News Archives: School of Science and Mathematics

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 mourns passing of Dr. Brett Coulter

Brett Coulter for webBROWNWOOD – August 27, 2015 – Howard Payne University is mourning the sudden loss of Dr. Brett Coulter, associate professor of mathematics and director of HPU’s engineering science program, who passed away on August 23.

Dr. Coulter was a faculty member in HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics for 10 years. His wife, Laura Coulter, serves as assistant professor and academic services coordinator for tutoring and QEP.

“Hearts are very heavy on campus,” said Dr. Bill Ellis, university president. “We’re asking everyone to continue to remember Dr. Coulter’s wife, Laura, and his family and friends in prayer.”

Dr. Pam Bryant, dean of the School of Science and Mathematics, reflected on Dr. Coulter’s strength of character.

“When he said something, students knew he meant it,” she said. “The School of Science and Mathematics was privileged to have Dr. Coulter as a part of its faculty. He will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Coulter held a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics from the University of Illinois; a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University; a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado at Denver; and a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering mathematics from the Colorado School of Mines.

“Though he had a serious nature and was normally found calculating problems in his office, Dr. Coulter would look up from his work with a warm smile and engaging eyes to help students or other faculty,” said Dr. Bryant.

Upon learning of his passing, students worked with HPU’s Office of Institutional Advancement to establish a scholarship fund in Dr. Coulter’s memory. Those interested in donating to the fund should contact Stephen Sullivan, director of development and alumni relations, at (325) 649-8069 or


Photo cutline: The HPU community is mourning the passing of Dr. Brett Coulter, associate professor of mathematics and director of HPU’s engineering science program.

HPU’s Dr. Lester Towell to be featured on Tumbleweed Smith’s “The Sound of Texas”

smith and towell for webBROWNWOOD – November 6, 2014 – Dr. Lester Towell, associate professor and chair of the Department of Computer Information Systems at Howard Payne University, will be featured on Tumbleweed Smith’s “The Sound of Texas” radio program tomorrow between 5:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Smith and Dr. Towell will discuss HPU’s 3D printer and the future of this technological advance.

Tumbleweed Smith is well known in Texas for his popular syndicated radio series and newspaper column. His show airs daily on Brownwood’s KXYL radio station, 102.3 FM.

Smith visited with Dr. Towell in July to learn more about HPU’s printer, which Dr. Towell uses as a teaching aid in his 3D Engineering Printing course. 3D printers create three-dimensional objects by printing successive layers of a variety of materials including plastic, metal, ceramic and glass. Scientists are currently studying the effects this technology will have on society.

More information about HPU’s printer is available at A full schedule for Tumbleweed Smith’s program may be found online at


Photo cutline: Radio personality Tumbleweed Smith interviewed HPU’s Dr. Lester Towell about the university’s 3D printer in July. The show will air between 5:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. tomorrow on Brownwood’s KXYL radio station, 102.3 FM.

HPU to host book signing for authors of Texas fern guide

Ferns and Lycophytes Book Cover for webBROWNWOOD – May 29, 2014 – Howard Payne University will host the authors of “The Ferns and Lycophytes of Texas” in a book-signing event on Friday, June 13, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the university’s Walker Memorial Library.

Botanists George M. Diggs, Jr., and Barney L. Lipscomb conducted their research using, in part, a fern collection in HPU’s herbarium. Dr. Marilyn Mathis, associate professor of biology at HPU, serves as curator of the herbarium.

“My students this spring used the book for identifying the ferns they collected and we found it to be extremely useful,” she said.

A description of the book found on the Botanical Research Institute of Texas’ website (, states, “Texas has a surprising number of native ferns and lycophytes — 127 in all, the most of any state in the continental U.S.A.”

HPU’s collection provided valuable insight to the authors. Among other samples, HPU’s herbarium houses the only known Texas collection of the Pteris vittata fern, gathered from a stream-side boulder in San Saba County.

