News Archives: Academics

HPU historian publishes encyclopedia of university’s 125-year history

Mangrum and book for webBROWNWOOD – November 23, 2015 – Dr. Robert Mangrum, university historian and professor of history and government at Howard Payne University, has published an account of HPU’s history titled For Howard Payne My All: 125 Years of Christian Higher Education and Service, 1889-2015, An Encyclopedia.

The book, which took 17 years to write, celebrates the university’s history since its founding in 1889. It is available for $30 on DVD or USB Flash Drive from Willie’s T’s in Brownwood. It may also be purchased online at the HPU Stinger Store at All proceeds from the book’s sales will be used to establish an academic scholarship at HPU.

“I am proud to give back to the university in this way,” said Dr. Mangrum. “HPU has played a very meaningful role in my life and my prayer is that the scholarship created from the proceeds helps many students make their own HPU memories.”

During his tenure with the university, Dr. Mangrum has served in numerous capacities on campus, including 30 years as a sponsor of Kappa Kappa Psi National Band Fraternity, four years as faculty sponsor of Student Government, 13 years as director of HPU’s Guy D. Newman Honors Academy (then the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom) and as associate dean of the School of Humanities. He has served on numerous university committees including three self-study committees for reaccreditation.

He has published numerous book reviews in professional journals and served as contributor to The Vietnam War: An Encyclopedia and as a referee for the Journal of Military History. He is currently in his sixth term as mayor of the City of Early.


Photo cutline: HPU’s Dr. Robert Mangrum is pictured with a copy of his book in DVD format.

HPU to host lectures on global religious freedom

BROWNWOOD – November 16, 2015 – Howard Payne University will host lectures by Dr. Elijah Brown, executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, this Tuesday and Wednesday. The events are free and open to the public.

The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative is a Christian organization that champions global religious freedom. The group’s mission, according to its website, is to “empower a global movement to advance religious freedom as a universal right through advocacy, capacity building and technology.”

Dr. Brown’s first discussion, “Africa and the New Testament Church,” will be held Tuesday, November 17, at 7 p.m. in the Richard and Wanda Jackson Conference Room of HPU’s Paul and Jane Meyer Faith and Life Leadership Center. He will lead a discussion on the many fascinating African connections to the New Testament and the early church.

The next morning, Dr. Brown will serve as the guest speaker for the university’s Chapel service, delivering his second lecture, “Global Religious Freedom.” He will discuss the current state of religious freedom and religious persecution around the world. Chapel begins at 10 a.m. in the university’s Mims Auditorium.

“We look forward to learning more about Dr. Brown’s global perspectives on religious freedom,” said Dr. Melody Maxwell, assistant professor of Christian studies. “You will not want to miss these opportunities to learn from and interact with him.”

Book and film on women in geology to profile retired HPU faculty member

Marie Gramann and classmates for webBROWNWOOD – September 30, 2015 – Retired Howard Payne University faculty member Marie Gramann doesn’t consider herself a pioneer in geology, but from a young age the field held natural appeal.

“I was thirteen years old when I decided I wanted to be a geologist,” she said. “I don’t know why. I was raised in Cuero, a small town between San Antonio and Houston. There were no geologists there at the time.”

Gramann went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in geology in 1936 from The University of Texas, one of the first women to earn that particular degree from the institution. She spent the next several years working for oil companies in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Austin before arriving in Brownwood to teach at HPU.

Gramann’s story – and the stories of several other women in the field – caught the attention of Robbie Gries, past president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). Gries is compiling interviews for a book and film on women geologists in petroleum from 1918 through the late 1980s.

“She is a delight,” said Gries of Gramann. “As I enjoy the late years of my career, I have taken on a project to honor the real pioneers in our field.”

While the project is a few years away from completion, friends and former colleagues are thrilled that Gramann will be recognized in this way.

Betty Broome, who retired from HPU in 2012 as executive assistant to the president, said Gramann was one of the first friends she made on campus when she came to the university in 1986.

“Miss Gramann was a friend to faculty and staff, and enjoyed getting to know the students in her classes,” Broome said. “Though retired for many years, she can still carry on a lively discussion about fracking!”

