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Graduating senior Margarita Solis reflects on HPU experiences

“Howard Payne is Home”

By Rachel Ellington, HPU senior

BROWNWOOD – December 10, 2015 – Saturday’s graduating class at Howard Payne University is characterized by many dedicated Yellow Jackets. One of them is Margarita Solis of Gonzales, a history major with minors in Bible and English.

She reflects on her first impression of HPU during her senior year of high school.

“It was the hand-written Christmas card from the admission office that caught my attention,” she says. “I liked the campus when I got here, but I had no idea that I would end up loving it so much.”

During her freshman year, she was on her way to lunch one day when a friend asked her to participate in IMPACT Weekend, an outreach event the Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) hosts each year. She has attended for the past four years and has been a part of the IMPACT task force for the past two years. She also part of the leadership team for the Nursing Home Ministry through the BSM.

“It is so important to get out into the community as students because we live in this town too,” remarks Solis. “I get to do this along with a group of other Howard Payne students who want to serve and be a part of something greater.”

When asked what she will miss most about Howard Payne, Solis laughs.

“Everything,” she says. “All the events HPU hosts, all the adventures I went on with my friends, the inside jokes with my classmates and professors – each day brought new things to remember.”

Solis has also been a part of Secret Service, the set-up crew for Jacket Journey, as well as a member of Blue Crew, the HPU spirit squad.

“Margarita is one of the kindest, most loving, and all around most joyful people in my life,” says Mike McConnell, fellow senior and student body president. “Her indomitable spirit and ever-present smile have brightened my day on countless occasions, and I am a better person for knowing her the past four years.”

She plans on taking a semester off then spending six months in Peru teaching English and working with a children’s ministry. She then hopes to begin graduate coursework in history and youth ministry.

Solis sums up her HPU experience.

“Howard Payne is a place where you can learn not just what to know for an exam, but things to take with you forever,” she says. “My professors taught me how to learn and how to be prepared. My friends and I grew up together here. I am not sure about my career goals. I just know that I want to make an impact and Howard Payne has prepared me to do that. Howard Payne is home.”


Photo cutline: Margarita Solis will graduate Saturday from Howard Payne University.

HPU Commencement scheduled for Saturday

BROWNWOOD – December 9, 2015 – Howard Payne University’s December Commencement will be held this Saturday, December 12, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Brownwood Coliseum.

Dr. Bill Ellis, university president, and other university representatives will confer 94 undergraduate and graduate degrees. Rick Akins ’75, attorney at Akins, Nowlin and Prewitt, LLP, of Round Rock, will deliver the charge to the graduates.

An honorary Doctor of Humanities degree will be presented to Richard W. Nassar of El Paso. Nassar, who was born in Lebanon, immigrated to the United States in 1975. Nassar is an active member and ordained deacon of El Paso’s First Baptist Church through which he founded the Middle Eastern Studies Ministry. Since retirement, he has focused his ministry on establishing a dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews, using his personal and professional influence to advance the cause of Christ.

Additional Commencement program participants include Corey Ash ’92, associate professor of music and director of bands; Dr. Donnie Auvenshine ’75, dean of the School of Christian Studies and professor of Christian studies; Rev. Rick Ellington, pastor of Hubbard Chapel Baptist Church of Quitman; Dr. Gary Gramling ’81, director of HPU’s graduate program in youth ministry and professor of Christian studies; Matthew Haynie ’09, vice president of HPU’s Alumni Association; Rev. Doug Hurt, pastor of Northridge Baptist Church of Brownwood; Jessi Nicole Jordan, class of 2015; Dr. Brad Lemler, interim dean of HPU’s School of Business and professor of accounting; Dr. Justin D. Murphy, dean of HPU’s School of Humanities, Brand professor of history and director of the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy; Dr. Debra Powell, assistant professor of business administration; Dr. Harlan Scott, faculty president, associate professor of biology and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences; Carter Sharpe, first vice chairman of HPU’s Board of Trustees; Dr. W. Mark Tew, provost and chief academic officer; Lana Wagner ’97, registrar; and the HPU Instrumental Ensemble.

