News Archives: Student Life

Six HPU students honored for servant leadership

Servant Leadership Awards 2016BROWNWOOD – May 3, 2016 – Six Howard Payne University students were recently honored for acts of servant leadership on campus and in the community. The awards were presented during HPU’s annual Servant Leadership Program.

“We are pleased to be able to honor students who have distinguished themselves through service to others,” said Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, professor of Christian studies and dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies. “Servant leaders do not serve others in order to be recognized, of course, but we are happy to honor those students who have honored HPU and Christ through their acts of service.”

Xavier McFalls, senior exercise and sport science major from Amarillo, and Kelsan Wolverton, senior cross-cultural studies major from Lampasas, were presented the Nat Tracy Servant Leader Award. HPU Servant Leadership Awards were presented to juniors Jaclyn Bonner, communication major from Lytle; Joshua Dykes, youth ministry and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Mount Pleasant; TaShana Hooker, music instrumental major from Carrollton; and Dillon Hughes, youth ministry major from Plano.

The Nat Tracy Servant Leader Award was established in 1998 to honor the life of the late Dr. Nat Tracy, a member of HPU’s Bible faculty from 1950-1975.

Xavier McFalls has participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes all four years at HPU and as a leader within the organization for two years. He has also participated in the Baptist Student Ministry through which he led the athlete discipleship ministry. He additionally served as captain of HPU’s football team and as chaplain within HPU’s Student Government Association among other leadership roles on campus.

Kelsan Wolverton has also participated in numerous roles and activities on campus including serving with Jacket Ambassadors, the Student Activities Committee, the Student Planning Committee and the BSM. She additionally served as historian and president of HPU’s Ministerial Alliance and as chaplain and president of the Alpha Psi Omega organization. She has been a student worker for the Office of University Services throughout her HPU career.

Established in 2007 by the Moore Foundation and Barney II Foundation, the HPU Servant Leadership Award recognizes student excellence in the areas of leadership and service. A $1,000 scholarship is provided to each recipient of the award, and each student designates $250 of the scholarship award to be given to his or her chosen charity.

Jaclyn Bonner serves as a resident assistant in HPU’s Veda Hodge Hall, as president of Gamma Beta Phi, as a columnist for the Yellow Jacket student newspaper and as the HPU representative on the executive committee of the Christian Association of Student Leaders. Additionally, she is active with the Student Government Association, Model United Nations and numerous other organizations.

Joshua Dykes serves as a resident assistant in HPU’s Jennings Hall and is a member of the Student Government Association, Mock Trial, the BSM and several other on-campus organizations. He additionally began a men’s Bible study in his residence hall and assisted with founding HPU’s Spanish Club so that students could be enabled to spread the Gospel to Spanish-speaking people.

TaShana Hooker serves as a student worker for HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts and as a three-year member of the Yellow Jacket Band through which she was named head drum major. She is the vice president of HPU’s chapter of the Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority and has served on mission trips through the BSM.

Dillon Hughes has participated each semester at HPU with the BSM and the Ministerial Alliance. He has additionally served in the student ministry at Brownwood’s Coggin Baptist Church and Southside Baptist Church and has gone on mission trips with the BSM and Texas Baptists’ Go Now Missions.

Nominations for both the Nat Tracy Servant Leader Award and the HPU Servant Leadership Award are solicited each spring from HPU staff, faculty and students.

“This year, 18 different members of the faculty, staff or student body nominated 12 different students for the awards,” said Dr. Auvenshine. “This is the largest number of people making nominations and the largest number of nominees we have had in several years. We felt that all 12 of the nominees were deserving of recognition. I’m thankful to serve at a university that values servant-leadership qualities among its students.”


Cutline: Six HPU students were recently recognized for their servant-leader qualities. Left to right: Kelsan Wolverton, TaShana Hooker, Xavier McFalls, Dillon Hughes, Jaclyn Bonner and Joshua Dykes.

Thirty-two HPU students named to prestigious “Who’s Who” list

BROWNWOOD – April 22, 2016 – Howard Payne University recently recognized 32 students named to the 2016 edition of “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.”

Nominees must be college juniors, seniors or graduate students who have been noted for their academic abilities, participation and leadership in academic and extracurricular activities, citizenship, service to HPU and potential for future achievement.

“We’re very proud to honor these students for their exceptional achievements,” said Dr. Magen Bunyard, vice president for student life and dean of students.

