Hardin-Simmons University



Drs. Robert and Teresa Ellis help Virginia Connally celebrate her 105th birthday Dec. 4 at Copper Creek restaurant. They were among many friends of Connally’s from her alma mater, Hardin-Simmons University. Photo by Loretta Fulton

By Loretta Fulton

“And we hope you have many more.”

That toast to Dr. Virginia Connally, Abilene’s first female physician, ended a special celebration Dec. 4 of her 105th birthday. Connally’s daughter, Genna, who lives in Waco, joined friends in Abilene for the celebration.

A special gift to Connally from her alma mater, Hardin-Simmons University, was the Jesse C. Fletcher Award for Distinguished Service in Missions. Robert Ellis, interim dean of the Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons, presented Connally with a citation, written by former HSU President Lanny Hall.

Part of the citation read by Ellis cited the Great Commission, Jesus’ directive to his disciples to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” according to the King James Version of the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, verse 19.

Connally, a member of First Baptist Church since she was a student at Hardin-Simmons in the early 1930s, is a long time supporter of missions. She served on medical missions in Venezuela during her years of practice, from 1940 to 1982.

Connally, who was born Ada Virginia Hawkins Dec. 4, 1912, in Temple, earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and education from then-Simmons University in 1933. She returned to Abilene in 1940 after earning a medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine and serving an internship and residency at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Her first office was located in the Mims Building downtown, where she specialized in diseases of the eye, ear, nose, and throat. She retired in 1982.

Among her medical highlights were serving as the first female chief of staff at Hendrick Medical Center and the now-closed St. Ann Hospital, serving medical missions to Venezuela, receiving the 2004 Pioneer in Medicine award at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Taylor-Jones-Haskell County Medical Society, now the Big Country County Medical Society, and receiving the Distinguished Service Award in 2012 from the Texas Medical Association.

Of equal importance to Connally was her interest in missions. In 1981, Connally and her late husband, Ed Connally, established the Connally Endowed Professorship of Missions at Hardin-Simmons. Virginia Connally provided the lead gift to establish the Connally Missions Center at Hardin-Simmons, which was dedicated in 2000.

Ellis noted in the citation that the Great Commission seal is displayed just above the entrance to the Connally Missions Center.

“The Connally Missions Center is a constant reminder to Hardin-Simmons and Logsdon students,” Ellis read, “that we are all obedient to the Great Commission today.”








Click on link below to see Allison Ball, a Hardin-Simmons University physical therapy student, in a promotional video for Joni & Friends, a foundation to raise money and awareness about disabilities. Ball also was invited to speak to donors to the foundation in October.
Click on link below to learn more about funding a Hardin-Simmons University mission trip to Peru.

By Loretta Fulton

Appearing in a fundraising video for a foundation that advocates for people with disabilities and speaking to a donor meeting in California came naturally to Allison Ball, a second-year student in the Hardin-Simmons University physical therapy program.

She knew firsthand what she was talking about. Ball’s brother suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car wreck when he was younger. Now a student a McLennan Community College, he is doing well. But the experience left Ball with a desire to help people in similar situations, so it was no wonder that she was the perfect person to be an advocate.

“A lot of it, I could relate to,” Ball said.

Ball, from Arlington, was invited in October to fly with her husband to California to talk to donors to Joni & Friends, a foundation started by Joni Eareckson Tada, who in 1967 suffered a diving injury that left her a quadriplegic. In 2010, she suffered another setback when she was diagnosed with breast cancer but today still keeps an active ministry schedule.

The Hardin-Simmons Department of Physical Therapy partners with Joni & Friends to offer a course titled, “Beyond Suffering.” According to the Joni & Friends website, people with disabilities are considered one of the world’s largest under-represented groups. One of the primary goals of the “Beyond Suffering” is to address this issue by preparing leaders in ministry, education, medicine and science to become involved in this life-changing ministry.

The course shows what disability ministry looks like, Ball said. One thing she learned is that most churches are not prepared to welcome people with disabilities.

“That was  a surprise to me,” she said.

“Beyond Suffering” is taught is six one-hour sessions in the Hardin-Simmons program. The course ended in June and was followed by students participating in a family camp near Houston and then in a mission trip to Peru.

