News Archives: Alumni Relations

HPU library displays Nativity scenes donated by Lumans of Columbus

BROWNWOOD – December 13, 2018 – A collection of Nativity sets from around the world are on display at Howard Payne University’s Walker Memorial Library. The pieces were donated by Howard Payne University alumnus Merrill J. Luman and his wife of 68 years, Elaine. The couple resides in Columbus.

The collection includes approximately 75 Nativity sets from 30 different countries, including Brazil, China, former Czechoslovakia, Israel and South Africa. Each of the sets is unique in design, some having been made of gold or silver, while others were carved out of wood or molded from clay. Many of the Nativities were designed by well-known artists whose cultures can be seen reflected in their distinct depictions of the infant Jesus and His family.

“Every time we made a trip,” Mrs. Luman said, “we got at least one Nativity from every country. Every nation had its own take on the features of the Nativity.”

These diverse artistic interpretations of the story of Christ’s birth are a reflection of the broad nature of the good news of His coming. All the Nativities bear that in common. Each serves as a reminder of the miraculous birth of Christ and the eternal impact it has for all of humankind.

The Lumans’ love for Nativities originated from Mrs. Luman’s appreciation for the season of Christmas. They received their first Nativity in 1968 as a gift celebrating the birth of their youngest son. Their appreciation for Nativities paired well with their love of travel and a remarkable collection was born.

Mr. and Mrs. Luman expressed their desire to leave behind a lasting legacy through their collection.

“We wanted to make sure that, when we are gone, they are in a place where people can enjoy them as much as we have enjoyed them,” said Mr. Luman.

After approximately 50 years of collecting these Nativities, the Lumans admitted letting them go was bittersweet and some tears were shed.

“Merrill and I just love them because they hold so many memories for us,” Mrs. Luman said.

Even so, the Lumans are glad to know their treasured pieces will be seen by many at HPU.

“It’s the birth of our savior,” Mr. Luman said. “If this helps more people to know about the birth of Jesus, or just to think about the birth of our savior, that makes it very important to us.”

Pieces of the collection are already on display in cases located in HPU’s Walker Memorial Library. The Nativities can be viewed by the public from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The library will be closed for the Christmas holidays from December 19 until January 1. The library plans to display more of the Nativities on a year-round basis. The Lumans have expressed their desire to ultimately give their entire Nativity collection to HPU.


Cutline: A porcelain Nativity scene from China, based on the Japanese art of origami, is on display at the HPU library. The set is part of a collection donated by Merrill J. Luman ’50 and his wife, Elaine.

HPU graduate Karli Conrad ’18 serving as campus missionary intern

BROWNWOOD – November 19, 2018 – Howard Payne University graduate Karli Conrad is serving with the HPU Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) as campus missionary intern for the 2018-2019 school year.

Conrad, a native of Katy, graduated from HPU in May 2018 with a degree in marketing. As a student, she was active in the BSM, serving as a leader and in the senior adult ministry. She also was a member of the Student Activities Council, the Student Planning Committee and business leadership organization Phi Beta Lambda.

She initially had other plans following graduation but felt led to change them as her final year at HPU drew to a close.

“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after college and was kind of on the fast track to an internship at a corporation in Houston,” said Conrad. “Then God called me to go into a ministry position to serve HPU. When Keith [Platte, director of HPU’s BSM] mentioned the position and asked if I would be interested, I said no initially, but then God changed my heart.”

Keith Platte noted that Conrad has been an immediate contributor to the functions of the BSM.

“She is a very welcoming, inviting person,” he said. “Students find it easy to open up and talk to Karli. She has a passion to see people grow in Christ, to become disciples and disciple-makers.”

The initial adjustment from student to worker was somewhat difficult for her. She had to adapt to her new role as a guide and mentor, rather than a peer, to students. However, she saw the importance of the position, and her recent status as a student made her more relatable to current students. She has enjoyed flipping sides in the student/staff equation.

“I like it because I’m very goal-driven,” she said, “and my goal for students is for them to know Christ and then go out to make Christ known,” she said. “If I can help in any way and plant seeds like the Lord wants me to, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

There are many ministry opportunities available to students through the BSM. Opportunities include mission fundraising events, free meals for all students, student-led worship nights, on-campus fellowship groups for students and various outreach opportunities in the local community.

“Being active with the BSM can help in your personal walk, growing with Christ,” said Conrad. “To get involved is to be in communion, to be together with your peers in a tight-knit ministry that is so rewarding.”

Applications are still being accepted for the spring 2019 semester at Howard Payne University ( HPU offers a variety of financial aid options, including scholarships for students from Brown County and surrounding counties. For more information about HP U, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at 325-649-8020 or by e-mail at


Cutline: HPU graduate Karli Conrad ’18 is working as the campus missionary intern for the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters.

