Junior Haley Should crowns senior Bailey Gibson Miss OBU 2024. (photo by Sarah Dean)

Shourd passes on the Miss OBU crown to Gibson

February 5, 2024

By Kate Ellis, News Editor

On the evening of Feb. 3, the annual passing of the Miss Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) crown commenced, and a new representative of the university was named. The pageant, which boasted special appearances by Miss Arkansas Cori Keller and Ouachita’s own Miss Arkansas’ Teen Allie Bell and consisted of musical entertainment from area titleholders and the Ouachita Court of Honor, ran for two hours and ended with the crowning of the new Miss OBU, Bailey Gibson. The four contestants, senior Bailey Gibson, junior Diana Taylor, sophomore Katy Beth Dunn and freshman Ava Weeks, were scored by 5 categories: private interview, onstage conversation, health and fitness, talent and evening wear competitions. 

Before the new Miss OBU was crowned, a bittersweet farewell was given by the former Miss OBU, Haley Shourd, who has served the university over the past year. Shourd, a seasoned pageant competitor in the Miss Arkansas Organization, found this farewell to be particularly emotional.  

Haley Shourd is emotional in her final moments as Miss OBU 2023. (photo by Joshua Rhine)

“I’ve competed in this organization for two years, and friends have warned me that the university title is the hardest to give up because you feel so loved when representing your school,” Shourd said. “The nice thing about a university title is that you are representing a place that you already call home and know very well. I think the biggest thing that Miss OBU does is go to Miss Arkansas in the summer. I took pride all week in knowing that I was representing the school that I love so much.”

During her reign, Shroud had the opportunity to speak to local crowds like the Arkadelphia Rotary Club and Peake Elementary students, attend parades and charity events for her community service initiative “Champions for Childhood Cancer Awareness,” sing the National Anthem for both a veteran walk in downtown Arkadelphia and the 2023 Battle of the Ravine football game and serve in many other capacities. Shroud also brought home several scholarship awards from the 2023 Miss Arkansas Competition, including the honor of a semi-finalist position.

Shourd, who has traded in her Miss OBU sash for a Miss South Central sash, will go on to compete at Miss Arkansas for the third time this June in Little Rock alongside her successor, Gibson, who is competing at the pageant for a second year. Shourd offers Gibson a piece of advice on how to best appreciate and best serve in this important role. 

“The cheesy [piece of advice] would be to soak it all up, but I think the most important thing is to use this opportunity to point back to God,” Shourd said. “There is a reason that I am in the organization, and it’s because God opened the door for me to fund my education here. The title is an opportunity to share that with others and get to know the students around you at school.” 

Bailey Gibson sings “If I Can Dream” as her selected talent piece. (photo by Sarah Dean)

Gibson, whose community service initiative is “Financial Literacy for Youth,” stunned in beauty, poise and talent over the course of the night. She performed her own rendition of Elvis Presley’s “If I Can Dream” and answered her onstage question about promoting financial literacy among kids through curriculum in schools. 

For Gibson, the work is just beginning. As she takes Shourd’s place in the spotlight, she also takes the duties that come with the title, and will serve Ouachita until the next Miss OBU is crowned in 2025. This new position brings gratitude for her.

“To be Miss Ouachita Baptist University is truly a blessing,” Gibson said. “I am thankful, honored and humbled to serve Ouachita. I aspire to lead over the next year through my genuine love for the people on this campus. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude. Many women I’ve long admired have served in this role, and I couldn’t be more honored to join this special sisterhood. I’m thankful for the opportunity to give back to the university that has instilled a sense of purpose and passion in my life.”

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