In October, Ball was invited to speak to the Joni & Friends donors in California about that trip and to appear in a promotional video. The summer trip to Peru was a first for Ball. She had been on a mission trip to Louisiana as a high school student but had never been on a trip like the one to Peru. That kind of opportunity was a draw for her when deciding which physical therapy school to attend.

“That was one of the big reasons I chose Hardin-Simmons,” she said.

Ball, who earned her bachelor’s degree at Baylor University, is focusing on neuro-developmental pediatrics in physical therapy school and plans a career working with children suffering such disabilities as Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy.

The trip to Peru was a first for Ball, but definitely not a last. Ball learned how to incorporate ministry with her work and to practice what she had learned in the “Beyond Suffering” course, which focused on compassion and a bringing a positive perspective.

“You literally get to be the hands and feel of Jesus,” Ball said.







Jonathan Storment, preaching minister at Highland Church of Christ, addresses Hardin-Simmons University students during a forum Nov. 7. Photo by Loretta Fulton

By Loretta Fulton

“Is Christianity intolerant?”

Yes, and we should be thankful for that. Christianity makes us intolerant of racism, super-nationalism, and other “isms” that are hurtful.

“Praise God, it makes us intolerant of certain things,” said Jonathan Storment, preaching minister at Highland Church of Christ.

Storment was one of the speakers for a student-led forum called “Inquire” Nov. 7 at Hardin-Simmons University. Five questions were covered during the day: Is Christianity intolerant? Is Scripture reliable? Does the reality of suffering prove that God doesn’t exist? What’s God’s will for my life? and What’s God’s design for my sexuality?

Other speakers in addition to Storment were Daniel Rangel, with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Andy Flink, and Stan Allcorn, pastor of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church.

When wondering whether Christianity is intolerant, look at Genesis, Storment said. Genesis Chapter 1 was not written to argue with Darwin, Storment said, but to show that only God deserves our worship.

Genesis tells of the Pharaoh believing in nine gods. The one true God sent 10 plagues to destroy Pharaoh’s dynasty.

“If you want to know where the Bible is intolerant,” Storment said, “it’s on idolatry.”

Storment suggested that asking whether Christianity or the Bible or the church is intolerant might be the wrong question. Yes, Christianity is intolerant of false gods, or idols, but Christians shouldn’t be intolerant of people who worship those instead of God.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute is a biblical mandate. Storment posed a different question:

“How are you going to treat people on the other side of the boundary?” he asked.

The “Inquire” forum was put together by a team of Hardin-Simmons students. One of the leaders, Molly Warren, a senior from Indiana, said the team wanted students to be inspired to inquire about their faith.

“We want them to really ask questions about why they believe what they believe,” she said in a news release from Hardin-Simmons.

Warren said she and other students struck up a conversation last spring about asking the questions that were posed at the forum, plus others. Many of her friends have analytical minds, and she wanted them to know that it is OK to ask those questions.

“Loving God with all your mind is a huge part of their faith walk,” Warren said.

The team of students posed their plan to Travis Craver, HSU chaplain, who gave them the green light. From there, the team whittled an original list of 30 questions to five and lined up speakers. Then, Warren said, they turned it over to God.

“Lord, we’re just being obedient,” they prayed. “We’re going to work hard, but you’ve got to make this a success.”

Warren, a business administration major, said a high school friend, who was a pre-med major, died after his freshman year in college. He was a strong believer but had an analytical mind, Warren said.

Conversations with him, and HSU friends who also are analytical thinkers, gave her the insight to see that people of faith need to understand that it’s OK to ask questions–God can handle it.

“God is not scared of our tough questions,” Warren said.










Photos courtesy Hardin-Simmons University

By Loretta Fulton

Usually, if a split occurs between a Baptist university and an affiliate state convention, it’s the university that fires the first shot.

It wasn’t that way in 2005 when the Georgia Baptist Convention severed its ties with Mercer University, Dr. R. Alan Culpepper, retired dean of the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer, told guests Oct. 17 during a dialogue at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology. The convention ended its ties and its $3 million a year in support, Culpepper said.

“They couldn’t control it,” he said, “so they weren’t going to pay for it.”

Culpepper, who served as dean of the McAfee School of Theology from its founding in 1995 to 2015, spoke on a range of topics at the dialogue, which was squeezed in between his lectures as guest speaker for the George Knight Lectures Oct. 16-17.

His opening lecture was titled, “Creation Ethics in the Gospel of John.” The second lecture was titled, “The Knowledge of God: Prophetic Vision and Johannine Theme.”