Those recognized were:

Xavier McFalls, senior exercise and sport science major

Callie Adams, senior exercise and sport science major
Victoria Hardin, senior psychology major

Isaac Sommers, junior English and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major

Tammy Arreola, senior exercise and sport science major
Katie Ash, junior technology applications (high school grade 8 – 12) major
Doug Hurt, senior criminal justice major
J.T. Hurt, Master of Arts in Youth Ministry student
William Rumfield, senior exercise and sport science major

Cedar Park
Emily Peisker, senior studio art major

Ruth Davis, senior athletic training major

De Soto
Kelsan Wolverton, senior cross-cultural studies major
Sharon Wolverton, senior elementary education major

Dripping Springs
Elliott Gray, senior elementary education major

Abraham Cooper, senior music performance and chemistry major

Olivia Belsher, senior elementary education major

Luis Robles, senior criminal justice major

Chandler Condra, senior management major

Michael Bailey, senior criminal justice major
Rachel Mahagan, senior management major

J Bailey, senior social science and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major

Jimmy Abbatiello, junior communication major

Jaclyn Bonner, junior communication major

Amber Shipman, senior elementary education major

Caitlin Wood, senior political science and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major

Rebecca Nicole Hamilton, senior elementary education major

Keaton Fletcher, senior biology major

Ivyanne Nichols, senior political science and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major

San Angelo
Kristin Haman, senior athletic training major

Vanessa Marquez, senior social work major

Diana Rebeca Puente, senior political science and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major

Morgan Ashmore, senior communication major

Three sisters share college experience at HPU

By Amy Pitman, communications assistant

BROWNWOOD – April 6, 2016 – Growing up, the Wolverton sisters each had different thoughts of where they might attend college someday. Their parents, Kelly and Susan Wolverton, taught each of them to follow God’s leading in their lives. Even though they share the same last name, Kelsan, Sharon and Spencer Wolverton have all made individual names for themselves in their majors and hobbies while following God’s lead at Howard Payne University.

Wolverton SistersKelsan, the oldest sister and senior cross-cultural studies major, wasn’t always sure that HPU was where she wanted to attend college. However, after all of the positive outreach she received from HPU faculty and staff during her senior year in high school, Kelsan felt that God was indeed leading her to the university.

“It is the best thing that the Lord could have done in my life,” said Kelsan. “Everything I prayed about wanting in college has happened at HPU, like finding Christian friends, having great professors who care about me and lots of other wonderful opportunities.”

Kelsan will graduate this May and plans to partner with a non-profit organization by traveling to Laos to teach college students for a year.

Although Kelsan may have originally doubted HPU was the place for her, Sharon, the middle sister and junior elementary education major, says she always knew that she wanted to attend HPU, especially after attending one of the university’s summer camps at a young age.

“Even in eighth grade, I already felt Howard Payne was my home,” said Sharon. “One thing that I prayed was that I would make godly friends at HPU who would challenge me and love me for who I am, and that has happened during my time here.”

Youngest sister Spencer, a freshman kinesiology major, was a bit apprehensive about coming to HPU and being in the shadows of her sisters’ accomplishments. Like them, she wanted to be her own person. Coming to HPU confirmed that she could indeed do that while attending the same university.

“The good thing about HPU is that each person has the opportunity to be involved in so many different things and you can really be yourself,” said Spencer. “The three of us all do different things on campus and HPU encourages us to use our talents in areas such as student government, social clubs and mission opportunities, just to name a few. Everyone can make a difference here in their own ways.”

The Wolverton sisters each have individual personalities, talents and goals, but they do enjoy spending time together when they can by watching movies, eating out and encouraging each other during tough times.

“We watch out for each other even though we may not see each other that much,” said Sharon. “We love each other and enjoy being close.”

Kelly, 1996 HPU graduate and pastor of Hampton Road Baptist Church in DeSoto, is very happy that all three of his daughters chose his alma mater.

“I like that they chose to go to HPU because I knew they would excel in the Christian family environment that the school offers,” said Kelly. “I appreciate the faculty and staff at HPU because you aren’t just a number. At HPU, you are a person who is loved like family.”


Photo cutline: (From left) Sharon, Kelsan and Spencer Wolverton enjoy their time as students as HPU.

Christian-music artists to headline HPU Fest 2016

HPU Fest 2016BROWNWOOD – March 30, 2016 – HPU Fest, Howard Payne University’s annual outdoor music festival, will kick off Saturday, April 9, at 3 p.m. with a full day’s worth of music, food and activities. This year’s headliners are Josh Wilson and Jason Gray with special guest JJ Heller. The lineup also includes Love and War, Atlas Mason and Sun City. HPU students James King, freshman from McGregor, and Joshua Varnes, freshman from Universal City, will also perform.

In addition to HPU students and personnel, the community is welcome to attend. HPU Fest will take place at the university’s Old Main Park, the grassy area along Austin Avenue. There is no charge for admission.

HPU’s Student Activities Council and various organizations on campus will put together a number of booths and activities including inflatables, cotton candy and the annual HPU Fest Chili Cook-Off. Prizes will be awarded for hottest chili and tastiest chili.