HPU thanks 2018 Homecoming attendees, volunteers and sponsors

HPU Homecoming 2018 ParadeBROWNWOOD – November 14, 2018 – Following a fun and active Homecoming weekend, Howard Payne University expressed its appreciation to the many individuals, groups and business who contributed to the weekend’s success. HPU Homecoming 2018: The Carnival of Blue and Gold was held November 2-3 with approximately 750 alumni and area guests in attendance.

“It was exciting to welcome a large group of HPU alumni and other guests from the community,” said Laura Benoit, director of alumni relations. “Our volunteers worked hard to make sure the event was fun for everyone and, of course, we couldn’t have a successful event without the many wonderful businesses who partnered with us to make Homecoming a special time for the HPU family.”

Gold-level sponsors included Brownwood-Area Chamber of Commerce, Bruner Auto Group, Underwood’s Cafeteria, Visit Early Texas, Wendlee Broadcasting and Willie’s T’s. Navy-level sponsors were Brookshire’s, Dr Pepper Bottling, Marsh & McLennan Companies – Brian Borovay and Daniel Prescott, Mills County State Bank, TexasBank and United Supermarkets. White-level sponsors included Adidas, Citizens National Bank, Double H Mercantile, PF&E Oil Company and Porter Insurance Agency. Partner sponsors were Painter & Johnson Financial and Smith & Sharpe Agencies.


Cutline: HPU alumni and community members lined the streets for the Homecoming parade. Pictured here are Buzzsaw, HPU’s Yellow Jacket mascot, and the HPU cheerleaders.

Ramirez and Ramos crowned HPU Homecoming Queen and Princess

Ramos, Dodds and Ramirez for webBROWNWOOD – November 2, 2018 – Angelica Ramirez, senior from Austin, and Sarah Ramos, junior from Pflugerville, were crowned Howard Payne University’s Homecoming Queen and Princess during a ceremony held today on campus.

Ramirez, the daughter of Jesus L. Ramirez I and Kimberly Ramirez, is a biology major. She serves as chaplain for Delta Chi Rho and Tri Beta and is a Student Government Association senior senator, a resident assistant and a college outreach intern at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church.

Ramos, the daughter of Eric and Anna Ramos, is a business management major. Her campus involvement includes Delta Chi Rho, Jacket Ambassadors and Student Activities Council. Additionally, she serves as a Jacket Journey leader and as a student worker in HPU’s Office of Admission.

The Homecoming Court will be featured during the halftime show of the football game as HPU takes on Southwestern University on Saturday, November 3. The game begins at 4 p.m. at Gordon Wood Stadium.


Cutline: Angelica Ramirez, left, and Sarah Ramos, right, were named HPU’s Homecoming Queen and Princess, respectively. They are pictured with Karen Coppock Dodds, HPU’s 2018 Coming Home Queen.

HPU announces change in location for Homecoming bonfire, fireworks display

BROWNWOOD – October 31, 2018 – Howard Payne University has changed the venue for its Homecoming bonfire and fireworks display. The event will now take place at the Bert V. Massey II Sports Complex in Brownwood.

The festivities will kick off at 8:45 p.m. on Friday, November 2, with a pep rally. The bonfire will begin at 9 p.m. and the fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

For a complete list of Homecoming 2018 activities, visit

HPU theatre to present “Missing Link” during Homecoming 2018

Missing Link for webBROWNWOOD – October 30, 2018 – Howard Payne University’s Department of Theatre will present “Missing Link” by Jack Sharkey in conjunction with HPU’s Homecoming 2018 festivities. Performances are this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. each evening at HPU’s Mims Auditorium.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children and students and are available for purchase at the door on the evenings of the performances.

“The story takes place in 1975 and revolves around Lindy Baxter who, 30 years earlier at the age of 16, pledged her eternal love to Lincoln Sinclair,” said Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld, chair of HPU’s Department of Theatre and professor of theatre. “Link went off to World War II and has not returned so, for 30 years, Lindy has been ‘missing Link.’ After a trip down the stairs, Lindy meets orthopedist, Simon Fletcher, and they eventually decide to marry. Of course, the day before the wedding, guess who shows up! With a convoluted plot and lots of fun action, ‘Missing Link’ can be enjoyed by people of all ages.”