Dr. Jack Stanford, professor emeritus of biology at HPU who retired from the university in 1999 after 33 years of service, contributed to the book and received special recognition from the authors.

“The authors have provided us with a superb look at Texas plants,” said Dr. Stanford. “Anyone with an interest in plants – from botanists to home gardeners – will enjoy meeting them as well as reading their new and refreshing treatment of the ferns and their allies found throughout Texas.”

For more information or to order a copy of the book, visit Books will also be available for purchase during the event. For more information about the book signing, contact the university’s Walker Memorial Library at (325) 649-8602.


Photo cutline: HPU will host the authors of “The Ferns and Lycophytes of Texas” in a book-signing event on Friday, June 13.

3D printing: Scientists believe new technology, now taught at HPU, will change the world

lester towell with 3D printer for web(This article was originally published in the winter 2013-14 issue of the Link magazine)

BROWNWOOD – February 4, 2014 – “There isn’t an area of society that will not be touched in some way by the concept of 3D printing,” says Dr. Lester Towell, professor of computer information systems and chair of the department of computer information systems at HPU.

3D printers, such as the one recently acquired by the university, create three-dimensional objects by printing successive layers of a variety of materials including plastic, metal, ceramic and glass. The technology stands poised to change the world in which we live – scientists have already successfully printed biological matter, which could one day render organ transplant lists obsolete.

In between teaching a full course load and other responsibilities that come with being a faculty member and department chair, Dr. Towell can be found at the printer. The unit – small enough to fit on the corner of his desk – prints a material called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic.

Dr. Towell happily demonstrates the machine to faculty, staff and students as well as to groups and organizations outside the university. An undergraduate class, 3D Engineering Printing, was created around the technology.

“My hope is that it reignites interest in the STEM courses – science, technology, engineering and math,” says Dr. Towell. “I believe 3D printing is a fun way to pique the students’ curiosity in these subjects.”

Dr. Towell’s office is littered with the brightly colored plastic objects produced by the printer. Though they could easily be mistaken for toys, the items are proof of the machine’s capabilities.

“This, for example,” he says, holding up a plastic ball bearing, “was manufactured as one unit. That’s something that can’t be done with any other manufacturing process. The 3D printer takes away the need for assembly in this instance.”

Dr. Towell believes that 3D printing will eventually have an impact on society similar to that of the Internet.

“Regardless of the field, 3D printing is going to play a huge role,” he says. “It’s going to happen, and HPU is out in front of the pack.”


Photo cutline: Dr. Lester Towell demonstrates the university’s 3D printer.

Dr. Pamela Bryant named dean of HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics

Dr. Pamela Bryant has been named dean of the School of Science and Mathematics at Howard Payne University.BROWNWOOD – August 28, 2013 – Howard Payne University has named Dr. Pamela Bryant dean of the university’s School of Science and Mathematics. She had served as interim dean since the fall 2012 semester.

Dr. Bryant, a professor of chemistry, came to HPU in 2001. She holds a doctorate in chemistry from Louisiana State University and completed post-doctoral work in chemical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition, she holds a bachelor’s degree in math and a master’s degree in chemical education, both from The University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

In conjunction with other science and math faculty members, Dr. Bryant recently launched HPU’s new engineering science degree program. In addition, Dr. Bryant helped to develop a Teacher Quality Grant with Dr. Michael Rosato, dean of HPU’s School of Education, to promote improved instruction in mathematics and science for Texas schoolchildren by providing professional development for their teachers.

Dr. Bryant received HPU’s Excellence in Teaching award in 2003 and the Outstanding Faculty Member award for the 2005-2006 academic year.

“We’re very pleased with the excellent ways in which Dr. Bryant has served the university,” said Dr. Mark Tew, provost and chief academic officer. “We look forward to many more advances for the School of Science and Mathematics under her leadership.”


Photo cutline: Dr. Pamela Bryant has been named dean of the School of Science and Mathematics at Howard Payne University.

