News Archives

Four HPU students accepted into Sumners Scholar Program

By Chandler Condra, HPU senior

BROWNWOOD – May 13, 2015 – Four Howard Payne University students were recently accepted into the Sumners Scholar Program created by the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation. Acceptance into the four-semester program is based on an assessment of academic excellence, a sense of civic responsibility and leadership potential.

sumners scholars 2015 for webOnce a year, a small number of applicants from HPU’s Guy D. Newman Honors Academy are selected for the program. The foundation provides a $7,500-per-semester stipend for its participating students to be used for tuition, fees, books or room and board.

Recipients this year include juniors Carrie Leach from Hurst, Danielle Parkhurst from Alleyton, Sydnee Petty from Early and Sydney Spencer from Georgetown.

Sumners Scholars are provided with opportunities to attend annual leadership and policy analysis conferences to supplement their learning and expand their growth potential. While receiving the Sumners Scholarship, students are required to maintain a 3.25 GPA and be in good standing with the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy.

The purpose of the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy matches closely the purpose of the Sumners Foundation: “to encourage the study, teaching and research into the science and art of self-government, to the end that the American People may understand the fundamental principles of democracy and be guided thereby in shaping governmental policies.”

Dr. Justin D. Murphy, Brand professor of history, dean of the School of Humanities and director of the Academy, appreciates the opportunities made available to students through the Sumners Foundation.

“In addition to the significant financial assistance, Sumners Scholars receive invaluable opportunities to attend lecture series by national figures and participate in public policy seminars and student leadership conferences,” he said. “It is an exceptional program which we are proud to offer to our exceptional students.”


Photo cutline: Four HPU juniors were recently accepted into the prestigious Sumners Scholar Program created by the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation. They are, from left, Carrie Leach, Sydney Spencer, Danielle Parkhurst and Sydnee Petty.

TaShana Hooker receives HPU’s Yellow Rose Scholarship

Yellow Rose Award TaShana Hooker for webBROWNWOOD – May 12, 2015 – The Howard Payne University Woman’s Club recently presented the Yellow Rose Scholarship for the 2015-2016 academic year to TaShana Hooker, a sophomore from Carrollton. The award was presented during the annual Woman’s Club Yellow Rose Scholarship Luncheon.

Miss Hooker is pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in instrumental music with all-level education certification. She was an honor student during her freshman year and earned a place on the Dean’s List as a sophomore. She has served on the student panel for Yellow Jacket Monday recruiting events, is a member of Tau Beta Sigma, the National Honorary Band Service Sorority, and serves as chaplain for the Delta Upsilon chapter on the HPU campus.

She was recently named the recipient of the prestigious Christina M. Gordon Scholarship of Excellence within the Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma Southwest District for her leadership role in her local band and for academic excellence. She is also a member of Gamma Beta Phi, an organization that strives to be a premier service-based honor society. Additionally, she is an active member of HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry and has participated in Beach Reach, a Spring Break outreach ministry, for two years.

The HPU Yellow Rose Scholarship is awarded annually to a female student who will begin her junior year in the upcoming fall semester and who has maintained a 3.0 grade-point average during her time at HPU. The recipient participates in campus extracurricular activities and exhibits leadership qualities representative of the Christian values and beliefs foundational to the university.

“TaShana is a great student and very deserving of the Yellow Rose Scholarship,” said Dr. Diana Ellis, HPU first lady and president of the Woman’s Club. “I was honored to have the opportunity to present her with this award.”


Photo cutline: TaShana Hooker, center, recently received the HPU Woman’s Club Yellow Rose Scholarship. She is pictured with Jill Holamon (left), administrative assistant for the School of Music and Fine Arts, and Dr. Diana Ellis, HPU first lady and Woman’s Club president.

First undergraduate student receives degree from HPU’s New Braunfels Center

Meinecke and Scardami for webBROWNWOOD – May 12, 2015 – Among the 140 students receiving diplomas from Howard Payne University on Saturday was James Scardami Jr., the first to earn an undergraduate degree from HPU’s New Braunfels Center.

Scardami moved to New Braunfels in 2004 after four years with the United States Marine Corps. After briefly considering pursuing a degree from an online university, he discovered HPU in 2012.

