News Archives

HPU students serve God and experience Spanish culture on Costa Rica trip

By Chandler Condra, HPU senior

BROWNWOOD – July 15, 2015 – Thirteen Howard Payne University students, faculty and staff members visited the country of Costa Rica following the end of the spring 2015 semester. The international experience was led by Carla Hawkins, then assistant professor of Spanish, and Keith Platte, director of HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry.

hpu group at irazu volcano for webThe expedition was HPU’s first hybrid trip combining students from Spanish class with mission volunteers of the BSM. However, all students participated in each of the activities during the 11-day trip.

The students and supervisors made their first stop at Hogar De Vida, an orphanage, where they witnessed to others by serving and repainting parts of the facility.

“We spent the first three days serving at this orphanage in Atenas,” said Platte. “The workers there rely on volunteers like us to help maintain or repair the facility. We also helped lead devotionals.”

The group then spent three days in Cahuita along the eastern coast experiencing the Caribbean culture, three days in the central mountainous region of Costa Rica at Paraíso and three days in San Jose, Costa Rica’s largest city.

Activities included guided tours of the mountain ranges, coffee plantations, art and history museums, churches, marketplaces and more. The goal was to give students an immersive experience in the Spanish-American and Caribbean cultures in a range of locations.

“The country has so much culture and a rich history,” said Platte. “We visited their oldest still-attended church, which is even older than the United States.”

A common greeting in the country is “pura vida,” or “pure life.” It epitomizes the cultural experience of the HPU group, according to the students.

“I love that they all say ‘pura vida’ because it shows that they aren’t worried about other things and that they love the life they live,” said Adrienne Sanchez, junior Spanish major from Ozona.

The diversity of the culture, geography and opportunity for service made Costa Rica a prime choice for HPU’s first hybrid trip. The students studied the country before arriving to better appreciate the experience.

“From the relaxing lifestyle of the coast, to the beautiful views from the volcanoes, to the ever-busy life of the markets in the cities, Costa Rica has it all,” said Ashley Chapman, senior Spanish and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Ennis.

Additional students on the trip included Kyndal Broome, senior management major from San Angelo; Anthony Bryant, criminal justice major and May 2015 graduate from Copperas Cove; Tara Carroll, sophomore Spanish major from McKinney; Yessenia Cazares, senior psychology major from El Paso; Camryn Lopez, senior Spanish major from Wallis; Cody Perrin, junior history and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Eastland; Trystin Teale, freshman liberal arts major from Midland; Hannah Williamson, junior Spanish major from Fort Worth; and Mikayla Warren, senior cross-cultural studies major from Salado.


Photo cutline: A group from HPU is pictured at the top of the Irazú Volcano at a national park in Costa Rica. Back row, left to right: Keith Platte, Anthony Bryant, Cody Perrin and Trystin Teale. Middle row, left to right: Camryn Lopez, Mikayla Warren, Hannah Williamson, Adrienne Sanchez, Kyndal Broome, Yessenia Cazares and Tara Carroll. Front row, left to right: Ashley Chapman and Gustavo Abarca, the group’s tour guide. Not pictured is Carla Hawkins.

HPU’s Pre-College Music students earn state honors

BROWNWOOD – July 7, 2015 – Twenty-eight students from Howard Payne University’s Pre-College Music and Art program participated in the Texas Federation of Music Clubs (TFMC) State Competition recently, with many taking high honors. The program, part of HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts, serves the Brownwood community by offering music and art lessons to children and adults.

The competition was held at Texas State University in San Marcos. Listed are the participants in the state competition and their ratings:

Vocal Solo/Musical Theatre
All State: Alex Fowler
Outstanding: Hannah Bessent, Angie Calfa, Kirsten Fijer, Kamry Keese, Mary McIver, Addison Miller, Sydney Neel, Shayna Oliver, Sarah Reeves, Drew Reynolds, Jordan Roberts and Ava Sparks-Hansen

Vocal Solo/Art Song
Outstanding: Addison Miller

Piano Solo
Outstanding: James Bautista, Michelle Cabrera, Becca Church, Vic Cooper, Christian Fijer, Alex Fowler, Kyle Ivy, Addison Miller, Michael Morales, Hannah Parson, Sarah Reeves, Natalee Rose, Cate Smith, Carter Wheeless and Trina Wheeless
Superior: Andrew Boren, Raya Hakim, Kamry Keese and Jordan Roberts

Forty-five students from the Pre-College program participated in the District 4A Junior Festival, held on the HPU campus in March. Of those students, 40 earned a “Superior” rating, making them eligible to compete in the TFMC Competition.

