ACU Today Fall-Winter 2023

Page 56

Abilene Christian University Fall-Winter 2023 Moody’s New Day
Higher Ground  Dukes’ Historic Gift to COBA  Alumni Awards  Scott Acton and
Webb Telescope
Venerable coliseum with Anthony Arena reopens following $50 million renovation


The 2022 academic calendar won’t reflect it, but we had two Homecomings last fall on the Hill. One was in October and featured a parade, a Broadway-quality musical and a big home football game, among other beloved traditions. The other was Sept. 2 in a new but familar place.

Words and images don’t do it justice, but the vibe in Moody Coliseum for a Friday “Praise Day” Chapel and ribbon-cutting was something no one present will ever forget.

The energy and spirit in newly named Anthony Arena was something to behold: a grateful gathering of students, faculty, staff, alumni and other friends who worshipped, cheered and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company after two years away while we pivoted for a pandemic and Moody was being renovated.

The singing was amazing, the fellowship real. God was surely among us.

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, please come back soon to enjoy a game or Chapel or other event. Tour the expanded space, enjoy the historical exhibits and be reminded, like we are, of the important role Moody fills in the life of ACU and the community we continue to build here with your help.

I hope you enjoy a look at Moody and the other content in this issue:

• The important leadership role Dr. Scott Acton (’84) filled in imagining and leading development of the amazing James Webb Space Telescope.

• Profiles of deserving winners of our annual alumni awards, led by Kathy (Gay ’78) Halbert .

• An overview of our bold five-year Strategic Plan.

• Profiles of generous benefactors and exciting initiatives of the $250 million Higher Ground campaign, which is energizing our alumni and other inspired donors.

• The historic gift of more than $29 million from the estate of the late Dr. Bill and Janie Dukes.

We talk a lot about the importance of relationships in the life of our university. Visitors, especially future students and their families, sense it and often base their decision to choose ACU on the tangible difference it makes, in addition to our world-class living and learning environment and facilities.

The deep relationship built with the Dukes family by Class of 1964 buddies and former ACU business college deans – Drs. Bill Petty and Jack Griggs – made possible this game-changing gift to benefit the already respected finance program in our College of Business Administration. We are grateful to Bill and Jack for modeling the best attributes of a higher education at Abilene Christian: people who make such a real difference in the world.

Thank you for what you do each day to make our mission possible.

ACU Today is published twice a year by the Division of Marketing and Strategic Communications at Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas.


Editor: Ron Hadfield (’79)

Assistant Editors: Wendy (Waller ’01) Kilmer, Robin (Ward ’82) Saylor

Production Manager: Amber (Gilbert ’99) Bunton

Contributing Writers This Issue: Lance Fleming (’92), Connor Mullins (’23), Garner Roberts (’70), Jonathan Smith (’06)

Contributing Photographers This Issue: Jennie Baker (’76), Steve Butman, CSA, Scott Delony (’06), European Space Agency/Webb, Gerald Ewing, Jeremy Enlow, International Basketball Federation Europe Cup, Riley Fisher (’22), Butch Ireland, Kelly Jordon (’94), J. Lee, Dr. Tom Lee, Kim Leeson, Mike Marvins, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Tim Nelson, David Noles, Phangs-James Webb Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope, Clark Potts (’53), Gary Rhodes (’07), Deonna (Moore ’86) Shake, Dr. Greg Sheppard (’74), Stephanie Solis, Justin Souza, Space Telescope Science Institute, Michael Strong, Erin Brown Thomas, Gordon Trice, Cade White (’88), Paul White (’68)

Contributing Graphic Designers/Illustrators

This Issue: Rosemary Gutierrez (’07), Holly Harrell, Todd Mullins

Editorial Assistants:

Vicki (Warner ’83) Britten, Sharon (McDaniel ’79) Fox, Sean Hennigan



Suzanne Allmon (’79), Will Beasley (’11), Kevin Campbell (’00), Dr. Robert Rhodes, Anthony Williams


Samantha (Bickett ’01) Adkins, Rendi (Young ’83) Hahn, Dan Macaluso, Jim Orr, J.D. (’86) Alumni Relations:

Jama (Fry ’97) Cadle, Taylor Fender (’19), Craig Fisher (’92), April Young (’16)

Marketing and Strategic Communications: Blair Schroeder

Student Life: Tamara (Boyer ’03) Long

Ex-officio: Dr. Phil Schubert (’91)


ACU Today:

ACU Alumni Association:

Record Changes: ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132, 325-674-2620


Abilene Christian University:

Address changes and EXperiences:

ACU Advancement Office (Exceptional Fund, Gift Records):

ACU Alumni Website:

Watch Us on YouTube:

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DR. PHIL SCHUBERT (’91), President

The mission of ACU is to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.

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2 Moody’s New Day 10 Dukes Gift Makes History for COBA 12 Higher Ground: Views From the Top 20 Scott Acton and the James Webb Space Telescope 26 Strategic Plan Overview 28 2021 Alumni Awards OUR PROMISE ACU is a vibrant, innovative, Christ-centered community that engages students in authentic spiritual and intellectual growth, equipping them to make a real difference in the world.
Lights dim, music pulsates and player introductions begin prior to the first men’s basketball game
7, 2022, in Moody Coliseum’s Anthony Arena.
(Photograph by Jeremy Enlow) The south face of Moody Coliseum overlooks the campus mall and glistens in the early evening light.
36 #ACU 38 The Bookcase 40 Hilltop View 44 Academic News 48 Campus News 52 Wildcat Sports 57 Your Gifts at Work 58 EXperiences 80 Second Glance This ISSUE ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 1
(Photograph by Jeremy Enlow)

New DayMoody’s

Venerable coliseum with Anthony Arena reopens following $50 million renovation

or more than 50 years, the familiar exterior shell of Moody Coliseum dominated the ACU landscape. Since 1968, that coliseum has welcomed visitors to campus for volleyball matches, basketball games and NCAA Tournament watch parties, concerts, Opening Assembly, Homecoming Chapel, Lectureship and Summit, Sing Song, Chapel, gospel meetings and Commencement.

It’s hosted the Harlem Globetrotters and the Dallas Cowboys’ All-Star Hoopsters, even men’s professional tennis in the 1970s.

Before the days of computerized registration, students lined up in Moody to select their classes for each semester. During the early days of the pandemic, the arena floor served as a large classroom.

It’s one of the first places a student spends quality time with classmates –

during Wildcat Week as a freshman –and one of the last – Commencement.

In between those two milestones, it’s where friendships have been forged and strengthened. It’s where championships have been competed for and won. It’s where God’s Word has been proclaimed. And it’s where the ACU community has gathered to celebrate, cry, mourn and laugh. Together.

If the Brown Library and McGlothlin Campus Center are the heart of campus, then Moody Coliseum can deservedly be considered its soul.

“So many things that define ACU take place in Moody Coliseum,” said president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91). “Being out of the space for the better part of two years felt like we’d lost part of our identity. But our return to Moody has brought joy and celebration to our entire community. What a blessing to be back where we belong.”

For the last two years, the campus landmark underwent a dramatic facelift, a $50 million transformation that’s the

The $50 million renovation of Moody added many amenities for fans, including improved accessibility, additional leg room in the main seating bowl, larger seats in some sections, upgraded concessions and restrooms, and an improved audio/visual system with 21 LED boards.
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The first significant upgrade of Moody since its opening in 1968 added three-story-tall towers on the north and south, and 36,000 square feet.
“So many things that define ACU take place in Moody Coliseum. Being out of the space for the better part of two years felt like we’d lost part of our identity. But our return to Moody has brought joy and celebration to our entire community. What a blessing to be back where we belong.”
Fans entering the north lobby find a new Ticket Center, displays and special recognition of the renovation project’s 695 donors. Wildcats teams enter Anthony Arena from the west concourse, via a new player tunnel. Fans entering Moody from the campus mall pass through the Haskin Family South Lobby. “The ACU,” a 25-foot-long, 7-foot-tall, 3D monument sign near the south entrance, provides a perfect place for photo ops with family and friends. (See story on page 17.)


centerpiece of the university’s comprehensive $250 million Higher Ground campaign. The first major renovation of Moody in its 54-year existence – including an expansion of related GameDay spaces and facilities for the volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball programs –has dramatically changed the look of the structure, inside and out.

Gone is the outdated exterior, replaced by metal and steel that mirror new exteriors of Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium and the Teague Center, the latter of which served as the home venue for volleyball and basketball each of the two previous seasons.

The interior is completely different as well. In fact, visitors to the first few events of the 2022-23 school year might have needed a map to determine where they were in relation to the campus mall or north parking lot. It’s a dramatic and much-needed improvement from visual and operational standpoints.

A 21-month renovation that stripped the interior to its shell began in December 2020 and was completed in time for Opening Assembly on Aug. 29, 2022. The first Opening Assembly in Moody since August 2019 felt like an early Homecoming of sorts as students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors gathered to see what their old friend looked like following an extended makeover.

What they found was a venue designed to serve the campus well into the next half-century of its life. Thanks to the generosity of April (Bullock ’89) and Mark (’86) Anthony, renovations to the main seating area in newly named Anthony Arena will improve the fan experience and provide additional legroom and larger seats in some sections. Additionally, improved accessibility all around and the

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Two display cases near the north lobby feature mannequins with uniforms worn by Wildcat basketball and volleyball teams, and standout former players in the modern Division I era. “Moody Memories” look back at the venue’s major concerts, speakers and other top moments, and how campus life has been shaped by Moody-centric traditions on the Hill. Historical displays in the north lobby recognize head coaches who have taken ACU basketball teams to national and regional tournaments.


addition of a 2,000-square-foot club/hospitality room will enhance the GameDay experience.

Each of the teams that call Moody “home” received a new locker room, player lounge, film room, office suites for coaches and a shared training room. The new Orr Practice Gymnasium – named for Jayne (Montgomery ’83) and Doug (’83) Orr – that all three will share is the old Gym C in the Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center, and it, too, has been transformed as part of the overall renovation. Inside the arena, Wessel Court is the Wildcats’ bright new playing surface, thanks to benefactors Rick (’81) and Debbie (Rains ’80) Wessel.

Moody’s exterior has a new face and footprint with the addition of north and south towers, each three stories tall. In the north tower, the first floor houses the ticketing office, the north lobby and one of two major entrances. The second floor features athletics administrative offices, and the third floor houses basketball offices for men’s and women’s coaching staff. The other tower features a second main entrance and a grand two-story Haskin Family South Lobby. The club/hospitality area is on the third floor.

Concessions and restrooms were upgraded throughout, and a pair of elevators – one on each end of the coliseum – now ferry visitors to the upper floors. Creative displays in the north lobby and two concourses celebrate Wildcat basketball and volleyball history, and memorable major events in the life of Moody.

“I’m so thankful for the support our donors have given us by making this remodel a reality,” said men’s basketball head coach Brette Tanner “Now it’s up to us to make sure we live up to the expectations that go along with the gifts and sacrifices made

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SCOTT DELONY Major donors to the Moody renovation project were recognized during the men’s basketball game Nov. 7. From left: Zack Lassiter, vice president for athletics; Tommy Morris (’55); Jana (Gilpatrick ’81) and Mark (’80) Hanner; April (Bullock ’89) Anthony; Rick (’81) and Debbie (Rains ’79) Wessel; Jenni (Wessel ’04) and Travis (’05) Haskin and their children, Holden and Harper; and president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91). Not pictured: Mark Anthony (’86), Martha (Smith ’58) Morris, Ray (’49) McGlothlin Jr.; and Jayne (Montgomery ’83) and Doug (’83) Orr. Opening Assembly on the first day of Fall 2022 attracted a full house to Moody’s Anthony Arena.
Senior middle blocker Breanna Box and her teammates were the first ACU team to compete in Anthony Arena, hosting the Oklahoma Sooners of the Big 12 Conference on Sept. 13. Rick (’81) and Debbie (Rains ’79) Wessel are namesakes of Wessel Court in Anthony Arena. Graduate forward Maleeah Langstaff and the women’s basketball team routed Howard Payne 89-37 in their Nov. 9 season opener in Anthony Arena. The men’s basketball team played its season opener Nov. 7 in Anthony Arena, capturing a 65-56 win over Jackson State. Each of the three teams competing in Moody has its own dedicated film room. All three Wildcat teams have spacious team suites including an adjacent locker room and film room. Wildcat basketball and volleyball history are celebrated on murals and in display cases in the West Concourse. The training center includes hydrotherapy tubs and other amenities to help student-athletes recover from competition and prepare for the next practice, game or match. All three Wildcat teams have sparkling new locker rooms with state-of-the-art accommodations.

to give us a first-class facility. We have three programs that call Moody home – men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball – and I know I can speak for those head coaches [ Julie Goodenough in women’s basketball and Alisa Blair in volleyball] when I say how much it means that we get to play in and use this kind of venue every day.”

It took a little time, but the 21-month wait was worth it. You can see it in the eyes of anyone who passes through the doors for the first time and wonders how something so different can feel so familiar.

Students and alumni are transported back to the first time they watched or performed in Sing Song. Memories flood back, whether thinking about meeting one’s best friend or spouse in Chapel, taking the floor with teammates to fight for a win, cheer from Section F at a big game, or being hooded by a parent or other loved one at Commencement with family and friends on hand to celebrate the achievement.

Whatever one’s experience, a measure of peace has returned to the Hill, knowing Moody Coliseum is once again our gathering place. 

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“I’m so thankful for the support our donors have given us by making this remodel a reality. Now it’s up to us to make sure we live up to the expectations that go along with the gifts and sacrifices made to give us a first-class facility.”
HIGHER GROUND Tickets on sale now at ACUSPORTS.COM See Bonus Coverage at
In the east concourse, the Hanner Family Academic Center and Hospitality Suite provides a place for Wildcats to access academic tutoring. The former Gym C in the Royce and Pam Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center is now Orr Practice Gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, thanks to the generosity of Jayne (Montgomery ’83) and Doug (’83) Orr.
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Peck Plaza and the new GATA Fountain now help frame the south entrance to Moody.
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FROM LEFT: Board chair April (Bullock ’89) Anthony, president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) and provost Dr. Robert Rhodes were all smiles at Opening Assembly. SCOTT DELONY Students participate in the traditional Parade of Flags at Opening Assembly. SCOTT DELONY
Dr. Robert “Bob” Hunter (’52), vice president emeritus and namesake of the new Bob Hunter Sing Song Stage, waves to the Opening Assembly crowd. SCOTT DELONY Students, faculty, staff, alumni and other guests filled Moody for the traditional Opening Assembly on Aug. 29, 2022. SCOTT DELONY
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ACU cheerleaders greet fans entering Anthony Arena from the North Lobby.

Basketball coaches recognized include A.B. Morris, Dee Nutt (’50), Burl McCoy (’55), Suzanne Johnson Fox (’90), Mike Martin, Shawna Lavender, Wayne Williams (’79), Willard Tate, Shanon Hays, Joe Golding (’99), Julie Goodenough and Brette Tanner.

In the North Lobby exhibit, legendary coach and athletics administrator A.B. Morris is pictured being carried off the court in 1950 after his team won its third straight Texas Conference title and 28th consecutive league game.

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A closer look at historical murals and display cases in the West Concourse, each designed to celebrate top moments in ACU basketball and volleyball history.
Volleyball history at ACU is celebrated near the entry to Orr Practice Gymnasium, a renovated venue now dedicated to use by all three Wildcat teams sharing Moody Coliseum.
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The player lounge in the Kay and Ray McGlothlin Women’s Basketball Team Suite The locker room in the Kay and Ray McGlothlin Women’s Basketball Team Suite
The locker room in the Morris Family Men’s Basketball Team Suite The player lounge in the Women’s Volleyball Team Suite
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The third-floor office of Julie Goodenough, women’s head basketball coach The men’s basketball conference room on the third floor of Moody
The Drennan Conference Room, is named in memory of former trustee and athletics director A. Don Drennan (’58). The second-floor office of Zack Lassiter, vice president for athletics
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“Moody Memories” murals line the concourse hallway. Fans enter the Haskin Family South Lobby.

Fans now have have their choice of two concessions stands in the concourse of Moody.

The new Club Level provides a place for season ticket holders to gather before, during and after games in Anthony Arena.

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Senior outside hitter Jada Birkel attempts to score against the University of Oklahoma in ACU’s Sept. 13, 2022, match in Moody. TIM NELSON Head volleyball coach Alisa Blair talks with her team during its match with Oklahoma. TIM NELSON
Senior middle blocker Breanna Box (6) and senior outside hitter Jada Birkel celebrate a point against Oklahoma in their home-opener in Moody. TIM NELSON Senior Madison Rohre (5) sets for freshman outside hitter Ashli Edmiston during the home-opener versus Oklahoma. TIM NELSON
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Athletics GameDay staff work in the new video production booth high above Wessel Court. Fans in the Club Level of Anthony Arena have a new vantage point from which to cheer on the Wildcats.



Fans have video options for their viewing experience in Anthony Arena. All seats in Moody offer improved leg room, easier access and cupholders.
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Multiple seating sections are dedicated for ACU student use on the north end of Anthony Arena. Graduate guard Tobias Cameron led ACU with 18 points in its 65-56 home-opening win over Jackson State.
Fans pose for a new tradition in Moody: a postgame photo with head coach Brette Tanner and the men’s basketball team. Sophomore guard Ali Abdou Dibba shoots in the home win over Jackson State.
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ACU and Howard Payne tip off the first women’s game in renovated Moody on Nov. 9, 2022.
Fans pose for a new tradition in Moody: a postgame photo with head coach Julie Goodenough and the women’s basketball team. Sophomore transfer forward Raychael Harjo scores in ACU’s 89-37 season-opening win against Howard Payne.

Dukes estate creates landmark $29 million gift to COBA’s finance program

hen Dr. Jack Griggs (’64) stepped off an airplane in Lubbock, Texas, in the early 1970s, all he knew was that he was meeting a job interviewer.

He didn’t even think he wanted the job, so he wouldn’t have guessed he would be meeting a future colleague, mentor, occasional hunting buddy and lifelong friend.

He certainly didn’t know the relationship that began that day would one day pave the way for the largest single academic gift in ACU history.

In December 2022, the late Dr. Bill and Janie Dukes gave, through their estate, more than $29 million to Abilene Christian University, which will be used to establish the Dr. William P. and Janie B. Dukes Excellence in Finance Endowment.

The endowment will support prestigious finance student scholarships, prepare students to attend highly preferred graduate programs and establish several endowed faculty positions in finance. The university will also launch the Dukes School of Finance within the College of Business Administration in 2023 in recognition for the historic gift.

“This overwhelmingly generous gift presents a permanent base of funding that allows us to resource and dream at a completely new level about the coursework, experiences and outcomes we can offer to our finance students,” said Dr. Brad Crisp (’93), dean of ACU’s College of Business Administration.

Bill Dukes served in the Marines and taught finance for 45 years at Texas Tech University. He died in June 2015 at age 94. Janie Dukes was raised a

Southern Baptist, and left substantial estate gifts to several Baptist organizations and charities after her passing in June 2022 at age 96. Neither had direct connections to ACU. But the story of how such a generous gift came to be made to the university boils down to relationships.

Common bonds

Griggs only thought he wouldn’t be interested in the position at the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University. But Dukes convinced him he needed to look no further after finishing his doctorate at The University of Texas at Austin.

Although Griggs taught at Texas Tech for only two years, by the time he left to work for a bank, he knew he had found a lifelong friend.

“Bill Dukes was a man of great dignity, honor and respect, and he had all the traits you would want in a friend. He was the kind of man you wanted to honor,” Griggs said.

Griggs recommended that Texas Tech replace him with his old college roommate and Abilene Christian classmate, Dr. Bill Petty (’64). Petty was hired and went to work with Dukes at Tech. Another connection to ACU was forged.

Petty joined the ACU business faculty in 1979 and in 1981, he became dean of COBA, a role in which Griggs would later

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serve himself, from 1991-99. Petty credits Dukes with helping to prepare him for that role.

“Having him as my example of an academic leader made a big difference in how I led,” Petty said. “I was a better dean at ACU because I knew Bill Dukes.”

Although work separated Dukes, Griggs, Petty and several other former colleagues, they weren’t ready to put their friendship on hold. A small group took to gathering each year for a deer hunting trip, beginning in 1979. Though interest in hunting varied wildly throughout the group, Dukes was the glue that held the crew together. The hunting eventually stopped, but the annual gatherings did not, even until Dukes’ death in 2015. They lovingly referred to themselves as “Dukes’ Dudes.”

Meanwhile, the bonds between Dukes, Petty and Griggs continued to strengthen. When Dukes was baptized in 2000, it was Griggs and Petty standing on either side of him in the baptistry. Dukes’ own daughters, Lynn and Sherry, died in 2000 and 1989, respectively, and he eventually came to see Griggs and Petty as surrogate sons.

“We just became family,” said Petty, professor emeritus of finance who taught from 1990-2018 in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. “We were his boys, and I think he was proud of us.”

Both men have been trustees of Abilene Christian – Petty from 2006-21 and Griggs from 1974-91 and again from 2011 to present.

A big surprise

If anyone was aware of Bill and Janie’s savings, Griggs and Petty weren’t among them. Even when Dukes asked Griggs to be executor of his estate and they discussed how his assets should be directed, Griggs didn’t have a full understanding of the scope until after Dukes died.

The couple lived in a modest home and drove the same car for 10 or 15 years at a time. No pretensions of wealth. But through it all, Bill Dukes was saving – and investing. For as conservatively as he spent money, the longtime finance professor invested boldly.

Griggs and Petty believe the gift to ACU was Dukes’ way of honoring his two lifelong friends who became family, blessing a place that meant so much to them.

Others who knew the Dukes family well say they would be excited to see their gift put into action.

“Bill would be absolutely thrilled to see that this gift is going toward the edification and education of others. He believed that a good education was key to fulfillment and success in life,” said Kathy Suchy, one of Bill’s colleagues at Texas Tech who became a devoted friend and caretaker for the couple. “Janie would feel great pride in the fact that so many people will benefit, in perpetuity, from all their hard work, savings and sacrifice.”

Crisp said the endowment gift will allow COBA to dream big about how to take the finance program to a new level. It will enable the college to offer substantial scholarships and add faculty resources to a program that currently has three tenured or tenure-track faculty and 139 students. And as a result, the gift will prepare more Christians to enter the world of finance.

“Bill Dukes was constantly searching for excellence in everything he did,” Griggs said. “He wanted to be the best. And that’s what he wanted for the finance program with this gift. He wanted it to be the best in its class – now and in the future.”

A wonderful legacy for the couple and for relationships that got their start so many years ago on that Lubbock tarmac. 

The Dukes File

Family: Dr. William P. “Bill” Dukes was born in North Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1920. He was married 73 years to Janie Blake Dukes, with two daughters, the late Lynn Ayre Wheatcraft and Sheryl “Sheri” Leah Dukes. Bill died in 2015 at age 94 and Janie died in 2022 at age 96.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in military science from the University of Maryland (1953), MBA in finance from the University of Michigan (1958), Ph.D. in business and finance from Cornell University (1968).

World War II: Dukes was finishing Navy flight training in St. Louis when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. He entered the Marines as a second lieutenant, earning two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and seven Air Medals, among other honors. While in Japan he was commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines Division. While stationed at Marine headquarters near the Pentagon, he coordinated a $200 million budget for ammunition and equipment used by combat units around the world. He retired as a colonel and was later promoted to brigadier general.

Teaching career: Dukes taught 45 years in the finance department of the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University. He received 16 awards for teaching and research, including being named inaugural recipient of the Outstanding Educator Award from the Southwestern Finance Association (2004) and the President’s Academic Achievement Award (2006), one of Texas Tech’s highest honors for a faculty member. He was named James E. and Elizabeth F. Sowell Professor of Finance at Texas Tech in 2007.

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The Orrs’ stewardship and quiet generosity speak volumes about their investment in ACU

hey don’t seek the spotlight. In fact, they’d be perfectly happy to work behind the scenes.

But that doesn’t mean the impact of Jayne (Montgomery ’83) and Doug (’83) Orr isn’t felt far and wide, especially at Abilene Christian, where they have a long – and still growing – family history.

Doug’s ACU history stretches back a generation or more on each side. On his mom’s side, his grandmother worked for the university and lived nearby.

“My grandparents lived right across the street on Campus Court, so we spent a lot of time on campus growing up,” Doug said. “That was our playground.”

On his dad’s side, the ACU connection runs strong – literally. Doug’s father, Rob (’52), was the youngest of four brothers – also including Forrest (’38), Graham (’40) and Wilson “Dub” (’50) – who all played center for Abilene Christian’s football team.

“My mom and dad, they instilled in us what a special place ACU is,” he said. “And we got to see firsthand the connections and friendships they formed here. It truly was a legacy.”

Jayne, however, is a first-generation Wildcat. As a high schooler, she visited Harding University and Abilene Christian from her home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Not wanting to travel too far from home, she chose ACU for its proximity to the Metroplex and familiarity – she knew several people from her church who also had attended.

Her decision paid off almost immediately. She quickly formed bonds with her professors in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication and received educational

experiences she might not have received at other universities.

“I was able to jump right in and do actual hands-on work during my freshman year,” Jayne said.

Doug had seen several relatives go through the accounting program and knew the graduates went on to succeed, so that was his plan upon arrival.

“We’ve got a lot of accountants in our family, so maybe that’s just the way we were wired,” Doug joked.

Jayne joined the GATA sorority, and Doug was a part of the Frater Sodalis fraternity – brother and sister clubs. They knew each other through club events but didn’t start dating until the end of the fall semester in their senior year. After graduation, Jayne moved back to her hometown of Fort Worth, and Doug landed an accounting job there with PricewaterhouseCoopers. The couple were married in the summer of 1984 and now live in North Richland Hills, Texas.

Doug has continued to work in business and finance. For the past 20 years, he’s worked as executive vice president and chief financial officer of FirstCash Holdings Inc.

The couple has five children – Mason (’08), Bryce (’12), Madeline (’15), Benton (’17) and Meredith (’19) – all of whom graduated from ACU. Most of them also met their eventual spouses on campus, so the Orr family connection to the university remains strong.

For years, the Orrs have felt a call to give back.

“We’ve been blessed financially throughout our lives,” Jayne said. “ACU has given so much to our family over the years. Even though we don’t have kids there at school anymore, it’s nice to see the

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students benefiting and enjoying campus.”

One of their early gifts to the university went toward an education building renovation. Both of Doug’s parents, as well as grandparents, were educators, and so the Orrs felt a personal connection to that project.

Many of their other gifts have followed a similar trajectory. Jayne and one of her daughters were students in the JMC department, so when the university was looking to upgrade the TV studio in the Don H. Morris Center, the Orrs stepped up. And now students get hands-on, real-world experience in the state-of-the-art Doug and Jayne Orr TV Studio, handling broadcasts of countless campus events as well as Division I athletics on the ESPN+ streaming service.

“Doug and Jayne have been unparalleled partners in helping us make ACUTV a center of excellence on campus,” said Dr. Kenneth Pybus (’89), chair of journalism and mass communication. “Their support has transformed the way we train

students for the marketplace and their careers, and the presence of ACUTV on campus now serves to highlight the stellar work faculty, staff and students are doing – in the classroom, in the lab and on the playing field.”

Recently, the Orrs became namesakes of the Jayne and Doug Orr Practice Gymnasium, an element of the Moody Coliseum renovation project completed in 2022 as part of the university’s Higher Ground campaign. Athletics played an important role in the legacy that led Doug to ACU, and he said he enjoys being able to give back to those types of projects because of the excitement, camaraderie and pride that athletics can build on campus.

They’ve passed that same desire to give back on to the next generation as well.

“Growing up, I witnessed my parents’ commitment to giving back through how they allocated their time,” said their son, Bryce, who lives in Dallas. “They have always been quick to help those in need and

volunteered their kids’ time right along with theirs” – an experience he didn’t always understand as a young child but has grown to be an important part of his life.

“They also guided us in demonstrating the importance of putting God first in our finances,” he said. “They’ve always given steadily, and as their blessings have increased over time, they upped the philanthropy to a greater degree.”

Several years ago, the Orrs created a foundation to help direct their philanthropy, and they included their children as board members. The goal was to allow them to explore their interests and be ableto give back.

For Bryce, it has been an opportunity for him and his siblings to discover their passion for giving back both financially and with their time to organizations like Teen Life, which offers support groups for teens to find a safe place and connection.

“I’ve had a front-row seat to how donors like my parents are making a difference in the lives of teenagers,” he said. “Both of my parents came from humble roots, and they have continued to live that life today. They are good stewards of what God has blessed them with and focus on what they can do to help their children and others before they worry about themselves. They are great mentors and examples of focusing on making eternal investments – not short-term, frivolous pleasures.”

For a couple that doesn’t demand to be in the spotlight, the Orrs certainly have been a beacon for their family and many in need, as well as the ACU community, where the family legacy will continue to grow for generations to come. 

14 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
Orr TV Studio provides students the best equipment and other resources for learning from mentors like video production manager Hutton Harris (’08). JEREMY ENLOW

Boone Family Theatre transforms Cullen

oth the physical building and the name of ACU’s former Cullen Auditorium have undergone major renovation in the past 18 months. The nearly 45-year-old facility emerged in Fall 2022 as an upgraded performance venue ready for its second act.

The $9.5 million renovation was designed to bring Homecoming Musicals back to campus for the first time in more than 50 years, and recognize a family of entertainers whose name is known throughout the music world.

The Don H. Morris Center houses classrooms, offices, studios, lecture halls, media labs, an art gallery, and, until this past year, it included Cullen, a multipurpose auditorium originally named in 1978 for the late Roy and Lillian Cullen.

The renovation, which was made possible through gifts from numerous individuals and a naming gift from an anonymous donor, transformed Cullen into Boone

Family Theatre, now suitable for even more on-campus performances and events. Upgrades included:

• A new, north-facing entrance and lobby, making it more visible and accessible to the community.

• Installation of digitally controlled, state-of-the-art lighting, sound and acoustical clouds.

• Structural improvements to accommodate the installation of sets.

• Replacement of the original heating, ventilation and air conditioning system with a quiet one required for performance venues.

• Expansion on the north end to provide dressing rooms and a green room.

• Enhanced seating accessibility.

Since its completion in September, the venue has already hosted choir and band concerts, small-group Chapels, the annual Ethnos culture show, classes and public lectures, and student movie nights. In the spring, Sing Song rehearsals, more concerts, Chapels and other student activities are slated to take place there.

The Department of Theatre will also produce its first show in Boone: Godspell, the popular Tony Award-winning musical performed on and off Broadway and around the world since the 1970s. Show dates are April 21-23, 2023.

And, in Fall 2023, ACU’s Homecoming Musical will be staged on campus for the first time in half a century.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of donors and the administration to make it possible for us to bring Homecoming musicals back home,” said Dawne Swearingen Meeks (’06), chair of the Department of Theatre. “We were thankful for the opportunity to be downtown, but the idea of being on the Hill, working

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 15
Boone was a featured performer at the first Sing Song in Moody in 1968. STEVE BUTMAN


with our campus partners, is such a blessing.”

The career of Pat Boone was built on a faith-based lifestyle befitting his deep roots in Churches of Christ, and commitment to his family.

Boone Family Theatre namesakes include him and his late wife, Shirley; their daughters, Debby, Cherry, Lindy and Laury; his brother, Nick; and Shirley’s late father, country music legend Red Foley

In the 1950s, pop recording artists Boone and Elvis Presley were credited with ushering rock ’n’ roll music into American culture. Pat sold 45 million records and his songs spent 220 consecutive weeks on Billboard charts, an all-time record.

His younger brother, whose stage name was Nick Todd, had a short recording career with two Top 100 pop hits in 1957, including “At The Hop,” which reached No. 21.

Daughter Debby’s 1977 single, “You Light Up My Life,” set in motion an award-winning career, and allowed her to perform lead roles in national tours of The Sound of Music and The King and I, and Grease on Broadway. She and her siblings, known as The Boone Girls, recorded albums of pop and religious music.

Shirley recorded two albums with Pat, and they had been married 65 years when she died in 2019.

Pat performed twice at ACU’s Sing Song, including in 1970 when Shirley and their daughters joined him on stage. He recorded a 1961 gospel album,“My God and I,” with the university’s A Cappella Chorus. 


Boone recorded a gospel album in 1961 with the A Cappella Chorus.

Boone was the featured speaker in 1968 at a National Youth Forum that drew a capacity crowd to Moody Coliseum. The lobby includes environmental graphics highlighting the careers of the musical Boone family.

The venue’s new northwest entry leads to a signature lobby.

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Hutchins honors parents, ACU with landmark, photo op

As Leslie (Pickett ’04) Hutchins, M.D., listened during an ACU Board of Trustees meeting, the timing seemed like much more than coincidence.

While the president of the Student Government Association made a presentation seeking support for a large ACU logo sign to go on the campus mall outside the south entrance of the renovated Moody Coliseum, Hutchins couldn’t help but remember a detail from the story she had heard just the day before: Her father saw her mother for the first time near that very spot before the pair officially met at school during the 1970s.

“I felt like it was God’s way of showing me that this was a project that hit close to home for me,” said Hutchins, a neurosurgeon from Abilene.

Plans for the sign, now known as “The ACU,” were in early renderings of the Moody Coliseum renovation, but its inclusion was never guaranteed. When Bekah Jones (’22), then-president of SGA, approached Kevin Campbell (’00), ACU’s senior vice president for operations, about the senior class providing some sort of monument in front of the renovated Moody, Campbell shared with her the plans for the sign.

The cost was more than the senior class alone could provide, but Jones agreed the students would help make the case for donor support. And as Hutchins listened to her

make that case before the Board of Trustees, she saw an opportunity to support ACU students as well as honor her parents, who have spent their lives supporting students.

