History of HPU

The early years

Howard Payne College was founded at Indian Creek on June 20, 1889, by members of the Pecan Valley Baptist Association and Rev. Noah Turner Byars and Dr. John David Robnett. They named the college after the first major benefactor, Edward Howard Payne, the brother-in-law of Dr. Robnett. HPC held its first classes in 1890 and five years later granted its first degree to J.D. Robnett. In 1915, the yellow jacket was chosen by Carrie (Camp) Allen as the university mascot.

Dr. Thomas H. Taylor led the university through the Great Depression, which began just two months into his presidency. According to Dr. Robert Mangrum, HPU historian, it was made apparent to Dr. Taylor at the 1930 Texas Baptist convention that the BGCT had decided to close the institution due to an inability to continue funding. Dr. Mangrum writes that a faculty prayer meeting was held when Dr. Taylor returned to Brownwood and it was decided that HPC would operate with the receipts and endowment interest with no deficits.

In 1953, Daniel Baker College, a Presbyterian college located in Brownwood and founded in the same year as Howard Payne, consolidated with HPC. After leading the college through the hardship of the Great Depression and helping the campus expand, Dr. Taylor retired as president. He was the university’s longest-serving president after 26 years in the role.

Second half of the 20th Century

Following Dr. Taylor’s retirement, Dr. Guy D. Newman was named president of the university. As president, Dr. Newman founded the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom. Now called the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, the program continues to be housed in the Academy of Freedom building. Dr. Newman retired in 1972.

In October 1974, under the presidency of Dr. Roger Brooks, Howard Payne College became Howard Payne University.

Dr. Don Newbury ’61 served as the president of HPU from 1985 to 1997. During his presidency, the university increased enrollment significantly and underwent numerous facility upgrades and additions. Due to his penchant for sharing popcorn with students from home neat campus, he is fondly remembered as the “Popcorn President.” Also, during Dr. Newbury’s presidency, the university announced a newly designed mascot, “Buzzsaw,” in 1996.

The new millennium

HPU experienced one of its most significant athletics successes during the 2000s. During the 2008-2009 season, the HPU women’s basketball team went 33-0 and capped their perfect season by winning the 2008 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball National Championship.

In 2019, Dr. Cory Hines ’97 was named president at HPU. Ground was broken for the Newbury Family Welcome Center in 2020, with construction scheduled for completion in spring 2022. Additionally, the university began restoring the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom’s wings in 2020.

Numerous other campus improvement projects were completed in 2020 and 2021, including renovations of the Veda Hodge Residence Hall lobby, the Newbury Place Student Apartments and the lobbies of the Guy D. Newman Hall of American Ideals.

The university unveiled a new visual identity in the fall of 2021, consisting of new logos for the university and athletics, as well as a redesign of the Buzzsaw mascot.

Dr. Robert Mangrum published an account of HPU’s history titled “For Howard Payne My All: 125 Years of Christian Higher Education and Service, 1889-2015.” The book, which took 17 years to write, celebrates the university’s history since its founding in 1889. It is available for $30 on DVD or USB flash drive at HPU’s Stinger Store in the Mabee University Center. All proceeds from the book’s sales support an academic scholarship at HPU.

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