University News

ACU Gets Largest Single Gift From Dukes Estate

The late Dr. Bill and Janie Dukes have given, through their estate, more than $29 million to Abilene Christian University – the largest single academic gift in ACU’s history.

Their generosity will establish the Dr. William P. and Janie B. Dukes Excellence in Finance Endowment, supporting prestigious finance student scholarships, preparing students to attend highly preferred graduate programs and establishing several endowed faculty positions in finance.

In recognition of this historic gift, the university will launch the Dukes School of Finance in the College of Business Administration in 2023.

“This overwhelmingly generous gift presents a permanent base of funding that allows us to resource and dream at a completely new level about the coursework, experiences and outcomes we can offer to our finance students,” said Dr. Brad Crisp, dean of the College of Business Administration.

Bill and Janie Dukes

The late Dr. William “Bill” Dukes (1920-2015) was known as a godly family man, military hero, business leader and academician. His friendship with two former deans of ACU’s College of Business Administration led to this monumental gift for ACU’s business program. Drs. Bill Petty and Jack Griggs were colleagues and longtime friends of Dukes.

“Bill Dukes was a man of great dignity, honor and respect, and he had all the traits you would want in a friend. He was the kind of man you wanted to honor,” Griggs said. “He was constantly searching for excellence in everything that he did. He wanted to be the best. And that’s what he wanted for the finance department with this gift. He wanted it to be the best in its class – now and in the future.”

A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Dukes was married to Janie for 73 years, and they had two daughters, Lynn and Sherry. The couple was preceded in death by their two daughters, and Janie died in June 2022.

Dukes enlisted in the Navy and, upon graduating No. 1 in his class, he chose to enter the Marines as a second lieutenant, receiving combat decorations in 1943 and 1944. His military career took him to numerous assignments around the world. Dukes retired from the Marines as a colonel and was later promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

Bill Dukes

After completing his doctorate and retiring from the Marine Corps, he began his academic career in the finance department in the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University, where he taught for 45 years. During that time he met and formed a close friendship with Petty and Griggs and learned more about Abilene Christian, its College of Business and the university’s mission, which aligned closely with his own values.

“The thoughtful philanthropy of Bill and Janie Dukes will bless students and faculty in ACU’s finance program for years to come,” said Dr. Phil Schubert, ACU president. “Their gift is also a recognition of the historic strength of ACU’s College of Business Administration and its faculty, students and graduates.”

ACU’s finance program currently includes three tenured or tenure-track faculty, 139 students and a Student Trading And Research (STAR) group that manages about $1.7 million in university endowment funds. In addition, the new Swinney Financial Markets Lab, a 40-seat lab with a Bloomberg terminal, opened this fall, and a Financial Management Association chapter launched in 2019.

According to the agreement, the ultimate aim of the Dr. William P. and Janie B. Dukes Excellence in Finance Endowment is “to glorify God by helping populate the world with Christian men and women of influence and ability who understand and live Luke 10:27 – ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.’”

HSU’s Department of Engineering and Abilene Hall

HSU has a goal of raising $11.5M for the start-up of the Department of Engineering and the retrofitting of Abilene Hall. Dr. Matt Jackson, P.E., has been hired as the Dean of the Holland School of Sciences and Mathematics at HSU and will serve as the inaugural Director of Engineering.

“The mission of the program will be to provide an intimate and hands-on engineering education that is both technically proficient and socially minded. We will endeavor to go beyond making our students competent professionals, but to also make responsible global citizens,” Jackson said.

The Texas Workforce Commission predicts that between 2016-2026, demand for mechanical engineers will grow by more than 3,000 positions, an increase of more than 18 percent. Mechanical engineering is a diverse field at the forefront of developing new technologies for several industries, including healthcare, energy, manufacturing, and robotics. To meet the growing need, HSU will offer a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree beginning in the fall of 2023.

Originally built in 1948, Abilene Hall is being retrofitted to house HSU’s engineering program. A materials testing lab, fabrication lab, and fluids dynamic lab will be available fo research and experimentation. A fourth lab will explore the development of new additive manufacturing techniques using 3D metal printing to print various metals together.

HPU Hosts 38th Annual Community Thanksgiving Feast
Area residents and visitors are invited to the 38th annual Community Thanksgiving Feast at Howard Payne University, scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The event will be held at HPU’s Mabee University Center, located at 1219 Fisk Street in Brownwood. North Lake Community Church in May will lead and coordinate the event. 

The traditional Thanksgiving meal will consist of turkey, dressing and all the trimmings.