Debbe (Pace ’74) Pickett earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from ACU, and Hubert Pickett (’76) earned a bachelor’s in physical education and a master’s. degree in 1983. He played fullback on the 1973 NAIA national championship football team and also later served as an ACU trustee from 1994-2009.

The couple worked in Abilene schools until 2012 and then for several more years at a Fort Worth-area school. Now retired, they enjoy seeing Hutchins and her 10-year-old daughter often.

The sign – which features a horizontal version of the ACU Athletics logo – was lowered into place with a crane in September 2022. At 25 feet long, 7 feet high and 3 feet deep, it became an instant landmark on the campus mall. The bottom of the “U” protudes and doubles as a bench –an ideal place to pose for photos.

Hutchins appreciates that the sign is something all students and alumni can enjoy – a place where they can capture their pride for a place she loves so much.

“I was provided for as a student – I was a Presidential Scholar,” Hutchins said. “And because of that, I want to continue that cycle and give back more than I received.” 

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 17
STEVE BUTMAN and Debbe Pickett; and Leslie’s daughter, Talia.

eslie Fry’s introduction to giving to ACU came early in life, thanks to two grandparents who never had the opportunity to attend but believed in the value of Christian education. Fry (’87) was later a beneficiary of their sacrificial giving: His grandparents helped him and four other family members enroll and graduate as Wildcats.

D.S. and Pauline Riggs – the parents of Fry’s mother – were friends with then-president Dr. John Stevens (’38) at the time their children – Glenda (Riggs ’62) Fry and Jerry Don Riggs (’64) – were in school. They so believed in the value of what ACU was pouring into their children that they wanted to ensure each grandchild could attend.

Their generosity allowed Leslie and his sister,

Elizabeth Fry (’85), to enroll along with cousins Stephanie (Riggs ’87) Ellis, Jon Riggs (’90) and Susan (Riggs ’93) Piersall.

With such deep roots on the Hill, it’s no surprise Fry has given to the university for a total of 32 years, including the last 28 years consecutively. He has been one of ACU’s most loyal and generous donors to the Exceptional Fund, which benefits student scholarships, faculty and innovative programs that enrich every student’s experience.

He has partnered with Abilene Christian many times on Exceptional Fund matching gift challenges, encouraging others to give to the fund to help ACU and the students it serves. While he has multiple philanthropic interests on campus, Fry believes this investment can be the most consequential.

“Those gifts are usually to help the university meet a year-end goal,” he said. “And people like

18 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY

giving to matching fund goals when they know their dollars will be doubled.

“I’m a CPA by trade, and over the years, I’ve worked with many nonprofit entities,” Fry said. “I understand the need for unrestricted funds, and that’s why most of my gifts have gone to the Exceptional Fund. I’ve tried each year to help along the way. While ACU always appreciates donations for specific causes – whether an endowment, capital campaign or a named project –gifts to the Exceptional Fund are behind-the-scenes ones because they help the university in so many ways. It’s like any nonprofit I’ve ever worked with: The more monthly or annual donors you have, the better and stronger your organization.”

Fry earned a B.B.A. in accounting and is now a retired partner with Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP (now Forvis LLP) who still consults on an as-needed basis. He credits his grandparents for helping him financially but also for being role models of generosity.

“My grandparents gave to ACU, and they helped make it possible for their grandchildren to do the same,” Fry said. “It was always stressed to me that if one day I had the ability to help others in the same way, I should. It goes back to this idea of being willing to give back because so much has been given to us.”

Fry also has established an endowed scholarship in the name of his parents, Jack (’61) and Glenda Fry of Granbury, Texas, and contributed annually to it. The Jack and Glenda Fry Endowed Teacher Education Scholarship began in 2014 and assists deserving students each year who are pursuing an education degree from ACU.

He wants current students, recent graduates and older alums who aren’t annual donors to see how being consistently generous to their alma mater is a form of gratitude for what they have received.

“We can never repay what ACU has given us,” Fry said. “It’s not just the education but the lifelong friendships and the witness of Christ we experienced that are life-changing. Hopefully, those things have helped each of us professionally, personally and in our Christian lives. I believe I’ve been able to play a small part in helping others.”

Fund retooled to focus on removing financial barriers for students

The name has changed over the years, but for decades, ACU’s Annual Fund has operated with a broad, yet specific purpose: to provide for the university’s greatest need at the moment.

In recent years, the Exceptional Fund – as it has been known since 2010 – has provided funds to benefit student scholarships, ACU’s world-class faculty, innovative programs that enrich the experience of every student, and more.

In November 2022, the fund evolved again, gaining an even more specific purpose to fulfill a central tenet of the Higher Ground campaign: removing financial barriers for current and future Wildcats.

“All too often, a student’s final decision about college still comes down to our ability to offer competitive financial aid,” said Dan Macaluso, vice president for advancement.

After ACU enrolled its largest-ever student body in Fall 2022, Macaluso said it became apparent that the university’s greatest need from its annual fund was providing scholarships to help put an ACU education within reach for any student who wants it.

“We are committed to ensuring that every qualified student who wants a Christ-centered, world-class education can experience that at ACU,” Macaluso said.

To reflect this renewed focus, the fund will be renamed the Exceptional Scholarship Fund, and 100% of the dollars donated will go directly back to students in the form of financial aid.

As part of this new focus, donors who give $1,000 or more to this newly renamed fund over the course of an academic year can create a scholarship that ACU will award to a student the following year. Each additional $1,000 a donor gives will create a new scholarship, and donors can renew them annually with continued giving.

No matter what amount donors are able to give, Macaluso said the renewed focus on scholarships will ensure they know exactly how vital their gifts are.

“Each year you give, you’ll know these students are another step closer to realizing their dreams, discovering their calling and becoming the difference-makers this world needs,” he said.

To learn more about the Exceptional Scholarship Fund or to make a gift, visit

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 19
“My grandparents gave to ACU, and they helped make it possible for their grandchildren to do the same. It was always stressed to me that if one day I had the ability to help others in the same way, I should.”
20 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
Dr. Scott Acton focused the James Webb Space Telescope on capturing new, breathtaking views of the universe
Dr. Scott Acton was pictured in the telescope’s primary mirror – more than 21 feet tall – in a test during construction. NASA

r. Scott Acton (’84) remembers the exact moment a spark was ignited within him to become a physicist.

In the summer of 1976, he was playing with a set of dominoes on the floor at his house in Riverton, Wyoming. His uncle, who was a Methodist minister, began asking him a series of questions:

“What do you think would happen if we pushed these dominoes closer together? Would they fall down faster or slower? What would happen if we spread them farther apart?”

Acton and his uncle performed those experiments together.

“Then he said three words that changed my life,” Acton recalled. “He said, ‘That’s physics, Scott.’

“I remember thinking, there’s a job where you get to do this kind of stuff all day long and you get paid for it?” Acton said. “I lived in a tiny town in Wyoming, and I couldn’t see any further than the street I lived on. I had no vision, and just the tiniest little spark was ignited. From then on, when people asked me what I was going to do when I grew up, I said, ‘I’m going to study physics.’ ”

That moment set Acton on a trajectory leading him on a 24-year journey to help develop one

of the most significant scientific instruments of our times: the James Webb Space Telescope. As the largest and most complex space observatory ever built, Webb’s unprecedented sensitivity to infrared light is allowing scientists to explore the early universe, the formation of galaxies through time, the life cycle of stars and other worlds outside our solar system.

In early 2022, Acton was among the first to see test images sent back from the telescope after its successful launch.

Though he had an idea what was coming, those images left Acton speechless. He had spent half a lifetime working on the mission,

Dozens of previously hidden jets and outflows from young stars are revealed in this new image of the Cosmic Cliffs from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam). This image separates out several wavelengths of light from the first image revealed on July 12, 2022, which highlight molecular hydrogen, a vital ingredient for star formation. NASA, ESA, CSA AND STSCI. IMAGE PROCESSING: J. DEPASQUALE (STSCI)

most recently as Webb’s wavefront sensing and controls scientist with Ball Aerospace. But to see it in action went beyond his expectations.

“These images have profoundly changed the way I see the universe,” he said at the time.

On March 11, after a key alignment stage in space, the first diffraction-limited image was taken. The telescope was pointed at a location in Ursa Major, and the image contained 241 distinct galaxies.

On his way home that night, he tweeted to a friend, “We are surrounded by a symphony of creation. There are galaxies everywhere.”

A couple of weeks later, NASA asked him for a quote, “and I thought, ‘Oh, what am I going to say?’ Then I remembered this tweet. I hit copy and paste and sent it to them and it went viral.”

Those early images made him think of Job 38:7, which says during the creation of the universe “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”

“I pictured these galaxies singing, maybe not in any words humans could understand, but the emotion we could definitely understand,” he said. “In my mind I pictured that God was expressing joy that humankind after all this time could finally see the universe.”

Fanning the physics flame

Acton enrolled in Central Wyoming College after high school, not realizing he couldn’t study

“I pictured these galaxies singing, maybe not in any words humans could understand, but the emotion we could definitely understand. In my mind I pictured that God was expressing joy that humankind after all this time could finally see the universe.”

physics there. He began to search for a university with a physics program. His friend and mentor Stanley Shipp (’46), an ACU chemistry graduate who later became a legendary missionary, told Acton, “I want you to go to Abilene Christian College.”

“I did a little checking around,” Acton said. “It turned out ACC had become ACU, and they had a physics program. I was accepted within the week.”

There he met Drs. Charles Ivey (’65), Paul Morris (’66), Paul Schulze (’62), Mike Sadler and David Talent “I wasn’t a very good student,” he said. “You always talk about people graduating magna cum laude and summa cum laude. I graduated ‘thank the laude.’ I remember going through Commencement ceremonies in 1984, sitting there and studying for a final exam in classical mechanics. If I didn’t pass that exam I wouldn’t get my degree. I went later and took that test and didn’t do very well, but Paul Schulze decided to pass me, and Mike Sadler gave me a recommendation for graduate school

44 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s mid-infrared view of the Pillars of Creation strikes a chilling tone. Thousands of stars that exist in this region seem to disappear, since stars typically do not emit much mid-infrared light, and seemingly endless layers of gas and dust become the centerpiece. The detection of dust by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) is extremely important – dust is a major ingredient for star formation.



at Texas Tech University. These guys believed in me.”

While at ACU, he also met his wife, Heidi (Neiderheiser ’84). They have two children, John, who recently graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, and Stacy Gasvoda (’15), who is working on her master’s degree in speech pathology. Stacy’s husband, David (’14), is a lawyer in Kansas City.

Acton first began working full time with telescopes at Keck Observatory in Hawaii. “We were the first big telescope in the world to incorporate something known as adaptive optics,” he said.

After six years, he was ready for a new challenge so he took a job with Ball Aerospace’s technology corporation, which had a contract to work on development of the Webb.

In 2005, he became the wavefront sensing and controls scientist for the project. His job was to put together algorithms, a ground system and a team to align and phase the telescope after launch. In layman’s terms, he was tasked with focusing the

telescope – “except usually you adjust a single knob to focus something,” he said, “and we have hundreds of knobs that all have to be focused.”

Trek of a lifetime

A delay in the project in 2016 allowed Acton to embark on a second journey, fulfilling a lifetime dream of riding his bicycle around the world. But even that leg of his life’s journey was not without challenges.

His goal was to spend a year bicycling about 15,000 miles around the globe, giving lectures to communities, schools and colleges along the way. He was cycling about 200 miles a week in preparation for the tour when he started feeling a pain in the center of his chest when he would begin a ride.

“I’m an endurance athlete, so there couldn’t be anything wrong with my heart, right?” he said. “Well, wrong. It turns out the arteries in my heart were clogged beyond anybody’s imagination. So one month before I was going to begin this journey, I had to have an emergency quadruple

bypass operation to restore blood flow to my heart and to save my life. I was one cheeseburger away from a coronary.”

His daughter was to get married in three days. “I asked my doctor if I could wait until after the wedding for the surgery,” Acton said. “And he said, ‘Yeah, that way all the family will be in town for the funeral.’ I attended the wedding by Facetime on my phone.”

After recovering from the bypass, Acton began his bicycle trek by riding north from Boulder, Colorado, to Fairbanks, Alaska. Then he cycled across Europe – through Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. He returned to Boulder and went south, which took him through Abilene, where he met up with Samuel Cook, a good friend and ACU associate professor of music, who rode with him as far as Brownwood. Later, he cycled through New Zealand.

“There’s this great picture of me bicycling through Hurricane Harvey,” he said. “People say, ‘How could you

24 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY

bicycle through Hurricane Harvey? And I say, ‘How could you not?’ ”

Then it was back to work on the Webb.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” Acton said. “My apartment door to the mission operation center [at NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland] was a 7-minute walk. I would continually be there in the control room and we would be looking at images or whatever, and I’d have a team of people looking at the computers. I’d say ‘OK, do this and do this,’ and then I’d go home and sleep a few hours and come back and do it again. If anything important happened I wanted to be there.”

That hard work paid off. “Now that it’s considered an operational telescope, it’s no longer about making it work; it’s about keeping it

working and using it for science,” he said. While one uncle set him on his early path in physics, another provided encouragement and professional inspiration. Dr. Loren Acton, a former NASA space shuttle astronaut, noticed his nephew’s keen interest in science as a high school student. He arranged for Scott to spend the summer at his workplace at the time, the Palo Alto Research Laboratory, where he was introduced to the optics used on telescopes.

The former astronaut followed the development of the Webb with great interest, as he watched his nephew work on a project to explore the universe he once saw in person from space.

“I was a little closer to what was happening than the average person,” he said, “and occasionally Scott would send me an email of what was going on. I just kept my fingers crossed, and lo and behold it came off. I’m pretty proud.”

As Scott Acton looks toward his next challenge, his goal, as always, is

to find significance in his work.

“I’ve always felt the challenge in any career is to balance finding meaning in the actual hours and minutes you spend working with finding meaning in the years,” he said. “It’s possible to go to work and enjoy what you do. But I think there’s another element where you ask yourself, ‘Am I an appropriate steward with the years I’ve been given?’ It’s possible to enjoy your occupation but not feel any sense of accomplishment. And it’s possible to go to work every day and just hate it while recognizing that what you’ve done is extremely important.

“I feel like the James Webb Space Telescope enabled me to check both of those boxes,” he said.

“It’s really fun to be part of the scientific discovery, but also to know there are kids out there who are going to look at the universe and think of it differently, be excited about it,” he said. “Maybe the universe doesn’t care whether or not we’re looking at it, but I care.” 

25 ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023
Image of galaxy IC 5332 as taken by the Webb telescope’s MIRI instrument, resembling gray cobwebs in the shape of a spiral. These “cobwebs” are patterns of gas spread throughout the galaxy. The core of the galaxy glows a dark blue. ESA/WEBB, NASA AND CSA, J. LEE AND THE PHANGS-JWST AND PHANGS-HST TEAMS
“I was a little closer to what was happening than the average person, and occasionally Scott would send me an email of what was going on. I just kept my fingers crossed, and lo and behold it came off.
I’m pretty proud.”
– DR. LOREN ACTON Former NASA astronaut

ACU launches bold five-year strategic plan

“We are more diverse, creative, inventive, global-minded and forward-looking than ever before. And we have arrived at this moment because of God’s providence and the hard work, vision and investment of men and women of faith who came before us. However, there is still work to be done. We are called to new heights.”


ACU’s Board of Trustees has set a broad vision and charged the senior administration to imagine what the future could hold for the university with a focus on its Christ-centered mission.

“As ACU emerges as a National University, we are in a strong position to deliver on a bold vision for the future,” said Dr. Phil Schubert (’91), president. “This plan details an ambitious path ahead for how we can best prepare students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. We want to offer students a life-changing experience in this formative time of life as they begin to discern their unique calling.”

The Senior Leadership Team began the process in 2021 with several months of input sessions with key stakeholders from across the university. Under Schubert’s leadership, and guided by chief planning officer Blair Schroeder, the team crafted a plan with specific goals, strategies and tactics for the next five years.

Scan this QR code with your camera phone to read the full Strategic Plan

“This plan is designed as a compass by which we will track and measure progress over the next five years and beyond,” Schroeder said. “We’re envisioning how ACU can best meet the needs of students, parents, faculty and staff, while also considering the higher education landscape and needs of tomorrow’s workforce.”

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The Strategic Plan revolves around six pillars:

Elevate ACU’s academic brand to that of a world-class, faith-based university.

World-class academics are the core of institutions of higher education, so academic strength and expansion are central to this pillar, particularly in highdemand disciplines. Plans include conducting a feasibility study for a new health sciences center and the creation of three to five centers of academic excellence to serve as academic anchors (e.g. health sciences, allied health, physics and engineering, entrepreneurship and business). ACU also has a goal to achieve Research 2 (R2) status in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. (ACU was named to R3 status in January 2022.)

Provide a vibrant student experience that strengthens ACU’s commitment to spiritual formation and leverages ACU’s national leadership in student success.

ACU is already consistently recognized as a leader in student success –placing in the top 10 nationally for first-year experience, learning communities and service-learning opportunities in the 2022-23 U.S. News & World Report rankings, and the intention is to continue to invest and build on that success to cement its reputation as a leader in building collaborative and innovative learning environments. Key goals in this area revolve around mentoring, student success, spiritual formation and shaping the overall student body. Plans include growing total enrollment to 8,800 and improving retention and graduation rates.

Promote an internal culture that celebrates every individual as created uniquely in God’s image.

ACU strives to embody a culture of diversity and inclusion that appreciates and celebrates differences, creates access and advancement opportunities for all, and invites diverse voices into substantive conversations while always treating one another with kindness, compassion, grace and mercy. With that vision in mind, the third pillar focuses on continuing to foster a diverse community, including increasing the diversity of the faculty body to 25%, maintaining a student body diversity rate of 40%, and improving diverse students’ retention and graduation rates.

Provide a nationally competitive, Christ-centered athletics program that extends the university’s brand and propels ACU’s mission.

Plans for ACU’s athletics program center on being nationally competitive and increasing the university’s brand: consistent top-three finishes in the Western Athletic Conference Commissioner’s Cup, multiple teams or individuals competing in NCAA postseason play, a cumulative student-athlete GPA of 3.2 or higher, and a Christian leadership development program for coaches.

Strengthen ACU’s financial foundation to aggressively pursue strategic opportunities.

As higher education faces declining undergraduate enrollments and increasing financial pressure, ACU’s strategic plan includes ways to leverage an already-strong financial position to create flexibility and invest in the future. To that end, the plan’s goals include increasing ACU’s nearly $700 million endowment to $1 billion, focusing more heavily on tuition revenue from graduate students and online students, and increasing the annual alumni giving percentage.

Driving Success

Realizing these aspirations will require laser-focused commitment from the university’s Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and administration, as well as unprecedented support from generous donors and alumni around the globe. Specifically, the following five high-level goals will act as an engine to drive success across all six of the major pillars as articulated in the plan.

• Develop high-demand, high-impact curricular programs built around centers of excellence, which will attract top faculty and top student scholars as well as robust research dollars.

• Build a next-level research enterprise, by attracting major research investments from government and business, to propel ACU to Research 2 (R2) status while providing transformative faculty and student research opportunities.

• Compound recent enrollment gains to allow ACU to enroll an entering freshman class of at least 950 students each fall.

• Grow our ACU Online footprint to achieve $50 million in gross revenues and a 10% operating margin.

The final pillar of the plan outlines the importance of facilities conducive to living, learning and innovating. Specific tactics include completion of ACU’s Freshman Village and other construction projects underway, such as the Gayle and Max Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center; providing space for allied health programs; and exploring options for more branch campuses.

• Invest thoughtfully, but aggressively, in a nationally recognized Division I athletics program, which will catapult the ACU brand throughout the higher education landscape.

Develop ACU’s campuses through enhancements that will support our strategic objectives, facilitate growth and provide long-term stewardship of physical assets.
ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 27


Abundance is a watchword for Kathy (Gay ’78) Halbert.

“When I think about all God has given me, it motivates me to try and help other people,” says the president and cofounder of the Caris Foundation. “I’m also motivated by the people who have helped me in my journey. If I can help someone else in theirs, and do a good job with what I’ve been given, there’s real satisfaction in that.”

Halbert and her husband, David D. Halbert (’78), founded Caris in 2002 with the mission of alleviating as much human suffering as possible. Based in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with a small on-site staff, the foundation works primarily in Haiti and Kenya, collaborating with local health workers to provide multilayered, culturally relevant and sustainable services to marginalized mothers, children and teenagers.

Growing up as the daughter of a preacher, Halbert watched her parents lead medical mission trips and also engage people with love and grace in their everyday lives. “They did what they did because they loved people,” Halbert says of her parents. “They loved everyone for who they were. Watching my parents serve people was really an inspiration to me. I wanted that for my kids, too: an example of loving and serving people.”

Halbert met her husband when they both were students at ACU. “They cared about your success socially and academically, but they cared so much about your soul,” she says of the people she met at ACU. “That made a difference in my life as I raised my kids and worked. Struggling or successful – everyone was kind of in this together.”

That same spirit of community and empathy pervades Caris, where, Halbert says, “the people who work with us are the angels. They are there, on the ground, living with people. They call us [in the States] and they can tell us the names of the people they work with: who is sick, who is recovered, who is learning, who is successful.” Caris employs more than 400 people in Haiti and Kenya in addition to its U.S.-based foundation staff. All of them, Halbert says, deserve an award more than she does.

Most of Caris’ executive team, including a nephew, Christopher Harmon (’01), also have connections to ACU. “It’s been cool to see that next generation with those connections,” she says. She notes that government agencies and non-governmental organizations are surprised by the spirit they find at Caris.

“All of our people were raised by very frugal parents,” Halbert says, laughing. “That godly, frugal, careful work ethic really makes a difference in the work we do. USAID really

wanted to work with us, because they knew that everything they gave us would go straight to the work. In any realm, when you’re trying to do well with the resources you have, it’s such a fun challenge to make the most of what is there.” There’s also a different sense of accountability, she says: “We’re not answering to an agency. We’re answering to ourselves and to our determination to do what is right.”

Caris’ work in Haiti began with medical missions: providing surgeries and medical supplies to underserved communities. Through a friend who was doing graduate work at Johns Hopkins University, the Halberts heard about a dried blood test for newborns born to HIV-positive mothers, which could help determine which children were positive for HIV and needed medication. As Caris staff kept working in the community, testing infants and working with mothers, “it kind of morphed,” Halbert says. “When we were testing these babies, we found out some of their siblings weren’t eating, and the teenagers weren’t in school.”

In addition to EID (early infant diagnosis) testing and treatment for infants and mothers, Caris now provides clinical follow-up for HIVpositive children until age 18, and community clubs for children and mothers. They also have helped send more than 7,000 HIV-positive

28 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY

2021 Alumni Awards

Outstanding Alumnus of the Year

Provides timely recognition of the lifetime achievement of an individual who has brought honor to ACU through personal and professional excellence and service to the university, the church or the community.

Young Alumnus of the Year

Recognizes professional achievement and/or distinguished service to ACU. To be eligible, a recipient must not be over 40 years of age at the time of selection.

Distinguished Alumni Citation

Recognizes distinctive personal or professional achievement that has merited the honor and praise of peers and colleagues.

ENLOW ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 29

children and their siblings to school.

“Those clubs are a huge experience for them,” Halbert says of the gatherings where children can meet their peers who are also living with HIV. “They’re often alone in their schools, and it’s such a blessing for them to meet others who are dealing with the same thing.”

Caris reaches more than 1,000 children annually through its kids’ clubs, and more than 3,300 mothers through 80 women’s clubs that operate throughout Haiti. Community and that same abundance of care and resources are at the heart of the clubs, as well as the medical attention Caris provides.

“Our people work to make sure that these experiences provide joy and connection,” says Halbert. “It’s manna for the day, and then we help teach them how to take care of themselves going forward.”

Since 2009, USAID has partnered with Caris in Haiti to provide maternal and child services to struggling communities. Project Santé, a collaboration between USAID, Caris and the Catholic Medical Mission Board, provides support to 164 hospitals and medical clinics throughout Haiti’s 10 geographic departments. The project focuses on scaling up successful strategies such as community HIV drug distribution, psychosocial support of pregnant women and their children, and community malnutrition treatment.

“Our work in Kenya started in a more relational way,” Halbert says, sharing the story of a couple she met who previously worked with young single mothers in Kenya. Caris began working with 60 young mothers in

2008, providing services ranging from vocational training to medical and dental services, and expanding into literacy and business training. Today, the Caris program counts more than 5,000 women among its enrollees. The foundation’s work includes microfinance groups, which teach women to save money and facilitate loans among the group members. Women also receive training in small business skills, literacy, math and accounting, and agricultural skills. Hundreds of women are now able to earn an income as a result of their training and, in many cases, microfinance loans from their groups.

“It’s such a joy to travel to our sites and hear their stories,” Halbert says of her trips to Caris locations in Haiti and Kenya. She recounts her travel to the foundation’s annual year-end celebration in Kenya, which began with its original 63 participants and has grown to more than 5,500 girls and women.

“It’s amazing,” Halbert says of watching the women gather. “There’s dancing and skits, and they’re feeding people out of these huge vats of lamb! But more importantly, they’re joyful and free. They’re free from hunger and loneliness. They’re in these loan savings groups, and they meet and encourage and sacrifice and watch each other put their kids in school, and get their small businesses going. It’s absolutely amazing to watch.”

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Halbert continued to witness – and help provide –abundance in the communities where Caris does its work.

“When the pandemic hit, we were blanketing about 150 clinics in Haiti

with our services,” she says. “Our partners asked us to take care of services to help fight COVID-19, like shipping hospital beds, masks and other personal protective equipment. We were working with the country’s Ministry of Health, and also with USAID. It was interesting to learn how to acquire those supplies at a time when our country needed them, too.”

Since Caris’ work in Africa is in mostly rural areas initially less affected by the pandemic, “it continued to flourish,” Halbert says, in spite of multiple participants being affected by the virus. In Haiti, the challenges were different in urban areas, including overcrowded hospitals and sanitation issues. As the pandemic recedes, Halbert says, “we’re almost back to normal,” but there are still political challenges and the constant threat of violence.

“So much of our work in Haiti is through community health workers and it can be dangerous, and they are very dedicated to each patient,” she says. “I am constantly amazed by the dedication of our staff. They take on literally life-threatening work. To watch them do that because they love their neighbor – it’s very humbling.”

Halbert herself exudes warmth and humility, always highlighting the talents of the people around her, reiterating that the work is a team effort. “Even budgeting is fun,” she says, laughing. “We all go over the budget each January, and it’s so cool. Our staff all want to do the best they can with what they have.”

That sentence sums up Halbert’s work ethic: doing her best, and inspiring others to do so, with all the resources available. Aware of her own abundance, she shares it generously, creating hope and opportunity –and yes, abundance – in all the ways she can. 

30 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
FROM LEFT: Mark (’83) and April (Bullock ’86) Anthony, Kay Onstead, and David D. and Kathy Halbert attended ACU’s 2014 President’s Circle Dinner. PAUL WHITE



Brandon Osborne (’05) could have been a coach. He could have been a good one. He could have been a preacher. He probably would have won thousands of souls for the Lord. Osborne could have been a motivational speaker. And he probably would have made a lot of money traveling the country and giving speeches.

But instead of concentrating on just one of those careers, he combined them into one job as the executive director of the Abilene Youth Sports Authority, a title he’s held since early 2019. And it’s a position in which he has thrived.

One would be hard-pressed to find anyone in Abilene who has more direct contact with kids of all ages than Osborne, who runs the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center in northeast Abilene, conducts camps, coaches teams, and oversees the entire AYSA operation. It’s become a monumental task as the AYSA has grown to host volleyball and basketball tournaments for club and travel teams all over West Texas, the Panhandle and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Osborne and his staff have taken the AYSA to heights that even the organization’s most ardent supporters likely did not anticipate.

But Osborne believed. His passion for helping the youth in whatever community he lives has been part of his DNA since he was young. He once said his goal was to bring 1 million people to Christ, a number that might even make the apostle Paul jealous.

“After I had been coaching at Hardin-Simmons University, I felt led by God to teach and reach more students for Christ by using a ball,” said Osborne, who served as an

assistant basketball coach at HSU. “After listening to a speaker say, ‘Someone somewhere is waiting for you to do what you are supposed to do, and most of the time, it’s more than you would ever imagine,’ I prayed that evening. One million was the number that I felt God was leading me to pursue because sports are the easiest way to connect leadership, skills and faith, in my opinion.”

After working at a local basketball training business where he encountered thousands of players across the nation, Osborne was led to the AYSA, where he was offered the job as executive director a few months after former AYSA executive director Jon Smith died in 2018 following a battle with cancer. He accepted and immediately dove head-first into finishing fundraising for the new multi-sport facility that has given Osborne a chance to reach thousands of athletes from across Texas and provide youth from Abilene and surrounding communities a place to hone their skills in a Christ-centered environment.

Hundreds of kids walk through “The Dodge” doors on any given day, soaring into the thousands when the facility hosts tournaments. And the responsibility of mentoring them is not one Osborne or his staff takes lightly.

“The parents of those kids entrust our team with their most precious gift, their child,” he said. “We have the utmost respect for that and will serve those students with our best effort. We know what they see, what we say, and how we respond to them will add to the best version of themselves they can become as young leaders.”

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 31


“This is what I tell young people: The world is yours,” says Essie (Charles ’75) Childers, who recently retired after a long career dedicated to teaching and inspiring students. Since she was a student herself, Childers has enjoyed working with young people, helping them overcome obstacles and find the motivation, skills and resources to pursue their dreams.

“I had great mentors,” Childers says of her teachers in Longview, Texas, where she grew up attending public schools. Although racial tensions ran high during the forced integration of the local high schools, Childers participated in various clubs and activities, and attended Southwestern Christian College for a year before transferring to ACU. She met her husband, the late Dr. Terry L. Childers (’74), during her undergraduate years. The couple married in 1973 and spent time in Austin and Tyler before moving to Oklahoma City, where Terry became its first Black city manager.

Essie taught in public schools and community colleges in both Texas and Oklahoma before taking a break from teaching to raise their children. She earned a master’s degree in reading from The University of Texas at Tyler and remained involved in her community through serving in the Junior League and teaching ladies’ Bible classes. “It’s so important to be able to give back and serve others,” she says.

Later in her career, Childers spent 14 years teaching at Blinn College, where she pioneered several courses and

programs focused on student success. Though retired now, she says she is “not tired – I’m re-firing!” Childers is still committed to helping students and educators flourish through her work with Young Ladies Success, which helps empower young women and prepare them for college and careers, and Mvita Educational Consulting, where she works to help teachers succeed.

“I want to help others and keep my mind sharp,” Childers says. She is passionate about guiding young people to discover their potential and work to set goals, overcome challenges and develop a strong work ethic. Childers continues to teach online college courses, as well as welcoming her grandson (a current ACU student) and his friends for frequent dinners at her house in Abilene. She also volunteers with CitySquare Abilene, serving as an educational resource for teenagers seeking guidance.

“I’m an avid believer in lifelong learning,” Childers says. “I hope I continue to be a resource to help others, the way I had people ahead of me to help me.” With grit, determination and a joyful servant’s heart, she plans to continue serving her community in all the ways she can.


Randy Clinton (’77) has always considered himself a champion of the underdog, whether during his 13-year career in banking or in his work with the homeless. Clinton, who was a drum major in the Big Purple Band and president of Gamma Sigma Phi fraternity, worked

32 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
KIM LEESON BUTCH IRELAND Terry and Essie Childers

for ACU as an admissions officer after graduation before embarking on a career in banking. He then took those skills in 1996 to the Community Enrichment Center (CEC) in Tarrant County, Texas, where his faithful stewardship has blessed thousands of residents.

Under his leadership, the center has acquired more than 200 debt-free properties to house low-income families and people experiencing homelessness. And it successfully merged with the Open Arms Home Inc., along with the Second Glance Resale Shop, a vital source of ongoing revenue to benefit the CEC.

Thanks to his fundraising acumen and grant-writing skills, the CEC has expanded to provide services such as a food pantry, GED completion classes, adult literacy programs and free tax-preparation services.

Now retired from the CEC, Clinton also served on several boards and in clubs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that poured resources back into the community.

“I believe I’ve always wanted to help those who are less fortunate than others, whether spiritually or financially,” he said. “Even as a banker, I made a couple of loans that probably weren’t very wise because the people I was dealing with really needed the money. My heart loves people who want to help themselves but don’t have the financial means or the know-how.”

Clinton now devotes his time as an elder and class leader at The Hills Church in North Richland Hills while serving alongside his wife, Debbie (Faulkner ’77), as grandparents to five grandchildren. And he also finds time to work as a part-time travel agent, where he has an opportunity to continue helping underdogs.

“I was able to help a single mom take her kids to Disney World recently,” Clinton said, “and I loved the challenge of making that happen. She couldn’t afford a lot, but the fun was figuring out the best ways to make it affordable and give her kids some great, magical memories. I’m all about giving people second, third and fourth chances if they truly want to make a change – physically and spiritually.”

It’s a continuation of what he calls his “lifelong role of helping people.”

“I don’t know if it’s my gift or my calling,” Clinton said. “Debbie is like this, too, but we both look for people who aren’t the most popular in the room or are marginalized. All of my life, I’ve been in the role of helping people.

“I’ve learned there are different ways of working with people, but I know this: most of them need a friend or someone to talk to and to spend time with them. They just need help – food, shelter, etc. – and we’ve been able to help so many with those things,” he said. “The bottom line has always been to help them get to a place where their lives would be better.”



The summer before Todd Lollar entered graduate school at ACU, he was in St. Louis for a ministry internship when he had a life-defining encounter with God at a local coffee shop.