The Commencement ceremony will be preceded on Friday, December 11, by Chime Out, an HPU tradition in which graduating seniors pass a chain of ivy to underclassmen, symbolizing the passing of authority, responsibility and privileges to those students who remain on campus to carry on the traditions of the university. Chime Out begins at 6 p.m. at the university’s Mims Auditorium.


HPU brings home top speaker award, other accolades from recent debate tournament

clark_ssbBROWNWOOD – December 8, 2015 – HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau speech and debate team recently competed at the Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA) Fall Championship tournament, held at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. Braxton Clark, junior social science global studies major from Southlake, was named top debate speaker at the tournament.

Clark and team member Ashley Moon, senior communication major from Waxahachie, won third place in parliamentary debate at the tournament. Additionally, HPU won 5th place overall sweepstakes in the tournament, competing against 23 schools from Texas and Louisiana.

Dr. Julie Welker, professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication, directs the team.

“I am so proud of how well our team competed at this tournament,” she said. “TIFA is always very competitive, so for our team to receive the top speaker award and the fifth place sweepstakes is quite an accomplishment.”

Also competing at the tournament were Morgan Ashmore, junior communication major from Weatherford; Andrea Balderas, sophomore biology major from Lytle; Christopher Freeland, freshman chemistry and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Brownwood; Reagan Grisham, sophomore theatre major from Arlington; and Luis Ortiz, junior English and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Brownsville.


Photo cutline: HPU Student Speaker Bureau member Braxton Clark was named the top debate speaker at a recent tournament.

HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau competes in Oxford, England

Oxford team photo 2015 for webBROWNWOOD – December 4, 2015 – Members of Howard Payne University’s Student Speaker Bureau speech and debate team recently competed in Oxford, England. The Oxford Inter-Varsity Debating Competition, hosted by the world-famous Oxford Union, is one of the largest and most prestigious debating competitions globally, hosting almost 200 teams from universities around the world.

Participating students included Morgan Ashmore, junior from Weatherford; Braxton Clark, sophomore from Southlake; Reagan Grisham, sophomore from Arlington; and Ashley Moon, senior from Waxahachie.

Dr. Julie Welker, professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication, directs the team.

“Students who compete in British Parliamentary debate have eight years of eligibility, so many of the competitors were graduate students, pursuing doctoral degrees, law degrees or other,” she said. “HPU students had the opportunity to debate students of all levels from all over the world.”

HPU competed in six rounds of debate with topics including religion in primary and secondary schools, U.S. immigration policy, penalty enhancements for hate crimes, FIFA World Cup in Russia, and abortion.

In Oxford, the team also visited Christ Church and the Bodleian Library. In London, the team visited the Houses of Parliament and watched a debate in the House of Commons. They also visited Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, The National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum.

“The trip to Oxford to debate with other students from all over the world is such an educational experience,” said Dr. Welker. “Not only do our students compete well, but they gain such a deeper understanding of how the world views Americans and American politics.”


Photo cutline: Members of HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau recently competed in Oxford, England. Left to right: Braxton Clark, Ashley Moon, Reagan Grisham, Morgan Ashmore and Dr. Julie Welker.

Howard Payne University receives donation from Oncor Electric

BROWNWOOD – December 4, 2015 – Howard Payne University has received the second of three installments of funding from Oncor Electric Delivery Company, LLC. The funds are a charitable contribution to A Call to Send, HPU’s capital campaign.

Oncor provides an allocation of charitable funds for organizations in each of its service areas. In 2014, Ken Harriss, the company’s area manager of customer operations, advocated to the corporation on behalf of HPU.

“As a result, HPU was awarded $7,500, paid over three years, to A Call to Send,” said Karina Daniel, director of corporate, community and foundation relations.

Harriss helped make a strong case for HPU’s receiving the funding by gathering as much information as possible to promote HPU to Oncor.

“Ken took the time to get the additional information, which he personally submitted on our behalf, satisfying the corporate decision-makers,” said Randy Yeakley, vice president for development. “He has been a real friend to HPU.”

Since 1988, Oncor (previously Texas Power and Light Company, TU Electric and TXU) has given more than $119,000 to HPU in addition to the $7,500 pledge including $78,000 to the Annual Scholarship Fund.