Gramann has been a member of AAPG for more than 60 years and is a past member of geological societies in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Austin and Abilene.

“She knows so much about geology,” said Margaret Blagg, a family friend. “She knows everything about the geology of this area.”

With Gramann’s membership in the organization, she also receives the AAPG Explorer magazine. Gramann herself was featured in the magazine in 2013.

“She has a keen interest in them,” Blagg said. “She reads every issue cover to cover.”

Following her career in the oil industry, Gramann moved to Brownwood in the 1960s to be nearer to family. She was approached by a friend, the late Dr. George Baker, who was then head of Howard Payne’s music department.

Marie Gramann 1974 for web“He said, ‘Why don’t you let me make an appointment for you with the dean? They don’t have anyone to teach geology,’” said Gramann. “I had never taught before in my life.”

Gramann signed a teaching contract on a Saturday in 1965. School began the following week.

“Nobody in his or her right mind would do what I did,” Gramann said, laughing.

That Monday and Tuesday, she drove to Austin and Waco to consult with colleagues at The University of Texas and Baylor University. They gave her a few rocks and minerals to begin her lab and suggested a textbook and lab manual.

Gramann stayed busy as a first-year teacher.

“I would read and read and read, then type a lecture, then go to school, then come home and read and read and read,” she said. “I made it, somehow.”

Some of her favorite memories from Howard Payne include geology field trips with students and a concert the band dedicated in her honor. A page in the 1974 Lasso yearbook reads, “Because of the inspiration she has given us in friendship, in professionalism, in scholarship and in personal conduct, the 1974 Lasso is dedicated to Marie Gramann, assistant professor of geology.”

Dr. Jack Stanford, professor emeritus of biology who retired from HPU in 1999, worked closely with Gramann.

“Students loved her,” he said. “She knows her subject very, very well. She loved field trips and was always well prepared for them. She knows absolutely everything about the geology of Brown County.”

Gramann said she’s a “people person.”

“I just enjoyed everything about teaching at Howard Payne,” she said.

She retired in 1990 following 25 years of teaching. She still laughs when she thinks about her start at Howard Payne.

“The one thing I never, ever intended to do was teach,” she said. “Don’t ever say what you never intend to do, because you might do it.”

Brownwood resident Gene Deason, a 1972 HPU graduate, said Gramann was not only one of the best professors he had at the university, but also one of the dearest individuals he has ever had the honor to know.

“Her enthusiasm for the subject she taught was contagious,” he said. “Students had to find out what all her excitement was about when we went on field trips and discovered how many stories those rocks and dirt could tell. What started out as a science class needed for my degree turned into an unending appreciation of what the layers of earth lying just below our feet, or visible due to excavations for highways, can tell us about the past.”

After he graduated, Deason became better acquainted with Gramann as a fellow member of the community.

“I came to appreciate not only her professionalism and knowledge, but also her goodness and kindness,” he said. “I am thankful God put me in her path.”


Photo cutline: Marie Gramann, right, is pictured in the field with classmates from The University of Texas. The students were the first female participants in UT’s geology field course. Photo courtesy of The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences.

The 1974 Lasso yearbook was dedicated in Marie Gramann’s honor. She is pictured, in a photo from the yearbook, in her office at HPU.

HPU junior Sarahi Castillo awarded UPS Scholarship

BROWNWOOD – September 22, 2015 – Sarahi Castillo, a junior at Howard Payne University, was recently selected to receive a UPS Scholarship provided by the ICUT Foundation and its national partner, the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC).

Sarahi is the daughter of Maria C. Medina and Larry Medina of El Paso and a 2013 graduate of Montwood High School. She is majoring in exercise and sport science at HPU and is a member of the women’s basketball team.

At the national level, CIC teams with the UPS Foundation to distribute funding of the UPS Scholarship. Through the program this year, the ICUT Foundation awarded $88,200 in UPS Scholarships to 36 students at private institutions across Texas.

CIC is an association of 744 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that has worked since 1956 to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. One of CIC’s major program areas is its work with member fundraising consortia of private colleges, including the ICUT Foundation.