Cast members include Taylor Davis, junior from Alvin; David “Zeke” Frost, freshman from Bertram; Hailey Green, senior from Kennedale; Sara Heinrichs, sophomore from Hico; Michael Hord, sophomore from Montgomery; Bryce McWhirter, junior from Pflugerville; Alek Mendoza, freshman from Bangs; Deejay Moses, junior from May; Laurel Pinkney, sophomore from Carrollton; and Cassia Rose, senior from Winnsboro. Dr. Humfeld is directing the play and additional crew members include Dr. Nicholas Ewen, assistant professor of theatre; Jake Bowren, junior from San Antonio; and Shannon Sheehan, senior from Brownwood.

For more information about “Missing Link,” contact HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts at 325-649-8500. More than 30 other events are scheduled for HPU’s Homecoming. For complete details and the latest schedule information, visit or contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 325-649-8007 or via e-mail at


Cutline: HPU will present “Missing Link” by Jack Sharkey in conjunction with HPU’s Homecoming 2018 festivities. Left to right: Cassia Rose, Alek Mendoza, Michael Hord, Hailey Green, Sara Heinrichs and Deejay Moses. Photo by Katie Cravey, HPU junior.

Garland’s Marvin “Doc” Utecht named to HPU’s Sports Hall of Fame

Marvin Doc Utecht for webBROWNWOOD – October 29, 2018 – Marvin “Doc” Utecht of Garland has been named to Howard Payne University’s Sports Hall of Fame. He is among eight who will be honored during HPU’s Homecoming 2018 festivities, November 2-3. Additional honorees are listed at

Utecht and the other honorees will be recognized during the Alumni & Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on Friday, November 2, beginning at 5:45 p.m. The honorees will also be featured in the Homecoming Parade on Saturday, November 3, beginning at 10 a.m. Ticket information for the banquet and a full schedule of the weekend’s events are available online at

Utecht graduated from HPU in 1970 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. He went on to complete a Master of Education degree from Stephen F. Austin University and received his Mid-Management Certification from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University – Commerce).

At HPU, he was a four-year basketball letterman (1965-1969), a track letterman for two years (1969-1970) and a letterman on the football team during the 1969 season. He played basketball for Coach Glen Whitis and was an integral player on some of the most recognized teams in HPU history. The 6’7” Utecht was a great shooter, known for his leaping ability.

During his basketball career, the Yellow Jackets won the Lone Star Conference championship and the teams on which he played were nationally ranked in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). After completing his eligibility in basketball, he joined the track team for the 1969 season participating in the javelin, hurdles and jumping events. He won numerous times and set the HPU record in the javelin. Utecht also set a record in the 440 intermediate hurdles with a time of 52.3.

He went on to compete at the national level at the 1970 NAIA National Championships in Billings, Montana, where he competed in the ten-event decathlon. Utecht earned the honor of being fourth in the nation just behind the eventual Olympic champion, Bruce Jenner. During that decathlon event, he broke a NAIA decathlon record in the 110-meter high hurdles with a time of 14.8.

Utecht also joined the football team during his fifth year at HPU, lettering as a wide receiver.

He has served as a teacher, administrator and as an assistant superintendent at various school districts in Texas and coached high school football, basketball, track and golf. In 2001, he retired from Garland ISD as the executive director of building and construction. He then went on to serve on the Dallas Appraisal District for Dallas County for 10 years.

“I came to HPU as a very shy young man with few experiences beyond the small town in which I lived all my life,” he said. “College opened up a whole new world of possibilities and, for the first time, I could see myself having an opportunity to be whatever I chose to be. My HPU coaches helped me to become the leader for students who I would teach and coach in the future years as I became an educator.”

He and his wife, Julie Utecht, attend First Baptist Church of Garland. They have two children and five grandchildren.


Cutline: Marvin “Doc” Utecht of Garland has been named to HPU’s Sports Hall of Fame.

HPU choir students and alumni to present Homecoming concert

Alumni choir concert for webBROWNWOOD – October 26, 2018 – Howard Payne University’s School of Music and Fine Arts will present a Homecoming choir concert at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 3, in the university’s Mims Auditorium. All HPU alumni choristers are invited to participate in the program.

During the concert, the alumni choir will present Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of “Simple Gifts” and then join the HPU Concert Choir for “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name” by Tom Fettke. The HPU Concert Choir will also present selections from its upcoming fall program titled Ketubah: Feast of the Bridegroom. Rehearsal for alumni choir concert will take place Saturday, November 3, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in Mims Auditorium. Alumni who are interested in participating will be provided music and more information upon registration.

“HPU’s choral program has a rich heritage and the audience is in for a real treat,” said Dr. Christopher Rosborough ’08, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities. “We look forward to seeing different generations joining in song.”

If you are interested in taking part in this event, register at and follow the prompts to sign up for the HPU alumni choir. Information about additional HPU Homecoming festivities is located at the same web address.