Lollar – who earned his master’s degree from ACU in 2001 – was born with cerebral palsy, a disorder affecting a person’s small muscles in the hands and wrists. Fueled by his passion for God, he and his family have traveled across the nation speaking and ministering.

But in those days in the summer 1997, as Lollar struggled with his life-challenging weaknesses, his own Damascus Road experience in the Missouri coffee shop was transformative.

“I was having my quiet time with Jesus, sharing with him how difficult my weaknesses are to live with,” Lollar said. “I encountered Jesus while reading about the apostle Paul’s encounter with him.”

“My entire life changed,” Lollar recalled. “I proclaimed out loud with joyful tears, ‘Jesus! Thank you for your power through my cerebral palsy, speech impediment and every weakness humans deal with because if your power can be displayed through all this, then praise your holy name!”

In more than 25 years since, he has made a difference in the lives of many. In 2017, the Lollars founded Mobilize Ministries, a nonprofit in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Todd and his wife, Marissa, and their three children



then expanded the ministry among the entertainment industry in Hollywood, California. His daily devotionals on YouVersion have reached tens of thousands of people.

He condensed his core message into a best-selling book, Weak Is The New Strong: God’s Perfect Power In You, and he is a regular guest on podcasts and talk shows – including an early 2021 appearance on “Life Today” that was seen by more than 1 million viewers and can be accessed on Lollar will complete the manuscript for a second book in 2023.

“I’ve been changed by God’s power working through my deepest weaknesses,” Lollar said. “My mission is to mobilize others to do the same. Whatever weakness you live in – physical, emotional or mental – I long to equip and empower you to thrive in Jesus’ power through your weaknesses.

“My prayer and mission are that people will no longer view their weaknesses as a source of insecurity,” he said, “but as a conduit for God’s power, allowing them to thrive in their mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

with two bachelor’s degrees from ACU before earning a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in 1992. Shortly thereafter, he made his way to Modesto, California, where he spent nearly two decades serving prisoners, immigrants and indigent populations who would not have had access to high-quality medical care.

Villanueva, who is chief medical officer of Livingston Community Health, has volunteered in medical disaster responses and provided volunteer medical service through short-term domestic and international missions.

Since 2009, he has served in leadership with the national interfaith organization Pinnacle Forum, and co-founded and led Shoestring Ministries Inc., a Christian educational nonprofit, from 2009-16. Then, as Villanueva said, God threw him a curveball.

In 2015, he and six other founding members formed a nonprofit to purchase and operate Modesto Christian School, a prominent private institution serving preschool through 12th-grade students, and he was named president and CEO.

Villanueva had worked in education for more than 20 years, but it was directly tied to teaching and training medical students. Now, though, he was stepping into something totally different. He did it to keep open the school where his daughters were being educated, a faith-based institution that was on the verge of closing before the new nonprofit assumed its oversight.

“I knew nothing about leading a school, but I knew that we could not afford to have less faith-based education, especially in California,” Villanueva said. “Many times, God asks us to work, serve and go, and often we say ‘No,’ myself included. This time, I said ‘Yes.’ With God’s leading, Modesto Christian School has continued to thrive.”

And that legacy of service in medical and private education will have ripples that last long beyond Villanueva.


A native of the Philippines, Dr. Glen Villanueva, D.O. (’88), always knew he would lead a life of service after watching his parents work multiple jobs, volunteer at their church and serve those in need while he grew up in San Francisco.

And that’s the path God set him on as he graduated

“Legacy is a funny thing, as we will never know the full impact we have had on others,” he said. “My goal in life has been quite simple: plant and water seeds of Christ and let God make them grow. I’ve been blessed to grow up in this country, go to ACU, graduate from medical school, and have countless opportunities to lead and positively influence people and my community.”

“I’ve been given much,” Villanueva said, “and my life and work are a direct expression of gratitude for what God has given to me. How far will the ripples of my work extend? That’s for God to decide. How does it make me feel if I allow myself to think about it? Grateful, humbled, and energized.”

34 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
35 ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023


We love our followers on social media. Here are just a few of the posts by and about Wildcats.

Bradley Mitten

August 23

38 years ago today I checked into Mabee Hall as an incoming freshman at Abilene Christian University. Today I checked Collin Mitten into Bullock Hall on the ACU campus. Proud of what you have accomplished. Go Wildcats!

Brad Benham

July 29

Gonna spend the day considering whether it is worth $70 a year to me to lock in this very niche ACU joke … it just might be … #ifyouknowyouknow #BlessAndKeep

April 15

Came to Abilene to finish what I started!! This time next year I’ll be graduating with my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. Man, it’s smellin like RESTORATION and elevation season over here. Thank you God!

Kim Mansell

May 8

The biggest blessing in the world is being called Mom by these two gems!

Brenda Mungia

May 7

Today we get to celebrate these two special graduates getting their bachelor’s degrees! They will continue at ACU to get their master’s degrees. Words cannot express how proud we are of them both! We love you!

August 31

Look at ACU on the digital kiosks at the gates at DFW International Airport! Proud of my university, and proud to be a Wildcat!

October 14

Can you spot the #BigACU? We love an #ACUHomecoming

January 1

Over the autumn weeks I collected one handful of pecans each day as I walked home from campus. My Daddy helped me crack them, I picked and cleaned them. To start this new year, I made Irresistible pecan pies with them. Yummm!

May 11

I always knew I wanted to go back to school “someday,” but didn’t know that doing so would thrill my heart quite this much. I just finished my first class with this fabulous professor [Dr. Bill Hunt], who happened to live in Portland, even though our university is in Texas. He treated Ben and me to lunch and we had such a rich, wonderful, conversation and connection. School is not just about the degree, or even the learning, it’s also about the relationships.

36 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
Tom Craig Emerald Cassidy Miss Winn_ Dana Spivy Glover Rachel Cassidy

August 6

Spent the weekend at Abilene Christian University for its 2022 Family Weekend, cheering on the Wildcats in their football victory and hanging out with our oldest two! We love that this school has brought them amazing friends, fantastic education, faithfilled foundation, and some fun, sleepless college experiences! “Go, wildcats!”

June 9

What are the odds that a group from LCU, ACU, and The Hills Church meet at Jacob’s Well. A WONDERFUL reunion.

November 11

I just got Highways and Biways stuck in my head... #iykyk #acudifference

March 1

Networking at its best!! Future Director in Operations loading #imOnMyBS

#StudentMixer #AbileneChristianUniversity #itsNeverTooLate #beauTYfullEncouragement #GirlBoss

May 8

Happy Mothers Day! Here’s my mom and dad at ACU back in the day… (it was ACC then). My dad was really shy as you can tell, but eventually brought her a ring (what happened to the question?) and here we are. Love you Mom … #proverbs31woman

September 5

It was so fun to watch Jack Maxwell’s vision for this sculpture garden come together while I was in school. There was a constant flow of people coming to photograph their children and graduates here as I worked at COBA.

October 6

Loved my full circle moment getting to speak to ACU students about why I love Southwest Airlines! I LUV what I do!

July 28

After some initial panic over not being able to select just 728b for my new license plate, with Candice’s help I found a solution. I feel like this plate – the new ACU tag, and in Texas of all places, of course – is perhaps my greatest flex.

October 8

Honored to be a part of ACU women’s basketball’s mentor program! These two amazing, smart women aspire to be CRNAs! Can Not Wait to watch them play in the NEW Moody Coliseum!

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 37
Allison Shira Coil Randall Young vidrinemade Tyishia Evely Kristy Ng Laura McGreevey Diane Jay Davis David Fraze James Wiser


A Reader in Biblical Greek

ISBN 978-082879240 • 231 pages

Wright, professor of New Testament in the Graduate School of Theology, writes this book for students, clergy and scholars who have completed at least one year of Greek instruction with hopes of improving their reading proficiency. He utilizes 29 texts from the New Testament, the Septuagint and noncanonical early Christian writings.

The Essential Walt McDonald

ISBN 978-1682831212 • 608 pages

ACU benefactor Dr. Walter Robert “Walt” McDonald, spouse of the late Carol (Ham ’56) McDonald, died in January 2022. Among his 23 books of poetry was Faith is a Radical Master by ACU Press. This volume, self-chosen over the last three years of his life, includes more than 500 of his favorite poems. McDonald was named the Texas State Poet Laureate in 2001 by the Texas Senate and House of Representatives.

A Texas Christmas Carol

ISBN 978-1643525587 • 304 pages

Winner of the ACFW Carol Award and finalist for the prestigious Christy Award, this novella gives a romantic, western twist to the classic Dickens tale. A town’s wealthy, Scrooge-like bachelor finds his world invaded by a cheerful woman set on earning his donation for helping the local poor.

Dialogues on Revelation With John the Apostle

ISBN 978-1958139042 • 268 pages

Opsitch, former missions coordinator and professor in ACU’s Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry, conveys an imagined dialogue about the book of Revelation between himself and John the apostle.


ISBN 978-0764232091 • 326 pages

You have heard his weekly “Stories From Texas” on NPR radio stations via the “Texas Standard.” You might not know the voice belongs to Dr. William F. “Bill” Strong , longtime professor of communication at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and a 1977 ACU graduate who authored a weekly column in The Optimist as a student. This book is a second volume of 70 entertaining stories about Texas and memorable Texans.

Going Deeper With God


ISBN 978-1098087210 • 284 pages

Mead explores the obstacles Christians face in creating an impactful relationship with God, raising questions and bringing insight to allow readers to critically think about how they hear God’s voice and interact with their Creator.

God is the Real 9-1-1

ISBN 978-8447818043 • 160 pages

EMTs and other first responders are quick to answer the call of Americans who dial 9-1-1. But what do we expect when we call on God for help? Hobbs believes Psalms 91:1 offers a clue for those who trust in him. His book focuses on the nature, character, essence, attributes, protection and power of Jehovah God.

Qualitative Research


ISBN 978-1725267701 • 454 pages

Sensing, associate professor in ACU’s Graduate School of Theology, offers his second edition on the growing need in Doctor of Ministry programs for a textbook to guide students through the trends in practical theology.

38 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
Stories FROM Texas SOME OF THEM ARE TRUE VOL II W. F. STRONG “W.F. Strong’s signature storytelling style translates very well on paper.” “W. F. Strong tells the often overlooked define deeper, richer understanding stories of disappearing Texas, Texas of myth and pure, sweet memory. Trust Stories FROM Texas VOL II

Selections of books published by Abilene Christian University or those written, edited, compiled or contributed by ACU alumni, faculty, staff and students.

Start With Prayer


ISBN 978-1401603786 • 288 pages

Lucado offers 250 prayers on thoughts ranging from anxiety, fear, forgiveness, grief, gratitude, strength and others that people sometimes find difficult to express. The best-selling Christian author helps readers learn how to develop a routine designed to help them feel more comfortable communicating their thoughts and feelings to God.

In Honor’s Defense


ISBN 978-0764232091 • 384 pages

He came to stop a gang of rustlers and wound up tangled in a murder plot. The boy next door holds the key to the truth, but it’s the boy’s aunt who might end up holding the horseman’s heart.

Anchoring in the Storm


ISBN 979-8701167375 • 83 pages

Ross, the lead minister at Sycamore View Church in Memphis, Tennessee, describes the stress, anxieties and fear we face each day. Our survival while journeying through life’s storms requires God as an anchor. Ross’ book is a useful tool in preparing for Easter and the contemplative season leading to it.

Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom


ISBN 978-0802881700 • 269 pages

Politicians have historically been delicate when discussing religion in politics. Casey, founding director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, brings to light a new path for foreign policy while analyzing the church and state, and the crucial role religion plays in the government’s diplomacy.

They Walked With God


ISBN 978-0785294597 • 400 pages

The New York Times bestselling author’s latest book explores how God can find a place for us as he did each of 40 inspiring characters in the Bible. Lucado invites readers to follow their journeys while developing a deeper understanding of their prevalence in our faith.

The Grace of Troublesome Questions


ISBN 978-1684260225 • 352 pages

Hughes, a respected historian and scholar of the American Restoration Movement, takes readers on a personal journey examining “exclusivist claims of church, nation and race,” asking probing questions about their impact and influence on many traditional teachings of the Christian faith.


Our Little Adventures to the Farmers Market

ISBN 978-1950968510 • 32 pages

Schmitt designed her book to help parents build the vocabularies of children while learning about friendship and kindness. With the help of charming and whimsical watercolor imagery, young readers are led through a journey to the local farmers market.

Love, Mom

ISBN 978-1637552896 • 38 pages

Scott and Westman created Love, Mom as an insightful resource for children who wrestle with grief, especially among the closest of family members. In the book, a child reads hypothetical letters of his mother as she watches over him after her passing.

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 39
Jalyn Scott and Allison Scott Westman


New GATA Fountain, Peck Plaza change the face of campus mall area

A new GATA Fountain and expanded plaza area now make up a grand entrance to the newly renovated Moody Coliseum, thanks to gifts from members, sponsors and alumni of the longtime sorority.

GATA alumni and members gathered early Saturday morning of Homecoming to dedicate the fountain as part of their 100th anniversary celebration. That


evening, nearly 400 GATA alumni and guests attended a gala event, including 1948 graduate and former sponsor June (Linn ’48) Estes

The upgraded fountain includes a pool of water and a constantly running water feature. Although the structure is now a half circle instead of the previous full-circle shape, the surrounding concrete includes an etched ring of words significant to GATA, offering a place for members and alumni to form a circle and sing, in keeping with the sorority’s tradition.

The surrounding area is named Peck Plaza in honor of longtime GATA sponsor Amber (McElyea ’96)


For the latest visit

Peck and her husband, Frank (’93), who were significant donors to the project. Peck Plaza includes new trees, a pergola with a large seating area underneath and three other garden nooks with seating. Lighting and electrical power underneath the pergola allow for small concerts, performances and other outdoor events. Within the fountain itself, LED lights can switch between purple, white and red.

More than 180 donors have contributed toward the fountain and plaza area project, and gifts are still being accepted to reach the full goal. (See pages 64-65 for related story.) 

40 Spring-Summer 2022  ACU TODAY
Feet, in depth, of 90-foot-long shielded trench in Gayle and Max Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center, where a small nuclear research reactor will reside for use by the NEXT Lab (see page 46) and other science programs at ACU.
New seating capacity of Moody Coliseum for athletics events following its renovation. The venerable arena, originally built in 1968, previously could seat up to 4,100 fans to cheer for the Wildcats during men’s and women’s basketball games, and volleyball matches. SCOTT DELONY Amber (McElyea ’96) Peck and her husband, Frank (’93), are namesakes of Peck Plaza and major donors to the GATA Fountain project. RILEY FISHER Peck

Stages named for ACU icons

Performance stages in two renovated major facilities now honor beloved Abilene Christian icons.

Dr. Robert “Bob” Hunter (’52), longtime administrator and the founder of Sing Song, had the initial idea for a stage specifically for the event back in 1968 when Moody Coliseum opened. Now, a new such platform – the Bob Hunter Sing Song Stage – will become a part of the renovated arena’s life and lore, thanks to the generosity of Bob’s daughter, Carole (Hunter ’81) Phillips and her husband, Danny (’81).

A stage in an adjacent venue honors another ACU legend, as generous donors provided for the Jeannette Lipford Stage in the new Boone Family Theatre. Jeannette Scruggs Lipford (’49) was the matriarch of Homecoming musicals and a beloved voice professor for generations of students. She died in 2020 at age 91. 

The football team that sings together, wins together

Learn the plays, learn your teammates’ names, learn the “ACU Fight Song.”

Head football coach Keith Patterson had many to-dos as a new hire on the Hill this past summer, but in setting some basic priorities, he unknowingly included one his predecessors hadn’t emphasized in more than seven decades.

That was 1950, when Abilene Christian, the nation’s only undefeated, untied (11-0) team that season, won the first of three straight Texas Conference titles and played in the Refrigerator Bowl in Evansville,

Seawright , associate athletics director and football chief of staff. “Coach wanted to quickly build their sense of pride in the university and pride at ACU in this program. The guys had a lot of fun with it.”

With help from recordings of the Big Purple Band, the team began practicing “ACU Fight Song” in July and sang it every Friday night of the season and each Saturday, following its team Chapel before heading to the stadium.

The “ACU Fight Song” is a blend of two pieces of music, starting with “Wildcat Victory March” and then a transition into “Let’s Win This Game.” Patterson and his team sing every word.

Number of consecutive ACU presidents to serve a decade or more in office. The most recent is Dr. Phil Schubert (’91), 13 years, 2010-current; Dr. Royce Money (’64), 19 years, 1991-2010; Dr. William J. Teague (’52), 10 years, 1981-91; Dr. John C. Stevens (’38), 12 years, 1969-81; and Dr. Don H. Morris (’34), 29 years, 1940-69.

Indiana. Players enjoyed vocalizing together, especially on “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” even performing it and other gospel songs on radio shows. Their harmonizing jumpstarted a reputation for their school as “The Singing College.”

The 2022 Widcats were successful in forging a 7-4 overall record and playing for a regular-season conference title in their final home game Nov. 19. But the sights and sounds of its singing football team shook the cobwebs from many a memory bank.

“We had a bunch of transfers, and half our team was new,” said Jordan

“We love the energy, and the band loves being recognized by the team in that way,” said Dr. Steven Ward (’92), professor of music and director of orchestra and bands. “We were all a little curious about how that was going to go, since we’ve been doing the Alma Mater with the team at the end of games for so many years, but we really like it.”

And so the band plays on, the team and coaching staff assembled at its feet at the conclusion of every game on Anthony Field, singing along. And the Wildcats belt out a reprise in the locker room afterward.

Rain or shine, win or lose, a lapsed tradition is new once more.

For longtime Abilene Christian fans who appreciate depth on the offensive line as well as the ability to carry a tune, winning is purple icing on the cake. 

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 41
Number of pass receptions in a career by senior wide receiver Kobe Clark, a Wildcat record, surpassing Jerale Badon’s 236 from 2004-07. Badon (’08), running backs coach on the current staff, is still the Wildcat career leader in reception yards with 3,311. Lipford Hunter SCOTT DELONY Kobe Clark


For them to interact with other kids in a setting that teaches teamwork, sportsmanship, motor skills and cooperative learning, all those things are difficult to do in your home. We absolutely think our class is a great opportunity for parents to have a little break and for our education students to learn firsthand through teaching a live audience.”

I just told the guys in the locker room, I’m going to be hugging a lot of people on campus (Tuesday). I think that crowd was worth 10 points, and we won by 9. So, to me, that student section tonight won the game.”

I make my first entrance right after our opening number, ‘Circle of Life.’ There couldn’t be a more beautiful opening, musically or visually. I click right back into my 11-year-old self sitting in the audience – experiencing the awe and wonder of it all. It’s the best job in the world.”

42 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
– Brette Tanner, ACU head men’s basketball coach, on the boisterous students who filled multiple sections of Moody Coliseum’s upper level for a 65-56 win over Jackson State University on Nov. 7, 2022, the first game in the renovated arena (See pages 30-32.)
“ “
– Deonna (Moore ’86) Shake, who teaches and oversees her students leading physical education lessons on campus each week for 40 homeschooled Abilene children. Shake, instructor of kinesiology and nutrition, has taught at ACU for 22 years. SCOTT DELONY JEREMY ENLOW
– Peter Hargrave (’12), who has begun portraying Scar in the North American tour of The Lion King. Another former ACU Theatre standout, Ben Jeffrey (’06), has portrayed Pumbaa in the Broadway version since 2010.
“One of the most beautiful things is that kids of all races and all ages will be coming to this show. And they’ll see, ‘Oh, that can be me.’ It’s one of the most beautiful things you can give a kid while they still have all of that joy and all of that creativity in their minds. Give them the opportunity to say, ‘It doesn’t matter what color my skin is or what age I am, I can be that.’ ”
– Caleb Evans (’22), theatre major who portrayed Sebastian the Crab in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, ACU’s Homecoming Musical. Evans has had a lead role in each of the last three musicals at ACU.


Fall 2022 guest speakers in the College of Business Administration:

• Southwest Airlines employees visited campus Oct. 6 to speak about the importance of internships: Katie Coldwell (’00), senior director of corporate communications; Kristi Ng (’20), recruitment marketing program specialist; Chris Grubbs (’95), program management leader in technical operations; Baron Smith (’09), senior system engineer; and Bethani Culpepper (’19), talent acquisition coordinator.

Riverside, since 2006. Poet Leah Naomi Green spoke Nov. 7 at the annual Bill Culp Lecture. Green received the 2019 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets and is a visiting assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University.

Award-winning writer/director Brent McCorkle visited campus Nov. 28, 2022, to speak to students and show a pre-release screening of Jesus Revolution, his newest feature-length film. He was acompanied by film editor John Puckett (’18). McCorkle is best known for “I Can Only Imagine,” his 2018 hit.

• The Fall Speaker Series hosted by COBA’s Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership, featured Rick Atchley (’78), senior minister of The Hills Church in North Richland Hills, Texas, on Sept. 6 and on Nov. 1, ACU 2013 Distinguished Alumni Citation recipient Chad Baker (’99), vice president and regional director of Jones Lang LaSalle.

• Atchley also spoke Nov. 1 at the Lytle Center’s second annual Abiding in Christ dinner for faculty and staff. He was ACU’s 2014 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year and a university trustee from 2014-19.

Lynay speakers in Fall 2022 included Earl Young (’62), former U.S. Olympic gold medalist and founder of Earl Young’s Team, Sept. 5-7; Serge Gasore (’09), Rwanda Children founder, Sept. 12; Uta Kremer, visiting scholar from Germany, Sept. 13 and Oct. 24, 26; Dr. Charles Ivey (’65), physicist, Sept. 14 and Oct. 25; Dr. Ralph Draper, ACU trustee and educational and leadership consultant, Sept. 21; Annie Jacobs, Love Does international programs manager, Sept. 26; Neil Tomba, author of The Listening Road: One Man’s Ride Across America to Start Conversations About God and senior pastor of Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, Texas, Oct. 31; and Elena Rhodes, Hispanos Unidos sponsor and ACU volunteer mentor, Nov. 8-9.

Dr. Harold W. Attridge of Yale Divinity School was the featured speaker Nov. 10 at the 2022 Carmichael-Walling Lectures on the theme, “The Fourth Gospel: A Mystagogical Drama.” Attridge is Sterling Professor of Divinity at Yale. He is a former president of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Catholic Biblical Association. Attridge was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015.

Among other Chapel speakers for Fall 2022: TJ McCloud (’03), Central America regional director for One World Health, Oct. 3; Chad Gundersen and Chris Juen, producers of “The Chosen,” Oct. 17; and Shane Hughes, preaching minister at Abilene’s Highland Church of Christ, Nov. 1.

The Department of Language and Literature brought two speakers to campus in Fall 2022. Author and playwright Kate Anger read from her new book, The Shinnery, and discussed it at an Oct. 17 event in the Packer Forum. Anger has lectured at the University of California,

Young Alumni Forum guests in 2022 included: Marjon Zabihi Henderson (’04), director of brand experience and special events for Neiman Marcus, Feb. 25; Samuel Palomares (’11), media and entertainment practice lead for Dockyard, Feb. 26; Shelby Coates (’07), evening anchor and executive producer for 41NBC News in Macon, Georgia, March 22; Talan Cobb (’07), market president for Big Brothers Big Sisters, April 8; Shane Haught (’10), Abilene firefighter, April 8; Clay Stansell (’08), senior talent acquisition specialist for CACI International Inc. in the national security and innovative solutions sector, Sept. 8; and Sam Souder (’10), worship minister at Monterey Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas, and Nic Dunbar (’06), worship minister at West Houston Church of Christ in Houston, Texas, Nov. 10.

• COBA’s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Organization (CEO) hosted speakers throughout Fall 2022: Mackenzie Cavouti, founder of Loom & Company, Sept. 7; Ryan Groves and Landon Phillips, co-founders of Slyngshot, Sept. 14; Brandon Osborne (’05), executive director of the Abilene Youth Sports Authority and ACU’s 2022 Young Alumnus of the Year, Sept. 21; Mark Visco Jr., co-founder and CEO of Suitable, Sept. 29; Abbie Housdon, founder of Pecan Creek Outfitters, Oct. 5; Robert Wilkinson, founder of Liberty Builders, Oct. 12; Arlene Kasselman (’96), co-founder of Seven and One Books, Oct. 26; and Ed Hastings, president of Oho Interactive, Nov. 9.

On Sept. 3, 2022, The Band CAMINO performed a concert in Moody Coliseum for students. SCOTT DELONY SCOTT DELONY
ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 43
Tim Holt (’15), senior production editor for Dude Perfect, was the featured speaker Oct. 12, 2022, in Chapel and at a lunch sponsored by ACU’s Center for Building Community. Dude Perfect is a popular sports and comedy group based in Dallas, Texas, with an audience of nearly 60 million subscribers who watch their pursuit of sports stunts, trick shots, and Guinness world records. Anger Green

Academic NEWS

ACU continues to shine in U.S. News rankings

In its first year as a National University in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, ACU emerged with significant accolades in several key measures of the Best Colleges 2022-23 report.

Perhaps most notably, ACU was one of only 19 U.S. institutions ranked in the top 50 nationally in both Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects and Undergraduate Teaching, placing it alongside elites such as Carnegie Mellon, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Rice, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Yale.

In the Best National Universities list, ACU is #250 (tied) out of 440 institutions, making it the 10th highest ranked Texas university (out of 34) and one of only six private Texas universities to make the top 250.

“These aren’t just 440 general universities but the top tier of doctoral research universities in the nation,” said Dr. Robert Rhodes, provost. “Out of approximately 4,000 colleges and universities across the country, the National University category comprises the top 440. These are the very best research universities in the nation – in essence, the top 10% – and we entered with a strong national ranking.”

In addition, for the fourth year in a row, ACU is the highest-ranking university in Texas in the “Academic Programs to Look For” benchmarks focused on student success – placing in six of eight categories this year.

ACU earned a spot in the top 10 of three categories and was ranked in six out of eight highlighted categories, more than any other Texas college or university.

Top 10 national rankings:


(1) Berea College; (2) Tulane;

(3) Elon; (4) Duke; (5) Abilene Christian; (6) Notre Dame;

(7) Boston College; (8) Portland State; (9) Michigan State, Stanford

“Out of approximately 4,000 colleges and universities across the country, the National University category comprises the top 440. These are the very best research universities in the nation – in essence, the top 10% – and we entered with a strong national ranking.”

• FIRST-YEAR EXPERIENCE: (1) Agnes Scott College; (2) Elon;

(3) South Carolina; (4) Amherst College; (5) Berea College;

(6) Georgia State; (7) Bates College; (8) Abilene Christian; (9) Princeton; (10) Baylor

• LEARNING COMMUNITIES: (1) Elon; (2) Yale; (3) Agnes Scott College;

(4) Michigan State; (5) Michigan; (6) Princeton, Vanderbilt;

(8) Maryland; (9) Abilene Christian, Bucknell, Dartmouth College, Georgia State, Miami-Oxford, Spelman College, Syracuse

Other “Academic Programs to Look For” categories in which Abilene Christian ranked nationally:



• #35 in STUDY ABROAD (tied)

In the Best Undergraduate Teaching (National Universities) list, ACU tied for #41.

“We aspire to be the best at combining a world-class academic education in a Christ-centered environment where students grow in their faith and come to know God more fully and his call for their lives,” said Dr. Phil Schubert (’91), president. “I look forward to embracing the new opportunities that come along with our growing national reputation.”

For the latest visit

Application made to NRC for advanced research reactor construction permit

In yet another significant step toward the goal of building a Molten Salt Research Reactor (MSRR), ACU’s Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Lab submitted an application for a construction permit with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in August, and in November, the NRC announced that it has docketed the application, placing it under formal regulatory review.

The application is the first for a new research reactor in more than 30 years and the first for an advanced university research reactor.

“This is a significant achievement, and I am very proud of the NEXT Research Alliance (NEXTRA) team for producing a quality application, sufficient for NRC docketing,” said Dr. Rusty Towell (’90), director of NEXT Lab and professor in the Department of Engineering and Physics.

ACU submitted the construction permit application in August, and the NRC conducted a thorough acceptance review. The application is now formally docketed, and the NRC will begin a detailed safety and environmental review. ACU’s MSRR is the only research reactor under review by the NRC, and it is the first liquid-fueled reactor ever to be reviewed by the commission. It’s also one of only two advanced nuclear reactor applications currently under review with the NRC.

“The submission and docketing of this application is another step closer toward reaching the goals of NEXT Lab – to provide global solutions to the world’s need for energy, water and medical isotopes,” said Dr. Phil Schubert (’91), ACU president.

“In addition, NEXT Lab and the

44 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY

work on the MSRR continue to offer incredible hands-on research opportunities for our students in nuclear science, engineering, chemistry and other majors.”

Several visitors have been on campus learning more about nuclear research and NEXT Lab, including at a town hall meeting in December with about 80 community members in attendance, and at tours with House District 71 Rep. Stan Lambert (’75), District 11 Rep. Travis Clardy (’84) and Dade Phelan, speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

ACU is the lead university in NEXTRA, which includes Georgia Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin. NEXTRA has a $30.5 million research agreement with Natura Resources to design and build a university-based MSSR.

Demonstrating the successful licensure of an advanced reactor with the NRC is one of the primary goals of this project. After spending more than two years in pre-licensing activities, the docketing of ACU’s application marks the beginning of the commission’s formal technical review.

“The progress on this project presents incredible opportunities for ACU, NEXTRA and the investors of Natura Resources,” said Doug Robison, founder of Natura Resources. 


Debate team hosts national tourney, adds to its legacy

Spring 2021 marked the first time ACU hosted the International Public Debate Association (IPDA) National Championship Tournament on campus, but it was certainly not the first time the debate team has made it onto the national scene.

ACU students have competed in debate and forensics competitions for more than nine decades and have consistently ranked among the top in the nation, including No. 2 in the nation for the 2021-22 season.

The tournament at ACU celebrated the 25th anniversary of IPDA and was that organization’s largest championship tournament ever with 44 colleges and

said. “Forensics allows our students to be exposed to new ideas and strategies for thinking. It forces them to adapt to new styles of argumentation and learn to be flexible in their approach. It gives them an opportunity to be exposed to other high-achieving students from across the nation and lets them see how very well they are being prepared for their postgraduate work.”

As debate coach since 2018, Ritchie is working to build on ACU’s legacy of success. In 2021, she was awarded the national Bennett Strange Coach of the Year, only the second woman to win the award in IPDA history.

universities from 17 states in attendance, said Sheila (Prickett ’87) Ritchie, director of forensics and debate and associate college professor of communication.

More than 170 colleges and universities participate in IPDA, including SMU, TCU, Mississippi State University, University of Florida, Boise State, University of Arkansas, University of Central Florida and Louisiana State University. ACU’s team won more than 100 individual debate and speaker awards, in addition to 22 sweepstakes.

Debate competitions provide an exceptional experiential learning opportunity for students.

“We can practice researching, speaking, creating arguments and reasoning in the classroom setting, but it is not until we go out and put that into action at a tournament that we start to see the real-world value of debate,” Ritchie

“Many prominent attorneys, professors, ministers and politicians distinguished themselves as debaters at ACU,” Ritchie said. Among them were the late Jack Pope (’34), retired chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. The interdisciplinary Jack Pope Fellows Program at ACU was established in 1989 in his honor. Dr. Don H. Morris (’23), who later became ACU’s seventh president, was the first debate coach in 1928.

“They were successful in competition, just as our team has been, but more importantly, they learned skills and built character that carried with them after they left ACU. This legacy is far more important than any trophy. It is what sets us apart and allows us to truly uphold the mission of ACU – to educate students for Christian leadership and service throughout the world.” 

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 67
(FROM LEFT) The Gayle and Max Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center construction site was recently toured by officials from ACU and the Texas House of Representatives: Dr. Tim Head, professor and chair of physics and engineeering; Rep. Travis Clardy (’84); Doug Robison, J.D., president of Natura Resources LLP; Rep. Dade Phelan, speaker of the House; Dr. Phil Schubert (’91), president; and Rep. Stan Lambert (’75).
SCOTT DELONY Debate team members display some of their hardware from a successful season. SCOTT DELONY


Dr. Tom Lee and a few of his students were on a scientific expedition in the cold, high-elevation climate of Ecuador’s Andes Mountains in 2010 when he ran across an unfamiliar mammal 2,500 meters above sea level. “I wasn’t sure what it was,” said Lee, professor of biology. “I kept going through the descriptions, and I changed my mind a couple of times.” After 12 years of research about Ecuador’s rats, Lee determined that

Sheila (Prickett ’87) Ritchie, director of forensics and debate, was named International Public Debate Association Coach of the Year, only the second woman in IPDA history to receive the recognition.

(See related story on page 45.)

the species, which he named Thomasomys burneoi, was a new species yet to be documented. His findings were published this year in the scientific journal Vertebrate Zoology. Lee has taken numerous trips to Ecuador, primarily in the Andes Mountains, and discovered four species, including Tanyuromys thomasleei, a long-tailed montane rat that friends named after him in 2018 to honor his contributions to mammalogy.

A Lights Up! fundraiser for ACU Theatre was held Sept. 17, 2022, in Abilene at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. The cabaret evening of songs and tributes to the late Jeannette Scruggs Lipford (’49) featured Jonathan Bragg (’09), Richard Chaz Gomez (’20), Griffin Scott Jones (’21), Payton Reeves Lauerman (’19), Christine Pinson (’03) and Annika Johansson Spalding (’06)

Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences awards for 2022: AES Alumnus of the Year, Dr. Barry Perryman (’78), and

Landon Saunders Collection donated to Brown Library

The Board of Directors of Heartbeat Inc. and Landon Saunders, its president, have donated his personal papers and Heartbeat’s corporate records to ACU’s Brown Library.