Photo cutline: Ken Harriss of Oncor (left) presents a check to Randy Yeakley, HPU’s vice president for development.

HPU students win awards at Stockholm Model United Nations conference

By Emily Peisker, HPU Senior

BROWNWOOD – December 1, 2015 – Five Howard Payne University students won awards at the Stockholm Model United Nations (SMUN) conference on November 15, after a three-day conference with several committees discussing crucial global topics. This was the third time for HPU to attend SMUN, the largest collegiate MUN conference in Scandinavia.

MUN is a simulation of the United Nations, giving students the opportunity to confer and network with peers across the globe, become aware of and involved with international issues and produce potential solutions to contemporary problems.

Gavin Paul Stewart, a senior from Flower Mound, and Jason Murphy, a senior from Brownwood, represented Italy on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), earning them the best delegation award on their committee. While representing Portugal, Peyton Cooley, a freshman from Lindale, received the best delegate award for the European Council. James Abbatiello, a junior from Kerrville, and Mike McConnell, a senior from Burleson and head delegate of the MUN team, partnered as the People’s Republic of China on the Security Council and earned an honorable mention.

Nine other HPU students researched and portrayed countries at the conference. Sydney Spencer, a junior from Georgetown, and Jaclyn Bonner, a junior from Lytle, represented the United Kingdom on the General Assembly: Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC), while Sam Hoffman, a senior from Corpus Christi, and Danielle Parkhurst, a junior from Columbus, portrayed the United Kingdom on ECOSOC. Cody Perrin, a senior from Eastland, represented France on the European Council. Also on DISEC were Emily Peisker, a senior from Cedar Park, and Carrie Leach, a sophomore from Hurst, representing the Kingdom of Cambodia. Leo Baker, a freshman from Lindale, and Emma Reed, a freshman from Arlington, represented the United Kingdom on the UN Conference on Climate Change: Conference of the Parties 21 (COP 21).

The team is directed by Dr. Justin D. Murphy, Brand professor of history, dean of the School of Humanities and director of HPU’s Guy D. Newman Honors Academy.

“I am extremely proud of the Model UN Team,” said Dr. Murphy. “The members worked extremely hard to learn the positions of the countries they represented on the various committees and councils. In fact, one of the SMUN Conference leaders told me that the chairs of the committees and councils were very impressed with how well prepared our delegates were and how accurately they performed their roles.”

The group, including 14 students and three chaperones, left for Stockholm on November 10, arriving in Sweden the next day with time for the students to sightsee and explore the city through November 12. Students took the opportunity to shop in the Old Town, visit the Parliament building, catch up with old friends from previous conferences and immerse in Swedish history at museums.

“It is a blessing to have the opportunity to attend international conferences and learn about foreign relations from the perspective of people from more than 35 different countries,” said Sydney Spencer, co-head delegate of the MUN team. “I am very proud of our team and everything we accomplished and thankful to everyone who played a part in making this trip possible.”


Photo cutline: HPU’s Model United Nations team recently competed in Stockholm, Sweden. Back row, left to right: Cody Perrin, Jason Murphy, Gavin Paul Stewart, Sam Hoffman, James Abbatiello, Mike McConnell, Leo Baker and Peyton Cooley. Front row, left to right: Emily Peisker, Emma Reed, Carrie Leach, Sydney Spencer, Jaclyn Bonner and Danielle Parkhurst.

HPU to celebrate birth of Christ through “Lessons and Carols”

BROWNWOOD – December 1, 2015 –Howard Payne University’s School of Music and Fine Arts will present its annual Service of Lessons and Carols this Sunday at 8 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Brownwood. The service includes Scripture readings about the prophecies and coming of Christ along with music that reflects on the passages being read.

HPU faculty and staff members will read the Scriptures and the university’s Heritage Singers will perform the musical selections with Dr. Allen Reed, retired professor of music, accompanying.

The event is based on the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, first held on Christmas Eve 1918. The service was first broadcast in 1928 and has broadcast annually, with the exception of 1930. In the United States, the service airs on approximately 300 radio stations.