“We are honored to partner with Howard Payne University in hosting this very special Thanksgiving tradition,” said Pastor Ron Keener of North Lake Community Church. “Everyone is welcome.”

For those unable to join friends and neighbors at HPU, volunteers will deliver meals in Brownwood and Early. Reservations for meals to be delivered can be made by calling the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce at 325-646-9535 by noon on Monday, November 21.

Those interested in volunteering their time can assist with serving food and beverages, boxing meals to go, delivering meals to homes, and cleaning at the Mabee Center after the event. 

Volunteers serve Thanksgiving dinner at Howard Payne University. This year’s event will be held on Thanksgiving Day.

“There are plenty of ways for everyone to serve the community at this event,” said Pastor Keener. “Volunteers simply need to arrive at the Mabee Center at 10:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and we will put them to work. We look forward to seeing many of the same volunteers who have helped for years, as well as those who want to help for the first time. Serving others at Howard Payne has become a Thanksgiving tradition for many people, and we certainly appreciate their help.”

To help support the Thanksgiving meal, please make checks payable to the “Community Thanksgiving Feast,” and send them to Katrina Lynn, Howard Payne University, 1000 Fisk Street, Suite 210, Brownwood, Texas 76801, or bring donations to the Mabee Center on Thanksgiving Day.

Hardin-Simmons and McMurry Issue Joint Statement on Nursing Education
Hardin-Simmons University and McMurry University have reached an agreement that will result in providing West Texas with more nursing school graduates. HSU will establish its own nursing program by 2025, and McMurry will retain the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing name and acquire its assets for its own nursing program. Both nursing programs are dependent on approval by both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the Texas Board of Nursing.

After resolving prior misunderstandings, McMurry confirmed that HSU has fulfilled all duties owed to the School of Nursing as well as to McMurry. As a result of this agreement, both institutions released each other of all claims asserted in the Taylor County District Court litigation and submitted a joint notice of dismissal of claims to terminate the litigation.

The need for more nurses is widely documented, and HSU and McMurry will help to fulfill that
need, especially in West Texas, by providing for two nursing education programs where one exists today. “With today’s agreement, the two universities are able to move forward with independent programs that will increase the number of nurses in the Big Country and beyond.

HSU is excited to create a new nursing program delivered on campus and integrated with the rest of the university,” said Eric Bruntmyer, President of HSU. Sandra Harper, President of McMurry, said, “The establishment of another nursing school is a win for Abilene and will impact the region positively by helping to fill vacant nursing positions. All of us at McMurry are excited to continue our commitment to enhance nursing education by ensuring that Patty Hanks
graduates are prepared to meet diverse patients’ needs and deliver safe, quality patient care.”

During the transition to independent nursing programs, the two institutions will continue as members in the nursing consortium as they have been, except McMurry will become the coordinating institution on December 1, 2022, to allow HSU to focus on developing its own independent nursing program. The transition is expected to be complete by January 2025.

ACU’s NEXT Lab construction permit application accepted for formal review by NRC
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has docketed Abilene Christian University’s Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing Lab construction permit application, placing it under formal regulatory review. The application is the first for a new research reactor in more than 30 years and the first-ever for an advanced university research reactor.

“This is a significant achievement, and I am very proud of the NEXTRA team for producing a quality application, sufficient for NRC docketing,” said Dr. Rusty Towell, director of NEXT Lab and professor in the Department of Engineering and Physics.

After receipt of the construction permit application in August, the NRC conducted a thorough acceptance review. The application is now formally docketed, and the NRC will begin a detailed safety and environmental review. ACU’s Molten Salt Research Reactor (MSRR) is the only research reactor currently under review by the NRC, and it is the first and only liquid-fueled reactor ever to be reviewed by the NRC. It’s also one of only two advanced nuclear reactor applications currently under review with the NRC.

ACU is the lead university in the NEXT Research Alliance (NEXTRA), which includes Georgia Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin. NEXTRA has a $30.5 million research agreement with Natura Resources to design and build a university-based molten salt research reactor. Demonstrating the successful licensure of an advanced reactor with the NRC is one of the primary goals of this project. After spending more than two years in pre-licensing activities, the docketing of ACU’s MSRR application marks the beginning of the NRC’s formal technical review.

Construction of the Gayle and Max Dillard Science Engineering Research Center continues on track for completion in the summer of 2023. The 28,000-square-foot facility will house NEXT Lab and the MSRR, as well as provide dedicated spaces for research in chemistry, physics and engineering.

North-facing view of construction on Gayle and Max Dillard Science Engineering Research Center at ACU. Contributed photo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.