HPU’s Pre-College Music and Art Program, directed by Diane Owens, offers Kindermusik classes to pre-school children and lessons in art, musical instruments and voice to school-aged students and adults.

Enrollment for the fall semester will begin in mid-August. Classes begin on Labor Day and continue through mid-December. For more information, contact Owens at (325) 649-8501 or or Jill Holamon at (325) 649-8500 or

The Texas Federation of Music Clubs operates in conjunction with the National Federation of Music Clubs. The NFMC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to music education and the promotion of creative and performing arts in America. Since its founding in 1898, the NFMC has grown into one of the world’s largest music organizations with club and individual members of all ages. The NFMC is charted by the Congress of the United States and is the only music organization member of the United Nations.

Dedicated to finding and fostering young musical talent, the NFMC conducts annual Junior Festivals with more than 120,000 participants. The NFMC offers more than three quarters of a million dollars in awards through state and national competitions. Federation members work to create a dynamic musical and cultural environment in their communities through education and sponsorship of musical events.


HPU New Braunfels Center to host preview events for undergraduate, graduate programs

nb center orientation for webBROWNWOOD – July 6, 2015 – Howard Payne University’s New Braunfels Center will host two preview events in July for those interested in learning more about undergraduate and graduate offerings in the community.

The center will host a casual get-together on Thursday, July 16, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt off Highway 46 in New Braunfels. Those interested in learning more about HPU will have an opportunity to spend time with the center’s staff members and enjoy a complimentary cup of frozen yogurt during this come-and-go event. Please register online in advance at

On Thursday, July 30, from noon to 1 p.m., the staff will host a free Master of Business Administration informational luncheon at Mamacita’s Restaurant off Interstate 35 in New Braunfels. Prospective MBA students will have the opportunity to chat with current students and staff members and receive all the information necessary to begin the program. Registration is also required online at

HPU has maintained a presence in New Braunfels since 2012, offering degrees for undergraduate and graduate students as well as coursework for dual-credit students. The university, with its flagship campus located in Brownwood, is planning a permanent campus in New Braunfels as part of the Veramendi development project.

Whitney Hooper, assistant director of admission for HPU’s extension centers, said she is excited to meet prospective students and help them learn more about starting or completing their education at HPU’s New Braunfels Center.

“We understand that enrolling at a university can be overwhelming for both undergraduate and graduate students,” she said. “That’s why we love hosting these informal events for our future students. We’ll share a lot of information with you and we’ll have fun at the same time.”

For more information about HPU’s New Braunfels Center, visit the website listed above, call (830) 629-2366 or e-mail


Photo cutline: HPU’s New Braunfels Center will host two preview events in July. Students are pictured attending an orientation session last fall.

HPU to host Moot Camp for up-and-coming debaters

isaac sommers for webBROWNWOOD – July 6, 2015 – Howard Payne University will host Moot Camp this Thursday through
Saturday, July 9-11. The camp is designed to prepare students in the introductory and advanced aspects of Moot Court, such as interpreting legal cases, writing and presenting legal arguments and responding to judges’ questions.

Lorianna Kelley, assistant professor of political science at HPU, said Moot Court is a form of debate modeled after the U.S. appellate legal process. Kelley serves as adviser for HPU’s Moot Court team.

“Students at our camp will hone their skills by participating in a number of practice rounds,” she said. “They will also compete in a Moot Court mini-tournament.”

The camp’s lead instructor is HPU student Isaac Sommers, sophomore from Boerne, a two-time high school Washington College of Law National Champion, the 2014 Collegiate Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association Regional Champion and Best Oralist, and the 2015 American Collegiate Moot Court Association National Championship Semifinalist and 3rd Best Oralist.

“Isaac is an outstanding competitor and I’m excited to see him relay his knowledge and experience to our camp participants,” said Kelley.