The university’s Heritage Singers are under the direction of Dr. Monte Garrett, professor of music and director of choral activities.

“The service of Lessons and Carols is a poignant reminder of the prophecies, and their fulfillment, of the coming of Christ,” said Dr. Garrett. “Especially during the busyness of this time of the semester, the service provides an opportunity for contemplation as we focus on the reason we celebrate.”

St. John’s Episcopal Church is located at 700 Main Street in Brownwood. For more information about the event, contact HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts at (325) 649-8500.


HPU students win Moot Court tournament, advance to nationals

BROWNWOOD – December 1, 2015 – Continuing a succession of Moot Court wins for the university, Howard Payne University students Isaac Sommers and Rebeca Puente prevailed in their first Moot Court tournament of the year. The team will advance to nationals in the American Collegiate Moot Court Association, competing at California State University, Long Beach, in January.

The UNT Law Invitational Tournament was held at the University of North Texas Dallas Law School in October with 50 teams from across the nation competing.

After successfully completing round one, Sommers, a sophomore from Boerne, and Puente, a junior from Waskom, advanced to the octo-final round, quarterfinals and semifinals. They beat Texas A&M University and two teams from California State University, Long Beach, respectively. They then faced off against UNT Denton in the finals and won unanimously. Sommers also won the 4th place oralist award.

Additionally, Sommers and Puente were finalists at a regional tournament at Texas A&M University during which they both won Top Orator awards.

Dr. Justin D. Murphy, HPU’s Brand professor of history, dean of the School of Humanities and director of the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, lauded the successes of the students and their coach, Lorianna Kelley, assistant professor of government.

“I cannot emphasize enough how valuable Professor Kelley’s contributions are to the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and Howard Payne University,” Dr. Murphy said. “I commend her outstanding efforts and devotion to our students.”


Photo cutline: HPU students Rebeca Puente, left, and Isaac Sommers took first place at a recent Moot Court tournament. The team will advance to nationals, competing at California State University, Long Beach, in January.

HPU’s Pre-College Music and Art program to host “Christmas at Heartland Mall”

BROWNWOOD – November 30, 2015 – Howard Payne University’s Pre-College Music and Art program will host its 21st annual “Christmas at Heartland Mall” celebration on Sunday, December 6, from 1:15 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Heartland Mall.

“Students in the program will present some wonderful vocal and instrumental Christmas selections to family and friends,” said Diane Owens, director of the program and adjunct instructor in the School of Music and Fine Arts. “Please plan to join us for a musical Sunday afternoon at Heartland Mall.”

Additionally, the pre-college art students will have some of their recent work on exhibit for mall shoppers and other guests to see.

The Pre-College Music and Art program serves the Brownwood community by offering music and art lessons to children and adults. For more information, contact Owens at (325) 649-8501 or

HPU’s Symphonic Band and Concert Choir to present Christmas celebration concert

BROWNWOOD – November 23, 2015 –Howard Payne University’s Symphonic Band and Concert Choir will present a Christmas celebration concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 3, in the university’s Mims Auditorium. The concert is free to the public and the community is encouraged to attend as HPU celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Among the program’s selections are Carol of the Bells; A Christmas Festival; Stille, Stille, Stille; and many more. There will also be an audience Christmas carol sing-along.

The Symphonic Band is under the direction of Corey Ash, associate professor of music, and the Concert Choir is under the direction of Dr. Monte Garrett, professor of music.

“The musical selections are sure to get the Christmas spirit in full swing as the students perform many Christmastime favorites,” said Ash.

Those attending are encouraged to bring a canned good or boxed dry good as a donation for admission. All of the goods collected will go to Good Samaritan Ministries of Brown County to aid those who need a helping hand during this winter holiday season.

A reception will follow the concert in the band rehearsal hall of the Davidson Music Complex.

“We hope to see you there but, if not, may your holiday season be filled with the joy of family and friends,” said Ash. “Most especially, may you know the joy of the greatest holiday gift of all time, Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.”


Photo cutline: HPU’s Symphonic Band and Concert Choir will present a Christmas celebration concert Thursday, December 3, in the university’s Mims Auditorium.