Culpepper first spoke for the Knight Lectures 14 years ago in 2003. He joked that he would see everyone again in another 14 years, in 2031. In visiting with students, faculty, and guests, Culpepper said that many colleges with historical roots in the church are moving away from those roots.

Most of the universities founded in the southeastern part of the United States between 1825 and 1850 were started by a religious denomination, Culpepper said, because the founders wanted to provide a classical and theological education.

“They wanted an educated ministry,” Culpepper said.

By the 1960s, those colleges were moving away from their roots. Hardin-Simmons, with its ties to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and other denominational colleges are providing an important niche, Culpepper said.

“There is an opportunity for dialogue that involves religion and religious issues that’s both affirming and critical,” he said.

Culpepper grew up in a missionary family, living in Argentina and Chile. He later attended a church pastored by the renowned John Claypool.

“I had the Cadillac of Baptist upbringing,” he said.

Even so, he did not have a sense of patterns in the the scriptures. He didn’t learn that in church, and that is why a theological education is so important.

“I didn’t get that in church,” he said, “I got that in a freshman survey class.”

The face of a seminary has changed drastically over the years, Culpepper said. Some seminarians are not from Christian homes and didn’t grow up in the church. Also, there has been an erosion in basic liberal arts competency, he said, so that theological education has to start from a different point than it did 20 to 40 years ago.

Theology professors have to recognize that challenge and what it means for the future of theological education. Information today is accessed differently and is being used differently, he said. We live in an American society that is suspicious of authority and of religious leadership, Culpepper said, “but with a real sense of spiritual need.”

The question is, “How will the religious community help people achieve that quest for spirituality?” Cupepper cited Ephesians 4:12, which refers to the equipping of saints, or the whole church, for ministry. Generally, he said, “equipping” translates to providing gear or tools need for a task.

But, Culpepper said, the same Greek word also means “mending their nets.” So, perhaps the church should be thinking about “mending the saints for ministry” instead of supplying them with gear.

“We need to help them become whole persons,” he said, and how that’s done may shape the future of higher education.





David Kirika, 27, tells his story of surviving poverty in Kenya as a child, thanks to Compassion International. The photo in the background is David as a child after he got into school in Africa, thanks to Compassion International. Photo by Loretta Fulton

For more information on Compassion International and Youth Arise Africa, go to the following websites:



By Loretta Fulton

The message projected on the screen was bleak.

“Poverty is not a lack of material wealth; it’s lack of hope.”

The speaker behind the PowerPoint presentation was David Kirika, 27, a native of Kenya who knows all too well what poverty means. When he was 2 years old, his parents separated. He lived with his mother, who married a man who did not love David.

Within a span of 18 months, David lost his brother, mother, and stepfather to the HIV/AIDS virus.

“At this point I lost hope,” David said in a chapel presentation at Hardin-Simmons University on Oct. 10.

But that was not the end of David’s story. Now 27, David lives in Colorado Springs, where he is director of Youth Arise Africa, a nonprofit that aims to instill godly principles in the next generation of Africans through mentorship.

David was rescued from his bleak life through another nonprofit, Compassion International, whose motto is “Releasing Children From Poverty in Jesus’ Name.” He spoke on behalf of Compassion International at HSU, issuing a plea for students and faculty to sign up to sponsor a child–a child just like he was.

The transformation that David went through, thanks to being sponsored through Compassion International, was nothing short of miraculous. David was introduced at the chapel service by Grey Hoff, assistant to the president for university marketing and global engagement at Hardin-Simmons, introduced David.

“This man has the fingerprints of God in his life,” Hoff said.

David knew physical, as well as spiritual, poverty as a child. He watched children die of starvation in their mother’s lap, he witnessed people digging deeper and deeper into garbage dumps in search of food or something to sell. He knew a boy who woke up one morning next to his dead sister.

After David’s mother and stepfather died, he was taken in by grandparents. Twelve people lived in a two-room house the size of an American bedroom. On most mornings, his “breakfast” was a glass of water–that’s all he had to sustain him for the three-mile walk to school.

David went through a long period of doubting God’s love for him.

But at age 9, the miracle began to happen. He was sponsored through Compassion International by a boy a year younger than himself, Aaron Mitchell, who lived in Florida with his family. Through Compassion International, David saw his dream realized–he was going to high school.