For decades, Saunders has been one of the most influential evangelists in Churches of Christ, with an audience built on years of short, practical lessons broadcast on national and international radio.

The large collection consists of speech transcripts, sermon notes, photographs, books, training materials, personal correspondence, organizational records and other audiovisual content created by Saunders and colleagues over more than 50 years of Heartbeat’s ministry (1971-present).

Saunders first launched Heartbeat as a pilot of Herald of Truth Ministries, and in its early days it was based in Abilene. He subsequently relocated the headquarters of an independent Heartbeat to Houston and then to New York City, where for many years he hosted the Heartbeat radio program, which was heard by millions worldwide on the NBC, CBS and Armed Forces radio networks.

“I am profoundly grateful to Landon Saunders and the Heartbeat board for entrusting this body of work to us,” said James Wiser, ACU dean of library services and educational technology.

“Landon has always been ahead of

us. His approach to communicating a vibrant, joyful religion to humans who may not know they want it is exactly what faith leaders today need most. His spirit is needed on every square inch of this campus, and I am excited for what is ahead of us in carrying on this work with Heartbeat and making this a living archive that will serve individuals and faith communities for generations to come,” Wiser said.

A native of West Virginia, Saunders served as a minister in Churches of Christ in Arkansas and Tennessee before moving to Abilene in 1971. For several years, he was the minister at the Minter Lane Church of Christ in Abilene.

Today, he is a resident of Norwich, Vermont, and in addition to being a frequent lecturer at churches and universities, he also serves on the board of the Yale University Center for Faith and Culture and as a Fellow of Caris Life Sciences Foundation. 

AES Young Professional of the Year, Ashley Simon (’11), D.V.M. Perryman is professor and chair of agriculture, veterinary and rangeland sciences at the University of Nevado-Reno, and Simon is associate veterinarian at Coleman (Texas) Veterinary Clinic.

Nearly 150 faculty and staff from 41 Christian colleges and universities convened at ACU in September for the inaugural Best Practices in Christian Higher Ed conference. The three-day event focused on “Cultivating Engaged Learners Through First-Year Experiences,” with three keynote addresses, 20 breakout sessions and 14 poster presentations. Keynote speakers were Jennifer Keup, executive director of the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, and Dr. Richard Beck (’89), professor of psychology at ACU. Sessions examined high-impact practices in relation to teaching and learning; diversity, equity and inclusion; Christian spiritual formation; vocational and leadership development; and retention and outcomes. The next Best Practices in Christian Higher Ed conference, “Expanding Hearts and Minds through Global Learning and Study Abroad,” is scheduled for Sept. 29 - Oct. 1, 2024.

Two ACU sophomore political science majors have been named Sumners Scholars for 2022, earning $30,000 each for their junior and senior years. Thomas Sanderson and J.D. Schlageter were among 15 students to receive the scholarships. Sumners Scholars recognizes students from Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas who are dedicated to civic education and engagement, and possess a capacity for leadership.

For the seventh year in its history, ACU’s Omega Gamma Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, was named an Honor Chapter for its outstanding activities in 2021-22. ACU is one of only 12 Honor Chapters out of 629 across the nation.

On Oct. 17, 2022, Dr. Frederick Aquino (’89) delivered the inaugural William J. Abraham Memorial Lecture at SMU, honoring his former professor. The lecture was titled, “William J. Abraham and John Henry Newman on Faith and Reason.” The late Abraham was professor emeritus of Wesley studies at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. Aquino is professor of theology at ACU.

Ritchie Saunders PAUL WHITE
Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
DR. TOM LEE Thomasomys burneoi

College of Arts and Sciences reorganized, new colleges created

In Fall 2023, ACU will launch three new colleges, and some departments will find new homes, all as part of restructuring to further the growing national reputation of academic programs, capitalize on expansion in certain areas and group similar programs together for better collaboration.

ACU’s current structure for residential programs includes the College of Arts and Sciences housing 13 departments; the College of Biblical Studies housing three departments; the College of Business Administration housing two departments and a school; and the College of Education and Human Services housing four departments and one school.

In addition, the School of Nursing currently operates independently of the other colleges.

The new organizational structure will introduce a College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, and College of Science and Engineering. The colleges of Business Administration and Biblical Studies will remain as they are. ACU Online’s programs housed in the College of Graduate and Professional Studies will also remain unaffected.

With the current College of Arts and Sciences containing more than half of ACU’s total departments, conversations and exploration of the need to restructure have been happening for several years.

“While we’re introducing a new campaign [Higher Ground] and a new strategic plan, we wanted to think about rebranding and bringing together similar areas of study,” said Dr. Robert Rhodes, provost.

“This also allows us to bring in deans with more specific expertise and focus in the areas of each college. It’s been 20 years since we launched a new college, so we’re grateful to be in a position to be launching three new colleges at once based on expansion and energy that already exists around many of our programs,” Rhodes said.

Dr. Greg Straughn (’94), dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will serve as the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

A national search, using an outside search firm, is underway for deans of the colleges of Health and Behavioral Sciences, and Science and Engineering.

The new college structure:

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

• Art and Design

• Communication and Sociology

• History and Global Studies

• Journalism and Mass Communication

• Language and Literature

• Liberal Arts

• Music

• Political Science and Criminal Justice

• School of Education

• Theatre

College of Biblical Studies

• Bible, Missions and Ministry

• Graduate School of Theology

• Marriage and Family Studies

College of Business Administration

• Accounting

• Dukes School of Finance

• Management Sciences

• School of Information Technology and Computing

College of Health and Behavioral Sciences

• Communication Sciences and Disorders

• Kinesiology and Nutrition

• Nursing

• Occupational Therapy

• Psychology

• School of Social Work

College of Science and Engineering

• Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

• Biology

• Chemistry and Biochemistry

• Engineering and Physics

• Mathematics

ACU online certificate and degree programs


• Business Analytics

• Church Leadership: Foundations

• Church Leadership: Praxis

• Conflict Management

• Conflict Management for Church Leaders *

• Conflict Management for Educators *

• Cybersecurity

• Healthcare Collaboration and Conflict Management *

• Precision Medicine Administration

• Precision Medicine


• Applied Communication

• Child and Family Services

• Christian Service and Formation

• Communication Sciences and Disorders

• Criminal Justice

• Health and Human Performance

• Healthcare Administration

• Information Technology Administration

• Integrated Studies

• Management

• Marketing

• Organizational Leadership

• Pre-Nursing Track

• Psychology

• RN to B.S.N.


• B.S.N. to D.N.P. Track

• Master of Arts in Christian Ministry

• Master of Arts in Conflict Management and Reconciliation *

• Master of Arts in Global Service

• Master of Arts in Theological Studies

• Master of Business Administration

• Master of Divinity

• Master of Education in Higher Education

• Master of Education in Instruction and Learning (Cohort only)

• Master of Healthcare Administration

• Master of Marriage and Family Therapy

• Master of Science in Information Technology

• Master of Science in Management

• Master of Science in Nutrition

• Master of Science in Nutrition/Dietetic Internship

• Master of Science in Organizational Development

• Master of Science in Precision Medicine

• Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership

• Doctor of Nursing Practice

• Education Specialist in Organizational Leadership

* Online with residency

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023
about ACU’s online programs at

Construction alters skyline on the Hill

Several new and recently completed construction projects continue to transform the perimeter of campus.

Construction on Wessel Hall, ACU’s newest and largest residence hall, is still on schedule to open in July 2023. The brick facade on

the exterior is nearly finished, and drywall and painting are underway in the interior. The 95,000-square-foot hall will house 350 students as well as a full-time faculty in residence. Wessel Hall

For the latest visit

48 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
The front of Wessel Hall faces East North 16th Street. INSET: The north-facing rear of Wessel Hall.
The Dillard SERC is located on the corner of East North 16th Street and Judge Ely Boulevard.

will also be the home of the ACU Honors College freshman living and learning community.

After the completion of the in-ground trench, walls have now been constructed for the research bay in the Gayle and Max Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center. Steel erection is also underway for the portion of the building that will house office space and laboratories. The 28,000-square-foot building is scheduled to open by the end of the summer, providing space for ACU’s NEXT Lab, as well as research in chemistry, physics and engineering.

Allen Ridge, the unique dining, retail and outdoor lifestyle space adjacent to the ACU campus, celebrated its grand opening in September 2022. The space now includes Fuzzy’s Tacos, Phoenix Pho, Abilene Nail Bar, Hotworx Yoga, Biscuit Bar, Bahama Bucks, Twisted Root, Apricot Lane, Summer Moon Coffee, and Cork and Pig. A new Hendrick Urgent Care center and Coleman County State Bank opened nearby as well, and The Lofts at Allen Ridge (apartments) plan to open this spring.

Summer Moon Coffee is owned by Juan (’09) and Shelby (Shipley ’13) Nunez, and Bahama Bucks is owned by Dodd Roberts (’86). Juan Nunez is ACU’s director of men’s and women’s tennis, and Roberts is director of the Halbert Center for Missions and Global Service.


JMC colloquium helps students understand race, culture

Diversity and inclusion are increasingly important topics at Abilene Christian University, and for a decade now, ACU’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication has made them a priority with its innovative Race and Media Colloquium.

Dr. Doug Mendenhall (’82), associate professor of journalism, introduced two classes to ACU in 2013 in response to the department’s accreditation committee feedback on the need for broader diversity

portrayed race in the past and how it is handling it in the present, and how it’s not perfect and how we can make it better – that definitely adds value to any JMC student, especially when dealing with a story that is not of their ethnicity or culture,” Williams said. “It helps students understand how to handle it the correct way without being offensive or derogatory toward anyone.”

The class brought heightened awareness to Carrie Johnston, senior

initiatives. JMC 302 is a 1-hour class taught during the semester. “We talk about journalism, advertising, film, public relations and popular music, and try to get students to see historically how that’s changed in terms of race and ethnicity,” Mendenhall said.

Then, JMC 303 puts every student into two weekend colloquia featuring notable media professionals or academics who focus on a specific slice of the broad intersection of media and race.

Speakers have ranged from wellknown scholars such as diversity educator Dr. Dorothy Bland of the University of North Texas, who received the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2022 Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award, to media professionals including the late Sean Adams (’94), sports talk radio host from Austin, Texas, who was a frequent contributor to ESPN.

Mariah Williams, junior journalism major from DeSoto, Texas, said she sees great value in the course, which is required of all JMC majors.

“I’m black, and seeing how media

journalism major from Spring Branch, Texas, who said the lessons she has learned have stayed with her.

“It really made me realize that our words truly do leave an impact on people,” she said. “Portraying a group of people in a negative light can be damaging for years to come. It helps me right now, specifically, realize how much my words can truly matter.”

The quality of speakers is what makes the program stand out, Mendenhall said, “but it’s also just plain old telling our students to come in here, listen to this person, get to know them and be able to talk about difficult topics with each other. And you’re going to be a better person for it.”

His goal, he said, is for students to leave “having sat at the feet of somebody who is of color and is an expert in their field, and they respect them, they know that they’ve learned from them, and they are less apprehensive about being able to go in a room and talk to anybody about anything.”

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 49
Colloquium speakers in recent years have included Atlantic magazine senior editor Vann Newkirk II; Rebecca Aguilar (inset left), president of the Society of Professional Journalists; and former TV anchor Israel Balderas (inset right), SPJ secretary-treasurer.

Fall 2022 enrollment hits record for fifth consecutive year

The largest-ever student body –numbering 5,731 – enrolled for Fall 2022 with increases in all key areas: undergraduate enrollment (3,863), graduate enrollment (1,868) and both the Abilene campus (3,588) and ACU Online (2,143).

“It’s exciting and humbling to welcome our largest-ever student body this year. These 5,731 students are here for a reason, and we’re thrilled to have them as part of our

Fall 2022 Quick Facts *

Total enrollment: 5,731 (+397)

Undergraduate students: 3,863 (+303)

Graduate students: 1,868 (+94)

Abilene campus: 3,588 (+34)

ACU Online: 2,143 (+363)

Entering freshmen: 950 (+78)

Transfer students: 370 (+175)

International students: 196 (+23)

Ethnic diversity of the student body: 41%

* Change from last year noted in parentheses


Faculty, staff awards announced

Faculty and staff attended a Presession gathering in August 2022 for a time of inspiration, vision casting and gratitude to begin the academic year.

Award winners were announced for various honors:


• Provost’s Award for the Advancement of Spiritual Formation – Dr. Ramonica Scott , assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition

• Provost’s Award for Service, General Education Proposal Team – Dr. Rodney

community,” said Dr. Phil Schubert (’91), ACU president.

New student residential enrollment in Abilene increased by 7% with 1,024 new students, and the entering freshmen cohort includes 34 valedictorians/salutatorians, 12 National Merit Commended students and five National Merit Finalists.

ACU Online enrolled its largest number of new students to date this fall, seeing the most significant growth in undergraduate online programs. Overall enrollment continues to grow at a pace of 20% over the prior year.

a row (and the fourth time in a decade), ACU is also among just 42 institutions nationwide named to the Honor Roll.

The results were published in the Sept. 16, 2022, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education and are based on an annual survey of a random selection of administrators, faculty members and professional support staff members at colleges and universities in the U.S. who are asked to evaluate their employer on various qualities and characteristics.

ACU also was honored for having one of the nation’s Best Online Doctorate in Education Programs for 2022 by Fortune Education , a highly respected industry and education ranking provider. Fortune Education ranked each university on selectivity, success and demand, among other metrics, to indicate the best online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership programs in the U.S.

Abilene Christian is one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, according to the latest survey by the “Great Colleges to Work For” program, marking the 13th time ACU has been recognized in the last 14 years.

Out of the 212 institutions participating in 2022, 68 were recognized as a 2022 Great College to Work For. For the third year in

Ashlock (’91 M.Div.), chair and assistant professor of Bible, missions and ministry; Dr. Cole Bennett , professor of language and literature; Dr. Stephanie (Toombs ’90) Hamm, assistant dean of the College of Health and Human Services and associate professor of social work; Dr. Monty Lynn, professor of management sciences; Dr. Sara Salkil (’96 M.M.F.T.), program director and assistant professor of marriage and family therapy online; and Dr. Autumn Sutherlin, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

In addition, Newsweek and Statista Inc. named ACU one of America’s Top Online Colleges for 2023. The list highlights the nation’s top 200 colleges and universities based on an online survey with more than 11,400 assessments from more than 9,000 respondents. Abilene Christian’s ranking improved from 126 last year to 96 this year.

• Provost’s Award for Scholarship –Dr. Curt Niccum (’92 M.Div.), professor of Bible, missions and ministry


• Unsung Servant Award – Susan (Wyatt ’83) Gore, executive assistant, Student Life

• Outstanding Staff Member – Amber Webb, facilitator, School of Nursing

• Outstanding Staff Member – Lt. Bucky Wright , ACU Police Department

• John C. Stevens Award – Ryan Bowman (’06), director of multicultural affairs, Student Life

50 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
ACU named ‘Great College to Work For’again, receives other accolades for online degree programs

Bestselling author is featured speaker at spring edition of Summit

Summit – ACU’s historic event for church leaders and other Christ-followers to have conversations about faith and life – is now in its second year of a new twice-yearly rhythm, focusing on small communities for specific ministries, along with a general interest group.

Amazon Prime to include ACU in college tour series

Abilene Christian University will be featured on an upcoming episode in Season 8 of “The College Tour,” a series now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

In the show, host Alex Boylan, winner of the second season of “The Amazing Race,” guides the 30-minute episode telling the story of student life at ACU, from academics to the campus community to athletics. Several Wildcats help show viewers around the Hill and describe their experiences.

“The College Tour” was created by Boylan, Lisa Hennessy and Burton Roberts,

Frey named new ACU Dallas V.P. of innovation and business development

Dr. Jeff Frey has been named vice president of innovation and business development at ACU’s Dallas campus. Frey is responsible for developing a new business unit that forms innovative partnerships with businesses creating direct employment pathways for ACU students.

This initiative will accurately match people with professions by partnering with employers to not only upskill existing employees but find and quickly educate potential employees and prepare them for their new jobs.

a team of successful entrepreneurs in the TV, social media and technology space. Each episode tells experiential stories from college campuses across the nation and around the world, through eyes and words of actual students, professors and alumni.

“The idea for ‘The College Tour’ TV series came to me from my 16-year-old niece. Because of the pandemic and finances, she wasn’t able to travel to tour colleges,” Boylan said. “So, using our skills as executive producers, we created a series inspired by her and millions of other young people who are interested in attending college.”

The episode is scheduled to air on Amazon Prime in June 2023, but you might find it on ACU’s website – –even sooner. 

The spring Summit is planned for March 30-31 with the theme “Living Word.” Kristin Kobes Du Mez, New York Times bestselling author and a professor at Calvin University, will be the plenary session speaker, and community groups will include Hispanic ministry, ministry across adulthood, preaching ministry and worship ministry.

In addition, a general interest community group will be led by Don McLaughlin and Amy Bost Henegar, examining the book of Hebrews McLaughlin is senior minister of the North Atlanta (Georgia) Church of Christ, and Henegar is a minister at the Manhattan (New York) Church of Christ. 

Register for the event and learn more at

Siburt Institute events


Frey brings first-hand business leadership and entrepreneurship knowledge from founding and growing several businesses, including a “hire, train, deploy” startup.

He earned a master’s in computer science from Kent State University, an MBA from Rice University and a doctorate from the Weatherhead School at Case Western University.

Speakers at the Sept. 16-17, 2022, ElderLink North Carolina event in Greensboro included Don McLaughlin, Dr. Cheryl Mann Bacon (’77), Dennis Conner, Dr. Omar Palafox (’15 M.Div.), Dr. Carson Reed (’95 D.Min.) and Dr. Eddie Sharp (’73).

Speakers at the Oct. 29, 2022, ElderLink Arkansas event in Fort Smith included Phil Brookman, Dr. Mark Hamilton (’90 M.Div.), Dr. Grady King (’89 M.S.), Dr. John Knox (’87 M.S.), Roland Orr (’68) and Dr. David Wray (’67)

Upcoming events include a Contemplative Ministers’ Initiative retreat Feb. 6-9, 2023, and ElderLink DFW on Feb. 25, 2023, at North Davis Church of Christ in Arlington, Texas.

ACU student Andrea Escobedo, junior nursing major from Odessa, Texas, listens to instructions from the production crew of “The College Tour” while it filmed Oct. 3-7, 2022, on campus.
51 ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023

Sema’J Davis continues to write chapters in a story of faith and perseverance

Early in the hours of Oct. 8, 2020, the life of young Wildcat quarterback Sema’J Davis was altered in an accident near campus, when a car speeding at more than 100 mph ran a red light and hit his vehicle, head on.

At first, no one was sure if Davis was in the accident. His mother, Michelle, described via phone to police each birthmark, scar and physical feature to confirm her son’s identity. His family hurriedly drove from their home in Midland, Texas, while Sema’J was airlifted to a hospital in Fort Worth to treat his broken femur and clavicle, along with severe head trauma. As he fought for his life, Davis tested positive for COVID-19.

Although he was quarantined, he started physical therapy and began to respond to treatments. During the week of Christmas 2020, he was moved to a rehabilitation unit.

The day after his first treatment, a physical therapist asked him to describe to his parents what they just did.

“Walk,” Sema’J said, the first word he had spoken since the accident.

Afterward, he ate chocolate pudding, his favorite dessert, and continued to make progress each day. Although he wasn’t talking fluently, that same week he said his first sentence: “Merry Christmas.”

“It’s been amazing to see how God, if you allow him, can show you that there’s absolutely nothing impossible,” said his mother.

Friends created a GoFundMe page in support of the family, raising more than $65,000. The Davises have saved every letter sent to them.

“ACU is still behind us 100% and

they continue to stand behind us and support Sema’J. My hat goes off to them,” said his father, Earl.

Now, two years later, the Wildcat football star said he has made “leaps and bounds” in his recovery and hopes to one day finish his career.

“If I put in the work to play football again, sure, it’s out there,” Davis said. “I’m just really waiting on his [God’s] time. Whenever he says ‘You’re good,’ I know I’m good.”

Despite the odds, Davis still holds a spot on the roster of new head coach Keith Patterson, who gave him an opportunity to speak to the team on its retreat this summer.

“Boy, I was so nervous,” Davis said. “I had so many cheers. It was just unbelievable.”

During the offseason, Patterson added more than 40 new studentathletes to his roster, many of whom had never heard their teammate’s story. Patterson said he wanted his players to realize what real-life adversity looks like outside of football.

During practices, Davis gives his coach advice on route concepts, evaluates players and supports his teammates in every possible way.

For the latest visit

“He’s an inspiration to our team … because of the kind of person he is,” Patterson said. “He comes to every practice and he’s out there encouraging his teammates. Just by him being there, he inspires all of us to be the best version of ourselves.”

While Davis is progressing faster than expected, doctors told his parents that due to his traumatic brain injury, it will take time to heal. But his faith, fight and strong will continue.

Before the accident, he set what was likely the ACU single-game record for most rushing yards by a quarterback – 148 against Houston Baptist – then broke that two weeks later with a 149-yard performance and two rushing TDs on the road in a big 37-31 win in overtime against 15th-ranked Nichols. Davis’ speed, agility and arm strength presented significant challenges to the defensive units of Wildcat opponents.

Today, his story is still being written. He’s completed huge steps in his remarkable recovery, preparing for what he believes will be an inspiring return to the sport he loves.

“That’s a waiting chapter,” Sema’J said. “We’ll see.”

52 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
Wildcat SPORTS
Davis’ breakout season was 2019, when as a sophomore quarterback he finished ninth in the conference in rushing and was among national FCS leaders in touchdowns scored. JEREMY ENLOW

Turnaround season has Wildcats looking up

In September, first-year ACU head football coach Keith Patterson knew he had a team that could potentially turn the fortunes of a program that had fallen on some hard times in its short tenure at the NCAA Division I level.

But that revelation didn’t come in one of the Wildcats’ three September victories. Instead, it came in their only loss that month, a 34-17 loss at Missouri of the Southeastern Conference.

“There was a point in that game when we cut the deficit to two scores, and our guys were running off the field, and I saw on their faces they started thinking, ‘We might have a chance to be pretty good,’ ” Patterson recalled of the Sept. 17 meeting in Columbia, Missouri, with a Power 5 opponent from the SEC. “They thought we were going to win. That’s where I vividly remember seeing it.”

The Wildcats wouldn’t win that day, but they did in seven of their 11 games in 2022, setting a program record for victories in the NCAA Division I era and recording their most wins since the 2012 team finished 7-4.

ACU lost three FCS games by three points this fall, including a 24-21 loss to Stephen F. Austin in the season finale that prevented it from winning the Western Athletic Conference title and possibly earning a berth in the FCS playoffs. But not even three losses by nine points and a heartbreaking season-ending loss could dampen what the Wildcats accomplished in 2022.

Abilene Christian recorded big road wins at Southern Utah, Tarleton State and Sam Houston State, and finished 4-1 at home. The 7-4 season helped three sophomores – running back Jermiah Dobbins, offensive guard Reese Moore and defensive end Tyrin Bradley – earn first-team All-WAC honors and six other teammates take home second-team recognition. And Patterson was voted the WAC Coach of the Year for

Basketball seasons preview

Of all the reasons to be excited about ACU men’s and women’s basketball in 2022-23, the biggest is the most obvious: the return to Moody Coliseum.

After two seasons of playing in the Teague Center – where the teams were a combined 46-11 – the Wildcats have returned to their home court after the completion of a two-year, $50 million facelift that has turned Moody into one of the premier mid-major basketball arenas in the nation.

“We’ve used the renovation of Moody in recruiting for two years,” said ACU women’s head coach Julie Goodenough, who in her 12th season on the Hill won her 200th game as a Wildcat in a season-opening win over Howard Payne. “We’ve been advertising it as the best basketball arena in this part of the country. The amenities for players, coaches and staff are second to none. It’s helped tremendously in recruiting and with name recognition.”

Both teams have players to make their respective 2022-23 seasons exciting for fans.

directing the Wildcats’ turnaround in his first season as a collegiate head coach.

Quarterbacks Maverick McIvor and Ethan Long also showed promise, as did several other newcomers, including receiver Tristan Golightly, running back Rovaughn Banks, tight end Noah Caldwell, defensive backs Patrick Jolley and Elijah Moffett , return specialist Davion Johnson, and linebacker Reese Young, among others.

ACU rebounded from losing seasons each of the last three years to earn a 7-4 record and set itself up for brighter days ahead. That was the message Patterson had for his team in the locker room after the home loss to SFA.

“We talked about the disappointment that we all experienced,” as Patterson recalled what was said in the postgame locker room. “But I also told everyone how proud we were of them, and how they moved the program forward. Was it to the level we wanted? It wasn’t, but we have nothing to be ashamed of for how they played this season. Now we have to take this season and move forward. The standard won’t change, but now everyone has to raise their bar, and that was our challenge to everyone who will be back for 2023.”

ACU fans hitting a pair of clutch free throws that beat Texas, 53-52, in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis. A forward, Pleasant spent last season at Wichita State but returned to ACU this summer for his final season.

Women’s Basketball

Men’s Basketball

Second-year head coach Brette Tanner’s Wildcats return only one true starter – senior forward Airion Simmons, who started all 34 games he played last season on his way to second-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors – but have four others coming back who played in all 36 games of 2021-22.

Damien Daniels, Tobias Cameron, Cameron Steele and Immanuel Allen were key parts of a team that finished 25-11, reached the WAC Postseason Tournament championship game, and then made it to the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational Tournament.

Also returning is a familiar face in Joe Pleasant , who was last seen by most

Goodenough’s team returns four players, and only three who saw action in 2021-22, which ended with a 17-13 record and a first-round appearance in the WAC Postseason Tournament in Las Vegas. One of them is fifth-year guard Madi Miller, one of the top 3-point shooters in ACU’s NCAA Division I history.

Also returning are sophomores Bella Earle and Alexis Babineaux. Addison Martin took a medical redshirt last season and will see the floor in 2022-23.

The Wildcats also added five transfers, including Zoe Jackson from Butler, where she played 27 games last year as a freshman. ACU also added four true freshmen to a team picked to finish fifth this season in the WAC. 

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 53
JEREMY ENLOW Running back Jermiah Dobbins was voted first-team All-WAC Simmons Miller

Multi-talented Keller begins college career narrowing her focus to just one sport

Tristin Keller joined the ACU women’s basketball program in the summer with one of the most diverse athletic resumes of any Wildcat to ever suit up for the Purple and White.

She was a three-time all-state basketball player at Mason (Texas) High School, where she also earned a bronze medal in the pole vault at the Class 2A state track and field meet. She also played tennis and softball, starring at shortstop and catcher.

Oh, and Keller was also an all-district performer in football –at cornerback – for the state-ranked Mason Punchers.

In fact, her tweet in September 2020 alluding to her “first varsity start” turned her into quite a social media star. The tweet was liked by more than 44,000 users, was re-tweeted more than 2,800 times, and quote-tweeted another 752. It earned the attention of NBC Sports, and she was hailed for opening doors of opportunity for young girls around the globe.

One Twitter user from Chicago responded to her, saying, “Thank you. Please keep paving the way for girls


like my daughter [who] is projected to be 5-10 and solid.” Keller replied, “For sure! Tell her [to] do what she loves and pursue [it] with 100% effort and commitment. No matter the challenges that come her way, she will not regret it.”

Keller received the 2021 Unsung Hero award from Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine and Texas Farm Bureau Insurance.

Her diverse skills and success in each sport first attracted ACU head coach Julie Goodenough and her staff to Keller, who was also valedictorian of her graduating class.

“When we started evaluating Tristin on the court, we learned how versatile and talented she was in other sports,” Goodenough said.

“She was allowed and encouraged to play every sport offered to girls at Mason, even football. For a girl to play football in high school, and really play, not just to be a token kicker or occasional special teams player, but really play in rotations on both offense and defense –you know they are built differently. Tristin’s experience playing football contributed to her fearless mindset and toughness.”

But Keller – who began playing football in the third grade, following in the footsteps of her older brother –knew her career would end after high school, so she had to pick

a sport for her college days. It turned out to be a slam-dunk decision: basketball. And the choice of where she would play collegiately also turned out to be effortless.

“My decision to play at ACU ended up being an easy one to make,” Keller said. “My mother grew up in Abilene, and my grandparents still live here, so I had grown up watching ACU play basketball when I visited. Then I had a chance to do a campus tour, and that helped solidify my decision. I felt as if God had clearly put his path in front of me, and I knew if I didn’t follow it, I would be making a big mistake.”

So far, so good for the 5-foot-8 freshman guard. And in case the Wildcat football team ever needs

Wildcats stand out in pro sports

Early in the 2022-23 season, Jaren Lewis (’19) leads his European pro basketball team in scoring (13.8 points) and rebounding (9.3) as a veteran forward with the Hakro Crailsheim Merlins, a Top 10 team in the highest league in Germany. Eric Kibi (’15) is a forward for CSM Focsani in the Romanian Divizia A League, and Jalone Friday (’19) is a center for AS Apollon Patras in the Greek A1 Basketball League.

In early December, former Wildcat standout linebacker Jack Gibbens (’20) was moved from the practice squad to the active roster of the

from 2017-20 for ACU before graduating and playing one final season with the University of Minnesota. He started all 13 games in 2021 for the Golden Gophers, leading them in tackles, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference and earning a master’s degree in accounting.

Frenchman Cyril Bouniol (’11) returned to pro golf’s Korn Ferry Tour in 2022 after a near-death experience in October 2021 when

54 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY


Wholey brings a world of experience in NCAA and USA Track & Field to campus

In late September 2022, ACU track and field head coach Jerrod Cook leaned on an old friendship when he hired Diane Wholey – one of the top coaches in the nation – to be an assistant on his staff.

Wholey – who will coach horizontal jumps and the high jump for ACU – has an impressive resume that includes nearly a decade as the Texas Tech University associate head coach under head coach Wes Kittley (’81) from 1999-2008.

Wholey’s 30-plus-year resume is decorated with national and conference titles at the collegiate level. She has also assisted Team USA after holding several coaching and managerial roles with USA Track & Field.

Before joining the ACU staff, Wholey served the previous four seasons as the head men’s and women’s coach at Western Illinois University.

“I’ve known Diane for a long time, and we have spoken in the past about her coaching at ACU,” Cook said. “Diane brings a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience to our program. I believe she will help elevate us in the jumps area to the next level. We are so thankful to have Diane here with us.”

She has served as an assistant coach at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Tennessee. Wholey also coached the USA women’s team in the IAAF World Indoor Championships and the USA vs. Germany vs. France Team Challenge in Munich, Germany. She was the women’s team manager at the 2012 London Olympics. 

Cross Country

• Irene Rono completed the cross country portion of her distinguished career with a 110th-place showing at the NCAA Championships, finishing the Oklahoma State 6K course in 20:41.9.

• Rono qualified for her third consecutive NCAA appearance after placing fifth at South Central Regionals (20:30.0). She led the Wildcats to a sixth-place showing at the WAC Championships, running a 6K time of 20:20.2.

• Levi Chambers was the Wildcat men’s cross country leader much of the season, and set personal records in the 8K (24:01.2) and 10K (31:38.3) at the WAC Championships and NCAA Regionals.


• The Wildcats wrapped up their first season under head coach Alisa Blair at 7-19 overall and 4-10 in the Western Athletic Conference, but hopes are high for the future because of the play of several talented players returning for the 2023 season.

• Sophomore outside hitter Bryley Steinhilber and freshman outside hitter Ashli Edmiston led the team in kills with 263 and 255, respectively, while Edmiston had a team-best 255 digs. Sophomore setter Madeline Guffey led the team with 511 assists and was second in digs with 240. Junior middle blocker Braden Bossier recorded 85 total blocks.

Women’s Soccer

• After ACU finished 4-10-4 overall and 0-8-3 in the WAC, vice president for athletics Zack Lassiter announced that veteran head coach Casey Wilson (’99) would not return for a 17th year. The founding head coach of ACU women’s soccer in 2007, he had a career record of 167-117-29. Wilson led the Wildcats to three NCAA Championship appearances, one league title (2011 in the Lone Star Conference), and two conference tournament titles (2010 in the Lone Star and 2018 in the Southland). In 2018, Wilson became the first coach in Wildcat history to take a team to an NCAA Division I national tournament.

• On Dec. 20, Hardin-Simmons University and former Wildcat associate head coach Stephen Salas was named ACU’s new head coach. Before being hired in 2022 at HSU, Salas served from 2019-22 as the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He was on Wilson’s staff from 2013-19.


• The Wildcats posted a second straight 30-win season in 2022 and made an improbable run through the Western Athletic Conference

an autoimmune health issue related to COVID-19 caused him to miss much of last season while recovering. Bouniol was one of seven Wildcats inducted in October 2022 to the ACU Sports Hall of Fame.

Ten Wildcat teams post perfect APR scores for 2021-22 school year

Abilene Christian’s baseball, men’s cross country, men’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s basketball, women’s cross country, women’s soccer, women’s tennis, women’s track and field, and volleyball programs all posted perfect 1,000 APR (Academic Progress Rate)

scores for the 2021-22 school year.

In addition, seven programs – women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s cross country, and men’s golf – have posted a perfect multi-year APR going back to the 2018-19 academic year.

“ACU places a high priority on both academic rigor and success,” said Heather Wyatt , associate athletics director for compliance and student services, and senior woman administrator. “Our student-athletes demonstrate excellence on the field or court that can be paired with excellence  in the classroom.”

You can’t miss noticing ACU’s 17 Wildcat teams traveling down the road this year. Their 56-passenger MCI J4500 bus, chauffered by VIP Sports Getaway, features bold graphics by Todd Mullins, ACU director of creative strategy.

