HPU Announces 2011 Homecoming Honorees
BROWNWOOD – October 6, 2011 – Howard Payne University will recognize nine outstanding alumni and friends of the university during Homecoming weekend, Oct. 14-16.
Six of the awards will be presented during the 2011 Sodexo Alumni Banquet on Friday, Oct. 14 beginning at 6 p.m. in the Beadel Dining Area of the Mabee University Center. The Sports Hall of Fame inductions will be made at the Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Bullion Suites of the Mabee University Center.
Tickets for the Banquets are $16 each and can be purchased by contacting the Alumni Office at 800-950-8465 or 325-649-8069 or by visiting http://alumni.hputx.edu/.
Honorees include Distinguished Alumnus – Ferris Akins ’52; Outstanding Young Graduate – Kyle Cavin ’01; Medal of Service – Ann Sheffield Knobel ’70; Coming Home Queen – Barbara Smith Grooms ’59; and Grand Marshals – T. Carl ’53 and Mildred White ’51 McMillan.
Sports Hall of Fame inductees are Stuart Burleson ’88 – track and football; Melinda Venable Kirst ’78 – volleyball; and Jerry Miller ’70 – football.
Biographies of the honorees follow:
Ferris Akins ’52 – Distinguished Alumnus
Ferris Akins graduated with his bachelor’s degree from HPU in 1952 before receiving Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Divinity degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has since served as pastor of several churches in Ballinger, Early, Cleburne, Covington, Lampasas County and Comanche County. Rev. Akins currently serves as pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Ballinger.
His wife, Grace Ramona (Tennison) Akins, is a 1952 HPU graduate, and their four children also graduated from the university – Ferris “Rick” Akins, Jr. ’75, Andrea (Akins) Harp ’79, Martin Akins ’84 and Ferrisa (Akins) Childs ’86. The couple has 11 grandchildren.
Rev. Akins served as moderator of several Baptist associations, including Runnels Baptist Association on three different occasions. He also served as an HPU trustee, a trustee of the Heart of Texas Baptist Encampment and on several different committees of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He is the past president of the Ballinger Rotary Club and the Ballinger Ministerial Alliance.
Kyle Cavin ’01 – Outstanding Young Graduate
Since graduating in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and religious education, Kyle Cavin has been utilizing his gifts of administration and leadership to make a difference in the lives of children. Cavin served as the children’s pastor at First Baptist Church Midlothian for three years, and then worked as camp administrator of Sabine Creek Ranch in Royse City for two years.
During Cavin’s time at HPU, he was the president of the University Stingers Choir, a member of the Chapel Praise Team and played left tackle for the Yellow Jacket football team. Cavin went on to attain a master’s degree in leadership studies at Dallas Baptist University.
Cavin is currently the assistant director of ambulatory care for Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, one of the nation’s leading pediatric centers for the treatment of orthopedic conditions. He has attained Fellow Status with the American College of Healthcare Executives, the nation’s leading professional society for healthcare leaders.
Cavin attends Lake Pointe Church, where he has taught and led a life group for young married adults the past six years. In 2009, he began serving in the HomePointe ministry which equips families with tools and resources to build a God-honoring home.
Cavin, his wife, Kelley, and their two sons reside in Rockwall.
Ann Sheffield Knobel ’70 – Medal of Service
Ann Sheffield Knobel began her college career at Baylor University in the fall of 1953, but due to drought and financial constraints, had to quit after one semester. She went to visit Dr. Guy D. Newman, then Baylor’s vice president, to tell him she would not be returning to the university. Dr. Newman suggested Knobel visit Howard Payne University. He would become a mentor to the young student and, in 1955, president of HPU.
Knobel took Dr. Newman’s advice, taking just a few classes at a time. With 100-mile drives two to three days a week, a teaching job and five small children, Knobel graduated HPU with an elementary education degree 17 years later. During graduation, Dr. Newman stopped the ceremony and told Knobel’s story. Four years later she received her master’s degree from the University of North Texas.
Knobel was Brownwood’s first kindergarten teacher, and taught at the Hardin School with disadvantaged children for eight years. She later was hired by Dr. Newman and Dr. Gene Johnson to teach early childhood education at HPU from 1975 to 2003. She also founded and taught kindergarten at Stepping Stones Private Primary School and owned and administered Little Dude Ranch Child Development Center.
Knobel has three sons, two daughters (both HPU graduates) and nine grandchildren.