HPU professors help area teachers integrate technology into the classroom

innerspace cavern for webBy Kaleigh Tankersley, Howard Payne University junior

BROWNWOOD – August 7, 2013 – Howard Payne University recently hosted area math and science teachers in a three-week professional development experience. The teachers, instructed by HPU faculty members, learned various activities to use in the classroom as well as how to better integrate technology with teaching.

Dr. Pam Bryant, dean of HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics, along with Dr. Mike Rosato, dean of the School of Education, co-authored a grant proposal through the Teacher Quality Grants Program in 2012 to integrate the Apple iPad 2 into the elementary school math and science classrooms. The initial focus for the grant was on force and motion; however, the grant was extended for a second year in which the focus has been on earth science.

As part of the grant, each teacher received an iPad 2, a stipend and many hands-on activities and iPad applications to take back to his or her classroom. The summer component included having the teachers go on several field trips, including Inner Space Cavern, Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Station, Dinosaur Valley State Park and The University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Natural Science Center. There is also an academic year component in which the teachers will come back to the HPU campus several times during the fall and spring to extend the application of what was learned during the summer component.

HPU instructors included Dr. Bryant, Dr. Rosato, Dr. Gerry Clarkson, associate professor of physical sciences and chair of the physical sciences department; and Lauren Kirk, instructor of education.

This summer experience for teachers was made possible by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) Teacher Quality Grants Program, which provides funding to higher education institutions to promote improved instruction in mathematics and science for Texas school children by providing professional development for their teachers. According to the THECB website, the Teacher Quality Grants Program makes awards through a competitive review process, with the most highly ranked and recommended projects being selected for funding.

Participating schools included Bangs Middle School, Brookesmith Elementary, Brownwood Intermediate, Coleman Elementary, Comanche Middle School, Early Elementary, May Elementary, Richland Springs Elementary and Woodland Heights Elementary.


Photo cutline: Area teachers, along with HPU deans Dr. Mike Rosato and Dr. Pam Bryant, visited Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown as part of a three-week seminar hosted by HPU.

HPU professor and dean recalls experiences in North Korea

Bryant in North Korea[This story was originally published in the summer 2013 issue of the HPU Update.]

In 2012, Dr. Pam Bryant, professor of chemistry and dean of Howard Payne University’s School of Science and Mathematics, delivered a message titled “The Magnitude of God” at the annual meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation at Wheaton College in Naperville, Ill. Shortly after her speech ended, she was approached by two people who presented her with an opportunity to learn even more about the power of God in her own life.

“I was introduced to Joshua Song and Pilju Kim,” Dr. Bryant said. “They talked to me about a school in North Korea that taught in English and was run by Christian faculty.”

Pilju Kim, who serves as the director of agricultural research and development at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, explained that the university needed a biochemist for the summer.

“They wanted to know if I was interested,” Dr. Bryant recalled. “All I could think was, ‘Surely you must mean South Korea!’ I didn’t even know that Americans could go to North Korea.”

She admitted that she didn’t know much about the communist country or its citizens.

“All I knew was that they were our enemy and that they were trying to make a nuclear bomb,” she said. “However, sometimes you just know when God is calling you to do something.”

After much prayerful consideration, and many discussions with her pastor, friends and family, Dr. Bryant agreed to teach biochemistry for eight weeks in May-June 2012 in Pyongyang to 20 undergraduate and seven graduate students.

Pyongyang University of Science and Technology is the only private university in North Korea and is funded in part by Christian donors from around the world. Though North Korea is largely closed off from the rest of society, the university brings scientists from other cultures to teach its students. The Christians who support the university seize the opportunity to share the love of God, however indirectly, with the students.

“I was not allowed to minister to my class or even mention God,” Dr. Bryant said. “But I made an effort to show the Christian spirit. These young people are taught daily that Americans are mean and evil, so I showed them the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23, such as peace, patience and goodness.”