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 55

Postseason Tournament in late May, falling to New Mexico State in the championship game.

• Fifth-year head coach Rick McCarty returns a solid core of players from 2022, led by senior shortstop Bash Randle (second-team All-WAC in 2022), centerfielder Grayson Tatrow (Cape League All-Star in 2022), outfielder Miller Ladusau, and pitchers Tyler Morgan, Max Huffling and Breck Eichelberger. Newcomers to watch include outfielder Logan Britt , and right-handed pitchers Blake Anderson and Rolando De La Cruz

• The Wildcats have an intriguing non-conference schedule, including a Feb. 22 matchup against last year’s College World Series runner-up Oklahoma at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The Wildcats will also play, among others, Baylor (March 28 in Waco and May 2 at home), Nebraska (April 1 at home), Texas Tech (April 4 in Lubbock and April 25 at home), TCU (March 21 in Fort Worth and April 11 at home) and Texas (April 19 in Austin).


• The defending WAC champions will get their 2023 spring season started Feb. 20 at the Bayou Collegiate in Houston, but they’ll do so without many of the players who led to the program’s first NCAA Division I conference title in 2022. Juniors Zane Heusel and Logan Diomede each played in the WAC and NCAA Tournaments last spring, but they are the only two of the top five who return.

• Now in his ninth season, Wildcat head coach Tom Shaw will field one of the youngest teams in the WAC with several freshmen – including Thomas Buisson from Bordeaux, France; Gregoire Hoyeau from Paris, France; with Texans Brian Comegys from The Hills and Karson Grigsby from Abilene – expected to play prominent roles in 2023.


• Now in her fourth season, head coach Abigail Farler has the Wildcats poised for a breakthrough season in 2023 after they finished 25-26 and reached the WAC Tournament last spring. The Wildcats return a host of experienced players, led by senior outfielder Mercedes Eichelberger, a second-team All-WAC selection in 2022.

• In addition, Farler and her staff added several outstanding transfers and freshmen, including transfer pitcher Talia Nielsen, who was 28-6 with 310 strikeouts (against just 20 walks) in 237.2 innings last season at

Bakersfield (California) College. Transfer Catrin Hoffman from Temple College will add an explosive bat to the lineup after she hit .453 with 10 home runs last year, earning first-team all-region honors.

Men’s Tennis

• The Wildcats and head coach Juan Nunez (’09) return seven players from their 2022 WAC championship squad, including first-team All-WAC honorees Cesar Barranquero, Dario Kmet and second-team designee Daniel Morozov. Kmet and Morozov were also voted first-team All-WAC in doubles.

• ACU claimed 35 singles victories and 14 doubles triumphs through four tournaments in Fall 2022, one of which was Kmet’s three-set upset win over Cleeve Harper of Texas at the regional tournament. The men’s Spring 2023 season will kick off on Jan. 14 at TCU.

Women’s Tennis

• Bryan Rainwater begins his second year as head coach of the Wildcats when their 2023 Spring season begins Jan. 18 at SMU.

• Maryjoe Crisologo and Andrea Guerrero are the only upperclassmen on this year’s roster. They are joined by freshmen Maria Cascos, Olivia Sears and Masha Vrsalovic and returning sophomores Eva Arranz and Paula Garrote. Crisologo, Guerrero and Arranz all were part of ACU’s lineup that upset top-seeded Grand Canyon, 4-3, at last spring’s WAC Championships.

Track and Field

• Head coach Jerrod Cook welcomes a roster of 88 student-athletes (36 freshmen) for the 2023 season. Coming back to lead the Wildcats are NCAA West Preliminary qualifiers Ella Anttila (triple jump), Payton Kirk (long jump), Irene Rono (5K), Zoe Burleson (discus), Jack Marshall (200m), Jamal January (long jump, 110 hurdles) and Will Harris (long jump).

• The Wildcats are planning to compete at more than 20 meets in Spring 2023, with eight indoors, starting Jan. 20 at Texas Tech. The outdoor season starts with the Wes Kittley Invitational (March 17-18) on campus at Elmer Gray Stadium, headlined by ACU, the Red Raiders, Tarleton, Angelo State and Texas A&M-Kingsville.

56 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
JEREMY ENLOW Senior long jumper Payton Kirk



Number of new endowments established to date during the Higher Ground Campaign.


Total number of ACU endowments supporting scholarships and operations.


Number of donors to the Moody Coliseum renovation project.


Number of ACU alumni, parents and other friends who answered a call from ACU’s new on-campus call center since October 2022.

Recent operational endowments created

• Jerry D. Riggs, CPA, Endowment for Accounting Excellence

• Perkins Family Endowment for the Siburt Institute

• Dr. Bill and Donna Petty Academic Research Endowment

• Jeffrey L. Wendling Endowment for Track Operations

Recent scholarship endowments created

• Estelle Clark Memorial Endowed Scholarship

• Willard Tate Endowed Scholarship

• Margie Ann (Young) Cannon Endowed Nursing Scholarship

• Janice (Blackwood) Bedford Endowed Choir Scholarship

• DIG Endowed Scholarship

• Buddy and Elizabeth Dulin Endowed Scholarship for Education

• Buddy and Elizabeth Dulin Endowed Scholarship for Math and Science

To create your own endowed scholarship or contribute to an existing one, see or call 800-674-2600.

University dials up alumna to lead new call center

As a student, Aliyah Ogletree (’21) only ever remembers talking on the phone with her mom.

But when she saw an advertisement for a student position at ACU’s call center, she figured she could draw on her high school theatre experience.

“I was so nervous to make calls at first,” Ogletree said. “But I could put on my acting hat and pretend like it’s a stage role.”

It’s grown into so much more than that. Ogletree now manages the call center and is a full-time employee of the university after ACU made the decision to take over responsibility for the operation and move it to campus this academic year.

ACU has utilized a call center since the mid 1990s to contact its alumni and friends. Although the center has always employed students from ACU, until this year the call center has been operated by a third party off campus in Abilene.

Ogletree worked as a student caller her junior year and as a student manager as a senior. During her spring semester as a senior, she participated in a program to learn about being a call center manager and applied for the position in the final days of the school year. Two weeks after Commencement, she was on the job.

So when the decision was made to bring the call center on campus, Ogletree was the obvious choice to continue running it.

“Aliyah brought a level of expertise I was concerned we wouldn’t find,” said Samantha (Bickett ’01) Adkins, director of donor relations and annual giving. “And she’s an alumna. Her passion for our students and experience running a call center made her a perfect choice.”

Ogletree, who manages 16 callers and two student managers, has enjoyed the move on campus. Working directly for the university has given her more freedom to try new ideas on the job, and recruiting student callers for on-campus positions was also easier.

The calls serve a variety of purposes. Alumni and friends of the university are able to hear news from campus or update their information – whether they’ve moved, changed jobs, married or added children to their family. It’s also a good opportunity to give back to programs they love.

Ogletree is constantly amazed at her interactions through the call center. Like with the woman who couldn’t visit Abilene often and looked forward to the calls to hear news from campus. Or the man who made a gift over the phone despite just being released from back-to-back stays in the hospital. Each one is a reminder of the power of the ACU community.

“That’s the beautiful thing about ACU,” Ogletree said. “We’re all still connected – even if we all can’t be here in Abilene.”

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 57

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In Memoriam: It’s best for a member of the deceased’s immediate family to submit notification, preferably with a copy of the official published obituary. Contact information: To help ensure the privacy of our alumni, ACU Today no longer shares email and postal addresses of those whose self-reported news appears in EXperiences. If you would like contact information for someone listed here, call 800-373-4220 or email for assistance.


Cmdr. Gary L. Moore is retired from the U.S. Navy. He and his wife, Sandra (Taylor), live in Simi, California.


Lia Correll, daughter of Don and Julie (Wadley) Harber, died March 28, 2022. The Corrells have two other daughters and a son, and live in Graham, Texas.


Teena (Barnhart) Clark is retired but working as a volunteer court-apppointed special advocate. She has three adult children and lives in Cushing, Texas.


Bennie Billington retired in 2002. He and his wife, Nikki (’65), celebrated 59 years of marriage in September 2022. They have four adult children. Their daughter, Nicole Billington, died in April 2021. They live in Houston, Texas.


Fred Jamison Jr. and Diane Wilson (’70), July 3, 2021. They live in Abilene, Texas.


John and Deborah (Williams) Falkner celebrated 50 years of marriage in September 2022. He is retired, and she is a caregiver for Home Instead. They live in Lubbock, Texas.


Dr. Preston T. Massey’s book, Female Beauty and Male Attraction in Ancient Greece, was released in 2020 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. He and his wife, Laura (Massey ’69), live in Bloomington, Indiana.


Douglas and Harriet Brodie have moved back to Abilene, Texas.

Sherry (Williams) Wilburn has three adult children and lives in Lubbock, Texas.

After more than 50 years of missions work in Europe, Tom and Sheryl (Walker) Black have retired, and live in Lubbock, Texas. They served in Germany, Austria and, for the last 30 years, in Bulgaria. The Blacks have two children and seven grandchildren.


Bruce Terry retired in 2021 after teaching Bible for 23 years at Ohio Valley University. His wife, Barbara, retired in 2013 after teaching special education in public schools, then taught art at OVU as an adjunct. Bruce authored a chapter in the 2020 book, Discourse Analysis of the New Testament Writings ( They live in Vienna, West Virginia. LaDonna (Ray) Kelley has retired after 37 years of teaching. She and her husband, Terry, live in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and have two daughters and four grandchildren.


Jimmy Glenn is in his 43rd year of preaching, 33 of them at the Kerens Church of Christ. He and his wife, Jan (Gray), live in Kerens, Texas.


Bobby and Pamela (Gibson) Richey are retired and live in Arlington, Texas. They have one daughter.


Preacher and author Dr. John Carlton Hobbs authored a 2021 book, God Is the Real 9-1-1 (see page 38). He and his wife, private voice teacher Dr. Mary Etta (Palmer), live in Wylie, Texas.

Larry and Glenda Legler are retired and live in Richardson, Texas. They have three children.

Tommy and Diane (Shivers ’71) Humphrey have a new address in Richardson, Texas.


Longtime Brazos County (Texas) State District Judge Steve Smith was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott as a justice of the state’s 10th Court of Appeals, located in Waco. He is a former ACU trustee (2001-17) and lives in College Station, Texas.


Douglas L. Mead is retired after serving as executive director of Georgia Agape Inc. He authored a 2021 book, Going Deeper With God: Addressing Challenging Issues in Our Relationship With God (see page 38). He and his wife, Nancy (Ledbetter ’75), have two adult sons and live in Hoschton, Georgia.


Landa Zoe (Walker) Grohman retired after 46 years of full-time teaching, all but one year in the Winters ISD, where she now teaches part time. She and her husband, Freddie, have four adult children and live in Winters, Texas.


Tracy Thomas-Miller and her husband, Mike Miller, live in St. Louis, Missouri.


Jan Meador Lemmons moved from Arizona to Abilene, Texas. Her children are Chris Lemmons (’05), Eric Lemmons (’07), Marnie (Lemmons ’10) Fangio and Kayla Lemmons, and she has 10 grandchildren. Julie (Grasham) Blasingame is a supervisor for academic programming at Central New York Chess, assisting with the curriculum and teaching classes. Her husband, Guy (’79), is a network engineer for Atos. They live in Mesquite, Texas.


Rolene (Wiley) Schriedel was promoted from contractor to full-time employer for Accenture. Her husband, Michael, is retired. They live in San Antonio, Texas.


Anita Joyce Whittenburg Riley started working with Gunter (Texas) ISD in January 2021. She lives in Prosper, Texas.


Todd Davis retired following a 28-year career in Texas K-12 education and is now an account executive for Data Projections, an audio/visual integration company. He and his wife, Lena, live in Lubbock, Texas.

58 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY


Deana (Hamby) Nall’s 2021 nonfiction book, A Murder in Searcy, appeared on Amazon’s best-sellers list for “New Releases in Biographices and Memoirs.” It was written with co-author Mike Allen. She and her husband, Chad (’94), live in Bryant, Arkansas.


Susan Nalani Rutherford and Tommy Proffitt, March 26, 2022. Their blended family includes six adult children and three grandchildren. Susan and Tommy live in Memphis, Texas.


Catherine (Henry) Piepenbrink and her husband, Eric, live in Chandler, Arizona. She recently became that city’s organizational development specialist, providing leadership training, professional development and career planning services to its more than 2,000 employees.


To Dr. Andrei and Apurva Duta, a boy, Augustus Constantin, Sept. 29, 2022. They live in Georgetown, Texas.


Dr. Jason Martin was named president of the Texas Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. He is professor and clinical director at The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. He also owns a private practice in Belton, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Kari (Wireman ’99) and their children, Regan and ACU sophomore Aidan

Dr. Todd Patten was named associate dean of the Cannon-Clary College of Education at Harding University. He and his wife, Felicia, live in Searcy, Arkansas.



To Robert and April (Martin) Estrella, a son, Jaxson Henry, July 6, 2020. He also has a brother, Ethan. They live in Rowlett, Texas.

To Shane and Natalie (Hedges ’02) Hughes, a boy, Deacon, Oct. 6, 2020. They live in Abilene, Texas.


Jason and Shannon (Miller) Turner live in Coppell, Texas.


To John and Britany (Baumgartner (’07) Ehrke, a boy, Rhys, Sept. 8, 2021. They live in Abilene, Texas.


By Bryon and Tiffany (Youngblood)

Caldwell, a boy, Sawyer Lansing, Aug. 19, 2022, born Jan. 22, 2022. They also have a daughter, London, and live in Allen, Texas.


Misti (Senterfitt) Ivie and her husband, Bill, returned to Texas after his

retirement from the U.S. Navy. They live in Cleburne, Texas.


To RobRoy and Jennie (Martin) McDonald, a boy, Huck Porter, March 4, 2021. They live in Midland, Texas.

To Perry and Debbie (Bohlken) Garner, twins, Elizabeth and Evan, June 21, 2022. They live in Frisco, Texas.



To Matt and Ashley (Bruner) Lee, a boy, Hudson Whitaker, Dec. 29, 2020. They live in Cypress, Texas.


Tori (Watson) Johnson, a regional attorney for Child Protective Services, was awarded the 2022 Kathy Amonett Award of Excellence, an annual statewide, peer-nominated honor given to an attorney with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (CPS/APS). Her husband is Kevin Johnson (’13). They live in Abilene, Texas.



To Jason and Abby Henderson, a boy, Connor James, Oct. 20, 2021. They live in Meadows Place, Texas.

To Dustin and Jessica (McCoy ’08) Marshall, a girl, Sloane Lee, June 23, 2022. They also have a son, Crosby James, born in 2020. They live in Coppell, Texas



To Alan and Tracy Gower, a girl, Shelby June, Sept. 24, 2019. They live in Leander, Texas.

To Jared and Erin (Knight) Wessel, a boy, Reagan Roger, Dec. 27, 2019. They live in Trophy Club, Texas.

To Russell and Emily (Holloman) Williams, a boy, Jack Winford, Nov. 23, 2021. They live in Searcy, Arkansas.

To Adam and Whitney (Brand ’10) Baran, a girl, Sydney Blaire, April 5, 2022. They have another daughter, Trudy, and live in Richardson, Texas.



To Corey and Nicole (Barnett) Dunigan, a girl, Callie, Nov. 11, 2021. They also have a son, Nathaniel, and live in Waco, Texas.



To Logan and Susie (Espinoza) Nutt , twins Riley and Elliana, March 3, 2021. They live in Richardson, Texas.

To Blake and Jody (Meyer) Bennett , a boy, Theodore Roger, July 9, 2021. They live in Bloomington, Minnesota.


Every time we gather together, I am reminded how special our Wildcat community is. The reopening of the renovated Moody Coliseum in Fall 2022 brought that into even clearer focus as our students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff are able to come together once again under one roof.

The return of Chapel to Moody helped us start the semester with energy like I have never seen. Our student worship leaders and speakers have made the time together in Moody a beautiful experience as we sat together in God’s presence.

The grand reopening in early September was an awesome celebration of those that helped make the renovation a reality, as we also remembered the past and launched into an exciting future.

The return of athletic events to Moody has brought a whole new level of excitement. The first volleyball match this fall drew a great crowd, as students and the community showed up to build new traditions. In November, we tipped off our men’s and women’s basketball seasons by also celebrating many alumni that have been a part of the Wildcats’ basketball legacy.

Homecoming Chapel gave alumni another chance to experience the excitement, and we heard from so many of them about how the new space made them so proud to be Wildcats. And we closed out this historic semester with the return of Commencement to Moody.

It was a semester of unforgettable moments, but we’re only just getting started making new Moody memories. I am excited for what the future holds for our students, alumni and community 

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 59


The Alumni Association will send a FREE Wildcat BabyWear T-shirt (12-month size) to the alumni parents of each newborn or adopted infant in your family!

Complete the EXperiences news card and mail it to us, or complete the info online at

In-focus, high-resolution digital images (minimum file size of 500kb; use your camera’s highest quality setting) of alumni children wearing their Wildcat BabyWear should be emailed to Call 800-373-4220 for more information.

60 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
Ransom Smith, son of Aaron and Lauryn (Lewis Hines ’08) Smith of Waco, Texas. Elliot Daniel Austin, son of Joseph (’13) and Erin (Boyd ’12) Austin of Fort Worth, Texas. Collyns Claire Waters, daughter of Aaron (’08) and Natalie (Friend ’11) Waters of Edmond, Oklahoma. Ada Kay Martin, daughter of Blaine (’09) and Laura (Busch ’09) Martin of Austin, Texas. Jack Winford Williams, son of Russell and Emily (Holloman ’08) Williams of Searcy, Arkansas. Jackson Todd Finger, son of Jake and Heather (Young ’14) Finger of Carrollton, Texas.

To William and Cori (Donahoo ’12) Moore, a girl, Maren Kate, Dec. 15, 2021. They live in Aledo, Texas.

To Jeremy and Amanda (Nagel) Dunford, a girl, Annabelle, Sept. 22, 2022. They live in Little Elm, Texas.


By Kyle and Emily (Plemons ’09) Thomas, a girl, Maycee Marie, March 22, 2022. They live in Cedar Park, Texas.

2011 BORN

To Ben and Whitney (Pinson ’13) Gibbs, a boy, Case Bryan, Feb. 12, 2020. They live in Prosper, Texas.

To Aaron and Natalie (Friend) Waters, a girl, Collyns Claire, Aug. 13, 2020. They live in Edmond, Oklahoma.

To Garrett Rampon, M.D., and Kate (Huggins) Rampon, M.D., a girl, Coralie Anne, May 24, 2021. They live in Kansas City, Missouri.

To Samuel and Kaley (Miller) Dobbs, a boy, Easton Thomas, Dec. 7, 2021. They live in Springtown, Texas.

2012 BORN

To Stephen and Laura Dotta, a girl, Hayley, Dec. 9, 2020. They have another daughter, McKenzie, and live in Madera, California.

To Brandon and Sarah (Beardsley) Fry, a girl, Charlotte Jo “Lottie Jo,” Jan. 5, 2021. A son, Brock, was born in 2017. They live in North Richland Hills, Texas.

To Milo and Jennifer (Baran ’13) Parsons, a boy, March 5, 2021. Another son, Hudson, was born in 2018. They live in Abilene, Texas.

2013 BORN

To Wesley and Holly (Howard) Racca, a girl, Annie, Nov. 9, 2020. They live in Abilene, Texas.

To Riley and Jillian (Dowdy) Nipper, a boy, Wyatt Drew, May 27, 2021. They live in San Antonio, Texas.

To Gordon and Allye Burgett , a girl, Abigail Jane, Oct. 4, 2022. They live in Richardson, Texas.

To Hayden and Brittany (Ellis) Barksdale, a girl, Brooklyn Dawn, Oct. 14, 2021. They live in Argyle, Texas.

To Tahj and Stephanie (Bell) Walker, a boy, Dover Edward, March 20, 2022. Stephanie started her own law firm and delivered her new baby. They live in Richardson, Texas.



To Alec and Ashley (Craig) McCurdy, a girl, Ali, July 6, 2021. They live in Rockwall, Texas.

To Lucas and Greta (Porisch) MacDonald, a girl, Nora Lee, Oct. 29, 2021. They live in Alexander, Arkansas.

2015 BORN

To Spencer and Meigan (Gardner) Matyac, a boy, Ford Walker, March 4, 2021. They live in Duluth, Georgia.

To Caleb and Katherine Hill, twin boys, James Bryn and Zachary Thomas, July 29, 2021. They live in Wokingham, United Kingdom.

To Trey and Ashley (Stroup ’13) Arnett , a girl, Annie Elizabeth, Dec. 6, 2021. They have two other children, Albert and Oplin, and live in Benbrook, Texas.

To Reagan and Jaclyn (Barker) Doyal, a girl, Ailey Joyce, March 7, 2022. Reagan is a TV producer for PBS, and Jaclyn teaches high school mathematics. They live in Lubbock, Texas.

To Josh and Ariel (Combs) Day, a girl, Lakelynn Anne, June 3, 2022. They live in Leander, Texas.

To Chad and Aubrie (Hood) McElroy, a girl, Charlotte Ann, Sept. 3, 2022. They live in Grapevine, Texas.

To Spencer and Alicia (Kirven) Hittle, a boy, Seth Ryan, Sept. 8, 2022. They live in El Paso, Texas.

2016 BORN

To Joseph and Meredith Burnam, a girl, Sophia Burnam, Nov. 9, 2021. They live in Mesquite, Texas.

To Ryan and Abby (Altom) Boyd, a boy, Deacon, May 10, 2022. They live in Hawley, Texas.

To Chris and Landa (Dowby ’17) Blakeley, a girl, Elena Ryan, July 5, 2022. Chris coaches basketball and teaches world history at Grapevine (Texas) High School, and Landa teaches family and consumer science (life skills, career and culinary classes) at Lakeview Middle School. They live in Dallas, Texas.

To Russell and Lauren (Skelton ’17) Ford, a boy, Russell James “RJ,” Oct. 5, 2022. They live in Wolfforth, Texas.


Want to represent your alma mater on your Texas vehicle? You can now support your Wildcats with a custom ACU Texas license plate! Learn more at your county tax office or order online at

To Hunter and Kaitlyn (Bush) Thompson, a girl, Macie, April 9, 2022. They recently relocated to Cedar Park, Texas, to be closer to family. The Thompsons both work for USAA. Hunter is a senior software engineer and Kaitlyn is a senior UI designer.


Nick Cartwright is enrolled in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.


To Benton and Mikayla (Beebe) Orr, a boy, William Douglas, June 21, 2021. They live in North Richland Hills, Texas.

To Victor Garcia and Jeanette Avile Venegas, a boy, James Luca, Aug. 7, 2021. They live in Ennis, Texas.

To Mitchell and Jessye (Chandler) Jansen, twin boys, Avery Lukas and Oliver Flynn, June 4, 2022. They also have another son and live in St. Charles, Missouri.

2018 BORN

To Thomas and Sarah (Alexander) Jacques, a girl, Reese Elizabeth, April 14, 2021. They live in Austin, Texas.

To Sam and Abigail (Phipps) McClellan, a boy, Dale Curtis, Sept. 29, 2021. They live in Merkel, Texas.

To Josh and Shelby (Werderich) Rhodes, a boy, Chandler, April 29, 2022. They live in Waco, Texas.

To Eric and Karla (Castillo) Ambrose, a girl, Daniella, June 6, 2022. They live in Laredo, Texas.


Davis and Sallie (Phipps) Fender live in Benbrook, Texas.


To Amos (’19 M.A.) and Amanda (Buchanan ’10) Gutierrez, a girl, Eleanor Lee, May 6, 2022. They live in Abilene, Texas.



Evan Ost and Hannah Elizabeth Bowling, May 30, 2022. Hannah has started a Ph.D. program in English at Texas A&M University. They live in College Station, Texas.


To Grayson and Nicki (Schauer ’19) Meredith, a boy, Jonah Dee, Sept. 9, 2021. They live in Gonzalez, Texas.



Kyle Borne and Chrystal Mia-WatsonBorne, July 4, 2020. They both work for the Fort Worth ISD, where Kyle is a coach and Chrystal is a teaching assistant. They live in Grand Prairie, Texas.

61 ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023


“History of the American West” series. He is professor emeritus of history who taught at ACU from 1989-2018.

Brad Benham, J.D. (’05), was named assistant vice president for the Hendrick Medical Center Foundation. He previously served in several roles in ACU Advancement since 2015, including foundation officer, president of The ACU Foundation and director of the Lynay program.

In May 2022, Joe Holley (’68) became the second ACU alumnus to win the Pulitzer Prize, following the late David Leeson (’78). Holley is a member of the Houston Chronicle’s Pulitzer-winning team in editorial writing. He is a former editorial page editor and columnist for newspapers in San Antonio and San Diego, former staff writer for The Washington Post, and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2017. He was also among writers honored in March 2021 with awards from the Texas Institute of Letters. Holley’s book, Sutherland Springs, about the 2017 mass shooting in the town’s First Baptist Church, won the Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Non-Fiction. Leeson, a photojournalist who died in April 2022, won two Pulitzers and was a finalist two other times.

Sandra (Juarez ’00) Fortenberry, O.D., began work June 1, 2022, as dean of the University of the Incarnate Word’s Rosenberg School of Optometry. Fortenberry joined the school in 2010 after earning her O.D. from the University of Houston and a Bachelor of Science in biology from ACU. The American Optometric Association named her the Young Optometrist of the Year in 2013.

Alumna artist Alice Leese (’86) was featured on an episode of the Texas Country Reporter TV series talking about how the desert landscapes of West Texas inspire her creativity. She lives and works on the YT Ranch in Winkler County.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Boyd (’83), was presented the prestigious American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Fifth Circuit.

Lis Pankl (’01) is the new dean of libraries at Mississippi State University after serving as professor and dean of library and information services at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Historian, scholar and documentary filmmaker Dr. Vernon Williams (’70) added to his video history of the American West with a feature-length video titled “Willard, Colorado: The Burlington Railroad, Community and Life on the 20th Century’s Colorado High Plains.” The documentary is the fourth in Williams’

John Whitwell (’65), director of bands at ACU from 1981-87, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Band Directors National Association. He is professor emeritus of music and former director of bands at Michigan State University.

Jay Clark (’12), a cattle and hair sheep rancher in Brown and Coleman counties, is one of 12 members of the Texas Farm Bureau’s AgLead Program for 2022. He and his wife, Francie, were finalists for TFB’s 2021 Outstanding Young Farmer and Rancher program. AgLead is a two-year development program that helps participants around the world to discover agriculture and leadership from a new perspective.

The main body of water at Abilene Zoo has been named for its architect, Jimmy Tittle (’49). Tittle Lake is located near the entrance to the zoo. Tittle served as lead architect for several landmark venues at ACU, including the Mabee Business Building and Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building.

Ernst & Young LLP named Steve Swinney (’94), CEO of Kodiak Building Partners, its Mountain West Entrepreneur of the Year for 2022. Kodiak was founded in July 2011 with the intent of focusing on acquiring family-run businesses in the building material sales and distribution industries. Kodiak has acquired more than 103 locations in 22 states with some 6,000 employees, and has become a well-known industry leader in the U.S.

Kelly Jordon (’94) finished sixth in April 2022 in the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour event at Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri. His finish landed Jordon in the Top 10 for the 39th time in his professional bass-fishing career of more than 25 years. He has six wins, more than $2 million in winnings and has placed 68 times in the Top 20 of tournaments sponsored by Bassmaster, Elite Series, FLW and MLF.

Downing Bolls Jr. (’08 M.A.) received the Taylor County (Texas) Historical Commission’s annual Maxine Perini Award, recognizing outstanding service in preserving county history and promoting historical events.

The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication’s 30th annual Gutenberg Celebration was held Oct. 13 at Homecoming 2022 with three award recipients: Shelby Coates (’07), evening anchor and executive producer for 41NBC News in Macon, Georgia; Jay Duty (’02), senior vice president and chief corporate development officer for Enhabit Home Health in Dallas, Texas; and Chris Seidman (’92), lead minister of The Branch Church in Farmers Branch, Texas. The event also included a celebration of the life of the late Dr. Charlie Marler (’55), professor emeritus of JMC who died in late May 2022.

Jay Stokes (’92), city manager for Deer Park, Texas, is 2022-23 president of the Texas City Management Association.

At an Abilene banquet on Feb. 15, 2022, Dr. Jerry Taylor, director of ACU’s Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action, received the Claudie C. Royals Community Activist Award for his written works and educational speeches as founding director of the Carl Spain Center.

The 2022 Food City Dirt Race, a NASCAR Cup Series event, was preceded on Easter Sunday by a worship service led by minister and best-selling Christian author Max Lucado (’77) and Grammy Award-winning singer Chris Tomlin. Both the race and service were held April 17 at historic Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.

Alumni elected or re-elected to state posts in November 2022 included Rep. Stan Lambert (’75), to a fourth term serving District 17, which includes Abilene; and April Ward Farris (’06) to a second term as one of nine justices in the 1st Court of Appeals in Houston.

62 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
MIKE MARVINS Seidman Coates Duty Marler Taylor CADE WHITE KELLY JORDON Jordan

Dr. Jennifer (Wade ’92) Shewmaker, former ACU professor and dean of the College of Education and Human Services, began work in September 2022 as provost of Lipscomb University.

Walker Johnson (’14), energy sales leader for solar energy company EightTwenty, was named to the inaugural “40 Under 40” class of top young community leaders by the Greater Arlington (Texas) Chamber of Commerce and Arlington Today magazine. Johnson also has been area director for Young Life ministry for a decade.

Dr. Brandon Tatum (’07) has been named chief of staff for Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt . Tatum previously served as executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Oklahoma Christian University, and was an appointee to the governor’s Education Transition Committee and on the Statewide Virtual Charter Board.

Heather (Robertson ’97) Fortner, CEO, partner and board chair at SignatureFD, was named 2021 CEO of the Year for Individual RIA Firm Leaders by and a Most Admired CEO by the Atlanta (Georgia) Business Chronicle in August 2022.

Erin Holland (’07) was selected for the Core Program, a funded nine-month residency sponsored by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and its Glassell School of Art. A Core Program residency is among the most prestigious in the nation. Fellows receive a $20,000 stipend along with 24-hour access to a private studio. They engage with a range of leading artists, critics, curators and art historians. Holland was one of three recipients this year.

The administration building at Pasadena (California) City College has been named for Dr. Jack Scott (’54), its former president and superintendent (1987-95). Scott later served as California state assemblyman (1996-2000), California state senator (2000-08), and chancellor of the California Community Colleges (2009-12). His wife, Lacreta (Isbell ’56), died in February 2021 of COVID-19.

Joel Wells, M.D. (’06), orthopaedic surgeon at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, was named director of the Comprehensive Hip Center at Baylor Scott & White Health in McKinney, Texas. The new center’s grand opening is scheduled for February 2023. Wells was ACU’s 2020 Young Alumnus of the Year.

Marsha C. Kinney, M.D., MASCP, (’77 M.S.) of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is serving as 2022-23 president of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

Accolades for former Wildcat track and field letter winners and coaches:

• Former U.S. Olympians and world record holders Billy Olson (’81) and the late Bobby Morrow (’58) were inducted in June 2022 to the inaugural College Athlete Hall of Fame in Eugene, Oregon. The ceremony, honoring the world’s best in track and field and cross country, preceded the NCAA Division I outdoor track and field championships. ACU and Washington State are the only two universities with two or more men’s inductees.

• The Texas Senate passed SB 787, a bill proposing the naming of Bobby Morrow Memorial Highway in Cameron County, Texas. Farm-to-Market Road 1479, as it was previously known, is near San Jacinto, Texas.

• James Blackwood (’64), along with former world-record-holding long jumper Bob Beamon and five others, was among 2021 inductees to the Texas Track and Field Hall of Fame. Blackwood, a former middle-distance star for ACU, is among the top coaches in Texas high school and collegiate history, the latter during record-setting tenures at Texas, Southern Mississippi and Texas-San Antonio, where he tutored national and Olympic champions and served as associate director of the Texas Relays. He joins other former Wildcat greats Bobby Morrow, Billy Olson, James Segrest (’59) and Don W. Hood (’55) and Earl Young (’62) as previous inductees.

Janice (Munn ’68) Massey, M.D., the first woman to be named professor of neurology with tenure at Duke University, is now the second woman in history to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine. Massey was selected for her contributions to the field of neuromuscular and electrodiagnostic medicine through teaching, research and publications. She was an ACU trustee from 1990-2011, and she and her husband, Wayne Massey, M.D. (’66), a current ACU trustee, were 2021 Dale and Rita Brown Outlive Your Life Award recipients.

Kinney is the Frank M. Townsend Professor of Pathology and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. She also serves as director of the Division of Hematopathology. She is a member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Surgical Pathology and an ad hoc reviewer for other journals. She served as president of the Society for Hematopathology from 2012-14 and was on the executive committee of the European Association for Hematopathology from 2010-14. She earned a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Vanderbilt University, a master’s in biology from ACU and a medical degree from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas.

• Odessa College will open its new James Segrest Stadium in Spring 2023, part of a major capital campaign. Named after former OC track and field coach James Segrest (’59), the facility will feature a new track, a multipurpose turf infield, stadium-style seating and concessions. He was also OC director of athletics from 1987-94. Segrest is a member of the NJCAA Track and Field Hall of Fame (1989), ACU Sports Hall of Fame (1991), U.S Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1996), and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame (2005). Nicknamed the “One-Man Gang From Bangs,” he single-handedly won the 1954 Texas Class B championship in track and field; he was the only representative from Bangs High School but scored 34 points to outdistance all other teams in the state meet. Segrest ran on ACU relay teams that set five world records.