Sodexo, HPU’s food service provider, will also serve a meal that can be purchased with a student ID card, cash or check.

“HPU Fest is one of the most popular student events on campus,” said Francie Clark, director of student activities. “The community is welcome to join us for this free and fun event.”


HPU names Coach Hunter Sims university’s athletic director

Hunter SimsBROWNWOOD – March 29, 2016 – Howard Payne University announced today that Hunter Sims, head football coach, has been named athletic director for the university. Sims will serve a dual role as coach and athletic director beginning in fall 2016 and will report to Dr. Magen Bunyard, vice president for student life and dean of students.

Sims was named head football coach at the end of the fall 2015 semester. He additionally served three years as an assistant at HPU before being promoted to offensive coordinator and assistant head coach in 2012.

Sims’ offenses have been some of the best in the American Southwest Conference, setting a new HPU record for total offense in a game last season with 720 yards in a 54-53 road victory. He has coached current HPU career record-holder for field goals Joshua Martinez and wide receiver standout Colby Mica, who recently broke the HPU career receptions record.

Sims is a 2007 graduate of McMurry University with a degree in education and a minor in history. In 2010, he finished a master’s degree in sports management. As a player, Sims was a three-year letterman and two-time Academic All-Conference selection at quarterback at McMurry. After his college playing career was over, he served as a student assistant working with wide receivers and quarterbacks.

During his tenure at HPU, Sims has served as president of the Staff Council as well as on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Leadership Board. He has worked football camps around the state and spent extensive time working with the FCA as a camp counselor. He and his wife, Shannon, have two children, Sage and Finn.

Dr. Bill Ellis, HPU president, said Sims’ dedication to his sport is admirable but not to be compared with his devotion to God and his commitment to the students he coaches.

“Coach Sims’ priority is not just to win games, but to be a godly example in the lives of the young men he coaches,” said Dr. Ellis. “For this reason and many more, I am confident that he will do fantastic work as HPU’s next athletic director.”


Photo cutline: Hunter Sims, head football coach at HPU, has been named the university’s next athletic director.

HPU’s Resurrection Week concludes with reminder to love like Jesus

Danny CullinsBROWNWOOD – March 23, 2016 – Howard Payne University wrapped its Resurrection Week services Wednesday morning featuring guest speaker Danny Cullins, 1999 HPU graduate. The Mike Romero Band of Houston led worship throughout the week. Resurrection Week is the university’s spring revival event, intended as a time of spiritual renewal for the campus community.

During Wednesday’s concluding service, Cullins delivered what he called the most important of his sermons. He encouraged attendees to love like Jesus loves.

“If we are following Jesus, we will be people of love,” he said. “When we love like Jesus, the world will notice.”

Resurrection Week is held on the HPU campus each year prior to Easter.

“Resurrection Week is about celebrating the fact that Jesus conquered death,” Cullins said. “He did that so that we can live a new kind of life.”

In addition to Resurrection Week, HPU hosts a second revival emphasis, Encounter Week, in the fall. Regular Chapel services are held each Wednesday throughout the year.

For more information about Chapel at HPU, contact Corey Ash at (325) 649-8502 or


Photo cutline: Danny Cullins, 1999 HPU graduate, spoke during the university’s Resurrection Week services. Photo by Christy Ash.

HPU to host Spring Sing 2016

Spring Sing 2015BROWNWOOD – March 15, 2016 – Howard Payne University student organizations will take the stage this Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19, for Spring Sing 2016. Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. each evening in HPU’s Mims Auditorium.

Spring Sing is a popular event on the HPU campus, drawing audiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community. General admission tickets are $5 for all audiences and are available for purchase online at Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door on the evenings of the event. Reserved-seating tickets are available for $10 at the HPU Cashier’s Office on the second floor of the Packer Administration Building.

This year’s theme is “High Notes of History” and each student group will present an eight-to-10-minute act based on a timeframe, historical figure or moment in history. This year’s participants are Alpha Psi Omega, Chi Alpha Omega, Delta Chi Rho, Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma and Sigma Theta Phi.

“The goal of Spring Sing is to honor God, represent HPU in a positive manner and present a fun and entertaining production that showcases the talents, skills and creativity of HPU students,” said Francie Clark, director of student activities.

The performances are family friendly and the community is welcome and encouraged to attend. For more information, contact Clark at


Photo cutline: Costumes, musical performances and dancing are hallmarks of HPU’s annual Spring Sing event. Pictured are members of Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma performing in 2015.

HPU prepares for Resurrection Week

By Christy Ash, HPU junior

BROWNWOOD – March 14, 2016 – Howard Payne University is preparing for its upcoming Resurrection Week, an annual spring revival event, to be held March 21 through March 23 on the HPU campus. The services, open to the community as well as HPU students, faculty and staff, are intended as a time of spiritual renewal for the campus.