Upon arrival in North Korea, she was required to surrender her passport and cell phone, and was housed in a compound surrounded by a fence and guards during the length of her stay.

“Outsiders cannot talk directly with ordinary people in North Korea, nor may they use the taxis,” Dr. Bryant said. “They must communicate through a minder (escort) and use an official driver.”

According to Dr. Bryant, the North Korean government realizes its students are behind in science education due to these strict societal rules. Rather than sending students out of the country to expand their educations, the government officials recruit scientists from around the world so that their students may experience other cultures while still remaining under their control. Dr. Bryant found her class to be very receptive to her teaching.

“These students were so hungry for knowledge they would sometimes come to class almost exhausted from trying to learn so much so fast,” she said. “The students all appreciated the opportunity they were given in my classroom. I worked to be a good steward for the U.S., my God and the subject I taught.”

Last fall, Dr. Bryant presented a paper titled “Teaching Biochemistry in Pyongyang, North Korea” at the Fourth International Conference on Science in Society at the University of California, Berkeley. She spoke with colleagues from universities around the world.

“I was sent to North Korea to come back and tell the world about my experiences,” she said. “This university in Pyongyang is a gift from God. It’s there because of the people who say ‘yes’ when God asks for simple things.”

To view Dr. Bryant’s complete article as presented at the University of California, Berkeley, click here.

Photo cutline: HPU’s Dr. Pam Bryant teaches a class at North Korea’s Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. (Photo by Yu Chon)

HPU observes Mathematics Awareness Month

math_awareness_day_for_webBy Kaleigh Tankersley, HPU junior

BROWNWOOD – May 24, 2013 – Howard Payne University’s Department of Mathematics recognized April as Mathematics Awareness Month. The national theme for this year, according to the American Mathematical Society, was Mathematics of Sustainability, “balancing needs and seeking solutions for a complex changing world.”

The month of April was an exciting time for the students and faculty in the math department as they hosted HPU’s second annual Math Day and participated in many other events.

During the second week of April, two faculty members and four students from the math department traveled to Texas Tech University to attend the Texas Section Meeting of the Mathematical Association of America. While there, the students in attendance represented HPU in the Annual Calculus Bowl. The HPU team consisted of senior mathematics majors Laura Peisker of Cedar Park and Kathryn Barrackman of Houston, as well as juniors James Smith of Comanche and Tim Marlin of Uvalde. Improvement was shown from last year’s team, the first in HPU’s history to compete, as the 2013 team advanced from one of the two preliminary rounds into finals.

“This activity is both fun and competitive for students as it heightens interest in calculus, which is a core discipline for mathematics majors,” said Dr. Kenneth Word, department chair and professor of mathematics.

Toward the end of the month, the School of Science and Mathematics hosted the HPU General Education Math Day. The keynote speaker was Michael Sullivan, professor of mathematics at Joliet Community College in Illinois, the oldest community college in the U.S. Sullivan is the author of “Fundamentals of Statistics,” a Pearson Education publication, which is the textbook used for Introduction to Probability and Statistics at HPU. Sullivan demonstrated a statistics software program called StatCrunch used for data analysis and descriptive statistics that accompanies the MyStatLab software used with his textbook.

The School of Science and Mathematics also hosted the Engineering Math Day, featuring guest speaker Dr. Ron Larson, professor of mathematics at Penn State University in Erie. Dr. Larson is known as the lead author of a comprehensive program for mathematics which spans middle school, high school and college courses. Dr. Larson is even more well-known on HPU’s campus as the author of the pre-calculus text and co-author of the calculus text, both Cengage publications, currently used by the math department. Dr. Larson spoke about six mathematical models that are the basis for most mathematical, physics and engineering problems. He particularly discussed the linear model used to determine Hooke’s Law and the linear regression of a natural logarithmic model used to determine Kepler’s Law concerning the orbits of the planets around the sun.