And, for the first time in his life, he got new shoes, something that made him so happy he wanted to sleep in them. But he still didn’t connect his good fortune with the God he was doubting.

“I couldn’t understand any of this about God,” he said.

Then, a setback occurred. He didn’t score high enough on the national exam to go to high school. He was devastated but motivated to find his biological father, whom he had heard had money. His grandmother bought him a one-way bus ticket to the town where his father lived.

David found him, but also found another disappointment. His father disavowed him.

“He had replaced me with someone else,” David said.

However, a private school opened in his home town and David was able to attend. When he was in the 10th grade, the pastor at the school issued an invitation.

“If you doubt God has a plan for you,” the pastor said, “come and see me.”

David was not convinced and told the pastor he would give God one week to put in an appearance in David’s life.

“It’s now been 12 years,” he said.

He qualified for college, which was paid for by Compassion International, and now holds an honors degree in business leadership from Pan Africa Christian University in Nairobi. It felt like a movie, David said.

“Compassion gave me that opportunity,” he said.

David stays in contact with Aaron Mitchell, the boy of 8 who, with his family’s help, sponsored David through Compassion International. The final projection in David’s presentation showed Aaron with his family, all of whom are white.

“This is my sponsor family,” David said. “People say we look alike.”


By Krista Wester

The award, the highest given to Hardin-Simmons alumni,  will be presented during the alumni awards banquet at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27.

“It is bittersweet receiving this award since Charles is not here to accept it with me. He was a big part of our support of Hardin-Simmons University. Still, receiving the Keeter Award is the finest honor I can imagine,” said Carlene Spicer.

Alumni Awards

The late Charles Spicer and Carlene Spicer

The Spicers will be receiving this award based on their lifelong dedication to Abilene and Hardin-Simmons University. Charles served on the HSU Board of Development and HSU Alumni Association Board, chairing both boards during his tenure. He also served 39 years as a deacon at First Baptist Church of Abilene.

Carlene was a member of the A Cappella Choir, University Trio, Sigma Tau Delta and Alpha Chi national honor societies, Baptist Student Union, and The Brand staff while at HSU. She served as an Instructor of English for Hardin-Simmons from 1992 to 1999. Carlene now serves as a member of the Alumni Association Board, the Academic Foundation, the HSU Fellowship, the John G. Hardin Society, and the Presidents Club.

She is also a member of the Ex-Cowgirls, the Cowboy Club, and is a Sigma Alpha Iota Patroness. She is an active participant at First Baptist, where she is a deacon, chairman of the Bereavement Committee, and teaches an adult ladies’ Sunday school class.

“I am grateful for many years as a part of the HSU family and overwhelmed that two humble transfer students could receive the highest award that the university can bestow,” said Carlene.




By Loretta Fulton

In the beginning, God was already God.

And in all of creation, God has made only one version of each person, the speaker for this year’s Cornerstone Lecture Series at Hardin-Simmons University reminded students at a luncheon Sept. 20.

“You are God’s signed original,” said Delvin Atchison, director of the Great Commission Team for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Delvin-Atchison2 (2) (003)

Delvin Atchison

Atchison gave several lectures and held discussions with students and faculty during the lectureship held Sept. 19-21. He spoke on the theme, “God of the Amazing.”

Not only is God amazing, Atchison said at the student luncheon, he wants his people to be amazing, too. And that requires setting a goal and being tenacious enough to reach it. But getting there isn’t a solitary experience, Atchison promised.

“The God who made me fearfully and wonderfully,” Atchison said, “guides me and walks with me on my journey.”

In a question and answer session following his talk, Atchison was asked what he wanted to be when he was younger. He wanted to be an attorney, he said, but also started sensing that God was calling him to ministry when he was 12.

“I figured by the time I was grown, he’d give up,” Atchison  said, but that didn’t happen.

Far from it. Atchison is former pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Waco, where he was vice president of the Waco Ministerial Alliance. He held his first preaching position at age 16. In his job with the BGCT, Atchison considers himself “a pastor’s pastor.” With 5,400 churches in the BGCT, that’s a lot of pastors to pastor.

A student at the luncheon asked Atchison what his best advice would be for a young pastor.

“Genuinely love people,” he said, “and see God in all of them.”

Atchison earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas and a master of divinity degree from the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. He also holds an honorary doctorate of divinity degree from St. Thomas Christian College.