News Archives: School of Science and Mathematics

HPU Herbarium to sponsor worldwide WeDigBio event

BROWNWOOD – October 13, 2016 – The Howard Payne University Herbarium will sponsor a Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Bio Collections event on Saturday, October 22, from 9:00 a.m. to noon in room 113 of the university’s Winebrenner Memorial Hall of Science. The public is invited to participate.

WeDigBio is a four-day event to promote biodiversity that engages participants online and onsite as they digitize natural history collections. Onsite events are hosted by museums, herbaria, universities and other institutions and enable participants to get involved with local collections. Online events engage volunteers from around the globe by facilitating the transcription of specimen information from images hosted by worldwide transcription platforms.

“We are very excited to be a part of this worldwide endeavor,” said Dr. Marilyn Mathis, associate professor of biology. “This event will help make biological collections available to everyone.”

The HPU group will work with Botanical Research Institute of Texas to build a database of Texas flora. Volunteers will transcribe various plant specimen labels at the event. During the transcribing process, volunteers with have the opportunity to win prizes and play various games, such as Habitat Locations, Geo Locator and Timeline Tracker. There will also be short programs for volunteers to view titled “A Visit to Kew Gardens in London, England” with senior Sara Wood, biology major from Orange Grove, and “A Visit to Eastern Australia” with senior Keaton Fletcher, biology major from Perryton.

For more information, call HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics at 325-649-8400.


More than 100 participate in HPU’s Summer and Young Scholars camps

Scholars climbing wall   BROWNWOOD – August 2, 2016 – Howard Payne University closed out a successful season of summer camps recently with 106 children on campus for the weeklong Summer Scholars and Young Scholars programs. This year’s theme was “Brain Games” in honor of the 2016 Summer Olympics. The popular camps featured innovative instruction in robotics, 3D printing, music, science and physical education.

“It was a great week,” said Dr. Julie Welker, director of the programs, professor of communication and chair of HPU’s Department of Communication Studies. “Students participated in all kinds of hands-on learning activities, challenging their brains while having a fun time learning.”

Dr. Welker expressed her gratitude to education partner 3M of Brownwood.

“Six engineers from 3M gave of their time to come help teach the Summer Scholars students,” she said. “Their engineering science class was a hit with the kids.”

Scholars robotsAdditional personnel included Estevan Arbaiza, HPU head men’s soccer coach, who was in charge of recreation each day; Debby Dill, administrative assistant for HPU’s School of Science and Mathematics, who assisted in multiple areas; Deanna Erxleben, former instructor of music at HPU, who taught music; Tami Hull, head of robotics at Early Middle School, who taught robotics; Dr. Kristen Hutchins, associate professor of biology at HPU, who taught science; Keith Taylor, recently retired head of robotics at Early Elementary, who taught robotics; and Dr. Lester Towell, chair of HPU’s Department of Computer Information Systems and professor of CIS, who taught 3D printing.



Climbing wall – A student climbs HPU’s rock wall during the physical education component of HPU’s Summer Scholars and Young Scholars camps.

Robots – HPU Summer Scholars participants watch as robots they have programmed “dance.”

HPU hosts Math Career Day

BROWNWOOD – May 4, 2016 – Howard Payne University recently hosted HPU mathematics students and faculty members as well as students from Early High School for a Math Career Day. The event was held in the Richard and Wanda Jackson Room of the Paul and Jane Meyer Faith and Life Leadership Center on the university’s campus.

The purpose of the event was to raise awareness aMathDaymong students of the various careers for which a degree in mathematics can prepare them. Current and future HPU students who are interested in majoring in mathematics were invited. There were 15 mathematicians and engineers present to speak with students about mathematics-related careers including representatives from 3M and Kohler; in-service high school teachers from Brownwood, Early and Bangs; a practicing actuary from Waco; Dr. José Romero, associate professor of mathematics for HPU; Dr. Kenneth Word, chair of the Department of Mathematics and professor of mathematics for HPU; Dr. Gerry Clarkson, interim director of the engineering science program at HPU; and Hendra Tarigan, doctoral candidate in electrical engineering at Texas Tech University.

“Our 2016 HPU Math Career Day was a great success due the combined efforts of everyone involved,” said Dr. Word. “Thank you to all who presented and attended.”


Cutline: Representatives from Kohler speak with students at HPU’s Math Career Day.

Ten HPU students tour health-profession schools

HPU students at UT Southwestern Medical CenterBROWNWOOD – April 29, 2016 – Ten Howard Payne University students recently traveled to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to visit schools specializing in various health professions.

The purpose of this yearly trip is to tour and learn about various medical programs such as allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine and physical therapy. The students had the opportunity to visit the University of North Texas in Denton and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“We are proud to be able to support our students pursuing careers in the health professions, regardless of their chosen major at HPU,” said Dr. Kristen Hutchins, associate professor of biology and pre-health advisor. “This particular trip included students from various majors including biology, chemistry, athletic training, kinesiology and the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy.”