“I had given up on the idea of attending college when I met Christy Meinecke at a job fair,” he said. “I got her business card and the rest was history.”

Christy Meinecke, admission counselor and extension center office assistant, and her husband, Dr. Dale Meinecke, assistant vice president for external affairs, moved their family to New Braunfels in 2012 to facilitate the university’s entrance into the community. HPU has maintained a presence in New Braunfels since that time and began offering graduate and undergraduate degrees in 2013. Nine students have subsequently graduated from the center with Master of Business Administration degrees.

“James has been with us since the first semester we began offering undergraduate degrees,” said Dr. Dale Meinecke. “We greatly enjoyed having him as a student and we’re so proud of his accomplishments.”

Scardami, who graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree in business administration, calls his experience at HPU “life changing.”

“I would absolutely recommend HPU’s New Braunfels Center to everyone,” he said. “The quality of the education is outstanding.”

Scardami has now enrolled in HPU’s MBA program and is pursuing the opportunity to open an Edward Jones Investments office in the community. He said that HPU has given him more than just educational opportunities.

“You feel like literally every faculty and staff member cares about you,” he said. “The people I have met along the way will be a part of my life forever.”

Scardami wrote an e-mail to Dr. Bill Ellis, HPU president, further praising HPU’s family-like atmosphere and the effects it had on his own family – Lesley, his wife of five years, and twin three-year-olds, Emily and Conner.

“My family and I attended church for the first time as a family last weekend,” he wrote. “My wife and I had been to church before we met, but never since we have been together and never with our children. I know, with other circumstances in life and God as the director, that I owe this to the amazing Dr. Dale Meinecke. I have never met someone so loving of God, his wife and his students and that makes me want to be a better man in every aspect of my life. He has encouraged me to do more and be better.”

He continued, “I earned every ‘A’ I received and I got many of them, but the quality and value from the experience far exceeds any knowledge I attained.”

HPU’s New Braunfels Center is now enrolling for the fall 2015 semester. To learn more, visit, call (830) 629-2366 or e-mail


Photo cutline: James Scardami Jr. (right) is the first student to receive an undergraduate degree from Howard Payne University’s New Braunfels Center. He is pictured with Dr. Dale Meinecke, assistant vice president for external affairs.

HPU Yellow Rose Award presented to Debra Wilson

Wilson and Ellis Yellow Rose Award for webBROWNWOOD – May 8, 2015 – Howard Payne University’s Woman’s Club recently honored Debra Wilson, a resident of Brownwood and Houston, with the prestigious 2015 Yellow Rose Award. The award is presented annually to a woman who has exhibited exemplary leadership within her sphere of influence, who has exhibited fiscal, emotional or physical support to the ongoing of the university and who represents Christian values and beliefs foundational to HPU.

Wilson has spent countless hours volunteering on campus and providing friendship and mentorship to students. A native Texan, Wilson attended North Texas State University. She later met and married her husband of almost 50 years, Dr. Walter C. “Dub” Wilson, a 1965 HPU graduate and member of HPU’s Board of Trustees.

The Wilsons are active members of Houston’s First Baptist Church and involved in a number of volunteer activities. The couple additionally impacts the lives of HPU students through a scholarship endowment established in 2001 and by spending many hours promoting HPU’s fundraising efforts. They have two adult children, Scott and Aimee, and five grandchildren – Mackenzie, Grayson, Caroline, Abby and Ethan.

“Deb Wilson has been a personal blessing in my life and a blessing to many HPU students, faculty and staff members,” said Dr. Diana Ellis, the university’s first lady and president of the HPU Woman’s Club. “Her greatest ministry is encouragement, a gift she freely shares with others. She is so deserving of this award and I was honored to present it to her.”


Photo cutline: Debra Wilson, left, was recently presented with the HPU Woman’s Club Yellow Rose Award. She is pictured with Dr. Diana Ellis, HPU’s first lady and club president.