Photo cutline: HPU junior Sarahi Castillo was recently awarded a UPS Scholarship.

HPU group experiences God’s work in South Africa

HPU group in South Africa for webBROWNWOOD – September 18, 2015 – Five Howard Payne University students and two faculty members that traveled to South Africa during the summer were reminded that God is at work – in huge ways – around the world.

Led by Dr. Melody Maxwell and Dr. Derek Hatch, both assistant professors of Christian studies, the students spent two weeks touring the country, volunteering with Christian organizations and worshipping with more than 2,500 Baptists from around the globe at the 21st Baptist World Congress. They joined more than 60 other individuals from Baptist churches across the United States in serving through the South Africa Ministry Network.

The trip is a component of Dr. Maxwell’s International Missions Practicum, a capstone course for cross-cultural studies majors. The students spent the semester before they left learning about short-term missions and the history, culture and people of South Africa.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the trip was seeing things that we had learned about in class,” said Rachel Ellington, senior from Garland, mentioning sites such as the Apartheid Museum and Lesedi Cultural Village. “The world is a much bigger place than I thought. God is much more creative and the church is much more diverse than I ever dreamed.”

The group spent the first week working with the Refilwe Community Project near an informal settlement north of Johannesburg. Refilwe is a multivalent Christian organization that focuses on child care, community care and skills development.

Dr. Maxwell said the HPU group got to experience a bit of many of the ministries Refilwe has to offer such as farming, child care, kids clubs and more.

“It was a really incredible opportunity for us all to see how God was at work and how we could participate in God’s work,” she said.

The next several days were spent participating in the Baptist World Congress. The host of the event, the Baptist World Alliance, is a fellowship of Baptist believers comprised of 42 million members from 121 countries and territories.

“Experiencing the Congress really expands your boundaries and understanding of the global church,” said Dr. Maxwell.

Scripture was read or presented in approximately 25 different languages during the worship services.

“The Congress’ location on the African continent promised to bring a great deal of diversity to its attendance,” said Dr. Hatch. “I think it really made good on that promise.”

The students were required to seek out people from other cultures to learn about life and Christianity around the world.

“Getting to share life and experiences with people from all over the world was such a remarkable and eye-opening experience for me,” said Mikayla Warren, senior from Salado. “The trip was full of a lifetime of stories and memories and friendships.”

Among the things they learned from leaders of the South Africa Ministry Network was to embrace a “pilgrim’s posture.”

“People go on pilgrimages to seek the presence of God in other places,” said Dr. Hatch. “We weren’t going to bring Christ to South Africa but to encounter Christ in South Africa. He was already working there.”

The Congress served as a good reminder of Christ’s actions around the world.

“It’s really powerful to worship with brothers and sisters in Christ, saying the Lord’s Prayer in your own language and hearing everyone in the room do the same,” said Dr. Maxwell. “It’s fascinating to watch the room explode with dancing and singing and music from different cultures. It’s a privilege for us to be able to travel with, learn from and serve alongside the global Christian community.”

Lance Rhodes, senior from Corsicana, said the trip reminded him of his calling and passion for missions.

“This course rekindled the previously forgotten passion in my heart to go among the nations and proclaim the glory and the grace of Christ,” he said.

Additional students on the trip included Cristalyn Fitzgerald, senior from Burleson, and Paul Warren, May 2015 graduate from Salado.


Photo cutline: While in South Africa, HPU students and faculty met up with HPU alumni Dr. Chris and Mrs. Cindy Liebrum who were also attending the Baptist World Congress. Left to right: Cindy Liebrum, Cristalyn Fitzgerald, Paul Warren, Lance Rhodes, Mikayla Warren, Dr. Derek Hatch, Rachel Ellington, Dr. Melody Maxwell and Dr. Chris Liebrum.

HPU enters fall 2015 semester with increased enrollment

Jacket Journey group photo 2015 for webBROWNWOOD – September 16, 2015 – Faculty, staff and students at Howard Payne University entered the fall 2015 semester recently with increased enrollment and excitement over the months to come. Total undergraduate and graduate enrollment at HPU’s three locations is 1,163 students, a 2.2 percent increase over fall 2014. The figure includes 382 incoming freshmen and transfer students.