Danny CullinsThis year’s speaker, Danny Cullins, grew up in the Houston area and attended HPU from 1995 to 1999. Upon graduating from HPU, he attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. There he met and married his wife, Laura. Together they have served on church leadership teams in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. Danny Cullins also spent some time working as an industrial engineer for Michelin. Most recently, the couple helped plant a new church in Fountain, Colo., where they reside. God has blessed them with three children: Brady (9), Ellie (7) and Will (4).

The worship portion of the services will be led by the Mike Romero Band. Mike Romero Music is a Christian nonprofit organization and ministry based out of Houston, working to invest in God’s people as they learn what it Mike Romero Bandmeans to honor and praise the Creator. The band members strive to serve the Body of Christ in all that they do, including writing and recording music, leading worship, teaching, equipping, training, discipling and investing in the current and future generations of worshipers and worship leaders. Band members include Romero, Jack O’Briant, J-Mike Toler, Branden Montgomery and Austin Ray.

Services on Monday and Tuesday will be held at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and the last service will be at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Each will take place in HPU’s Mims Auditorium. For more information, contact Corey Ash at (325) 649-8502 or


Above: Photos of Danny Cullins and the Mike Romero Band

HPU love story connects generations

Brett and ShannonBROWNWOOD – February 12, 2016 – Like many men who are getting ready to “pop the question,” Brett Ellis, Howard Payne University senior, wanted to plan the perfect proposal for Shannon Matthews of Brownwood, also an HPU senior.

“I originally wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” he said. “Then I talked to my dad and my grandma.”

Brett’s father, Dr. Bill Ellis, HPU president, and grandmother, Nancy Ellis ’48, are quite familiar with HPU romances. Nancy met her husband, Dr. Ray Ellis ’50, at the university and her parents met there as well.

“They told me about a tree out at Riverside Park where my great-grandparents got engaged,” Brett said. “Later, my grandmother showed me the exact tree.”

Brett planned a picnic lunch for Shannon under the tree, complete with the same meals they ordered from Prima Pasta on their first date two years before.

“I thought it was just going to be a celebration of our two-year anniversary of dating,” said Shannon. “He told me he wanted to do something special. We didn’t even get to start eating before he said he had something to ask me.”

Brett admits he was a bit anxious.

“I was really excited and I just couldn’t wait,” he said.

Shannon happily accepted his proposal and the couple will be married on the HPU campus this June.

“I think it’s really fun be a part of this family tradition,” Shannon said of the proposal. “It’s really neat to me to be a part of that story.”

The couple met in choir during Shannon’s freshman year and Brett’s sophomore year.

“I think it started on Easter holiday,” said Shannon. “We had a three-day weekend and he messaged me on Facebook to ask how my break was going. The more we talked and the more we saw each other in choir, the more we clicked. By the second week of talking, we both thought, ‘Okay, I really like this person.’”

Following graduation, Shannon, a family studies major, plans to pursue a career in education and children’s ministry. Brett, a music performance major, plans to attend seminary and pursue a career in music ministry.

Shannon said she still teases Brett about the circumstances of their first date.

“Before we went to Prima Pasta, he asked me if I wanted to go and meet his parents,” she said. “So on the first date, I met his parents who are also the president and first lady of the university I’m attending. It was a little nerve-wracking. But his parents were so nice.”

Through his engagement to Shannon, Brett has enjoyed learning more about his family connections at HPU.

“It’s really cool hearing my grandma talk about how she met my grandpa here and how her parents met here,” he said. “I enjoyed getting to hear the stories from her point of view. It’s great to have that connection with my future wife in the same place, walking around the same campus.”


Photo cutline: Brett Ellis and Shannon Matthews are pictured at the tree under which Brett proposed last spring. Photo by Rindy’s Photography.

HPU celebrates Black History Month with special Chapel service

Black History Chapel 2016 for webBROWNWOOD – February 4, 2016 – Howard Payne University celebrated Black History Month during a Chapel service held Wednesday morning.

Participants comprised of members of HPU’s African-American Alumni Association and current HPU students, read stories and shared facts about black historical figures. Additionally, the participants performed several songs and led the audience in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Negro National Anthem.

The program is written and directed each year by Wilbert Rogers ’75. Gladys Murray ’79 serves as the assistant coordinator and technical specialist.

“Mr. Rogers and Mrs. Murray put a tremendous amount of effort into the program each year, and we greatly appreciate their leadership,” said Dr. Magen Bunyard, vice president for student life and dean of students. “We’re honored to come together as a university to celebrate Black History Month.”


Photo cutline: Chapel participants, led by HPU senior Victoria Malone at the podium, perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Negro National Anthem.