HPU concert raises more than $700 for Wounded Warrior Project

American Music Spectacular for webBROWNWOOD – May 8, 2015 – Howard Payne University recently hosted the 20th Annual American Music Spectacular, a musical tribute to the United States, its armed forces and the many who serve as first responders in our communities. In lieu of ticket sales, HPU’s Department of Music accepted donations on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project. More than $700 was raised for the national charity, an organization that offers resources and support for injured service members.

During the concert, the band performed a special piece titled “Armed Forces Salute,” honoring the men and women of our armed forces.

“I was really pleased we were able to contribute to the Wounded Warrior Project and we were honored to recognize the men and women who serve us on a daily basis,” said Corey Ash, associate professor of music and director of bands.


Photo cutline: Band and audience members watch as the Color Guard posts the American and Texan flags prior to the 20th Annual American Music Spectacular. Photo by Kevin Holamon ’14.

Summer Scholars and Young Scholars day camps to focus on energy conservation

By Emily Peisker, HPU Junior

BROWNWOOD – May 8, 2015 – Howard Payne University’s annual Summer Scholars and Young Scholars program 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.

Energy Wars logo for webSummer 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 through July 6 at All classes will take place at HPU’s Newman Hall located at the corner of Coggin and Austin Avenues in Brownwood.

“Each of our classes will focus on energy conservation, so students in the program get a well-rounded, hands-on education on the topic,” said Dr. Julie Welker, director of the programs, professor of communication and chair of HPU’s Department of Communication Studies.

One class in particular unifies the programs and allows students to gain experience with a technology that plays an increasingly important role in the world’s technology.

“Robotics has been a big emphasis in our program the last few years, and this year our focus will be building robots that help with energy conservation,” said Dr. Welker. “Mrs. Hull, who teaches our robotics program for fourth through sixth graders, will also have an energy bike that the kids will love. Students will get to experience first-hand just how much energy it takes to power something.”

Dr. Lester Towell, professor and chair of HPU’s Department of Computer Information Systems, will be back this year with the very popular 3-D printing class.

“Our students really enjoyed learning about this cutting-edge technology and all of its applications,” said Dr. Welker. “I’m excited to see what Dr. Towell will show our students about 3-D printing this year.”

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


Photo cutline: Summer Scholars and Young Scholars camps, HPU’s popular summer programs for children, will take place July 13-17. This year’s theme is “Energy Wars.”

HPU to graduate 140 students this Saturday

BROWNWOOD – May 7, 2015 – Howard Payne University will graduate 140 students during the spring Commencement ceremony this Saturday, May 9, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Brownwood Coliseum.

Dr. Bill Ellis, university president, and other university representatives will confer the undergraduate and graduate degrees. Dr. Ronny Marriott ’87, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Temple and member of HPU’s Board of Trustees, will deliver the charge to the graduates.

Additional program participants include: Corey Ash ’92, associate professor of music and director of bands; Jane Collette ’81, president of the HPU Alumni Association; Dr. Gary Gramling ’81, director of the graduate program in youth ministry and professor of Christian studies; Rev. Morgan Malone, executive director of Denton Baptist Association; Lillian Murselle McMillan, candidate for graduation; Dr. Kevin Mitchell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Pecos; Dr. Justin D. Murphy, dean of the School of Humanities, professor of history and director of the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy; Dr. Lois Patton, director of the graduate program in business administration and professor of business administration; Dr. Leslie Plagens, dean of the School of Business and professor of business administration; Dr. Joe Robinson, director of the instructional leadership graduate program and professor of education; Dr. Michael Rosato, dean of the School of Education and professor of education; Carter Sharpe, first vice chairman of the Board of Trustees; Dr. W. Mark Tew, provost; Lana Wagner ’97, registrar; Dr. Julie Welker ’94, faculty president, professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication Studies; Dr. Russell Wheelington, associate professor of Christian studies; and the HPU Instrumental Ensemble.

The Commencement ceremony will be preceded on Friday, May 8, 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 J. Howard Hodge Memorial Bell Towers.


HPU’s New Braunfels Center surpasses fundraising goal during 24-hour giving event

the big give student message for webBROWNWOOD – May 6, 2015 – Howard Payne University’s New Braunfels Center took part in yesterday’s The Big Give S.A., a 24-hour fundraising event, exceeding its goal of $10,000 during the first 9 hours of the event. By midnight, 36 people had made gifts to the university totaling $14,505.