Students who attended are Andrea Balderas, junior biology major from Lytle; Nathan Cantu, sophomore biology major from San Antonio; TJ Counce, senior chemistry with biochemistry concentration and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Lockhart; Ruth Davis, senior athletic training major from Cibolo; Keaton Fletcher, senior biology major from Perryton; Darbi Frazier, senior kinesiology major from Crandall; Christopher Freeland, sophomore chemistry with biochemistry concentration and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Brownwood; Hannah Justice, sophomore biology major from Brownwood; Ra’Liaha Lightner, sophomore athletic training major from Killeen; and Aaron Walling, senior biology major from Georgetown.

“Many students start college with a particular career goal in mind,” said Dr. Hutchins. “However, once they learn about the broader field of health care and the range of jobs that are available, their view is expanded and they are more informed as they make choices about their future.”

Applications are still being accepted for the fall 2016 semester at Howard Payne University. HPU offers a variety of financial aid options including the Heart of Texas Scholarship, which awards $60,000 to students from Brown County and surrounding counties. For more information about HPU, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at (325) 649-8020 or by e-mail at


Cutline: HPU students recently visited physical therapy and medical schools in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Left to right: Hannah Justice, Darbi Frazier, Christopher Freeland, Aaron Walling, Ra’Liaha Lightner, Ruth Davis, Andrea Balderas, TJ Counce, Nathan Cantu and Keaton Fletcher.

HPU’s University Colloquium Series presents herbarium event

BROWNWOOD – February 11, 2016 – Howard Payne University will host its first University Colloquium Series event of the year Friday, February 19, 10:00-10:50 a.m. in Room 121 of HPU’s Winebrenner Hall.

This University Colloquium Series event is entitled Project H.E.L.P. (HPU herbarium, engage in citizen science, locate/label and participate in data collection). Discussion will include the definition of an herbarium, its history and use at HPU and how citizens can assist in the HPU herbarium as well.

Dr. Jack Stanford, professor emeritus of biology, will discuss the importance of herbaria and their history at HPU.

“An herbarium is a repository for plants and a very useful thing,” said Dr. Stanford. “The purpose of the herbarium is to make a record of what plants are there.”

Dr. Marilyn Mathis, associate professor of biology, is the herbarium curator. Dr. Mathis will speak about the herbarium’s need for citizen science.

“We want to get the word out about what an herbarium is and the need for citizen science volunteers,” said Dr. Mathis. “Citizen science is different from volunteering in that we are collecting data specifically for a research purpose.”

Sara Wood, senior biology major from Orange Grove, will discuss the present-day operation of the HPU herbarium during the event. Wood, the herbarium manager, oversees the day-to-day operation along with the almost 30,000 specimens it houses.

There is no charge to attend this event and the public is encouraged to attend.

For more information about HPU’s University Colloquium Series, please contact Dr. Kristen Hutchins, associate professor of biology, at 325-649-8158.


Photo cutline: HPU senior Sara Wood, Dr. Jack Stanford and Dr. Marilyn Mathis (not pictured) will present a discussion about HPU’s herbarium, Friday, February 19.

Area businessmen fund HPU student research projects

Smithson Parmley and Smith for webBROWNWOOD – February 9, 2016 – Two students in Howard Payne University’s Research Problems in Chemistry course have received donations from area businessmen to aid in the completion of undergraduate research projects. The students, Samuel Parmley, senior from Bastrop, and Sarah Van Remmen, senior from Santo, each received $300 to fund their studies.

Dr. Derek Smith, associate professor of chemistry, teaches the course. After consulting with HPU’s development office and being encouraged to move forward, he reached out to Zac Allen, owner of Lazy Eight Ranches in Coleman, and Paul Smithson, CEO of Apollo Computers in Early, to gauge the men’s interest in funding the projects. Following proposals by the students at the end of the fall semester, Smithson chose to support Parmley’s project while Allen elected to fund Van Remmen’s project.

The students will spend the remainder of the spring 2016 semester completing their studies and will use the funds to purchase needed materials. Parmley is creating a library of narcotics with an ion trap spectrometer, a system that could potentially aid law enforcement agencies in the future. Van Remmen is studying the active ingredients in sunscreen and the degradation of these ingredients with normal use.

Smith Van Remmen and Allen for webAccording to Dr. Smith, this is the first time he’s aware of outside donors funding research projects for HPU undergraduate students.

“I’m proud of Samuel and Sarah’s achievements and thankful for the support of Mr. Allen and Mr. Smithson,” he said. “I hope that this exercise provides a model for obtaining community sponsorship of student projects in the future.”


Photo cutlines:

Paul Smithson, left, presents a check to Samuel Parmley, center. Pictured at right is Dr. Derek Smith.

Zac Allen, right, presents a check to Sarah Van Remmen, center. Pictured at left is Dr. Derek Smith.

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.