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 63


Do you want to learn about giving opportunities, host an event, volunteer or just learn more about how you can be involved with ACU where you live? To help foster relationships with alumni and future students, Abilene Christian has assigned personnel from its Advancement Office to major markets in Texas as well as Nashville, Tennessee, and other parts of the nation. Through this territory team approach, these dedicated professionals can provide exceptional service to those who contribute so graciously to ACU’s mission.


Anthony Williams



Anthony Williams



Amy Jackson



Jim Orr



Jim Orr



Eric Fridge



Amy Jackson


Abel Alvarez



Eric Fridge


When a few hundred current and former members of GATA sorority gathered at Homecoming 2022 in October, they did something their sisters have been doing for more than 50 years: encircle the fountain bearing their name, and sing.

The words to the songs were the same, but the location was a bit different. They were dedicating the new GATA Fountain at Peck Plaza – relocated outside the south entrance of the renovated Moody Coliseum, a few hundred feet from the previous fountain. (For more about the new fountain and plaza, see page 40.)

In doing so, they became the latest in a long line of sororities and fraternities to dedicate – or rededicate –landmarks on campus made possible through gifts from current and former members.

“They’re passionate about their group, their connection and their shared experience,” said Craig Fisher (’92), associate vice president for advancement and alumni. “They want to be able to give back and highlight spaces on campus that will be connected to them and their memories of being part of that group.”

The men of Sub T-16 concur. Texas Rep. Stan Lambert (’75), former skipper of the fraternity, remembers gathering in 1982 at a motel with other Sub T members and alumni for a Homecoming breakfast when their idea to donate a scoreboard for Moody Coliseum was born.

The scoreboard has been upgraded over the years with further donations from members and alumni, with the latest iteration installed during the recent Moody renovation. It’s not the original scoreboard, but for many members of Sub T, their involvement remains a matter of pride – and it often gets a mention in their Sing Song acts.

“Subbers have enjoyed coming to Moody for the last 40-plus years and seeing our logo still on the scoreboard,” Lambert said.

Sororities and fraternities invest in creating landmarks to grow their traditions, build community, add to campus aesthetics
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The original entryway on East North 16th Street to Larry “Satch” Sanders Intramural Fields

The dedication of these landmarks often coincides with a milestone anniversary. During Homecoming in 1994 in honor of their 75th anniversary, the women of Ko Jo Kai unveiled Kojie Park on the campus mall. The park features three benches arranged in a “U” shape near the McGlothlin Campus Center.

The Sigma Theta Chi sorority lays claim to two campus landmarks. The first – Siggie Flag Plaza – was dedicated 25 years ago. Located along Teague Boulevard, it is home to the U.S., Texas and ACU flags flying at the entrance to campus in front of the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building.

More recently, the sorority – in recognition of its 50th anniversary in 2019 – raised funds to build Siggie Pavilion Park, a gathering and event space adjacent to the Hardin Administration and Zona Luce buildings.

Galaxy also marked its 50th anniversary in 2019 with the dedication of Galaxy Park, a trailhead on the Lunsford Foundation Trail, between Faubus Fountain Lake and the Hunter Welcome Center. The park includes a monument to Kirk Goodwin (’86), a student and member who was killed in a vehicle accident in 1984.

Frater Sodalis also chose to honor a former member and sponsor in 2004, when they raised funds to establish the Larry “Satch” Sanders Intramural Fields on East North 16th Street. Sanders (’76) was a Frat sponsor for 30 years and played intramural flag football for 43 years before retiring in 2014.

Due to the construction of the new 28,000-square-foot Gayle and Max Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center, which began on that site in 2022, the intramural fields bearing Sanders’ name have been temporarily relocated south of Wildcat Stadium while the university determines a permanent location.

For each project, representatives from the fraternities and sororities meet with university administrators to make sure the proposed landmark aligns with the

master facilities development plan for campus. Club representatives are also involved in the design process along the way.

“We meet with clubs and share what is in our plans as a university and listen to ideas they have,” said Kevin Campbell (’00), senior vice president for operations. “And when those visions align on projects that will enhance our campus and community, we work together to find a way to make it happen.”

The university’s Advancement and Alumni teams also provide support, facilitate communication with former members and help with fundraising. Fisher said these meetings also allow the university to learn more about the clubs.

“It offers a chance to dive into the stories of these groups,” Fisher said. “It lets the university continue to learn about the stories of these organizations and why these landmarks are important to the clubs.”

Again and again, fraternities and sororities say these landmarks are important because they represent their shared brotherhood and sisterhood, a sentiment Lisa (Scott ’86) Johnson expressed ahead of Siggie Pavilion Park’s opening.

“We benefited from the traditions that were started by the Siggies before us,” said Johnson, a former member who helped spearhead the planning committee for the pavilion, “and it’s important to invest in Siggies and ACU so future Wildcats can share in the rich experiences and relationships we’ve enjoyed for many years.”


Interested in hosting or volunteering at an ACU event in your area, or in getting involved in other ways? Reach out to the Alumni and University Relations Office at You also can find events and updates at

65 ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023
JEREMY ENLOW Siggie Flag Plaza on Teague Bouievard The new GATA Fountain, dedicated in October 2022, is in its third location in the campus mall since the late 1960s. JEREMY ENLOW


Whether flashing the WC, handing out hugs or simply enjoying time together, Wildcats gather on campus and around the world to share their stories and celebrate their common love for each other and for ACU. Here are just a few images we’ve saved since our last issue. Share others with us at

1) Jennifer (Clarkson ’96) Frazier prepares to finish a ceremonial first-basket relay Nov. 7, 2022, in renovated Moody Coliseum. Clarkson, the only female athlete to have her uniform number (25) retired at ACU, sank the layup after a host of former coaches, players and family members passed the ball upcourt. Frazier led the Wildcats to the 1995-96 NCAA Division II Elite Eight, where they finished third, and she twice won national Player of the Year honors.

2) FROM LEFT: Siblings Gail (Rich ’70) Keker, John Rich (’74), Jack Rich (’77) and Alan Rich (’86) were among family and friends on campus Sept. 23, 2022, to celebrate Jack’s retirement from ACU after 30 years. The former longtime CFO and executive vice president has served since 2006 as chief investment officer and president of ACIMCO, Abilene Christian’s endowment management company.

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PAUL WHITE PAUL WHITE FROM LEFT: Among the first Wildcats to graduate in the renovated Moody Coliseum on Dec. 17, 2022, were Abby (Teeter) Nicholson, Marti Lynn Bowen, Chloe Gwinn, Erin McLeod, MadeleineRuth F. Norman and Sebestyen Szenttornyay. JEREMY ENLOW

3) FROM LEFT: Inducted Oct. 14, 2022, during Homecoming as the newest members of the ACU Sports Hall of Fame were Mitchell Gale (’13), Nick Jones (’12), Angie Aguilar (’07), Ijeoma (Moronu ’12) Alstrup, Aston Whiteside (’12), Cyril Bouniol (’11) and Arthur Williams (’86)

4) FROM LEFT: GATA members Zoë McMillen, junior child and family services major from Rowlett, Texas; Aubrey Taylor, senior psychology major from Lovington, New Mexico; and Ashley Burpee, junior education major from Keller, Texas, pose for photos at the early morning dedication Oct. 15, 2022, of Peck Plaza and the new GATA Fountain.

5) FROM LEFT: Among participants in groundbreaking cermonies for the Dillard SERC were Dr. Rusty Towell (’90), NEXT Lab director and professor of engineering and physics; Max and Gayle Dillard, SERC namesakes; Dr. Phil Schubert (’91), ACU president; Alli Mae (Bulkley ’00) Berry, NEXT Lab research scientist; Anthony Williams, mayor of Abilene and ACU chief diversity officer; April (Bullock ’89) Anthony, ACU board chair; and Misty Mayo, president and CEO of the Development Corporation of Abilene.

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SCOTT DELONY Freshmen participating in Wildcat Week engage in yell practice as they prepare to cheer for the Wildcats in the upcoming school year. STEVE BUTMAN PAUL WHITE SCOTT DELONY


James Stephens Patterson, 99, died June 15, 2021, in Dallas, Texas. He was born Aug. 26, 1921, in Portland, Tennessee. He was preceded in death by his parents, James Monroe Patterson and Anna Mae Stephens Patterson; his wife, Lorraine; a son, Mickey Roy Patterson (’70); a brother, Bill Patterson (’48); and a sister, Pat (Patterson ’51) Graves. Among survivors are a son, Dr. Jim Patterson (’66).


Bettye Louise McKinzie Shipp, 94, died Oct. 28, 2021, in Abilene, Texas. She was born Sept. 28, 1927, graduated from Abilene High School and also attended Abilene Christian schools. She married Owen Twayne “Skipper” Shipp Jr. (’45) on April 1, 1945, and they lived around the nation – Texas (Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth, Irving, Lubbock, Odessa, Richardson, Seminole and Abilene), California, Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee – and in Nairobi, Kenya. She was a founding member of Women Associates groups at Lubbock Christian University and Pepperdine University, president of Women for ACU, a founding member of Diamond Dames for Wildcat women’s softball, and a sponsor for the Delta Theta sorority. More than 80 of her relatives attended Abilene Christian, where McKinzie Hall is named after her grandfather, J.E. McKinzie. Shipp was employed as the first Sears and Roebuck woman sales associate for big appliances in the 1960s, worked for Leonard Brothers in the 1970s, was an accomplished realtor for Ebby Halliday Realtors in the 1980s, and head cashier for downtown Neiman Marcus in the 1990s. Late in life, she helped proofread issues of ACU Today magazine. She was preceded in death by her parents, John (’34) and Edith McKinzie; Skipper, her husband of 57 years; daughters Sandy Shipp Thomas (’68), Sara Rosser and Paula Shipp; sons O.T. “Buddy” Shipp III and Stephen Shipp; a grandson, Cameron McGee; a sister, Jean Shipp Mead (’41); and a brother, John C. McKinzie. Among survivors are her daughter, Martha (Shipp ’77) Groves; a brother, Dixon McKinzie; 16 grandchildren, 31 greatgrandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.


Roberta Gray (Niblack) “Perk” Brockman, 93, died Aug. 9, 2021. She was born June 20, 1928, and graduated from Lubbock (Texas) High School. She was a member of Ko Jo Kai and the Prickly Pear staff at ACU, where she met and married classmate J.C. “Jay” Brockman (’49) in March 1949. She devoted her life in service to others, including as a Bible school teacher, and PTA and Study Club member, and in support of Jay, a longtime trustee (1977-92) of Abilene Christian. She was preceded in death by her parents, Gus Niblack and Mary Christine Niblack (1912); Jay, her husband of 65 years; brothers Jack Niblack (’35) and T.A.


Niblack Jr.; sisters Elizabeth Niblack Olson (’38) and Mary Ann Niblack Bundy (’40); and one great-grandson. Among survivors are sons John Brockman (’72) and Mac Brockman (’76); daughters Mollie Brockman LeMoine (’74) and Sara (Brockman ’80) Bouse; nine grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.


Evelyn Marie Kirby Clardy, 92, died Sept. 14, 2021, in Nacogdoches, Texas. She was born Aug. 6, 1929, near Lometa, Texas, the granddaughter of pioneer families of Lampasas County. She married John Clardy (’48), a returning World War II veteran from Brownwood, Texas, on July 21, 1947. The Clardys served on Boy Scout councils headquartered in Roswell, New Mexico; Dallas (Kaufman); Galveston; Lubbock; Houston; and Waco, and in local historic preservation efforts. She volunteered in many community organizations including the American Red Cross, the PTA and the Lometa Garden Club. For 14 years, she was the president of American Legion Auxiliary Post 116, and served as Lubbock (Texas) County Republican party chair for Bill Clements’ successful campaign for governor in 1978. Her youngest son, Travis Clardy (’84), was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2013. All four of her sons earned Eagle Scout rank, and she was recognized by the Members of Churches of Christ for Scouting (MCCS) with the Faithful Servant Award. She was preceded in death by her parents, J.C. “Pete” and Hattie Lee Everett Kirby; her husband, John; sons Douglas Clardy and Richard Lee “Dick” Clardy; one grandson; and a sister, Mildred Ann Kirby Duncan. Among survivors are sons Brad Clardy (’75), Mark Clardy (’76) and Travis Clardy; a brother, Everett A. Kirby; 10 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.


Phillip Henry “Hank” Green, 92, died March 6, 2022. He was born May 29, 1929, in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and was the 10th of 11 children in his family. He graduated in 1948 from Lewisville (Texas) High School, where he starred in football. After his 1951 marriage to classmate Mary Jean Dobbs (’51), he taught school, marketed pharmaceuticals, worked in religious publishing, then began a 33-year career with IBM, retiring in 1990 in Austin, Texas. He taught Bible classes and was active in ministry with Westover Hills Church of Christ, including missions work in the U.S., South America, Asia, Europe and Africa, eventually focusing on Indonesia. He also was active in World Bible School for many years. He was preceded in death by his parents, PJ and Lillian Young Green; Mary, his wife of 69 years; and a son, Phil Green. Among survivors are a brother, Jerry Green; daughters Cheryl Green Bennett (’70) and Emily Green; a son, Gregory Green (’79); six grandchildren; and three great grandchildren.

Dorthy Virginia Hendrick “Dottie” Swaim, 92, died May 19, 2021, in El Cajon, California. She was born Dec. 16, 1928, in Dallas, Texas. After college, marriage and military life, she moved to San Diego in 1955. She was a schoolteacher at Pepper Drive Elementary in El Cajon, and a member of the Johnson Avenue Church of Christ for more than 60 years. She loved travel and adventure, including parasailing in her 70s and boogie boarding well into her 80s at one of her favorite places, Mission Beach. She was preceded in death by her husband, Charles Ray Swaim (’52). Among survivors are sons Barry Swaim, Kelly Swaim and Jeffrey Swaim (’90); five grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.


Lifelong Texan and veteran evangelist Billy Frank “Bill” Wiley, 92, died Aug. 30, 2022. He was born June 22, 1930, in Marlin, Texas, the youngest of eight siblings. Wiley hitchhiked to Abilene to start college at age 18, and began his preaching career shortly after graduation. He earned a M.Div. degree (1968) from ACU as well. He wed Marjorie “Margie” Nell McGinnis on Feb. 3, 1962, and they were married 59 years when she died in 2021. Fifty years of pulpit ministry in Texas Churches of Christ took Bill and Margie to congregations in Dallas, Waco, Coleman, Sherman, New Braunfels, San Antonio and Dublin. They retired to Crowley in 2006 before moving in 2021 to Denton to be near family. He also was a longtime member and president of the Lions Club in Sherman, and a volunteer at the Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville. He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert Hamilton Wiley and Mary Ann Copus Wiley; his wife, Margie; and six siblings. Among survivors are daughters, Mary (Wiley ’87) Perry and Julie Wiley Slate; a granddaughter; and a sister, Bernelle Baxley.

Gladine Jones Stirman, 91, died July 19, 2021, in Galveston, Texas. She was born Jan. 3, 1930, graduated from Lee High School in Baytown, Texas, in 1948, and headed to Abilene Christian with her identical twin sister, Maurine. She met Fred Stirman Jr. (’50) on her first day on campus, and they wed June 10, 1949, and lived 72 years in Abilene following their honeymoon. Her education was interrupted when she married following her freshman year, but she completed her B.S.Ed. degree in teaching/reading at age 52. She taught thousands of students over the next 13 years in the Abilene ISD, and was president of the Abilene Classroom Teachers Association. She also taught Sunday school at Woodlawn Church of Christ and was active in world missions and women’s ministry. Gladine and Fred “adopted” Kenyan runner Kipruto Soimo (’05) and remained close through the rest of their lives. She was preceded in death by her parents, Willis Thomas and Lena Annie Jones; Fred, her husband of 65 years; a son, Gary Stirman

68 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY

(’77); and siblings Genevieve Jones, WT Jones, Donald Jones, Maurine Wadley Dyer (’72) and Milton Edward Jones. Among survivors are sons Greg Stirman (’75), Glen Stirman (’84) and Kip Soimo; and a sister, Betty Dutton; 14 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Margaret Ware Jolly, 80, died June 26, 2021. She was born Sept. 9, 1930, in McCamey, Texas, and graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown, Texas. She earned a degree in elementary education and taught first grade for several years before staying home to rear her three sons. Following the death in 1980 of her first husband, Al Ware (’52), she served as secretary to the psychology department chair at ACU. She married Grady B. Jolly, O.D., in 1983, and the couple lived on their farm for many years before moving to the retirement community of Lakewood Christian Village in Fort Worth. She and Grady were longtime members of Abilene’s Highland Church of Christ worship committee. She was preceded in death by her parents, Charles Gordon Phillips and Faye Eads Phillips; and husbands Al and Grady. Among survivors are sons Phillip Ware (’77), Byron Ware (’80) and Gordon Ware (’84); stepchildren Randy Jolly (’70), David Jolly (’73), Don Jolly (’76) and Joy Byler; 26 grandchildren; and 45 great-grandchildren

Betsy Maude Kindred Kennedy, 90, died June 9, 2021, in Granbury, Texas. She was born Dec. 3, 1930, in Dallas, Texas, and graduated from Highland Park (Texas) High School in 1947. She married classmate James Lloyd Kennedy (’50), whom she met on a Sadie Hawkins date. He was a career-long employee of Shell Oil Co., and they lived in Houston, Texas, before moving in the late 1960s to East Brunswick, New Jersey. She was a longtime member of Houston’s Garden Oaks Church of Christ, Bering Drive Church of Christ and Bammel Road Church of Christ, and most recently, Granbury Church of Christ. She was employed for a time in Houston at Christian Child Help Foundation and at Pat H. Foley Funeral Home. She was preceded in death by her mother, Bess Kindred; and Lloyd, her husband of 68 years. Among survivors are a son, James Lloyd Kennedy; daughters Kerry Carlton and Sue Anne Braddock; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Marida June Ray Watlington, 89, died June 4, 2021, in Mesquite, Texas. She was born May 30, 1932 in Hamby, Texas, and graduated from Abilene High School in 1948 at age 16. She wed ACU classmate Robert H. “Bob” Watlington (’52) in 1952, and served as his secretary during his life insurance sales career for more than 50 years. She and Bob moved to Mesquite in 2003 to be closer to their children. She was preceded in death by her parents, Floyd and Robbie Ray; and a sister, Marshallene Ray Read. Survivors include Bob, her husband of 68 years; a son, David Watlington (’79); a daughter, Lori (Watlington ’83) Soward; four grandsons; and five great-grandchildren.

Sherlie Jean Rowe, 90, died May 27, 2021. She was born July 5, 1930, and was preceded in death by her husband, Jack Rowe Jr. Among survivors are their children, Dr. John Dewitt

Rowe, Gary Welford Rowe and Bonnie Beth Rowe.

Peggy June Annis died Aug. 1, 2020, in Austin, Texas. She was born July 18, 1930, in Springdale, Arkansas.


Richard Delmon Hodges, the husband of Vida Faye Watson Hodges, 94, died Dec. 21, 2021. Vida and Delmon were married 67 years. She lives in Fort Stockton, Texas, and has four adult children, 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


Delbert Ray Langford, 89, died July 22, 2022. He was born Aug. 17, 1932, in Clarendon, Texas, the ninth of 12 children in his family. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy, then joined the U.S. Army and served two years in Germany. He returned to Abilene, where he met Beverly Woodward (’57). They wed Aug. 17, 1957, on his 25th birthday. They lived 23 years in the Texas panhandle, primarily in Plainview, where he did agricultural research. In 1980 the family moved to the Rio Grande Valley, where for 19 years – primarily in Weslaco – he was general manager of Rio Farms, an 18,000-acre research and demonstration farm. He also served as an elder at Bridge Avenue Church of Christ, where he taught Bible classes, ministered to children and served on mission trips to Mexico. He retired in 1999 to Utopia, Texas, and in 2020, the Langfords left their home in Utopia for an apartment near family in San Antonio. He was preceded in death by his parents, Alfred and Lucy Langford; his siblings Dorothy, Kenneth, Wilma, Hazel, Bernice, Foy, Irene and Irma; and a son, Lane Langford (’86) Among survivors are Beverly, his wife of 64 years; daughters Lauri (Langford ’81) Horton, Lisa Loney and Jennifer Stephens (’93); 10 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Marcus Evans Mullings Jr., 89, died March 8, 2022, in Abilene, Texas. He was born Jan. 31, 1933, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and served as a sharpshooter in the U.S. Army. He majored in biblical studies and was a lifelong learner who spent much time at Brown Library studying theology, church history and other subjects, and he also audited many courses. He served on mission trips to Mexico and in various roles for the Boy Scouts, including scoutmaster for Troop 12 and a volunteer with Troop 201. He loved nature and the outdoors, and rode his bicycle year-round on campus and around Abilene, regardless of weather conditions. He was preceded in death by his parents, longtime mathematics professor and chair Dr. M.E. Mullings Sr. and Dixie (Hines ’39) Mullings; and brothers Lynn Wayne Mullings (’62), Raymond Norman Mullings and Gunter Klein Mullings (’71). Among survivors are two nephews and their families.

Charlotte Ann Harrison Taylor, 89, died Oct. 7, 2021. She was born Jan. 9, 1932, in Gould, Oklahoma. She earned a degree in psychology, became engaged to classmate Norman Vol Taylor (’51) and they married

Oct. 3, 1954. For the rest of her life, she was actively involved in raising funds for scholarships for members of Ko Jo Kai, the ACU sorority she once served as student president. The Taylors made their home in Dallas, Texas, but eventually lived in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Hebronville and Alice before their first child started school in Nacogdoches, where they raised their family. They were founding members of the North St. Church of Christ in the 1960s, and owned White’s Auto Store on the town square. Both worked in the store, and later when they closed it, she taught sixthgrade science and reading for a time before they opened A-Z Rentals and again worked together. Upon retirement, the couple moved to Angel Fire, New Mexico, where they lived for eight years before moving to Lexington, Kentucky, to be near their daughter. She was preceded in death by her parents, Jim Harrison and Reta Harrison; Norman, her husband of 64 years; and a foster son, Michael Elliott. Among survivors are children Jan Taylor (’79), Dr. James Norman Taylor (’81), Scott Taylor (’82), Brad Taylor (’84) and Charley Taylor (’89); 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Byron E. “Sonny” Cleere, 89, died Oct. 4, 2021, in San Angelo, Texas. He was born July 4, 1932, in Alice, Texas, where he starred in high school football, and track and field.

A guard, he earned All-Texas Conference honors (1948), co-captained the 1953 ACU football team and was named a member of the Wildcats’ All-Decade Team for the 1950s. He was drafted by the NFL’s Chicago Bears but his playing career was cut short when he was badly injured in a hunting accident before he was to report to training camp. He served in the Ozona ISD as a coach and social studies teacher for 10 years (1955-65) before moving to San Angelo to enter the insurance business. For years, he owned Meadows, Fisher & Cleere Insurance while becoming a leader in the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club, Leadership San Angelo, the Little Olympics, the Symphony Chorale, West Texas Rehabilitation Center, the San Angelo Area Foundation and the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, among others. In 2003, Cleere was named San Angelo’s Citizen of the Year. He was for 38 years “The Voice of San Angelo” as announcer at home football games for San Angelo Central High School. He also was a longtime starter at the San Angelo Relays and UIL track and field state meet. He was preceded in death by a grandson, Byron Dixon Cleere. Among survivors are his wife, Claudia; sons Kirk Cleere and Ned Cleere; daughters Penny Cleere and Courtney Paige Fajkus; seven grandchildren; and a sister, Willodean Ellis.


Joann Ruth (Orr) Boyd, 86, of Abilene, Texas, died July 24, 2022. She was born Aug. 1, 1935, in Denver, Colorado. She graduated high school in Kingman, Arizona, majored in elementary education and sang in the A Cappella Chorus at ACU, where she met music major Dr. Jack Boyd (’55). They wed

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in 1956. The next 12 years were spent moving around the country following Jack’s schooling and jobs, teaching public school and growing their family. They settled in Abilene in 1968 when Jack became a faculty member of the Department of Music. She earned her M.Ed. at ACU (1978). In 1976, she began a 20-year career in the Abilene ISD, teaching kindergarten, first grade and Head Start classes, and supervising student teachers and paraprofessional motor-lab teachers. In retirement, she volunteered in the children’s area at the Grace Museum. The Boyds traveled around the world with the A Cappella Chorus and for mission work, and shared their cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico, with many family and friends. She was preceded in death by her parents, Harold Orr and Florence Warlick Orr; her brother, Rip Orr, and a grandson, Jarrett Forehand. Among survivors are Jack, professor emeritus of music and her husband of 66 years; a son, Alan Boyd, M.D. (’82); daughters Susan (Boyd ’85) Teel and Jeannie (Boyd ’88) Forehand; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Farrell “Bo” Vernon Stephens, 92, died May 22, 2021. He was born Aug. 28, 1928, in Palmer, Oklahoma, and graduated from Hickory (Oklahoma) High School in 1946. He enlisted in the U.S. Army that fall and served in Japan in occupational duty. He returned home in 1948 and enrolled at Oklahoma’s East Central University, where he met Rita Carol Whitsett. In 1950, he was called back to serve in the Korean War, where he fought in three major battles and received the Presidential Unit Citation for meritorious service. When he returned, he and Carol married Oct. 7, 1951. Farrell completed a B.S. in Bible from ACU in May 1955, a B.A. in secondary education from ECU in July 1955, and a M.Ed. from ACU in 1963. The couple lived in Oklahoma, Nevada and Arizona before settling down for 58 years in Cross Plains and Abilene, Texas. As an educator, he was a teacher and an administrator, and for several years, a part-time minister for small rural churches. He was preceded in death by his parents, Floyd C. Stephens and Dovie Robb Stephens; brothers Richard Stephens and Archie Stephens; a sister, Dorothy Cook; a daughter, Denise (Stephens ’82) Hunter; and a granddaughter, Lauren Roach Hawthorne. Among survivors are Carol, his wife of 69 years; daughters Jayma Stephens Savage (’74) and Becky (Stephens ’83) Roach; a son, Gregory Stephens; eight grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and a brother, Tom Stephens.


Nancy Jean Oldham Agnew, 87, died April 19, 2022, in San Antonio, Texas. She was born Oct. 14, 1934. She earned a degree in elementary education and later returned to school to become a Registered Nurse. Her career as a nurse spanned six decades. She and her husband, Bill Agnew (’55), were longtime Abilene residents and owners of Agnew’s Superette, a grocery on Ambler Avenue near campus. She was preceded in death by her husband, Bill; a son, David Agnew (’82);

and sisters Helen Rhodes and Louise Swim. Among survivors is her daughter, Carol Agnew Holliman (’78).

Evelyn Joyce (Forrest) Willis, 87, of Abilene, Texas, died April 14, 2022. She was born at her family home near Ralls, Texas, on March 1, 1935, and graduated from Stamford (Texas) High School in 1952. She earned a degree in education and married Dr. John Willis (’55) the last semester of her senior year. The couple moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1956 so John could begin teaching at Lipscomb University. In 1971, the Willis family moved back to Abilene, where John joined the ACU Bible faculty. Evelyn went to work as a secretary for Bailey Bridge Company, the McGlothlin Group and for the university. She began graduate school in 1997 and earned her M.M.F.T. degree in 1999. She was preceded in death by her parents, William Ellis Forrest and Esther Forrest. Among survivors are John, ACU’s Burton Coffman Chair for Biblical Studies, professor emeritus of Bible, Missions and Ministry, and her husband of 66 years; sons David Willis (’79), Dr. Timothy Willis (’81) and Paul Willis (’83); a daughter, Deborah (Willis ’80) Doss; 14 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and a brother, Dale Forrest (’58).

Everett Lee Eyer, 92, died Oct. 13, 2021. He was born Sept. 9, 1929, in Logan County, Oklahoma, where he was adopted by Frank and Ethel Eyer, grew up on their farm in Beaver County, Oklahoma, and graduated from Beaver High School. While enrolled at ACU, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, and served a twoyear tour in Korea. He returned to complete his degree and met Elsie Carter (’56), whom he married shortly after their graduation. In 1957, the couple moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, where for 46 years he worked for the U.S. Postal Service and served as minister and elder for the Flagstaff Church of Christ at Birch and Aztec. In 2003, the Eyers moved to the Phoenix area, where they spent the next 22 years, and he was an elder at Northwest Church of Christ. He earned a second degree in ministry from Pepperdine University in 1991. He was preceded in death by Elsie, his wife of 59 years; and a daughter, Kim Eyer. Among survivors are his brother, Donald Eyer; sons Shane Eyer (’79) and Tim Eyer; a daughter, Shanna Eyer; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Jack Hal Nelson, 92, died Aug. 23, 2021. He was born May 16, 1929, in Mount Calm, Texas. He served in the U.S. Air Force and was a Korean War veteran. He wed Reva June Walker on Aug. 25, 1951. He earned a degree in accounting, was a talented woodworker, and enjoyed working cattle and taking care of his home and land. He was preceded in death by his parents, John Bradley Nelson and Florence Elizabeth Ferguson Nelson; a grandson, Trevor Nelson; and brothers Ralph Nelson, J.B. Nelson and Bill Nelson. Among survivors are June, his wife of 70 years; a daughter, Melanie (’86); a son, Michael; five grandchildren; one great-grandson; and siblings Mary (’52), Tom and Sue.

Pat (Merriott) Murphy, 85, of Ira, Texas,

died April 29, 2021. She was born Dec. 14, 1935, in Turkey, Texas. She wed Brent Murphy on Oct. 11, 1960. She earned a bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry with a minor in education. She became an elementary school teacher, retiring in 2006. She was a champion in barrel racing, collected western art and antiques, and loved singing. She was preceded in death by her parents, Homer Merriott and Ollie Sasser Merriott; and a sister, Judith Prince (’65) Among survivors are her husband, Brent; sons Ben Murphy and Michael Murphy; three grandchildren; one great-granddaughter; and a sister, Linda Gist (’63).

Loyce Lanelle Gilstrap Bower, 87, of Richardson, Texas, died April 22, 2021. She was born Oct. 12, 1933, and was preceded in death by her husband, Edward.

Carlton “Wayne” Timmons, 91, of Holly, Michigan, died Dec. 24, 2020. He was born May 2, 1929, in Childress, Texas, and was a Korean War veteran of the U.S. Army. He married Elaine Grant on June 28, 1957, and preached for Churches of Christ for 54 years before retiring in 2006. He was preceded in death by his parents, Eldridge M. and Ruby “Faye” Simpson Timmons; a son, Leonard Fray Timmons; brothers Reese Timmons, Eddie “Petesy” Timmons and Don Timmons; and a sister, Margie Cook. Among survivors are Elaine, his wife of 63 years; daughters Deborah Crutchfield, Melody Marshall, LaWayne Freeman and Cherry VanCour; sons Steven Timmons and Alan Timmons; 20 grandchildren; many greatgrandchildren; and a sister, Marie Cruse (’56)


Janice “Jan” Elane Sutton Cheves, RN, 87, died Dec. 26, 2021. Jan worked for over 40 years as a nurse. She was born June 29, 1934, in Stratton, Nebraska, attending a one-room schoolhouse until the eighth grade and graduating high school in 1951 at age 16. She became a Registered Nurse at Nebraska Methodist College in 1954, and continued her college education at Harding University and ACU. She wed classmate Harold Cheves (’56) in 1957 in Newport, Rhode Island, where he received his commission to the Navy, and Jan worked as a nurse. In 1958, they moved to Albuquerque, where she worked primarily at Presbyterian Hospital and they lived the rest of their lives. In 1975, she earned a B.S.N. degree from the University of New Mexico School of Nursing and became a school nurse with Albuquerque Public Schools. She concluded her 40-year nursing career at Sandia (New Mexico) High School in 1997. When there was a move to eliminate school nurses from the Albuquerque Public Schools, she joined others in helping state Rep. Ramon Huerta to pass the Healthy Learner Bill through the New Mexico legislature, ensuring that all children would have equal access to school nurses. She was preceded in death by her parents, Mabel Gallagher Sutton and James Lyle Sutton; Harold, her husband of 60 years; and six siblings. Among survivors are her sons Dr. Brad Cheves (’84) and Phil Cheves (’87); and five grandchildren.

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James Ross Fife, 86, died, Sept. 9, 2021, in Tyler, Texas. He was born Sept. 7, 1935, in Port Arthur, Texas. He majored in music education and Christian education at Abilene Christian, and did postgraduate study in Christian education at ACU, the University of Indiana and the University of Alabama. In his long career in ministry, he was a youth director, education minister, campus minister at Tyler Junior College, worship leader, and older adult ministry leader. He served primarily at three congregations: the Glenwood Church of Christ in Tyler, the Central Church of Christ in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Shaw Street/ Burke Road Church of Christ in Pasadena, Texas. Never stepping away from ministry, he also enjoyed a successful mid-life career in finance, real estate and property management, and residential home construction. He was also a pioneering educator within his faith heritage. He attended the inaugural Christian Education Conference of the Churches of Christ, early annual meetings of Bible chair directors, and the formation of campus evangelism. His passion for congregational singing was well known. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ross L. Fife and Alma Irene Fife. Among survivors are Martha (’57), his wife of 65 years; daughters Julie and Janie; sons Jim and John; nine grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Melvin Derrell McGlathery, the husband of Linda McKinzie McGlathery, died Dec. 7, 2021, at age 87. Linda lives in Allen, Texas, and has three adult children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


Teacher, geopolitical advisor and theorist

Dr. Don Edward Beck, 85, died May 24, 2022. He was born Jan. 31, 1937, in Purcell, Oklahoma, where he graduated high school in 1954. He earned a B.A. and a master’s in theology and communication (1959) from ACU, and a doctorate in communication and social psychology (1966) from the University of Oklahoma. He married Patricia Jane Watson in 1959. Beck’s insights into South African social and political systems led him to make more than 60 trips into all regions of the country. He created the Spiral Dynamics theory, an evolutionary human development model. He was also known as a sports psychologist who authored columns on the subject for The Dallas Morning News. Beck established the first Center for Human Emergence in Copenhagen, Denmark, and made many consulting trips to The Netherlands and, later, created the Center for Human Emergence in the Middle East. In 2007, he addressed the United Nations on the subject of global governance. He was an advisor to the Dallas Cowboys, Southwest Airlines and Whole Foods, and national leaders Tony Blair of the UK, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Vicente Fox of Mexico. He was preceded in death by his parents, Louie and Bertha Mae Beck, and Pat, his wife of 59 years. Among survivors are a daughter, Belinda Richardson; sons Don Beck II and Matthew Beck; and a sister, Beverly Beck Elder.


