated in a swim team. He starred in several musicals, competed in speech contests, and was president of the Class of 1974. During summers and after school, he earned toward college at Meijer’s.

Narrowly missing military conscription at the end of the Vietnam War, Gary enrolled in Hope College in nearby Holland. There, he met his future wife, Priscilla Bartels, when they were members of the Chapel Choir. He graduated in 1978 with an English major and political science minor. Gary and Priscilla were married in 1978, living on campus in Kalamazoo, where in 1979 Gary earned a Master of Science in Librarianship at Western Michigan University. They relocated to Chicago, where Gary became the librarian at the John G. Shedd Aquarium, then departing for the mission field after one year. They accepted a two-year assignment in the Amazon of Peru at the Summer Institute of Linguistics (Wycliffe Bible Translators). As Assistant Director of Tribal Affairs, Gary wrote numerous successful funding proposals in literacy, health promotion, and community development, raising approximately $1 million for waiting projects. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1982, they settled in Lorain, Ohio where Gary became the bilingual head librarian at a public library branch in a Spanish-speaking area. Concurrently, he began earning an MBA in Systems Management at Baldwin Wallace College.

In 1985, Gary left his library career for management training at the East Ohio Gas Company in nearby Cleveland. A tuition benefit helped complete his MBA, as well as his continued studies at Case Western Reserve University for a 1988 MA in Economics. As EOG’s Supervisor of Facilities Services, Gary oversaw installation of tight electronic security throughout the company and built a comprehensive program for detecting and prosecuting theft of gas service cases. While in Ohio, in 1990, Gary and Priscilla also adopted their son George from South Korea, at the age of one year. In 1991, with five years’ expertise in card-key door lock systems, Gary accepted an account manager position with his lock vendor, serving Ford Motor Company in Detroit. In 1992, while in metro-Detroit, Gary and Priscilla adopted their infant daughter Gena, also from South Korea. Also while there, Gary innovated a standalone card-key lock for the small business market, sold it to Cypress Computer systems, and signed on as National Sales Manager.

An academic at heart, Gary finally sought a career in higher education. Initially a part-time adjunct instructor at William Tyndale College, he also became the College Librarian, transforming the library into a creative environment called The Mindlab. As CIO, he managed the computer network and developed WTC’s online learning capability. By 2004, he had been promoted to Associate Professor of Business, VP for Academic Affairs, Provost, achieved NCA regional accreditation, and was instrumental in obtaining two major federal grants for computer technology. In 2005, Gary transferred to Regent University as a result of an institutional relationship, and the family soon relocated to Virginia Beach. In a few years, he progressed through undergraduate levels of Associate Professor, Department Chair, and Associate Dean. In 2007, he obtained his Regent DSL and joined the School of Business and Leadership as Associate Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He was Director of the DSL Program for several years and initiated several new degree programs. Gary completed a University of Florida post-doctoral program in 2008, received tenure in 2011, and was promoted to Professor in 2015. He taught a wide variety of courses in business and economics, with emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship.
He mentored doctoral students through dissertations, published dozens of articles, presented at least twenty innovation seminars including to the military and the Salvation Army, and taught in Regent programs in Britain, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela and China. Gary’s book, The Light Prize, is a Christian text on the process of innovation.

Gary was raised in St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Kentwood. He diverged from Catholicism during high school, when Vatican II provided a Bible which he read entirely and questioned closely. He was a member of Church of the Messiah (Anglican) in Chesapeake. Gary is fully alive in Heaven with his Lord Jesus.

Gary is survived by Priscilla, his wife of 42 years, their son George, and daughter Geneva (John) Grant, grandchildren Juliana and Andrew Grant, brother Daniel (Donna) Oster, and eight nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Gordon and Barbara (Taylor) Oster.

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