The why behind Kimberlee Bankhead’s journey to ORU

A student’s journey to Oral Roberts University.

Blake Turner, Staff Writer

There is a popular quote, often erroneously attributed to Mark Twain, that identifies the two most important days of a person’s life: “The day you were born and the day you found out why you were born.”

Whether Twain said it or not, it applies to the journey of Kimberlee “Kimbo” Bankhead, a senior from Okinawa, Japan — Mr. Miyagi’s home from The Karate Kid Part II. Bankhead took an unexpected path to Oral Roberts University.

“Honestly, I could not see myself going to college,” Bankhead said. “I

knew I was going to go, but it was not specific.”

She heard about ORU through her principal.

“My principal and my mom were friends, and she mentioned Oral Roberts because she wanted to go in the ’80s, but she did not attend because of financial reasons. My mom told me to apply, and I did it to test it out.”

Until then, Bankhead had been heading to Texas Christian University, but knew in her heart that she needed to come to ORU.

“My student success coach helped me work things out,” she said, “and next thing you know I was on my way to Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

Like many freshmen from overseas, Bankhead experienced culture shock and a case of homesickness when she first came to Tulsa in the late 2010s.

“I had identity issues, trying to fit into a new environment. It was my first time being away from my parents for more than a month and being in a new country where the norms are different.”

Bankhead slowly adjusted to life in Tulsa. Then COVID-19 disrupted the world in 2020. And Bankhead’s personal life shattered with her mother’s suicide.

“It was unexpected because I knew my life would never be the same, and I was grieving the losses of other family relationships and friendships,” she said. “2020 takes the spot as one of the toughest years in my life.”

After her mother’s death, Bankhead became an advocate for mental health, then became a chaplain.

“I did not know how influential I was” as a chaplain, Bankhead said, “until I left and some of the girls were saying how much of a nurturer I was. And that means the world to me.”

As she finishes her degree this spring in Christian caregiving and counseling, Bankhead wants to be remembered for being a healer.

“I want to heal myself,” she said, “but most importantly the future generations by using my voice.”