Included in the total is a gift from an anonymous donor who agreed to match up to $5,000.

“We’re tremendously grateful to the many alumni, community members and friends of the university who helped us surpass our goal,” said Dr. Dale Meinecke, assistant vice president for external affairs. “We’re blessed to be a part of the New Braunfels community and the funds raised will go toward our efforts of creating our permanent university home in the area.”

HPU has maintained a presence in New Braunfels since 2012, and now offers 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.

HPU is now enrolling for the fall 2015 semester. To learn more about becoming at student at HPU’s New Braunfels Center, visit, call (830) 629-2366 or e-mail


Photo cutline: During yesterday’s giving event, HPU New Braunfels students were asked to write messages encouraging donations.

HPU student’s “non-traditional” approach leads to degree after 17 years

mike bannister and lester towell for webBROWNWOOD – May 6, 2015 – The path to a college degree varies a bit for every student, but for Howard Payne University senior Mike Bannister, the journey was almost 17 years in the making.

The 56-year-old Brownwood native will receive his Bachelor of Science degree in computer information systems this May after first setting foot on the HPU campus as a student in 1999.

“I tell everyone I have tenure,” he says, laughing. “I’ve made a career out of being a student. Some semesters I took a single class. The largest course load I’ve taken in a semester is 10 hours.”

He also took several breaks from classes due to a busy work schedule, including 15 months when he lived in Singapore. Bannister says his employer of 30 years, 3M in Brownwood, has been very supportive throughout his academic career.

“My managers gave me a lot of flexibility in my schedule,” he says. “I’m really thankful for the support they’ve given me.”

As a product development engineer with 3M, staying current with technological trends is crucial for Bannister as he works with lab teams to bring new products to market. His HPU coursework has proven to be a solid foundation upon which to build his expertise in his field.

“The technology has changed since I first started at HPU in 1999, but I am able to take what I learned then and continue to adapt my knowledge and skills,” says Bannister.

He has seen many classes of students graduate since he arrived on campus and has even been able to mentor some students in their own paths.

“I tell them to treat college seriously and concentrate as they go after their own degrees,” he says. “I try to encourage them because I know the hurdles they are facing.”

Bannister did not have a single college hour when he began at HPU.

“I was intimidated and nervous,” he says. “I had to relearn study skills, but I ended up being a lot better college student than I was a high school student.”

Cheryl Mangrum, associate director of admission, processed Bannister’s applications for readmission throughout the years. She works with many non-traditional students which include, but are not limited to, current and retired military personnel, working parents, husbands and wives, and single students over the age of 21 with no previous college experience.

“I was also a non-traditional student at HPU and can most certainly relate to Mike’s 17-year academic career,” she says. “I was on an extended degree plan of 11 years while working as a full-time university employee. I appreciate so much his dedication and perseverance.”

Mangrum says HPU’s faculty, staff and student body are very supportive of non-traditional students.

“They appreciate and embrace the fact that these students bring to the classroom maturity and life experience, which greatly enrich the educational experience both inside and outside the classroom,” she says. “The journey toward a bachelor’s degree may take longer for some non-traditional students, but the destination is worth the journey and the journey is worth the destination. The educational experiences and the relationships forged along the way are priceless and are lifetime investments.”

At the Academic Awards Convocation held at the end of April, Bannister was named the Outstanding Student in Computer Information Systems and Outstanding Non-Traditional Student for the 2014-2015 academic year. He was also inducted into HPU’s chapter of the Sigma Beta Delta International Business Honor Society. Dr. Lester Towell, chair of the Department of Computer Information Systems and CIS professor, says Bannister is a “model student.”

“He asks questions, attends every class and completes all projects on time,” Dr. Towell says. “Mike exemplifies the desire for an education over a grade. I could not ask for a better student or example.”

Now that his academic days are drawing to a close, Bannister is excited about the opportunity to continue furthering his career while spending more time with his wife and family. As a member of the first generation in his immediate family to complete requirements for a college degree, Bannister is proud of his accomplishment and thankful for the opportunity to attend HPU. He offers advice to others who may be considering an unconventional approach to higher education.