The cost to participate is $160 and includes room and board. The camp is open to college students, rising college freshmen and high school debaters (age 16 and older) with two or more years of experience. For more information, visit


Photo cutline: HPU sophomore Isaac Sommers will serve as lead instructor at HPU’s Moot Camp this week. He is pictured following the American Collegiate Moot Court Association national tournament held at Florida International University in January, during which he was named semifinalist and 3rd Best Oralist.

HPU’s Dr. Celeste Church named to new dean position

Celeste Church for webBROWNWOOD – July 1, 2015 – Howard Payne University recently announced Dr. Celeste Church, associate professor of music, has been appointed dean of institutional research and effectiveness, a newly created role at the university.

In her new position, Dr. Church will serve on the Deans’ Council and teach a reduced academic load in the music department.

“Elevating institutional research and effectiveness to the level of a dean’s appointment speaks to the university’s commitment to collecting and understanding data that will drive substantive conversations at an institution-wide level about retention, enrollment and the university’s ongoing improvement of its programs and services,” said Dr. Mark Tew, HPU provost and chief academic officer.

Dr. Church joined HPU in 2004 and holds the Master of Church Music degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from Texas Tech University. Her husband, Dr. Gregory Church, serves as associate professor of music at HPU.


Photo cutline: Dr. Celeste Church was recently named dean of institutional research and effectiveness at HPU.

HPU’s Fishback promoted to associate vice president for business and human resources

Bill Fishback for webBROWNWOOD – June 30, 2015 – Howard Payne University announced today the promotion of Bill Fishback from assistant vice president for business and human resources to associate vice president for business and human resources. Fishback was also named interim chief financial officer and will join HPU’s executive team as a member of the university’s Administrative Council.

Fishback came to HPU in 1992 as chief financial officer and has overseen areas in advancement and administration. He is a part of HPU’s Staff Council which began under his leadership as chair in 2010. The council plays a vital role in advancing the exchange of information between the university’s staff members. He also recently managed the renovations of HPU’s Mabee University Center, a project which came in under budget and on time.

“We are proud of Bill’s numerous accomplishments at HPU,” said Dr. Bill Ellis, president. “He has served the university faithfully and we are pleased that he has accepted this new role on campus.”

Fishback graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in management from Texas Tech University. He and his wife, Cecil, a speech/language pathologist at Comanche Special Services SSA, have two adult sons, Chase and Chris.


Photo cutline: HPU’s Bill Fishback was recently promoted to associate vice president for business and human resources.

Deadline nearing for HPU’s Summer Scholars and Young Scholars day camps

Energy Wars logo for webBROWNWOOD – June 26, 2015 – Registration for Howard Payne University’s annual Summer Scholars and Young Scholars day camps will end Monday, July 6. The camps, which provide educational and fun activities for students entering first through sixth grades, will take place July 13 through 17 from 9 a.m. to noon each day.

This year’s theme is “Energy Wars,” with a focus on energy conservation, including light bulbs, wind, electricity, oil, gas and water.

Summer Scholars, for students entering fourth through sixth grades, will have classes in robotics, 3-D printing, science and physical education. For students entering first through third grades, Young Scholars will have classes in robotics, science, music and physical education.

Cost is $100 per child and includes tuition, supplies, a daily snack and a t-shirt. Parents may register and pay online at All classes will take place at HPU’s Newman Hall located at the corner of Coggin and Austin Avenues in Brownwood.

“Spaces are filling fast, so we encourage those interested to register soon,” said Dr. Julie Welker, director of the programs, professor of communication and chair of HPU’s Department of Communication Studies.

For more information, visit the website listed above or contact Dr. Welker by phone at (325) 649-8508 or by e-mail at


HPU alumna Dr. Henrietta Grooms honored by Tyler ISD

BROWNWOOD – June 26, 2015 – Dr. Henrietta Grooms, a Howard Payne University alumna and professional educator for 37 years, was recently honored by the Tyler Independent School District. The ISD named career pathway wings in its new Career and Technology Center in recognition of three educators, including Dr. Grooms.

Dr. Grooms received both her Bachelor of Music Education (1956) and Master of Education (1958) degrees from HPU before earning a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Georgia in 1967.

A plaque recognizing her achievements states the wing is “named in honor of her innovative leadership as a lifetime educator and volunteer.”

