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HPU invites public to banquet honoring Dr. Leonard Underwood

BROWNWOOD – February 28, 2023 – Howard Payne University recently announced the first Robnett Founders Dinner, an annual event inviting alumni, friends, corporate partners, communities of Brown County and other members of the HPU family to come together to honor an individual who has made a significant impact on the university and in the furtherance of its work in the lives of students. Distinguished Brownwood leader Dr. Leonard Underwood has been named as the first recipient of the Robnett Founders Award and will be recognized at the event, to be held on Thursday, March 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Brownwood Coliseum.

Table reservations and other sponsorship opportunities are available by calling HPU’s Office of Advancement at 325-649-8048 or at The deadline for reservations at the sponsor levels is March 20.

The dinner is named in memory of Dr. John David Robnett, a founder of HPU.

“The Robnett Founders Dinner honors the values of our university by saluting someone who has sacrificially given of himself or herself to further HPU’s Christ-centered mission,” said Dr. Cory Hines, HPU president. “We are pleased that this first Robnett Founders Dinner will honor Dr. Leonard Underwood, a longtime friend of HPU who has served the university in so many ways, including decades of service on HPU boards and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the student experience. I can think of no better way to start this annual series than by recognizing Dr. Underwood, who in so many ways embodies what our university represents.”

While celebrating HPU’s past and present, proceeds from the annual event will also raise funds for an important project on campus. This year’s project of focus is the completion of the renovations of the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom building, for which 80% of the funding has been secured to date. The building houses the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, and the Robnett Founders Dinner will prominently feature the involvement of Academy students and alumni.

The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Jeremiah Johnston, pastor of apologetics and cultural engagement at Plano’s Prestonwood Baptist Church and dean of spiritual development at Prestonwood Christian Academy. Dr. Johnston is a New Testament scholar, author, nationally syndicated radio host and president of Christian Thinkers Society. He has spoken in churches of various denominations and authored articles in popular magazines and scholarly books, journals and media programs.

The event will also feature music by Stephen Cox, a 2010 HPU graduate and 2022 winner of the Grammy Music Educator Award. He was also featured in the School Band and Orchestra Magazine’s“50 Directors Who Make A Difference.” He currently serves as director of bands at the Advanced Learning Academy, Fox Tech and Cast Tech Schools in San Antonio.

A native of Brady, Dr. Leonard Underwood has been a Brownwood resident for more than 75 years. He operated the legendary Underwood’s Bar-B-Q for more than four decades until his retirement in 2001. His two sons continue to operate the family business. Dr. Underwood is a 1962 graduate of Texas A&M University and served as an officer with the U.S. Army Air Defense Command. He has served on numerous boards and civic committees such as ones supporting the Brownwood Independent School District, Good Samaritan Ministries and Big Brothers Big Sisters. He also served a term as president of Brownwood’s Chamber of Commerce. His three decades of service on HPU’s Board of Trustees include two terms as chairman. For 33 years, he has served on the Board of Directors of HPU’s Guy D. Newman Honors Academy. He was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from HPU in 1996. Dr. Underwood is a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Brownwood, where he serves as an active deacon.


Photo: Dr. Leonard Underwood, civic leader and longtime supporter of HPU, will be honored at the inaugural Robnett Founders Dinner, hosted by the university on March 30.

Photo: Dr. Jeremiah Johnston, pastor of apologetics and cultural engagement at Plano’s Prestonwood Baptist Church and dean of spiritual development at Prestonwood Christian Academy, will be the keynote speaker for HPU’s Robnett Founders Dinner.