Also speaking at Engineering Math Day was Thomas Hummel, a graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station and Central Texas College near Fort Hood. An IBM circuit design engineer and retired Army veteran, Hummel is also a veteran of the Iraqi campaign. He spoke of the importance of mathematics in building one’s resume for career prospects in science or engineering.

According to Dr. Word, Mathematics Awareness Month has become a tradition for the HPU mathematics department over the last two years.

“This tradition not only benefits the department but the whole campus as well,” he said.


Photo cutline: Dr. Ron Larson, professor of mathematics at Penn State University in Erie, speaks to students during HPU’s Engineering Math Day.

HPU announces engineering science degree program

BROWNWOOD – April 5, 2013 – Howard Payne University recently announced the launch of an engineering science degree program, designed to prepare students to enter the workforce as engineering assistants or to pursue bachelor’s or master’s degrees in engineering disciplines of their choice. The degree program was approved during a recent meeting of HPU’s Board of Trustees.

The multidisciplinary degree program will draw on the knowledge and expertise of HPU’s science, math and computer information systems faculty members while combining with the university’s liberal arts background and Christian worldview.

In addition to taking core courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer information technology, students will study statics, dynamics, mechanics of materials, thermodynamics, fluids, circuit analysis and environmental issues and engineering. During their senior year, all students will select a focus area of study and complete a proposal that integrates the scientific principles of research, design and analysis and applies them to engineering.

“There is a strong market for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in the U.S.,” said Dr. Brett Coulter, associate professor of mathematics, who serves as the engineering science program director. “Our newly developed program will provide HPU students with solid STEM training. All of the faculty members involved have both practical experience and much graduate-level preparation in the engineering science courses they will teach.”

Before coming to HPU, Dr. Coulter, a civil engineer, spent 13 years performing thermo-stress and structural analyses on solid rocket motors and nozzles for The Aerospace Corporation, a contractor for the U.S. Air Force Space Command. He has taught at the undergraduate level for many years, including courses in mathematics, statics, dynamics and mechanics of materials. He received his doctorate in theoretical and applied mechanics from the University of Illinois.

In addition to Dr. Coulter, other engineering science faculty members from the mathematics department include Dr. Kenneth Word, department chair and professor of mathematics, who earned a doctorate in mathematics education from The University of Texas; and Tom Johnson, assistant professor of developmental mathematics, who holds a master’s in environmental science from West Texas A&M University and was employed as a QA/QC Coordinator for ZIPP Fertilizers for seven years.

Engineering science faculty members from the biological and physical science departments include Dr. Pam Bryant, professor of chemistry, chair of the department of physical sciences and interim dean of the School of Science and Mathematics, who holds a doctorate in chemistry from Louisiana State University and completed post-doctoral work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. Gerry Clarkson, associate professor of physical science, who holds a doctorate in geophysics from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; and Dr. Gerald Maxwell, adjunct instructor, who holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from The University of Texas and has 25 years industrial experience in computer design and biomedical instrumentation and 10 years of classroom experience at the high school and university levels.

Dr. Lester Towell, department chair and associate professor of computer information systems, will also teach in the engineering science program. He holds a doctorate in instructional technology and distance education from Nova Southeastern University and taught physics and reactor principles in the Naval Nuclear Power School for four years.

According to Dr. Word, HPU’s four-year engineering science degree will be more robust than the typical ‘3+2’ engineering program offered at other liberal arts universities, in which students complete three years at a liberal arts university and two in an engineering undergraduate program.

The faculty members and administrators believe that a general engineering degree that promotes critical thinking and problem solving such as HPU’s engineering science degree will always be in demand.

“The diverse backgrounds of those who will teach the engineering science courses will serve our students well – both while they are on campus and once they leave to pursue their careers or further their education,” said Dr. Mark Tew, university provost and chief academic officer.

For more information about the program, contact HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics at (325) 649-8400 or via e-mail at

Note: Future students, and others interested in the engineering science program, may download more information here.