Barbara Smith Grooms ’59 – Coming Home Queen
Born and raised in Brownwood, Barbara Smith Grooms enrolled in Howard Payne College in 1956. In order to help pay tuition, Grooms worked countless hours as one of the PBX operators in the basement of Howard Payne Hall answering telephones.
Upon her graduation in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Grooms accepted a teaching position with Jefferson County Schools in Denver, where she taught for five years. She then returned to Brownwood and married Dwayne Grooms ’65. Mrs. Grooms decided to be a stay-at-home mom to raise their two children, David and LeAnna.
David, his wife, Wendy, who is an associate professor of mathematics, and their two children make their home in Brownwood. LeAnna, who died in 2001 after a 19-month battle with abdominal cancer, served as an elementary music teacher in the Fort Worth-Dallas area for several years.
Retired in 2007, Mrs. Grooms served 26 years at First Baptist Church Brownwood as the pastor’s secretary and later as the financial secretary.
T. Carl ’53 and Mildred White ’51 McMillan – Grand Marshals
T. Carl and Mildred White McMillan met as HPU students in 1951 and will celebrate their 60th anniversary in May 2012. The couple, who have dedicated their lives to education, will serve as the Grand Marshals in this year’s Homecoming Parade.
Mr. McMillan enrolled in HPU in 1949 as a math and education major. He played football and basketball for HPU before graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1953. After graduation, he served for two years as a first lieutenant with the U.S. Army. Mr. McMillan taught math and coached football and basketball for 12 years and worked as a school administrator for 23 years before his retirement in 1990. After his retirement, he taught math and education courses at HPU for two years.
Mrs. McMillan entered HPU in the fall of 1948, and participated in the band, Jacket Co-Ed Club and Future Teachers Club. She graduated in 1951 and began a 24-year career in teaching. The couple moved several times, serving at school districts throughout Texas and New Mexico. While with Lancaster I.S.D., Mrs. McMillan was honored as an “outstanding teacher” three times. She also retired in 1990.
The McMillans moved to Brownwood upon retirement, and have been very active in the community. Mr. McMillan has served as president of the Lions Club, president of the Brown County Retired Teachers Association, chairman of the Good Samaritan Ministries board, chairman of the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) board, a five-year member of the Brownwood City Council and as Brownwood mayor pro tem in 2010-2011. Mrs. McMillan volunteers at Good Samaritan Ministries, Meals on Wheels and with various committees at First Baptist Church of Brownwood. She served as an officer for the Republican Women’s Club and has been a member of the HPU’s Women’s Club, the Delta Kappa Gamma teacher organization and with the Brown County Retired Teachers Association.
The couple has two daughters, both in education, and two grandsons, who are enrolled in college.
Stuart Burleson ’88 – Sports Hall of Fame
A 1988 graduate, Stuart Burleson was one of the last scholarship athletes at HPU. He excelled on the football field, being named All-Conference as a wide receiver, breaking four HPU receiving records in his time. He was also the first HPU receiver to have more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season. He went on to record 1,700 yards receiving and 12 touch downs in his time at Howard Payne
In track, he was a national qualifier in the decathlon and is still the HPU record holder in the high jump at 7 feet, 1¼ inches. He was a five-time national track qualifier (four outdoor and one indoor) and a two-time NCAA II All-American in the high jump.
Melinda Venable Kirst ’78 – Sports Hall of Fame
Melinda Kirst was a member of the first HPU women’s volleyball team in the mid-’70s. She also played a key role in bringing intercollegiate women’s sports to the university, serving on the HPU intercollegiate sports committee as a student. She was co-captain of the HPU volleyball team two seasons and was named outstanding hitter her junior and senior year. She graduated in 1978 and went on to start three high school volleyball programs around the state, amassing nearly 500 career wins.
Kirst has been named district coach of the year four times and her teams have made 13 state playoff appearances. Nine of her teams were also honored with the American Volleyball Coaches Association Academic National Excellence award. She is one of only a handful of women to be a high school athletic director in the state of Texas.
Jerry Miller ’61 – Sports Hall of Fame
A 1961 graduate of HPU, Jerry Miller was an All-Conference and Honorable Mention All-American linebacker on the football field. For a short time, he also participated in track, baseball and basketball for the Yellow Jackets. He was drafted into the NFL by the Denver Broncos but went on to sign with the Houston Oilers. He went into coaching after a knee injury cut his career short. He become the all-time winningest six-man football coach in Texas and was later inducted into the Texas Six-Man Football Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
Among many honors, he has also received the Amarillo Sports Achievement Award, the Fox Sports Southwest Coach Who Makes a Difference award and induction into the Panhandle Football Hall of Fame.