“No matter how scared or nervous you are, at least give it a try,” he says. “Take a class and see how you do. The ‘A’ grades I received were encouraging and gave me the fuel to go on to each new semester.”

For more information about becoming a student at Howard Payne University, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at (325) 649-8020 or via e-mail at

HPU faculty and staff members honored for service to the university

Outstanding Staff Member Bobbie Price for webBROWNWOOD – May 4, 2015 – Members of Howard Payne University’s faculty and staff were recently honored at an annual personnel recognition luncheon held on the HPU campus. Bobbie Price, certification coordinator and graduation assistant, was named the Outstanding Staff Member while Dr. Bill Fowler, associate professor of Christian studies, was presented the Outstanding Faculty Member award.

The outstanding faculty and staff member awards are made possible by Porter Insurance Agency and Underwood’s Cafeteria, respectively.

Certificates recognizing excellence in teaching were presented to Dr. Danny Brunette-Lopez, associate professor of Spanish and chair of the Department of Modern Languages, and Kathy Hagood, associate professor of English.

Certificates recognizing excellence in service were presented to staff members Rebecca Mainka, mail room and copy center clerk, and Matt Zinser, assistant men’s basketball coach.

Outstanding Faculty Member Bill Fowler for webSpecial plaques commemorating retirement were given to Dr. Mitzi Lehrer, associate professor of education; Dr. Lois Patton, professor of business administration and director of the MBA graduate program; Dr. Les Plagens, dean of the School of Business and professor of business administration; Dr. Allen Reed, professor of music; and Bobbie Jo Stewart, circulation services and music library supervisor.

Also receiving awards were:

Five years of service – Dr. Jennifer Clement, assistant professor of psychology; Laura Coulter, assistant professor and academic services coordinator, tutoring and QEP; Deanna Erxleben, instructor of music; Jill Holamon, administrative assistant for the School of Music and Fine Arts; Lauren Kirk, instructor of education; Gene Kirkpatrick, head athletic trainer; Dr. Joe Robinson, professor of education and director of the instructional leadership graduate program; and Dr. Kenneth Word, professor of mathematics and chair of the Department of Mathematics.

Ten years of service – Corey Ash, associate professor of music and director of bands; Karalee Byrnes, loan coordinator; Dr. Brett Coulter, associate professor of math and director of engineering science; Deborah Dill, administrative assistant for the School of Science and Mathematics; Roger Geise, head football coach; Jodi Goode, assistant vice president for information technology services; Rebecca Mainka, mail room and copy center clerk; Dr. Keith Mask, professor of psychology and chair of the Department of Psychology and Family Studies; Joyce Myers, grants/scholarships coordinator; and Dr. Rusty Wheelington, associate professor of Christian studies.

Fifteen years of service – Mary Griffin, serials coordinator and cataloging assistant; Kathy James, special events coordinator and administrative assistant; Tracy Stansberry, public safety office/sergeant #1; and Patricia Valencia, custodian.

Twenty years of service – Wendy Grooms, associate professor of math; John Nickols, assistant professor of government and history; and Bertha Valle, office manager for HPU’s El Paso Center.

Twenty-five years of service – Brenda Brittain, executive assistant to the provost; Dr. Gerry Clarkson, associate professor of physical science and chair of the Department of Physical Sciences; and Dr. Gary Gramling, professor of Christian studies and director of the graduate program in youth ministry.

Thirty years of service – Mary Dunham, assistant professor of library science and technical services librarian.

Thirty-five years of service – Dr. Robert Mangrum, university historian and professor of government and history.


Photo cutlines:

Bobbie Price, center, received the Outstanding Staff Member Award for the 2014-2015 academic year at HPU. She is pictured with Dr. Bill Ellis, HPU president, left, and Robert Porter, right. The award is made possible by Porter Insurance Agency.

Dr. Bill Fowler, center, was presented the Outstanding Faculty Member Award for the 2014-2015 academic year at HPU. He is pictured with Dr. Bill Ellis, left, and Jill Underwood, right. The award is made possible by Underwood’s Cafeteria.