Harold Moody Conner, 85, of Andrews, Texas, died Feb. 15, 2022. He was born Nov. 16, 1936, in Hollis, Oklahoma. He graduated high school in Plainview, Texas, and he was a member at ACU of Frater Sodalis fraternity and lettered four years in football (1955-58), playing offensive line and deep snapper. He began his public education career in Abilene and moved to Andrews to teach and coach in middle school in 1964. He transferred to Andrews High School in 1965, coaching football, basketball and track and field. He was named principal of Devonian Elementary School in 1976, where he remained until retiring in 1999. In 1987, he was elected president of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. He was a cowboy poet and frequent contributor to the annual National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration. He was a longtime member of the Andrews Church of Christ, where he served as Bible school teacher, committee chair, deacon and elder. He was preceded in death by his parents, Elgin and Marguerite Conner; Georgan (Gilbreath ’62), his wife of 52 years; and a brother, Coy Conner (’62). Among survivors are daughters Dr. Connie Crossnoe (’91) and Anne Dunn (’71); a son, Jeff Conner, Esq. (’83); a brother, Elgin Conner, Esq. (’63); and three grandchildren.

David Grey Rigney Sr., 84, died Sept. 26, 2021. He was born July 23, 1937, in Lubbock, Texas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in speech, radio and TV at ACU, and married classmate Jo Ann Bassham (’58) in December 1957. He earned a master’s degree in 1961 and began teaching at Texas A&M University-Commerce, then moved to Louisiana in 1974 to serve as professor of mass communications at McNeese State University. Rigney was a longtime Sunday School teacher, song leader and member of the choir at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lake Charles. For more than 30 years, he also performed roles many times in community theatre productions at the Lake Charles Little Theatre and A Block Off Broadway in Jennings, Louisiana. He was preceded in death by his parents, J.C. and Jewel Rigney; his wife, Jo Ann; and a brother, Jack Rigney (’53). Among survivors are his sons David Grey Rigney Jr. (’85), Lindsey Bruce Rigney and Ross Eaton Rigney; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.


Jerry Weldon Dodson, 84, died May 17, 2022, in Springtown, Texas. He was born July 20, 1937, in Gladewater, Texas. He was a retired teacher and coach, and a member and former elder at Jacksboro (Texas) Church of Christ. He also served as a houseparent and administrator at Arms of Hope (formerly Medina Children’s Home) for more than seven years. He was preceded in death by his parents, Jack and Ava Dodson; a sister, Barbara Randle; and a brother, Jimmy Dodson. Among survivors are Diana (Prindle ’62), his wife of 61 years; daughters Denise (Dodson ’83) Mask, Julie

(Dodson ’85) Gipson and Nancy (Dodson ’88) Hall; and four grandchildren.

Mary Lynne (Simmonds) Holubec, 83, of Terrell, Texas, died May 16, 2022. She was born Nov. 21, 1938, in Stroud, Oklahoma. She graduated from Vernon (Texas) High School in 1956, and earned bachelor’s and M.Ed. degrees from ACU. She married Arnold Holubec on Nov. 18, 1964. They moved to Dallas in 1968 and then to Talty, Texas, in 1998. She served more than 40 years as a P.E. teacher and coach in the Abilene and Dallas ISDs, and enjoyed traveling with her husband. She was preceded in death by her parents, Hubert and Pauline Simmonds; a sister, Patricia; a brother, Robert; and her son, Robert Mitchell. Among survivors are Arnold, her husband of 57 years; a daughter, Beverly Burnet; two grandchildren; one great-grandson; and a sister, Virginia (Simmonds ’58) Demers William Dwayne Hargesheimer, 83, died Aug. 7, 2022, in Abilene, Texas. He was born Aug. 12, 1938, in Quanah, Texas. He grew up on the family farm in Medicine Mound, Texas, graduating from Quanah High School in 1956 and enrolling at ACU on a baseball scholarship. He earned a B.S. in range management and a minor in chemistry, and joined the City of Abilene’s Water Utilities Department in 1963 as a chemist. He became director of water utilities in 1976 and was instrumental in the construction of the O.H. Ivie Reservoir, and the water treatment facility in south Abilene that was named in his honor. He retired in 2003 after 40 years of service to the City of Abilene. He wed classmate Louise Franks (’62) in 1961. He was an avid gardener, outdoorsman and member of Westgate Church of Christ, where he served as an elder and deacon. Hargesheimer served as a volunteer on the press box stats crew at ACU home football games for decades. He was preceded in death by his parents, Gladys and Clifton Hargesheimer; and a brother, Richard Hargesheimer (’62). Among survivors are Louise, his wife of 61 years; a daughter, Debra (Hargesheimer ’84) Lemons; a son, Mike Hargesheimer (’85); six grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.


Humorist and author Howard Henry Mohr, 83, died Sept. 4, 2022, in Cottonwood, Minnesota, of Parkinson’s disease. He was born March 20, 1939, in Des Moines, Iowa. Mohr earned a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas in 1964 and in 1970 he joined the English faculty at Southwest State University. In the 1980s he was a principal writer for Minnesota Public Radio’s popular “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show hosted by Garrison Keillor. In 1987 his love of writing, humor and satire inspired Mohr’s tongue-incheek book, How to Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor’s Guide, which became a regional bestseller and later, “How to Talk Minnesotan: The Musical,” a public TV special in 1992 and long-running hit at the Plymouth (Minnesota) Playhouse. He also authored A Minnesota Book of Days (1989); How to Talk Minnesotan: Revised for the 21st Century (2013); and How to Tell a Tornado,

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a 1982 book of poetry and prose. Mohr spoke at events across the nation, sharing his unique sense of humor. He was featured in 1987 in a Distinguished Speaker Series event at ACU sponsored by its Center for Building Community. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph William Mohr and Rosie May Fredregill Mohr; and an infant brother, Vernon Mohr. Among survivors are Dr. Jody Mohr, his wife of 59 years; a daughter, Susan Rose; sisters Rose Mohr and Donna Kinney; and brothers Jack Mohr and Paul Mohr (’71). Gayla (Lambert) Pearson, 82, died Aug. 9, 2021, in Ruidoso, New Mexico. She was born May 27, 1939, in Abilene, Texas. She was active in the GATA sorority and earned an education degree. She taught one year in Austin, Texas, before marrying Air Force Capt. Richard Allen Pearson in 1962. They lived in Fort Walton Beach, Florida; College Station, Texas; and settled in 1969 in Ruidoso, where she owned the Tots & Teens clothing store, served on the school board, taught DECA at Ruidoso High School, and was for 50 years a member of the local PEO group. She was preceded in death by her parents, Ira “Top” Lambert (’39) and Gay Nell Pearson Lambert (’39); and a grandson, Chase. Among survivors are her husband, Dick; sons Richard Pearson and Patric Pearson; six grandchildren; sisters Glo (Lambert ’65) Hays and Jackie (Lambert ’69) Goen; and a brother, Stan Lambert (’75)


Carolyn Lee (Bussie) Huff, 79, of Round Rock, Texas, died Aug. 11, 2021. She was born Aug. 24, 1941, in Shreveport, Louisiana. She followed her sister, Deanna (Huff ’60) Love, to ACU, and they played side by side in the clarinet section of the band. She wed classmate David Allen Huff (’61) on Aug. 19, 1960. They moved to Ann Arbor for his graduate work at the University of Michigan, and settled in Round Rock in 1977. She served as an officer in the Round Rock Woman’s Club and the city’s United Way, and was a member of the Round Rock Medical Center Board. Among survivors are David, her husband of 61 years; sons Craig Allen Huff (’86) and Michael Christopher Huff; a daughter, Karen Huff Pump (’89); a sister, Deanna Love; and eight grandchildren.

Mary Hellen (Battle) Kosak, 79, of Pembroke Pines, Florida, died July 12, 2020, after an 11-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was born Nov. 11, 1940, and graduated in 1958 from Oak Ridge (Tennessee) High School, attended Vanderbilt University, and earned a B.A. in Spanish education from ACU and a M.S.W. degree from Union Theological Seminary. Fluent in Spanish and German, she led an adventurous life. She taught English in Mexico, moved to Spain and then to West Berlin, Germany, in the 1960s. While in Germany, she was convicted of providing “escape help” for a young East German man, and sentenced to more than four years in a former Nazi penitentiary for political prisoners in Bautzen, near the Polish border. Less than two years into her sentence and with the help of British

writer, philosopher and Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell, she became part of a prisoner exchange program and expatriated to the West. Her 1969 autobiography, Every Wall Shall Fall, resulted in appearances on TV’s “Merv Griffin Show” and “To Tell the Truth,” among other shows. She moved to Israel in 1977 to serve on a kibbutz, returning to the U.S. in 1980. In 1981 she met fellow volunteer Gary F. Kosak while serving as area director for a counseling center in Hollywood, Florida, and they married in 1983. They lived in Germany from 1989-94 while Gary worked as a captain for a small German airline, then returned to settle in South Florida. She was preceded in death by her parents, John and Hellen Battle. Gary survives her.


Ron Miller, the husband of Rheuanna (Robinson) Miller, died July 26, 2018. Rheuanna is a retired teacher with two adult children, and lives in Hewitt, Texas.

Former ACU classmates Glen Howard Hibbs and Barbara Carol (Woodard) Hibbs were married 57 years and died 14 months apart at their home in Dallas, Texas, from complications of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, respectively. He passed during the early days of the pandemic, so his family held a joint memorial service for the couple on July 17, 2021. Glen died April 9, 2020, at age 80. He was born Jan. 10, 1940, graduated from Borger (Texas) High School and studied accounting at ACU. He worked primarily in the utilities industry and retired from TXU as corporate secretary in 1997. He was preceded in death by his parents, Wesley and Oleta Hibbs; a sister, Mary Sue Barton; a brother, Herman Hibbs (’59); and a grandson, Travis McCaughey. Barbara died July 11, 2021, at age 79. She was born March 14, 1942, graduated from North Dallas (Texas) High School and studied home economics at ACU. She taught school for many years, then worked in residential and commercial real estate, as well as the oil industry. She was preceded in death by her parents, Earl and Ina Woodard. Among survivors are their son, Richard Hibbs; a daughter, Rhonda Hibbs McGaughey (’87); five grandchildren; and Glen’s brother, Dr. Clarence Hibbs (’57)

Lloyd C. Stephens Jr., 85, of Yukon, Oklahoma, died Dec. 7, 2021, in Oklahoma City. He was born Aug. 17, 1936, in Cleveland, Oklahoma. He attended Oklahoma Christian University before transferring to ACU and meeting Betty Louise Rodak (’62). They wed Sept. 21, 1961. He was a rural preacher while attending college and a chaplain’s assistant with the U.S. Army in Germany. He was a World Bible School teacher, served on multiple mission trips to Malawi and South Africa, and was a church elder for many years. Stephens was a salesman and manager for the insurance, oil and gas and real estate industries; owned and operated The Shopper’s Edge in Enid, Oklahoma, for more than 10 years; and was a talented quilter, woodworker and auto mechanic. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lloyd

C. Stephens and Eula Collins Stephens; a daughter, Sarah Lynn Stephens; and his sister, Willadean. Among his survivors are Betty, his wife of 60 years; sons Lloyd Stephens, Stuart Stephens and Brian Stephens; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a brother, Gary Stephens (’67)


Delvin Earl Sparks, 79, of Salado, Texas, died Sept. 28, 2021. He was born July 28, 1942, in Fort Worth, Texas, and played trumpet in ACU’s Big Purple Band. He taught high school in Trent, Texas, and Moriarity, New Mexico, before earning a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University (1968). He retired from the Texas Rehabilitation Commission in 1995 and founded Disabilities Associates of Central Texas, which helped people with disabilities receive their Social Security benefits. He served as elder at Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ in Austin, and for the last 18 years as an elder at Salado Church of Christ. He was preceded in death by his parents, Jack Sparks and Arveta Sparks. Survivors include his wife and former ACU classmate, Nila (Alford ’66); a son, Greg Sparks (’90); a daughter, Jennifer (Sparks ’92) Scott; six grandchildren; and a brother, Garry Sparks (’63).

Paul Dwayne Bishop, 78, of San Saba, Texas, died Aug. 2, 2021. He was born Nov. 10, 1942, in Coalingo, California, and graduated from McKinney (Texas) High School. He graduated from ACU in 1965 with a degree in music education. While teaching in Graham, Texas, he joined the Marines and served in the 5th Marine Division Band at Camp Pendleton, California. His enlistment ended in 1970, and he earned a M.Ed. degree from ACU in 1972. He retired in 1998 after 40 years of teaching music and band in Texas schools, including Graham, Lampasas, Rockport, Dimmit, Dalhart, Mason, Menard and San Saba. He met ACU classmate Mary Micheale “Mikie” Welch (’66) and they married in 1967. They were longtime members of the San Saba (Texas) Church of Christ, where he served as an elder. He was preceded in death by his parents, Glenn (’42) and Faye Bishop. Among survivors are Mikie, his wife of 54 years; sons Michael Bishop and Buddy Bishop; three grandsons; a brother, Phil Bishop (’71); and a sister, Cindy Brown.

Patricia Gail Moore Coker, 79, a retired dental hygienist from North Richland Hills, Texas, died Feb. 24, 2021, after a long battle with chronic strokes. She was born Feb. 15, 1942, in Dallas, Texas, where she graduated from Sunset High School in 1960. She pursued a Bachelor of Arts in English from ACU before graduating in 1963 from Baylor College of Dentistry as a Registered Dental Hygienist, and marrying high school sweetheart Jerry Lee Coker in 1964. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1966 and a M.A. in English in 1975, both from The University of Texas at Arlington. She was preceded in death by her parents, George Henry Moore and Juanita Marie “Ree” Richards Moore; and Jerry Lee Coker, her husband of 18 years. Among survivors are a son, Kendall Turner

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Coker, and a daughter, Elinor “Regan” Tyler Coker McCamey.


John Weldon Ferguson Jr., 80, died Oct. 3, 2022, in Garland, Texas. He was born March 10, 1942. For many years, he was a reference librarian and professor at Richland College. After retiring in 2003, his love of the outdoors was enhanced by hiking in almost every national park and his love of live music took him to festivals around the nation. Among survivors are his wife, Roseann (Barnes ’66); sons John Ferguson and Michael Ferguson; a daughter, Julianne; four grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.


Dr. Paul Austin Parrish, 77, died Oct. 29, 2021, of ALS. He was born Oct. 26, 1944, in Wichita, Kansas, where he graduated high school in 1966. He wed Linda Hudson in 1967. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from ACU, did graduate work at the University of Kansas. In 1968, they moved to Houston, Texas, where Linda taught for the Houston ISD and he completed (in 1971) his Ph.D. at Rice University, supplementing his income in the summers as a graduate student by teaching English literature at Texas Southern University. He was an assistant professor at Indiana University-South Bend before he and Linda moved in 1974 to College Station to both join the faculty of Texas A&M University. In addition to his role as professor and chair of English, he was associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and interim dean of faculties. He was also active in his discipline, being the executive director and president of the South Central Modern Language Association, chair of the Academic Freedom Committee of the Modern Language Association, and president of the South Central Renaissance Conference and John Donne Society. He was a founding member of the Advisory Board for The Donne Variorum project and chief editor of the commentary for that edition of Donne’s poetry. The Parrishes retired from A&M in 2011 and in 2015, moved to Driftwood, Texas, where he served as a board member for Austin Shakespeare and volunteered for Breakthrough Central Texas, an organization supporting first-generation college students. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lee Marvin Parrish and Viola Vera Parrish; and a brother, Marvin Joseph Parrish. Among survivors are Dr. Linda Hudson Parrish, his wife of 54 years; sons, Marc and Gavin; and two grandchildren.

Dr. Roger Duane Pricer, 78, of Beaumont, Texas, died Jan. 9, 2021. He was born March 31, 1942, in Long Beach, California. He earned B.S. and M.S. (1967) degrees from ACU. Pricer was the executive director of the Southeast Texas MHMR center for 20 years before becoming the administrator for Cathedral Christian School in Beaumont in 1995. He also was the founding administrator of Legacy Preparatory Christian Academy. Later, he and his wife devoted seven years abroad in Guam, and in the Philippines as

business manager of Asian Pacific Theological Seminary. He was preceded in death by his parents, Gene Pricer and June Pricer. Survivors include Nelda Chandler Pricer, his wife of 58 years; sons Duane Pricer and Andy Pricer; six grandchildren; numerous great-grandchildren; brothers Scott Pricer, Gene Pricer (’68) and Robin Pricer; and a sister, Cathie Wallace.


Johnny Bert Ezzell, 78, of Abilene, Texas, died Nov. 7, 2021. He was born July 29, 1943, in Lompoc, California. His family returned to their home in Matador, Texas, where he was raised and graduated high school in 1962. He was stricken with polio at age 6, which left him with extreme limitations. After high school, his mother relocated with him to Abilene so he could attend ACU, where he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in 1974. He was a huge sports enthusiast who dreamed of being a sports announcer, and a member of University Church of Christ. He was preceded in death by his parents, Bert Ezzell (’35) and Lucille (Holmes ’37) Ezzell. Among survivors are his brother, Charles Ezzell (’69); and nephews Steven Ezzell, O.D. (’94), Chad Ezzell, M.D. (’97) and Brian Ezzell (’05) Vannete J. Wirant , 76, died Nov. 29, 2020. She was born July 5, 1944. She was preceded in death two months earlier by her husband, Bill Wirant.


Bill M. Roberts, 79, died June 19, 2022, in Abilene, Texas, following a battle with bone marrow cancer. He was born Aug. 10, 1942, in Hollis, Oklahoma, and graduated from Whitesboro (Texas) High School in 1960. He wed Donna Minor (’69) on March 23, 1967. He earned a B.A. in journalism and mass communication, and worked at the Abilene Reporter-News and as an ACU security officer before teaching journalism at Cisco Junior College from 1979-84. Following a short career with both Keebler and the Brownwood News, he began teaching high school until his retirement in 2008. He taught at Mabank High School, Anson High School, Olney High School, Spur High School, Center Point High School, Lake Dallas High School and Pecos High School. Roberts also worked at the Graham Leader (1993-95) and was a substitute teacher following his retirement. He also served as a preacher, song leader, deacon and elder in Churches of Christ in the various places in which his family lived. He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert Lee Roberts and Stella Wilson Roberts; a grandson, Steven Wayne Harvey; and siblings Mildred Shepherd, Dr. J.W. Roberts (’42), Mary (Roberts ’44) Hayes, R.L. Roberts Jr. (’47), Evie (Roberts ’51) Clovis and Ann (Roberts ’53) Hill. Among survivors are Donna, his wife of 55 years; daughters Tami (Roberts ’91) Harvey and Jami (Roberts ’94) West; a son, Joey Roberts (’99); six grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and a sister, Bettye Blay.

Dr. Larry J. Kelly, 75, died Oct. 17, 2021, in College Station, Texas. He was born

May 26, 1946. He earned a B.S. degree in agricultural business from ACU, a M.Ed. in secondary education from Sul Ross State University (1997) and an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from The University of Texas at Austin (2002). He joined the faculty of Texas A&M University in 2002. At A&M, he served as the director of the Graduate Certification Program and as a clinical professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture. He published numerous research articles and received more than $2.3 million in research grants. Among survivors are his wife, Mary Ann Caruth Kelly; sons Jeff Kelly (’94) and Greg Kelly (’97); and four grandchildren.

Dr. Tommie Jean Broach Darm, 73, of Middleburg, Florida, died Aug. 19, 2020. She was born Sept. 22, 1946, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduated in 1964 from Landon High School in Jacksonville, Florida. She earned bachelor’s degrees in math and Latin education from ACU, a M.Ed. from Columbia University Teacher’s College (1973), a M.A.C.M. from Asbury Theological Seminary (2008) and an Ed.D. from the University of Florida (1984). After beginning her career as a teacher in Long Island, New York, she returned home to Jacksonville and founded the New School in 1973, a one-to-one program for disadvantaged students. Eventually, the school model migrated to a traditional classroom environment and the name was changed to The Broach School of Jacksonville. As the latter’s founder and CEO, she oversaw the operation of its five private schools. In 1999, Broach was named Distinguished Educator of the Year for her work with Florida’s children. Upon earning her M.A.C.M., she served as associate pastor at Orange Park United Methodist Church, pastor emeritus at HighPoint Community Church (Orange Park, Florida), and most recently as a part-time pastor at Advent Lutheran Church before retiring in 2019. She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Adam Darm; her father, Bill Broach; and grandparents Byron and Hadie Broach, and Bob and Dot Million. Among survivors are her sons, Bill Darm and David Darm; a daughter, Lauren Furey; adopted son Richard Schoenbeck; adopted daughters Diane Varner and Sabrina Harding; five grandchildren; her mother, Peggy Broach; a sister, Deborah Ferro (’72); and brothers Larry Broach and Martin Broach.


Rick Robison Hagelstein, 74, died Oct. 2, 2021. He was born Oct. 31, 1946, in San Angelo, Texas. He grew up on a large sheep and goat ranch in Ozona, Texas. He competed in collegiate rodeos at ACU and met classmate Thomasue Livingston (’70), whom he wed July 12, 1969. He worked in banking and finance in Dallas, Wichita Falls, El Paso and Waco, Texas, including nearly 20 years with J-Hawk/FirstCity. He founded URS Medical and served as its CEO for 18 years. He raised AQHA champion horses and was a member of Crestview Church of Christ for more than 43 years. He was preceded in death by his parents, Fred

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Hagelstein and Hazel “Totsy” Hagelstein (’38); and a sister, Peggy (Hagelstein ’72) Holden. Among survivors are Thomasue, his wife of 52 years; daughters Ashley (Hagelstein ’93) Sanders, Amber (Hagelstein ’00) Russell and Aubin (Hagelstein ’07) Moudy; a son, Robby Hagelstein (’96); and nine grandchildren. Paul Edwin Rogers Jr., 74, died Aug. 26, 2021. He was born April 29, 1947, in Kerrville, Texas. He married ACU classmate Woodye Kaye Yoakum (’69) in 1966 and earned a B.A. degree in accounting with a minor in Bible. He earned his CPA certificate and his career spanned national accounting, the savings and loan business and the banking industry. He served as national chair of the Financial Managers Society in 1982-83. He served as an elder in four churches: from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Houston, Southlake and Holly Lake Ranch in Texas. He was preceded in death by his parents, Paul Rogers Sr. (’52) and Eve Rogers. Among survivors are Woodye Kaye, his wife of 54 years; a daughter, Amy (Rogers ’92) Redford; sons Jon-Michael Rogers and Greg Rogers (’94); six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a sister, Kathy (Rogers ’74) Sweeney; and a brother, Urban Rogers (’77)


Dr. Katherine Dawkins Hale died Aug. 4, 2022, in Austin, Texas, after several years of illness. She was born in 1948. She worked for Wendell Broom Sr. (’45) at Herald of Truth during graduate studies at Abilene Christian. Before earning her M.A. in communication in 1973, she worked as secretary for a church in Brussels, Belgium. She was a member of the Choralaires and was selected by Dr. Jack Boyd (’55) for the Jack Boyd Singers, a quartet that recorded hymns for Herald of Truth and traveled to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. She earned a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma and taught conflict resolution at Florida Gulf Coast University until her retirement. She spent several years traveling Europe with her sister, Nan Dawkins. Among survivors are children Lee Hale and Bracken Hale; several grandchildren; siblings Walter Dawkins (’79) and Carol Garner Jones (’77); and former husband Dr. Duane Hale (’64).

Russell Carl Gest , 79, of San Angelo, Texas, died Jan. 30, 2022, following a short illness. He was born Aug. 20, 1942, in Lakewood, Ohio, worked in his family’s greenhouse and following graduation from high school, served six years in the U.S. Army. He earned an Associate of Science degree at Lubbock Christian University, and B.S. and M.S. (1978) degrees from ACU. He wed ACU classmate Mary Sue Howdeshell (’71) following her graduation. They lived in Abilene, Lubbock and Paris, Texas, before moving in 1986 to San Angelo. Using his master’s degree in microbiology, he worked for years in labs, infection control and quality assurance in hospitals before returning to school to earn his teacher’s certification. He served as a deacon at Southgate Church of Christ in San Angelo, where he volunteered for 20 years in medical

missions, chiefly in Central America. He was instrumental in developing an educational program to monitor and treat patients with diabetes in Belize and Ecuador, and also did mission work in Mexico, Haiti and Nicaragua. He was preceded in death by his parents, Clyde Russell and Ruth Elizabeth Wright Gest; and a sister, Carol Nelson. Among survivors are his wife, Mary; children Melissa Gest (’96), Laura Behrens and Allen Gest; five grandchildren; and siblings Beverly Haag, Margie Potts, Rollie Gest, Curtis Gest and Norma Gest.


William Lewis “Bill” Overly Jr., 73, died July 19, 2022, in Dallas, Texas, following an illness. He was born Sept. 6, 1948, in The Dalles, Oregon, and graduated in 1967 from Goldendale (Washington) High School, where he was a standout on its track and field team. He attended Yakima Junior College for one year before transferring to Abilene Christian and starring as a sprinter on nationally ranked relay teams for the Wildcats, helping them win Southland Conference titles in 1969 and 1970, and earning All-America honors. He earned a B.S.Ed. degree from ACU. He was preceded in death by his father, Bill Overly, and his mother, Phoebe Robertson. Among survivors are his first wife, Vicki Overly Escobar (’71), and their son, Todd Overly; two grandchildren; and a sister, Kay Overly Kaps-Blake.

William “Bill” Mason Hunter III, 73, died June 27, 2021, of cancer. He was born Nov. 8, 1947, in Lubbock, Texas, and graduated from its Monterey High in 1966. He attended Texas Tech University, graduated from Abilene Christian and went to work on the family farm in Meadow, Texas. He also served in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves. In 1978, he graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University with a degree in pharmacy. He worked at Texas Tech Pharmacy until 1987, when he relocated the family to Old Hickory, Tennessee, to serve as a pharmacist at Vanderbilt University for more than a decade. He established Roman Compounding Pharmacy in 2002 and retired in 2015. He was preceded in death by his parents, W.M. Hunter Jr. and Peggy Hunter. Among survivors are Sara Ramsay Hunter (’71), his wife of 49 years; a son, William Mason Hunter IV; a daughter, Sara Beth Pegg; seven grandchildren; and a sister, Linda Hunter (’67)


Michael David Wilkins, 71, died July 24, 2021, in McKinney, Texas. He was born Dec. 29, 1949, in Quanah, Texas, and graduated in 1968 from Lamesa (Texas) High School. He was owner/manager of Precision Marketing Group Texas. He was preceded in death by his father, E.A. “Andy” Wilkins. Among survivors are his mother, Wanda Brandon Wilkins; his wife, Vickie Wilkins; daughters Natalie Ann Wilkins and Candice Wilkins Ransbarger; sons Andrew Wilkins and Brandon Wilkins (’16); two grandchildren; and a sister, Diane (Wilkins ’76) Harlan


Laura Elizabeth Holland, 69, died March 5, 2022, in Abilene, Texas, after a 12-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was born May 25, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated high school in Abernathy, Texas. She played clarinet in the Big Purple Band and piano accompaniment for student recitals while earning a music degree at ACU. During band practice, a friend encouraged her to invite classmate Gary Holland to a Sadie Hawkins event for Sigma Theta Chi. They married in 1978 in Galveston, Texas, where Laura taught music for elementary students and Gary attended medical school. After several years in Phoenix, Arizona, the Hollands moved to Abilene in 1984 to start Gary’s family physician practice. Laura enjoyed playing and teaching piano at home, taught music at Bonham Elementary (2003), and led Bible Study Fellowship for many years. She was preceded in death by her parents, Eugene and Jean Davidson; a son, John Holland; a brother, Mark Davidson; and a sister, Dee Ann Andrews. Among survivors are her husband, Gary; daughters Erin Holland (’07), Rachel Holland (’09) and Kathryn Holland; a grandchild; and a brother, Neil Davidson (’68)


Ted Eugene Nolen died Sept. 7, 2021, at age 69, following a long illness. He was born March 15, 1952, in Fort Worth Texas, where he graduated from Amon Carter Riverside High School. He earned a B.A. in mass communications and devoted most of his career as an editor of airplane manuals. He was preceded in death by his parents, Elmo Nolen and Vinetta Nolen; and a brother, Tom Nolen (’71). Among survivors are his wife, Sharon; a son, Michael; a daughter, Catie; and two grandchildren.


Ricky Boyce Mosley, 66, died June 1, 2021. He was born June 18, 1954, in Lockney, Texas, where he graduated high school in 1972. He attended Lubbock Christian University and ACU. He married Lisa Gregory on June 22, 1974, and returned to Lockney where they lived for 32 years while rearing a family, and farming and raising sheep. He coached a variety of youth sports teams and served on several boards including Floyd County Farm Bureau, the Lockney Coop Gin, and The Floyd County Fair. He began a career with the U.S. Postal Service in 1998 while still farming. In 2006 the Mosleys moved to Lubbock, where he continued work as a rural mail carrier. He was preceded in death by his father, Boyce Albert Mosley, and his mother, Bonnie Inez Dunavant. Among survivors are his wife, Lisa; sons Jared Mosley (’00) and Johnnie Mosley; a daughter, Nicole (Mosley ’05) Fletcher; 10 grandchildren; bonus sons David Luna and Willie Luna; and sisters Susan Futch and Elaine Mosley.

Stephen Reed Radway, 79, died April 19, 2021. He was born Sept. 11, 1941, in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from Kenton (Ohio) High

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School in 1960. He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served as a basic training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and as a high-speed Morse code intercept operator while stationed at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. He married Cynthia Ann Smith on April 20, 1963. He earned a bachelor’s degree from McMurry University; a M.Ed. degree from Abilene Christian, and education mid-management and superintendent’s certifications through ACU and Texas Tech University. He taught and coached in Texas schools in Stamford ISD, Lubbock-Cooper ISD and Slaton ISD and retired after serving as middle school principal in Iraan-Sheffield ISD. He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert L. Radway Sr. and Clara Reed Radway; and his brother, Paul Radway. Among survivors are Cynthia, his wife of 57 years; a daughter, Stephanie Radway Lane; three grandchildren; and a brother, Rob Radway.

Michael Andrew Logan, 72, of Ovilla, Texas, died March 20, 2021, in Waxahachie, Texas. He was born Feb. 8, 1949, in Galveston, Texas, and graduated from South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, Texas, in 1967. He wed his high school sweetheart, Susan Beckham, in 1968. He served in the Dallas Police Department for 33 years, retiring in 2004. He was preceded in death by his father, Aubrey Logan Jr. Among survivors are his mother, Betty Logan; his wife, Susan; a daughter, Jennifer Dennis; a son, Jeff Logan; and six grandchildren.

George Irwin, 77, of Kerrville, Texas, died Dec. 27, 2020. He was born April 19, 1943.

Doyle Edward Moore, 79, of Mesquite, Texas, died Nov. 3, 2020, in Dallas, Texas. He was born Aug. 6, 1941, in Colorado City, Texas. He served in the U.S. Army (1959-62) as an X-ray specialist. He married Peggy Lee Walton on Dec. 2, 1976. He was a lieutenant for 29 years in the Mesquite Police Department, where he was a supervisor in the Criminal Investigation Division and established the department’s first K-9 unit. Among survivors are his wife, Peggy Moore; daughters Peggy Jeanette Monroe, Arden Le Bowser, Rosalee Dawn Briggs and Sara Ashley Paul; and nine grandchildren.


Jackie “Jack” Neal Floyd, 69, the husband of Shelda Moran Floyd, died Feb. 24, 2022, of Alzheimer’s disease. Jack and Shelda were married 44 years. She is retired and lives in Burnet, Texas, and has two adult children and four grandchildren.

Betsy Ann Thompson, 66, of Colleyville, Texas, died July 4, 2021. She was born March 17, 1955, in Wichita Falls, Texas, and graduated from Abilene (Texas) High School. She was a member of Delta Theta sorority, wed classmate John “Jay” Thompson III (’76) on Aug. 21, 1976, and finished her bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. She was a teacher before spending many years at home caring for her three children, then worked as an administrative clerk at Richland High School in North Richland Hills. Among survivors are her parents, David Dodge (’48) and

Peggy Dodge; her husband, Jay; daughters Sarah (’02) and Amanda (’05); a son, JT (’12); three grandchildren; and a brother, David Wayne Dodge.

