News Archives

Serving God By Serving Others: HPU’s Xavier McFalls leads ministry to athletes

A version of this article originally appeared in the spring 2015 issue of HPU’s Link magazine.

Xavier McFalls feature for webBROWNWOOD – May 15, 2015 – During his freshman year at Howard Payne University, Xavier McFalls stood before his football teammates and told them something that perhaps few young men have the courage to say to one another.

“I told them I love them and God loves them,” he said. “It was definitely intimidating. My knees were shaking, but I think it was important for them to hear that.”

McFalls was a fairly new Christian at the time but felt God encouraging him to speak out about his new-found faith. Now a senior, he continues to answer the call by leading the athlete discipleship ministry through HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry.

McFalls gets to know student-athletes from all sports and helps them get involved in Bible studies, worship services and other various events on campus. He also leads devotionals and helps disciple younger players to become spiritual leaders on their teams.

“I help them learn how to play as Christian athletes and how to ask themselves if they’re glorifying God through their actions,” he said.

Discipleship is important to McFalls, as he spent a lot of time around godly mentors in his hometown of Amarillo. These individuals helped him see the importance of surrounding himself with good Christian influences.

“I wanted to know more and more about God and I wanted to go to a Christian university,” he said.

He learned about HPU through recruiting letters from the football program and scheduled a campus visit.

“It felt like home,” he said. “I knew that I belonged here.”

He entered the university in the fall of 2012 as an exercise and sport science major. That semester, through the encouragement of Christian influences at HPU, he made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ during Encounter Week, the university’s fall revival.

He sought new ways to grow in his service to Christ. At HPU, McFalls is involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is an intern with the college ministry at Brownwood’s Coggin Avenue Baptist Church. He also regularly hosts a Bible study in his apartment on campus.

McFalls has had the opportunity to participate in several mission trips during his time at HPU. For the past two years during Spring Break, he has traveled with a team from HPU to take part in the annual Beach Reach ministry at South Padre Island. He has also participated in two mission trips through Texas Baptists’ Go Now Missions and recently traveled to Alaska for a mission experience with his church.

Keith Platte, director of HPU’s BSM, has known McFalls for two years.

“Xavier is one of the leading examples on campus of how to be a follower of Jesus,” Platte said. “He has a fervor for service, a burden for those who do not have faith in Jesus Christ and a willing attitude.”

Though the idea of being so outspoken among his peers was originally daunting, McFalls said he’s had a good response.

“They respect me because I understand them,” he said. “I spend time with them, live life with them and love them where they are in their lives.”

Platte said that McFalls is a good example to other believers because of his authenticity and faithfulness.

“When he is asked to share his faith, he makes no excuses,” Platte said. “He does it because he sees the need, and because God calls him to obedience in that.”


Photo cutline: HPU student-athlete Xavier McFalls is pictured on the HPU campus.

HPU hosts Congressional Art Competition

congressman conaway and hpu faculty for webBROWNWOOD – May 15, 2015 – Howard Payne University recently hosted the Congressional Art Competition for the 11th Congressional District of Texas. Congressman Mike Conaway and high school students from across the district were on campus for the event.

According to, hundreds of thousands of high school students from around the country have participated in the Congressional Art Competition since it began in 1982. A winning entry from each congressional district is displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol.

“HPU was honored to host this event,” said Dr. Richard Fiese, dean of HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts. “The students are all very talented and we were proud to display their artwork in our Doakie Day Art Center.”

The 2015 winning entries will be posted online at


Photo cutline: Congressman Mike Conaway (right), U.S. Representative for Texas’s 11th congressional district, was recently at HPU for the Congressional Art Competition. He is pictured with Dr. Richard Fiese (left), dean of HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts, and David Harmon, professor and chair of HPU’s Department of Art. Photo by Chandler Condra, HPU senior.

HPU library raises approximately $1,500 through book sale

booksale sign for webBROWNWOOD – May 14, 2015 – A book sale at Howard Payne University’s Walker Memorial Library raised approximately $1,500. The funds will go toward library modernization efforts and other initiatives.

The sale was hosted by the Walker Memorial Library Friends Group and all items were priced between 50 cents and $2.

“We received a great deal of support from the community and we’re very thankful for everyone who came out and purchased books,” said Alexia Riggs, dean of libraries. “We plan to host similar events in the future.”

The remaining items will be donated to Better World Books, an organization that collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide.


Photo cutline: A sign inside HPU’s Walker Memorial Library announces the recent book sale. 

HPU’s Department of English closes semester with trip, lecture

students at parlor lecture for webBROWNWOOD – May 14, 2015 – Near the end of the spring 2015 semester, students and faculty in Howard Payne University’s Department of English attended a trip and lecture both designed to supplement materials taught in class.

Fifteen students and accompanying faculty members first traveled to Tarleton State University in Stephenville for a production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

“The English department theatre trips were always super fun because it allowed us to bond with other English students who are fans of the theatre world,” said Colette Wilcoxen, who graduated this May. “This was my second time to go on one of these trips and I looked forward to them come spring semester.”

The English department then took part in the President’s Parlor Lecture hosted by HPU’s president and first lady, Drs. Bill and Diana Ellis. The guest speaker was Dr. Joy Jordan-Lake, a highly acclaimed author with writings in numerous genres, including such books as Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous: Ten Alarming Words of Faith and Blue Hole Back Home: A Novel.

Having taught at universities in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee, Dr. Jordan-Lake now focuses on writing, while teaching part time at the Honors College of Belmont University. She enjoys speaking at universities, book clubs and conferences across the country.

Dr. Millard Kimery, chair of the Department of English and professor of English, explained the importance of such trips and activities.

“We like to provide our students with opportunities to get to know one another and our faculty members in educational settings outside the classroom,” he said. “These activities enrich our students’ experiences and help them apply and retain what they’re learning in class.”


Photo cutline: Pictured are four of the students who attended the HPU President’s Parlor Lecture featuring guest speaker and author Dr. Joy Jordan-Lake. Left to right: Cherita George, Danielle Parkhurst, Colette Wilcoxen and Kaleigh Tankersley.

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.”