“We have certainly been blessed with an amazing group of students this year,” said Kevin Kirk, associate vice president for enrollment. “It is really great to see them already connecting to the campus community.”

Dr. Trissa Cox, professor of computer information systems, said summer is a great time of renewal but students are the lifeblood of campus.

“Howard Payne’s campus was never meant to be quiet,” she said. “I’m excited to see students back at HPU and around Brownwood.”

Dr. W. Mark Tew, HPU provost and chief academic officer, said the entire campus community plays a large role in the recruiting efforts.

“In addition to the excellent work of our admission staff, the university is particularly indebted to the personnel in the offices of business affairs, financial aid and the registrar for countless hours of behind-the-scenes efforts to bring in this class,” he said. “I am deeply appreciative of the university’s faculty who are invaluable to the process of recruitment and retention by providing exemplary education and loving Christian support to all our students.”

Nathan Lacy, freshman from Brownwood, said he already feels like a member of the HPU “family.”

“I’m looking forward to future semesters and the many wonderful things I am about to learn,” he said.

Like many other students from the area, Lacy benefits from HPU’s Heart of Texas Scholarship which awards substantial financial assistance to students from Brown County and other nearby counties.

Lacy said he chose HPU not just for the quality education but because he feels it is the best place for him to grow and prosper as an individual.

“I am extremely happy that I received the Heart of Texas Scholarship,” he said. “It was a tremendous help.”

HPU is always excited to welcome new members to the family. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an HPU Yellow Jacket, visit, e-mail or call (325) 649-8020.


Photo cutline: New freshmen are pictured with upperclassmen leaders during HPU’s Jacket Journey new-student orientation.

HPU’s Dr. Evelyn Romig named Distinguished Professor of Literature

BROWNWOOD – September 10, 2015 – After 34 years of extraordinary service to Howard Payne University, Dr. Evelyn Romig has accepted the position of HPU’s first Distinguished Professor of Literature.

Dr. Romig has served the university faculty as head of the Department of English, dean of the School of Humanities, president of the Faculty Assembly and, since 1988, as full professor of English.

“When Dr. Romig expressed the desire to reduce her teaching load or possibly retire, we discussed the opportunity for her to serve in a new role,” said Dr. W. Mark Tew, university provost and chief academic officer. “Known for her innovations in classroom teaching, Dr. Romig is again assisting the university to pioneer new avenues of educational excellence.”

As the university’s first Distinguished Professor of Literature, Dr. Romig will continue to teach on a limited basis, providing the same exemplary experience for which she is known.

“I can’t think of a teacher who better balances commitment to her subject matter with commitment to her students,” said Dr. Millard Kimery, professor of English and chair of the Department of English. “The English department is lucky to have more time to learn from her example.”

Dr. Romig is the recipient of numerous Excellence in Teaching Awards at HPU and the Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year Award in 1991. She is published by Salem Press and in scholarly publications such as Dickens Quarterly and Literature and Psychology. She earned a Master of Arts degree from Texas A&M University and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Rice University.

Dr. Romig has been very engaged in the community, serving as a leader at the United Methodist Church, as member of the American Association of University Women and with the Pecan Valley Arts Festival. She served for 12 years with the Brownwood Independent School District Board of Trustees, including a term as its president.

“I am excited for our students and the university that Dr. Romig will remain on the faculty through which she has served the Brownwood community so faithfully,” said Dr. Tew.


Photo cutline: Dr. Evelyn Romig was recently named HPU’s first Distinguished Professor of Literature.

HPU advances in U.S. News & World Report rankings

BROWNWOOD – September 9, 2015 – Howard Payne University advanced in two categories in the 2016 edition of “Best Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report released Wednesday. HPU jumped two places from 2015 to be ranked second among the regional colleges of the west in the “Great Schools, Great Prices” category. Additionally, the university placed 11th out of the ranked institutions in the “Best Regional Colleges of the West” category (up four places from 2015) and eighth among the regional colleges of the west in the “Best Colleges for Veterans” category.

