You look at the moon; he owns property on it. You live in a town; he built one. You are looking for a job; he has five. Pick a random word in the dictionary, and he probably knows more about it than you know about yourself. When he’s not traveling the world or dodging bullets, he teaches college students. Sit down with him for a minute, and he’ll teach you something too. Roger Bush is the most interesting man at ORU.
“Before I ever knew what I was going to do or where I would go, I actually had my pilot’s license,” Bush said. “I was also a scuba diver.”
In 1970, the multi-talented 17-year old gained acceptance into Purdue University’s highly exclusive flight school, one of only two out-of-state students to do so that year. He studied flying, engineering and music.
But a trip to Oral Roberts University his freshman year changed everything for the energetic teenager. He attended College Weekend in 1971 at his mother’s request. Something just “clicked.”
“[Purdue] didn’t understand why I was leaving such a prestigious program to ‘come to where?’” Bush said.
And now, more than three decades later, Bush has become a legend on campus.
Each year, Bush treats his audio production students to a showing of the disaster film, “Twister.” The filmmakers combined over 800 sounds to create the roar of the film’s title character. Bush uses this example to illustrate sound’s ability to imitate nature’s raw power – a power he knows all too well.
“It was so black,” Bush said. “We are sitting at the stoplight at 51st and Peoria and the radio guy says, ‘The tornado has been spotted at 51st and Peoria’. We are sitting there. Which way do we go?”
Bush turned left. The tornado turned right.
“You know it’s right around you, but you don’t know where it is,” Bush said.
The metaphor is an apt description of most of the opportunities Bush comes across in life.
He serves as director and curator of ORU’s Elsing Museum, a renowned collection of geological artifacts from around the world. He loves the work but never expected the trail he walked to lead here.
“Everything I’ve learned in the earth sciences and geology has been kind of OJT – on-the-job-training,” Bush said.
His first lessons came in college while aiding Nathan Meleen, an earth science professor pursuing his doctorate at the time. Fieldwork and babysitting opportunities formed a relationship that lasted decades. The pair created educational trips for students to spend a couple of weeks out of the year exploring the American Southwest. Bush took part in summer trips to the Grand Canyon for 18 years.
“The students called me MacGyver. Anything they had that would come apart, I had to fix,” Bush said. “You’re out in the middle of nowhere.”
“Rockhound” Willard Elsing donated his collection to ORU after a third battle with cancer in 2001. Meleen directed what became the Elsing Museum and after retiring, gave the job to Bush.
One of Bush’s favorite items to show off fell from beyond earth – a small but heavy meteorite, pockmarked from its journey through the stars. Bush wonders if one day he will make it to where that little rock came from. If he does, he will have a place to stay.
“A few years ago my wife was looking for a birthday gift for me and wanted to get something unique. And she found probably the most unique birthday gift there is,” Bush said. “She bought me a lot on the moon.”
The United Nations-issued title and deed hang in Bush’s office. He may not build the lunar condominium he dreams of, but if he shoots for the moon and misses, he can at least land at Lake Hudson. He is already the mayor there.
The professor-turned-carpenter undertook the process of building a town years ago. On his land, he constructed a cabin, a chapel and a barn. He plans to build a jail, a barber shop, and a “better-not-call-it-a-saloon.”
“I don’t like metal outbuildings and things that aren’t that attractive. So, instead of having that, I designed mine,” Bush said.
He also dreams of building a hilltop church overlooking the lake.
“We have people coming every Sunday now,” Bush said. “We have had up to 17 people in there. It’s only supposed to seat eight or 10.”
Add pastor to his resume.
“You never know what God’s going to do,” Bush said.
He never thought he would pilot a miniature blimp over ORU home basketball games for 15 years. He never thought he would work on an international crew at Portugal’s biggest soccer game. He never thought he would be stationed in Times Square, setting up the television feed for the Super Bowl.
He never thought he would teach.
“I think a lot of why I teach is that [my students] can leave [ORU] with the knowledge that I had to learn the hard way,” Bush said. “And with that, it gives them a better start on the rest of their life.”
Bush won’t share all his secrets. He once revealed to his students that the sound of bullets whizzing past one’s ears in movies is very different than the same sound in real life. His class asked him how he knew. Bush responded with a silent smile.
This reporter asked him again. His response summed up much more than the question at hand.
“Half the fun of it is that you don’t know the rest of the story,” Bush said.