The plaque goes on to state that Dr. Grooms has impacted thousands of students within Tyler ISD and the community through her roles as teacher, principal, central administrator, consultant for the Texas Education Agency and volunteer. Since retiring as assistant superintendent for instruction, she continues to influence students in the community through volunteer work with the Literacy Council of Tyler and The Salvation Army.

In 1992, she was presented the Distinguished Graduate award from HPU’s School of Education and she received HPU’s Medal of Service award during the university’s Homecoming festivities in 1997. Her husband, Dr. Randall Grooms, is a former member of HPU’s Board of Trustees.

“Dr. Grooms is indeed a living testimony of exactly what the School of Education at Howard Payne University strives to accomplish – producing the very best prepared Christian educators for service in the public schools of Texas,” said Dr. Michael Rosato, dean of HPU’s School of Education. “It is both exciting and encouraging to see her obedience to God’s call on her life and how He has continued to use her through many distinguished years of service. We celebrate with Dr. Grooms for this wonderful recognition which she so rightly deserves.”


Photo cutline: HPU alumna Dr. Henrietta Grooms was among three educators recently honored by Tyler ISD. She is pictured during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the ISD’s new Career and Technology Center.

HPU’s Psi Chi inducts 17 new members

Psi Chi induction spring 2015 for webBROWNWOOD – June 12, 2015 – Howard Payne University’s chapter of the Psi Chi International Honor Society inducted 17 new members at the close of the spring 2015 semester.

The purpose of Psi Chi is to encourage, stimulate and maintain excellence in scholarship of its individual members in all fields, particularly in psychology, and to advance the science of psychology.

This year’s inductees included Nick Bennie of Brownwood, Brittany Davis of Red Oak, Allison Eaton of Briggs, Amanda Gober of Brownwood, Angelica Gray of San Antonio, Victoria Hardin of Bangs, Heather Hildebrand of Big Spring, Kelsey Johnson of Goldthwaite, Taryn Massey of Abilene, Erin McLeod of Eufaula, Okla., Shay Pate of Red Oak, Amy Segura of Brownwood, Kristian Simpson of Burnet, Gage Smith of Gardendale, Katie Straach of Coleman, Tate Sullivan of Fredericksburg and Stephanie Upfold of Brownwood.

“It is a privilege to have so many excellent students join us,” said adviser Dr. Jennifer Clement, assistant professor of psychology. “We are so proud of them.”


Photo cutline: Seventeen HPU students were inducted into Psi Chi during the 2014-2015 academic year. Back row, left to right: Gage Smith, Allison Eaton, Angelica Gray, Amy Segura, Amanda Gober and Taryn Massey. Center row, left to right: Tate Sullivan, Kristian Simpson, Nick Bennie, Kelsey Johnson and Heather Hildebrand. Front row, left to right: Erin McLeod, Victoria Hardin and Katie Straach. Not pictured: Brittany Davis, Shay Pate and Stephanie Upfold.

Howard Payne DPS assists LCU’s security force with upgrade

smith and lilly for webBROWNWOOD – June 12, 2015 – Members of Howard Payne University’s Department of Public Safety recently traveled to West Texas for an Oath of Office Ceremony at Lubbock Christian University, during which LCU swore in its first university police chief. HPU’s DPS assisted LCU as the campus upgraded its security force to become a university Department of Public Safety, a state-licensed agency comprised of both commissioned police officers and non-commissioned public safety officers.

As HPU completed the same transition in August 2012, the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement suggested LCU officials contact Dr. Paul Lilly, chief of HPU’s DPS, for guidance.

Dr. Lilly consulted with Mike Smith, chief of LCU’s DPS, many times throughout the process.

“Chief Smith contacted me early last year and requested to travel to the campus and view our operations first hand,” said Dr. Lilly. “He also requested copies of the HPU DPS General Orders and Policies and Procedures to use as a model policy for LCU.”

HPU’s DPS will again lend its guidance this summer as the campus police at Concordia University Texas in Austin restructure their department. Chief H.E. Jenkins, Concordia’s director of police, toured HPU’s DPS in June.

“We are very honored to aid other universities in the creation and/or restructuring of their agencies to better serve their university populations,” said Dr. Lilly.


Photo cutline: Dr. Paul Lilly (right), chief of HPU’s DPS, is pictured with Mike Smith, LCU’s newly sworn-in chief of police.