Cheryl “Cheri” Joy (Stephens) Renz, 66, died June 7, 2021. She was born Sept. 25, 1954, in Burnet, Texas. She graduated from Brownwood (Texas) High School in 1973 and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She taught kindergarten in Lorraine and San Angelo, Texas, before earning a speech therapy degree from Howard Payne University. She was a speech therapist in the Ector County (Odessa, Texas) ISD, and wed Dale Renz in 1988 while living in Midland, Texas. They moved and traveled often, residing in England, Scotland, Russia and Texas. She was preceded in death by her parents, Roy Stephens and Nona Bradford Stephens. Among survivors are her husband, Jacob; a son, Ryan; a daughter, Stephanie; nine grandchildren; sisters Tricia (Stephens ’63) Darrow, Gail Morrow and Claudett (Stephens ’70) McDonald; and a brother, Roy Stephens Jr. (’73).


Paul Rutledge Knight , 66, died July 19, 2022, in Houston, Texas. He was born May 27, 1956, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and earned both his B.B.A. and MBA (1980) from ACU. He wed classmate Janice LaNell Morris (’81) in 1982. Knight became a CPA in 1990 and worked in the banking industry for 30 years. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lee Roger Knight, M.D. (’52) and Janeal (Rutledge ’52) Knight . Among survivors are his wife, Janice; a daughter, Erin (Knight ’08) Wessel; a son, Taylor Knight; four grandchildren; brothers Grant Knight (’79) and Mark Neeley; and sisters Lee (Knight ’81) North and Amy (Knight ’90) Lowery.


Paul David Martin, 65, of Lubbock, Texas, died June 20, 2021. He was born Oct. 20, 1955, in Rising Star, Texas, and graduated there from high school in 1974. He earned a B.B.A. degree and was a rancher on the La Reata Ranch until 1994, then began growing and selling plants for commercial nurseries. He was preceded in death by his parents, A.J. Martin and Estella Martin; and a brother, Nathan Martin. Among survivors are his significant other, Leigh Ann Stanford; daughters Jordan Ferris (’09) and Jenna Martin (’07); a son, Jeffrey Martin (’14); two grandchildren; three step-children; 11 stepgrandchildren; four step-great-grandchildren; and brothers Donny Martin and Joe Martin.


Peter Walter Brown, 63, died Aug. 8, 2022, in Abilene, Texas, after battling sarcoma cancer for more than five years. He graduated from Roger Ludlow High School in Fairfield, Connecticut, and married ACU classmate Alba Lopez (’84) in 1984. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology. Following graduation, he worked for American Habilitation Services. In 2001, he joined Hill Resources Inc.

and served as program director of vocational services for its Culpepper Creek Farm, becoming a beloved friend of local landscapers for 21 years. He was preceded in death by his parents, Raymond and Margaret Brown. Among survivors are Alba, his wife of 37 years; sons Josh Brown and Jake Brown; a daughter, Ashton Brown Meyers; a sister, Kathleen Barnum; brothers David Brown and Tony Brown; and three grandchildren.


William J. Mitchell, 56, died Nov. 5, 2021, in Dallas, Texas, following a three-year battle with metastatic colon cancer. He was born Aug. 31, 1965, in Mutare, Zimbabwe, the son of missionaries who moved in the late 1970s to the U.S. He graduated from Odessa (Texas) Permian High School, and in 1988 he married ACU classmate Karen Sublett (’86) while she was attending law school. He earned a B.B.A. degree from Abilene Christian and a M.A. from Texas A&M University, and completed coursework for a Ph.D. He had a distinguished career at American Airlines headquarters, where he served in several roles, including managing director of customer research and managing director of leadership, planning and performance. He was a worship leader and adult Bible teacher at Dallas’ Prestoncrest Church of Christ. He was preceded in death by his parents, Loy (’58) and Donna Mitchell; and a brother, Dr. Stan Mitchell (’79). Among survivors are Karen, his wife of 33 years; sons William Mitchell Jr. and David Mitchell (’21); daughters Katherine Mitchell and Lauren Mitchell; and sisters Nancy (Mitchell ’81) Wheat and Marcia (Mitchell ’84) Redd


Max Kermit Holland Jr., D.O., 54, died May 6, 2021. He was born July 20, 1966, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and graduated from Sylva-Webster High School in Sylva, North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in marketing (1990) and a B.S. in biology (2000) from ACU, and a Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Houston. He enjoyed mission trips to Honduras to help with eyecare. He was preceded in death by an infant brother, Charles Wayne Holland; and grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Clyde N. Boan, Mr. and Mrs. Kermit F. Holland, and Evelyn Grice Smith. Among survivors are his parents, Max Holland Sr. and Priscilla Holland; children Paige and Drew, and their mother, Jennifer; and a sister, Lee Ann Gibson.


Annette Marie (Howard) Woods, 53, of Abilene, Texas, died April 25, 2021. She was born July 18, 1967, in Midland, Texas, and graduated from Abilene Cooper High School in 1985. She wed Todd Woods (’89) in a 1989 double ceremony with her twin sister, Charlotte (Howard ’89) Beakley, and Brad Beakley (’89), on the 27th anniversary of her parents’ wedding. She earned a B.S.Ed. degree in early childhood education and taught pre-K, kindergarten, special education, and ESL.

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She helped secure grants for local first-year teachers through her membership in the Lambda Xi Chapter of education honor society Delta Kappa Gamma. She retired early because of health issues. She was preceded in death by her grandparents, Lila and George Seiler, and C.M. and Daisy Doris Howard. Among survivors are her parents, Charles Lee Howard (’58) and Ann Marie Seiler Howard; her husband, Todd; a son, Austin Woods (’16); a daughter, Ashley Howard Peach; a sister, Charlotte; and a brother, Mark Howard (’94).


Emil Rudolf Zwart , 61, died April 29, 2021, in Kempton Park, South Africa. He was born May 27, 1959, in Durban, South Africa. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Free State (1981), a diploma in theology from South African Bible College (1985) and a master’s degree in theology from ACU. A pastor, Zwart served Sonrise Church in Edleen, South Africa, for 35 years, and was an administrator for 25 years at Sonrise Christian School. Among survivors are his wife, Penny; a daughter, Sandy Zwart; three grandchildren; and a sister, Dorothy Whitby.


Michele Fredrica “Cheley” Nall, 59, of Mesquite, Texas, died April 6, 2021. She was born Aug. 7, 1961, in Rapid City, South Dakota. She was a graduate of Criss Cole School for the Blind in Austin, Texas; and from Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar, California, with her faithful companions Barney, Kalee, Vale and Tabor. She earned a B.A.S. and a master’s degree in OHRD (2003), both from ACU. She was a social worker and counselor for more than 10 years at Disability in Action Inc. in Abilene, Texas, where she was named Lion of the Year for 1996-97. She is preceded in death by her parents, Thomas Dyer and Carol Dyer; and a sister,

Sandra. Among survivors are her sisters, Lynette and Karen; and a brother, John Dyer.


Elton Donewald Garus-Oab, 42, of Belleville, Illinois, died Oct. 6, 2021. He was born May 5, 1979. He earned a B.S. degree and was a standout sprinter on Wildcat track and field teams, helping them win multiple NCAA Division II national championships. He was preceded in death by two brothers and a sister. Among survivors are Stephanie Warren (’06), his wife of 14 years; and a son, Donnie Garus-Oab.


Stephen Paul Ornelas Jr., of Abilene, Texas, died on his 21st birthday, July 21, 2022. He and his twin sister, Sarah, were born July 21, 2001, in Richmond, Texas. When he was 2 years old, his mother married Angel Garcia, who raised Stephen as his own. He graduated from Abilene Cooper High School in 2019, and earned his cosmetology license. While at ACU he became an active member of the Voice student peer and support group and was preparing to be an incoming officer. He was employed by McAlister’s Deli since age 16, and was an active member of St. Vincent Pallotti Catholic Church. He was preceded in death by his grandfathers, David Garcia and Raymond Ornelas. Among survivors are his parents Angel Garcia and Monica Garcia (’09); his biological father, Stephen Ornelas Sr.; brothers Angel Garcia Jr., Zach Garcia, Joaquin Garcia, JohnDavid Garcia and Jeremiah Garcia; sisters Devenie Medina, Bianca Ornelas, Sarah Ornelas, Isa Garcia and Madison Ornelas; and grandparents Janie Garcia, Ramona Sosa, Valentina Gonzalez and Johnny Garcia.


ACU Online doctoral candidate Donna Renee Harris, 63, died unexpectedly in Ghana, West Africa, on May 30, 2021. She was born Nov. 25, 1957.

Eva Eudell “Mud” Ripley, 94, of Abilene, Texas, died July 26, 2021. She was born Jan. 31, 1927, in Greenville, Texas, where she graduated high school and fell in love with James Leon “Rip” Ripley. They wed Feb. 17, 1945. Rip – an ACU benefactor who founded Athletic Supply in Abilene and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the 2000-01 induction class of the ACU Sports Hall of Fame – lovingly nicknamed her “Mud” after their son called her “Mudder.” She was preceded in death by her parents, Lonnie Pippin and Jessie Pippin; and Rip, her husband of 75 years. Among survivors are her daughter, Becky (Ripley ’72) Bearden; a son, Steve Ripley (’74); an “adopted” son, Harold Nutall (’78); four grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Joseph “Joe” Willems died July 19, 2021, in Irving, Texas, at age 83. He was born March 19, 1938, in Carrizo Springs, Texas, the son of Belgian immigrants. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1960 and went to work for Texas Employers Insurance Association. He retired from Employers Insurance Association as senior vice president-claims in 1993, then pursued his passion in real estate as a broker for another 26 years. He was a longtime volunteer for the Friends of Irving Library, serving 18 years as treasurer. He and his wife are generous benefactors of ACU. He was preceded in death by his parents, Hector Joseph Willems and Rachel Willems; and a daughter, Cindy Teal. Among survivors are Marilyn Hope (Colby ’63) Willems, his wife of 45 years; sons Gary Willems and Jay Willems; four grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a sister, Florence Kittell.

Former longtime trustee Herbert “Herb” Gibson Jr. (’58) died Dec. 8, 2020, at age 85. He was born June 24, 1935, in Dallas, Texas. He majored in marketing at ACU, played football, and in 1955, wed classmate Patricia Oleta Pearson (’57). The owner and president of HRG Investments, he was president of Equity Development Corporation (1980-2008) and president of Gibson’s Discount Centers in the 1970s. Gibson was an ACU trustee from 1974-92. He was preceded in death by his parents, Herbert Richard Gibson Sr. and Belva Grace Acklin Gibson; and his wife, Pat. Among survivors are children Mike Gibson (’79), Pamela Gibson Kirk and Cynthia (Gibson ’84) Rudd; seven grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren; and brothers Richard Herbert Gibson (’59) and Gerald Patrick Gibson (’61)

Millie Snowden Verett Zickefoose died Sept. 7, 2021, at the age of 90. She was born Sept. 6, 1931, in Haskell County, Texas, and graduated from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington. In 1949 she married C.A. Verett, with whom she farmed in Crosby County for 30 years. The Veretts fostered several children from Lubbock Children’s Home, where they served as house parents for two years. They moved to Abilene in 1975, where she became hostess of the McGlothlin Campus Center and C.A. served on ACU’s staff. She was an avid tennis player into her 70s, and won several women’s double championships. She was preceded in death by her parents, Lloyd and Ruby Snowden; C.A., her husband of 57 years; a sister, Lola; and brothers, Joe Snowden, Jack Snowden and Don Snowden. Among survivors are Dr. Ben Zickefoose Jr. (’55), her husband of 10 years; sons

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Gibson Zickefoose ACU Remembers

Jacob’s Dream, the landmark sculpture site on ACU’s campus, was created to recognize the genorosity of the late Dr. Robert “Bob” and Mary Woodward, who facilitated the $26.5 million Grace L. Woodward Memorial Endowment Trust that was, in 1998, the largest gift in the university’s history. Bob died in 2010 and Mary passed away in June 2022. See her obituary below.

Vic Verett (’74) and Kendall Verett (’78); three granddaughters; and five great-grandchildren.

Former ACU sports information director James Earl Norman died Jan. 31, 2022, at age 87. He was born Oct. 30, 1934, in Glen Rose, Texas, where he lettered in four sports and graduated high school in 1953. He attended Tarleton State University and Abilene Christian before graduating from Sam Houston State University in 1958 with a degree in journalism. He wed Artie Wilson on Dec. 27, 1958. He worked as a Texas sportswriter with the Wichita Falls Record-News (1958-59) and Abilene Reporter-News (1959-63), as SID at ACU (1963-72), as a sportswriter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (1972-83), and as a rural mail carrier in Parker County (1983-2003). He won numerous awards for editing and publishing sports publications at ACU, and was named Sportswriter of the Year for the Lone Star Conference (1975). He was highly recognized for his coverage of rodeo and cutting horse events. Norman served the Aledo (Texas) Church of Christ as a deacon, treasurer and elder. He was preceded in death by his parents, G.D. and Sadie Nabors Norman, and his wife, Artie. Among survivors are a son, Lance Norman; daughters Holly Sampson and Shannon Benoit; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

ACU benefactor Mary Howard Woodward of San Antonio, Texas, died June 21, 2022, at age 94. She was born Aug. 28, 1927, at Concan in Uvalde County, Texas, and graduated high school in 1944 from Sabinal High School, where she was the band’s majorette and drum major, Cypress Queen and FFA (Future Farmers of America) Sweetheart. In 1946, she married her first husband and they spent a number of years at Texas A&M University following World War II. She worked in publications for the Air Force and was secretary to the personnel director of the historic Hondo (Texas) Air Base, and later, in security and communications departments for the Army at Gary Air Force Base in San Marcos, Texas. While a student at Texas State University, she served as secretary for chairs of business administration, physics and economics, and the director of athletics. She married Dr. Robert R. “Bob” Woodward on July 5, 1975, and they moved in 1977 to Kerrville, Texas, where they donated land for and helped begin its Riverside Church of Christ. The Woodwards helped facilitate an estate gift for Bob’s late mother, Grace Woodward, that contributed

$26.5 million to establish the Grace L. Woodward Memorial Endowment Trust benefitting the College of Biblical Studies and anchor the To Lead and To Serve campaign. The gift was the largest in Abilene Christian’s history when announced in February 1998. ACU dedicated Jacob’s Dream, a dramatic outdoor sculpture site on its campus by art and design professor Jack Maxwell (’78), to honor the Woodward family gift. Mary was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Daughters of the American Revolution, the National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century, and the National Society Daughters of the American Colonists. She was preceded in death by her parents, Durward B. Howard and Dovie Caddel Howard; and Bob, her husband of 35 years. Among survivors are her sons, Bill H. Soyars and Tom Soyars; and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, stepchildren and step-grandchildren.

Former longtime history and global studies department professor and chair Dr. John Louis Robinson (’60) died Aug. 10, 2022, in Lubbock, Texas, at age 86 following a battle with leukemia. Robinson was born Oct. 17, 1935, in Luxora, Arkansas, and graduated in 1953 from El Cerrito (California) High School. From 1953-57, he served as a sergeant in the Air Force, stationed in the Philippine Islands and several locations in the U.S. He married ACU classmate Sharon Lee Sprague (’62) on Dec. 17, 1959, and earned a B.A. degree in history in 1960. The couple served as missionaries from 1962-65 in Baguio City, Philippines, while he taught history and Bible at Philippine Bible College. They moved to Abilene and John joined the ACU faculty in 1965, and served as department chair from 1986-96. He earned a M.A. degree in history from Pepperdine University (1961) and a doctorate in Latin American history from Texas Christian University (1970). He retired as professor emeritus in 2000. Robinson authored three books: David Lipscomb: Journalist in Texas, 1872 (1973), Living Hard: Southern Americans in the Great Depression (1981), and Bartolomé Mitre: Historian of the Americas (1982). He served for more than 20 years as an elder at Abilene’s South 11th and Willis Church of Christ. Robinson also was a minister in the 1960s to the Southwest Church of Christ in Los Angeles and the Shep

Dr. Robert and Mary Woodward STEVE BUTMAN Robinson
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(Texas) Church of Christ. He was preceded in death by his stepfather, Joe C. Elliott, and his mother, Lucille (Harkey) Elliott. Among survivors are Sharon, his wife of 62 years; sons Brian Robinson (’85) and Lt. Col. (ret.) Matthew Robinson (’88); and seven grandchildren.

Gary Gaines, an iconic and successful Texas high school coach whose five-year career at ACU was a table-setter for the Wildcats’ success in NCAA Division II and eventual move to Division I, died Aug. 22, 2022, in Lubbock, Texas. He was 73 and had battled Alzheimer’s disease for five years. Born May 4, 1949, in Crane, Texas, Gaines played quarterback at Angelo State University (1967-70) and earned a B.Ed. degree in physical sciences. He married Sharon Hicks on June 27, 1970. Gaines, who was portrayed as a major character in the best-selling 1990 book and popular 2004 film, Friday Night Lights, was never comfortable with either account, especially the book by author H.G. Bissinger. Friday Night Lights was based on the 1988 season at Gaines’ Odessa Permian High School, and the prominent role high school football plays in the culture and ethos of West Texans. A popular TV series loosely based on the book followed from 2006-11. Overall, Gaines led Odessa Permian to one state title and a 69-28-1 record. When he first left PHS following a 16-0 season and Class 5A state championship in 1989, he had compiled a 46-7-1 record. He had a 127-93-5 head coaching record in 20 seasons at Texas high schools: Petersburg (1977-78), Denver City (1978-79), Amarillo Tascosa (1982), Monahans (1983-85), Odessa Permian (1986-89 and 2009-12), Abilene High (1994-95) and San Angelo Central (1996-99). He was ACU’s head coach from 2000-04 and the linebackers coach at Texas Tech University from 1990-93. Gaines’ Wildcat teams won only four games his first two seasons on the Hill (2000-01), but rebounded to win the Lone Star Conference South Division title in 2002, the football program’s first championship since a NAIA Division I national title in 1977. He left ACU in 2005 to become the director of athletics at Ector County (Texas) Independent School District, which includes PHS. In 2007, he took the same role for the Lubbock ISD before returning as PHS head coach in 2009. He retired in 2012 and announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2017. In 2013 he was inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor. He was preceded in death by his parents, O.D. and Dorothy Gaines. Survivors include Sharon, his wife of 52 years; a son, Bradley Gaines; a daughter, Nicole (Gaines ’00) Strader; and five grandchildren.

A longtime evangelist to the Republic of the Philippines, Robert Eugene Buchanan Sr. (’72) died July 12, 2022, at age 90. He was born Sept. 7, 1931, in Friendly, West Virginia, but grew up in Lincoln Park, Michigan. He married fellow Michigander Barbara Jean Farley in 1952. He earned associate’s degrees from Freed-Hardeman University and Florida Christian College; taught on the faculty of Dasher Bible School in Valdosta, Georgia; and served in ministry roles in Michigan and Ohio while aspiring to do mission work outside the U.S. In 1964, the Buchanans and their three children moved to Baguio City, Philippines, where he became a teacher and president of Philippine Bible College. He moved back to Abilene in 1971 to complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees from ACU in just 13 months. The family returned to the Philippines in 1979, when Bob started teaching at White’s Ferry Road School of Preaching and preaching in two Louisiana congregations until 1983. Another ministry job in Uvalde, Texas, led to returning in 1988 to ACU to serve as a missionary-in-residence. In 1996, he and Barbara began a 13-year assignment back in the Philippines before retiring in Abilene, although he returned every three months to his beloved mission field in Southeast Asia. He was preceded in death by his parents, Oliver and Hazel Buchanan; and brothers Gerald Buchanan (’64) and Harold Buchanan. Among survivors are Barbara, his wife of 70 years; daughters Colleen (Buchanan ’77) Blasingame, Vivian Huggins and Jeannie Rimel (’92); sons Robert Buchanan Jr. (’79) and James Buchanan (’99); 12 grandchildren; more than 20 great-grandchildren; and a brother, Bill Buchanan.

Former ACU assistant registrar Paul Joseph Wilson (’69) died July 16, 2022, at age 74. He was born Aug. 19, 1947, and was a lifelong resident of Abilene, Texas, who grew up on the Abilene Christian campus. His parents were Bible professor Dr. Woodrow Wilson and Ruth Wall Wilson, an administrative assistant in the Graduate School. He graduated from Abilene Christian High School in 1965, earned a B.S. degree in business and was employed by the Registrar’s Office from his college years through 1992. Wilson loved ACU sports and Abilene; his hobby was keeping up with the city’s new construction and growth. For years he volunteered on stats crews and in press boxes for Wildcat football and basketball games, and track and field meets. He was preceded in death by his parents. Among survivors are his sister, Mary Lois (Wilson ’67) Gibson.

Phyllis Hott Wilson (’99) died Sept. 5, 2022, at age 68. She was born June 9, 1954, in Bryan, Texas, where she graduated high school in 1972. She attended Sam Houston State University before earning a B.A.S. degree from ACU. She served Abilene Christian in The Campus Store (1993-99) and as director of student productions (2000-03), then moved to Seattle, Washington, and in 2013, to Denver to live closer to grandchildren and to become an EEG technologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She was preceded in death by her parents, Wilfred and Geraldine Hott. Among survivors are sons Dan Wilson, Jeff Wilson and Timothy Wilson; five grandchildren; and a sister, Jan Hott Smith.

Longtime ACU staff member LuGene Bentley Lewis died Sept. 22, 2022, in Abilene, Texas, at age 91. She was born Nov. 4, 1930, in Fort Worth, Texas. She wed classmate Roy Lewis (’51) on June 11, 1950, in Quinlan, Texas, at Arms of Hope (formerly Boles Home for Children). Lewis served 18 years in ACU’s Advancement Services, including as supervisor, before retiring in 1986. An active volunteer, she was president of Kiwanis Club of Abilene, the American Business Women’s Association and the Big Country Porcelain Art Guild. She also won many awards for cooking in competition at the West Texas Fair, and was an accomplished artisan. She was preceded in death by her parents, Wesley Andrew Bentley Sr. and Juanice Blakeley Bentley; Roy, her husband of 57 years; a brother, Wesley Andrew Bentley Jr. (’57); a son, David Earl Lewis (’82); and a granddaughter, Brianna Allison Green. Among survivors are daughters Sharon P. Ball (’74) and Jennie J. Baker (’76); a son, Kenneth R. Lewis (’78); sisters Patty M. Jones (’55) and Judy Lewis Mayo (’64); a brother, Tommy Bentley (’64); 12 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

Sharon Lindsey died Oct. 5, 2022, at age 74. She was born July 11, 1948, and graduated in 1966 from Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Texas, and in 1970 from Texas Tech University. She wed Dr. Gary Lindsey (’95 M.A.) on Aug. 15, 1970. She served as a church secretary, Christian school teacher and administrative assistant to two high school principals at Southwest Christian School in Fort Worth and Abilene Christian School. She was administrative assistant to university presidents at ACU and Oklahoma Christian University, and also worked in the Office of Advancement at OCU. She was preceded in death by her parents, Howard and Lanita Smith. Survivors include Gary, her husband of 52 years; a son, Blake Lindsey (’98); a daughter, Lauren Lindsey Blasingame (’00); four grandchildren; and a sister, Lana (Smith ’73) Trietsch

78 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
Gaines Buchanan Paul Wilson Phyllis Wilson Lewis STEVE BUTMAN Lindsey GORDON TRICE JENNIE BAKER

Former ACU College of Biblical Studies advancement officer Charles Sheppard (’53) died Oct. 20, 2022, in San Antonio, Texas, at age 91. He was born July 3, 1931, in Houston, Texas, and graduated from its Milby High School in 1949. He met classmate Bonnie Jean Carman (’53) on his first day at ACU and they married Jan. 25, 1951. He earned a B.B.A. in January 1953 and moved with his family to Lake Jackson, Texas, where he began a 12-year career in the engineering department of Dow Chemical Company. He was one of seven deacons at Lake Jackson Church of Christ who, along with minister Stanley Shipp (’46), felt the call to missions. In 1965, Sheppard resigned from Dow and moved his family of six to the Philippine Islands, where he began work as a teacher and administrator at Zamboanga Bible College. Family circumstances required the Sheppards to return to the U.S. in 1968, but he continued until his last days to champion and support missions in the Philippines. He worked briefly with Diamond Shamrock Corporation before

a decade of work building the Top Talent Temporaries division of MeadorBrady personnel firm. He was the volunteer minister of evangelism at the Central Church of Christ in Pasadena, Texas, and did weekend preaching in Houston-area churches before beginning full-time church work in 1981 as minister of evangelism and later, pulpit minister for the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston. In 1988 he became director of academic development for ACU’s College of Biblical Studies, which included raising funds for student scholarships, missions projects and the university’s endowment. He retired in 1996. For nearly 30 years, Sheppard served as an elder with three congregations. He was on the board of Abilene’s Christian Service Center, was a 10-year member of the ACU Alumni Advisory Board, sang with the ACU Alumni Chorus, and worked in prison ministry. He was preceded in death by his parents, Henry Cecil “Bunk” Sheppard and Margie Anne Melton; a brother, Gene Sheppard (’53); and a son, Bob Sheppard. Among survivors are Bonnie, his wife of 71 years; sons Greg Sheppard (’74) and Larry Sheppard; a daughter, Brenda O’Banion; nine grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; a sister, June (Sheppard ’55) Cobb; and a brother, Hank Sheppard (’66)

Second Glance: The legend and ministry of Tonto Coleman

they did it. This boy said, ‘Oh, we just happened to notice that whoever came out of the huddle wearing the helmet usually carried the ball.’”

One of Coleman’s speeches, which was reprinted in newspapers and magazines across the nation and on CBS Radio, was titled, “What it is … is football.” Here’s how Coleman described the sport:

“It is the boy from ‘across the tracks’ playing alongside the boy from ‘the silk stocking district.’ It is a series of experiences which will result in the building of good character and a good life. It is discipline, it is work, it is sacrifice, it is success, it is disappointment, it is perseverance, it is sorrow, and it is joy. It is learning to lose grudgingly, but gracefully. It is learning to win by humility. It is learning to play and live by ‘the rules.’

It is the generator of that intoxicating fervor known as college spirit which permeates the college campuses of America, that intangible ‘something’ that integrates the history-making, action-packed present with the glorious pages of the past, that which brings, binds and blends those who are a part of these two eras into a common bond of friendship and fellowship and gives lustre, personality and individuality to their institution. It is the pulsating force that keeps the old grad close to the bosom of his alma mater.” Indeed, football kept Coleman’s alma mater close to his heart. In March 1950, when Coleman resigned to coach at Florida, sportswriter A.C. Greene (’48) wrote in the Abilene Reporter-News, “There were tears in his eyes when he turned around to the squad. Tonto Coleman is a strong man, but this was like taking his bare hands and tearing his own heart out by the roots.”

“I don’t know whether I can go through with this or not,” Coleman said. “A lot of people can’t understand why I should hesitate, why I feel this way going to a big

Continued from page 80

university. They don’t know this school. You can’t work at a college like this for 11 years and not get deep-rooted. These have been the happiest years of my life. It was a rough decision I had to make, and I tell you I shed a lot of tears to leave fellows I love like you.”

Greene wrote that Coleman told his players, “I’ve never asked a team to score for me, but I hope next fall when you’re down there close you’ll try a little harder to make it. I hope from me you’ve gotten something to help you hurdle some obstacle in life.”

Coleman’s inspiration wasn’t soon forgotten by his players. That fall, the Wildcats he had recruited and coached, now under the direction of head coach Garvin Beauchamp, turned in a perfect 11-0 season –the only undefeated, untied college football team in the nation in 1950.

Tonto’s influence in the Southeastern Conference was equally powerful. Boyd McWhorter, who followed Coleman as SEC commissioner when he retired in 1972, came to Abilene to present a check for $10,000 for a scholarship fund honoring Coleman – $1,000 from each of the 10 SEC members.

“The size of the gift is insignificant,” McWhorter said in Chapel on Dec. 12, 1973, “but it is given with the hope and confidence that this institution will continue to send forth Tonto Colemans to fulfill the noblest purpose of higher education.” 

Wildcat Football: Three Cheers for the Purple and White, is available at – enter the code gowildcats23 to receive a 40 percent discount on your order Copyright 2018. This excerpt used by permission of Abilene Christian University Press.

ACU TODAY  Fall-Winter 2023 79


The legend and ministry of Tonto Coleman

The content of this essay is adapted with permission from the introduction to Wildcat Football: Three Cheers for the Purple and White, a 2017 Abilene Christian University Press book by Lance Fleming (’92). The introduction’s author, former longtime ACU sports information director Garner Roberts (’72), retold the legend of the late A.M. “Tonto” Coleman (’28) and his considerable influence over the university’s football program. “For dozens and dozens of coaches such as Coleman,” Roberts wrote, “Wildcat football was their ministry. For hundreds and hundreds of players in the past 96 seasons, Wildcat football developed character and taught them to play and to live by the rules.”

It was a frightful day in September 1939 for 17-year-old freshman Rex Kyker (’43) as he walked across the Cedar Creek Bridge on College Drive and started up the hill toward the campus of Abilene Christian College.

Twenty-eight years later, during his distinguished career as a professor at Abilene Christian, Kyker remembered, “Some huge fellow stopped and said, ‘Son, do you need a lift?’”

That huge fellow was Tonto Coleman (’28), who was in his second year as the Wildcats’ head coach for track and field and assistant coach for football. “I knew he had to be the Wildcat football coach,” Kyker said. “But looking at him, I thought we needed him worse as a player – like maybe tackle-coach.”

Kyker, who died in Abilene in 1996 at the age of 75, and Coleman, who experienced an unmatched career among former Wildcat football players and coaches, remained friends until Coleman’s death at his home in Abilene in 1973. Kyker was the featured speaker Feb. 20, 1967, when Coleman was honored as ACC’s 1976 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. “I think Tonto found a great ministry in athletics,” Kyker said. And he recalled that chance meeting with Coleman in 1939. “It bespeaks so well the theme of Tonto’s life – giving a fellow a lift.”

No one loved Wildcat football more than Arthur Marvin “Tonto” Coleman.

“The Will Rogers of West Texas” graduated from ACC in 1928 with a degree in English after playing football, basketball and baseball for the Wildcats. He served as head coach in both football and track and field, later coached at the University of Florida and Georgia Tech, and performed admirably for six years as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference after his unanimous election and as a member of the NCAA Executive Committee.

He loved life and he loved people, and no one doubted either. Coleman was that rare person to which the clichés

“a man without an enemy” and “a man who never met a stranger” really do apply. He was an immensely popular speaker for civic groups, booster clubs, and national organizations such as the Football Writers of America and the American Football Coaches Association. He spoke at virtually every major coaching clinic in America, including his beloved Texas High School Coaches Association, where he was the only honorary member.

Coleman’s message often consisted of his three basic points for a good coach: love boys, love football, love to teach. Once, after Coleman’s speech at a football banquet, the school’s superintendent said, “There are some mighty good preachers in this town, but in my three years here that was the best ‘sermon’ I’ve heard. And I know it did more good.”

A photograph of him at the White House with President Lyndon B. Johnson and fellow football coaches

Darrell Royal and Paul “Bear” Bryant hung on a wall in his Lincoln Drive home when he died Oct. 18, 1973. On the photograph, Royal had written, “Tonto, I owe you so much. We both know how I made it to Texas.”

Coleman pioneered the 5-4 defense, and the list of invitations for jobs he declined is equally impressive. Those reportedly include Texas, Alabama, Baylor and Notre Dame.

He called himself “the oratorical equivalent of a blocked punt,” yet the stories this sentimentalist and self-made philosopher told are legendary. Of his popular sayings and stories, he told Sports Illustrated in 1966, “That sounds too good for me to have made up. I must have stolen that.”

Here’s one of his many stories.

Coleman was born July 9, 1907, in Phil Campbell, Alabama, and moved with his family when he was 12 to a farm in the West Texas cotton patch near the community of Wastella.

He recalled a football game matching his team, Roscoe High School, and nearby Snyder. “They stopped us cold on every play,” Coleman remembered. “No matter what we tried, those Snyder boys seemed to know just where the play was heading. We took a bad beating, and after the game I asked one of the Snyder players how

Continued on page 79

80 Fall-Winter 2023  ACU TODAY
The ACU Foundation is now the Office of Gift Planning! ew name. Same great way to leave a lasting legacy. Come find out more on our new website, Visit today to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and learn how you can benefit students now and for generations to come. If we can help you in any way, reach out to us at or call 325-674-2508 or 800-979-1906 to talk with our helpful staff. Jim Orr, J.D. Executive Director Lance Rieder, CSPG Associate Director Brittany Brownlow Administrative Coordinator Visit our new website at Dan Garrett, CFP™, AEP™, HDP™ Consultant

Abilene Christian University

ACU Box 29132

Abilene, Texas 79699-9132



Wildcat Visits ........................................... See for available dates or check out our virtual tour

Baseball vs. Oklahoma at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas February 22

WAC Postseason Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada March 6-11

Spring 2023 Summit

67th Annual Sing Song in Moody Coliseum

Alumni Day Luncheon

Library Friends Dinner With Landon Saunders

March 30-31

March 31 - April 1

April 2

April 19

Class of 1973 Golden Anniversary Reunion .......................................

90th Anniversary Choral Reunion

Day of Giving

May Commencement in Moody Coliseum

Wildcat Week for Freshmen


JMC Gutenberg Celebration

April 19-21

April 21-23

April 25

May 12-13

August 22-26

October 12-15

October 12

Sports Hall of Fame Dinner and Lettermen’s Reunion ................

October 13

Forever Friends

FROM LEFT: The newest and largest gift to academics in ACU history – more than $29 million – was the result of a personal and professional kinship between Dr. Bill Petty (left), the late Dr. Bill Dukes (center) and Dr. Jack Griggs. Read more about their friendship and the thoughtful philanthropy of the late Dukes and his wife, Janie, on pages 10-11.

Nonprofit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Abilene Christian University
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