Institutions are ranked in all categories within four geographic regions: North, South, Midwest and West. Universities and colleges in Texas and Oklahoma compete in the West region, which is the largest geographic section, encompassing the entire Western U.S.

According to the publication, U.S. News determines its “Great Schools, Great Prices” category by taking into account an institution’s academic quality based on its “Best Colleges” ranking and the 2014-2015 net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid.

“The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal,” the publication stated.

U.S. News determines the “Best Colleges for Veterans” by examining institutions in the 2016 “Best Colleges” rankings which participate in federal initiatives that make pursuing a college degree more affordable for veterans and active service members.

Dr. Bill Ellis, HPU president, said he is proud of the work faculty and staff perform to serve the university’s students.

“We’re honored that the ‘Best Colleges’ publication has once again chosen to recognize HPU for the value, academic rigor and educational benefits we provide our students,” he said.

Prospective students and their families may schedule a campus visit at or by calling (325) 649-8020.


Photo cutline: HPU advanced in two categories in the 2016 edition of “Best Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report. Pictured is the university’s distinctive Old Main Tower.

Dr. Daresa Voss named interim dean of HPU’s School of Education

Daresa Voss for webBROWNWOOD – September 8, 2015 – Dr. Daresa Voss, professor of education at Howard Payne University, was recently named interim dean of the university’s School of Education.

Dr. Voss joined HPU’s faculty in 2003 following 14 years of service elsewhere in Christian higher education at Wayland Baptist University and William Jewell College. She holds Master of Education and Doctor of Education degrees from Texas Tech University.

With numerous publications and presentations to her credit, Dr. Voss also is certified in Bilingual Elementary Certification, Elementary Teacher Certification and Kindergarten Endorsement.

Dr. Voss earned the Excellence in Teaching Award at HPU in 2009 and was named the Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year for the 2010-2011 academic year.

“I am looking forward to Dr. Voss joining the efforts of the Deans Council and anticipate her rendering exceptional leadership,” said Dr. W. Mark Tew, provost and chief academic officer.


Photo cutline: Dr. Daresa Voss, professor of education at HPU, was recently named interim dean of the university’s School of Education.

Four join HPU faculty

new faculty fall 2015 for webBROWNWOOD – September 4, 2015 – Howard Payne University started the fall 2015 semester with four new faculty members. Joining HPU were Dr. James Finch, professor of business administration; Rafael Franco-Cuevas, instructor of Spanish; Leslie Greaves, instructor of nursing; and Dr. Derek Smith, associate professor of chemistry.

“We’re pleased to welcome these four additions to the university’s extraordinary faculty,” said Dr. W. Mark Tew, provost and chief academic officer.

Dr. James Finch received his Bachelor of Science degree from Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1980; his Master of Business Administration degree from The Ohio State University in 1984; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree, also from The Ohio State University, in 1987. His past experience includes serving in a variety of positions, most recently professor of business administration, at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Rafael Franco-Cuevas received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California in 1981 and his Master of Arts degree from California State University in 1993. Previous experience includes various positions related to the Spanish language and Hispanic literature and culture. He also served as Spanish instructor for both Pima Community College District and The University of Arizona South.

Leslie Greaves received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2000 and her Master of Science in Nursing degree in 2013 from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Her past experience includes serving in a variety of positions at Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, such as patient safety officer and patient safety services supervisor, education supervisor, clinical educator/training center coordinator and staff registered nurse. She has also taught various nursing courses since 2005.

Dr. Derek Smith received his Bachelor of Science degree from Angelo State University in 1991; his Master of Science degree from The University of Texas at Dallas in 1994; and his Doctor of Chemistry degree, also from UT Dallas, in 1996. Dr. Smith previously taught at HPU from 2007 to 2011. Other past experience includes serving as scientist at Hydrozonix and as a teaching assistant at UT Dallas.


Photo cutline: Four joined the HPU faculty during the fall 2015 semester. Left to right: Leslie Greaves, Dr. Derek Smith, Rafael Franco-Cuevas and Dr. James Finch.