Cutline: HPU’s Dr. Christopher Rosborough directs student and alumni choristers during the Homecoming 2017 choir concert.

Kerrville’s James Williamson named to HPU’s Sports Hall of Fame

James Williamson for webBROWNWOOD – October 26, 2018 – James Williamson of Kerrville has been named to Howard Payne University’s Sports Hall of Fame. He is among eight who will be honored during HPU’s Homecoming 2018 festivities, November 2-3. Additional honorees are listed at

Williamson and the other honorees will be recognized during the Alumni & Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on Friday, November 2, beginning at 5:45 p.m. The honorees will also be featured in the Homecoming Parade on Saturday, November 3, beginning at 10 a.m. Ticket information for the banquet and a full schedule of the weekend’s events are available online at

Williamson graduated from HPU in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He was a student in HPU’s Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom (now the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy) and was active in student government, serving terms as class president and class treasurer. He was also a Student Supreme Court member and a Democracy in Action committee member, and he represented HPU at the Dallas Council on World Affairs. Additionally, he was listed in the “Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities” publication and in the “Outstanding College Athletes of America” publication.

Williamson, a four-year football letterman, was a record-setting punter for the HPU Yellow Jackets. In an era before specialized kickers, Williamson went on to hold Lone Star Conference records in punting in 1966, 1967 and 1968. During his freshman year at HPU, he was named “Texas Punter of the Year” by the Dallas Morning News and in 1966-67 was named the “All-Texas Punter of the Year.” During his senior year in 1969, he had the longest punt in the history of HPU (79 yards). This record was not broken until 2012.

Williamson’s punting average was among the top in the nation every year. He holds HPU’s single-season punting average record of 45.5 yards per punt (58 attempts) set in 1967. He also holds the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national record for total number of punts (277) and total yardage (11,849).

He signed a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints in June 1970. He also played the 1972 season with the Omaha Mustangs, a semi-pro team, booting 13 punts 568 yards, setting a league record with an average of 43.5 yards.

Williamson is a past member of the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy Board of Directors and served as president of HPU’s Alumni Association. He created the James L. Williamson Endowed Scholarship for students in HPU’s School of Business.

“HPU prepared me for future successes by instilling in me a respect for the Constitution, love of our country and honor for our military,” he said. “I learned right from wrong and was taught that work is good and giving is too.”

In addition to a stint as HPU’s vice president for development, Williamson has served many years in the insurance field. He and his wife, Jeanie Lambert Williamson, celebrated 50 years of marriage in May 2018. They have three children and six grandchildren.


Cutline: James Williamson of Kerrville has been named to HPU’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Dr. Benjamin Abraham named HPU’s Homecoming 2018 Distinguished Alumnus

Dr. Benjamin Abraham for webBROWNWOOD – October 25, 2018 – Dr. Benjamin Abraham of Snellville, Georgia, has been named Howard Payne University’s Homecoming 2018 Distinguished Alumnus. He is among eight who will be honored during HPU’s Homecoming 2018 festivities, November 2-3. Additional honorees are listed at

Dr. Abraham and the other honorees will be recognized during the Alumni & Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on Friday, November 2, beginning at 5:45 p.m. The honorees will also be featured in the Homecoming Parade on Saturday, November 3, beginning at 10 a.m. Ticket information for the banquet and a full schedule of the weekend’s events are available online at

Originally from Indonesia, Dr. Abraham earned the Bachelor of Arts degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from HPU in 1974. He went on to study at The University of Texas at Arlington and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

He is board-certified by the Osteopathic Board of Family Practice in Geriatrics, the American Medical Directors Association for Medical Directorship and the American Osteopathic Board of Family Practice. He is currently in private practice in Georgia.

Dr. Abraham serves on a number of committees and professional societies. He is the founder and president of 127 Legacy Foundation, which assists orphanages and children’s homes across Indonesia. He has also served as a short-term missionary in Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Russia, China, Senegal and Tanzania.

His recognitions include the Master Preceptor Award from American Osteopathic Family Physicians, Physician of the Year by the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce, Physician of the Year at Eastside Medical Center and The Humanitarian Award by the Hospital Corporation of America.

He has four children, five grandchildren and two foster grandchildren.

“HPU equipped me with basic knowledge to pursue my passion in medicine,” he said. “Coming from Indonesia, the English language was a challenge and HPU helped with that. The university challenged me to be the best through determination, perseverance, discipline, dedication and hard work. The rest was God’s doing.”


Cutline: Dr. Benjamin Abraham of Snellville, Georgia, has been named HPU’s Homecoming 2018 Distinguished Alumnus.