Monthly News Archives: February 2016

HPU honors four students in Christian ethics and theology

Currie-Strickland Honorees 2016BROWNWOOD – February 29, 2016 – Four Howard Payne University students were honored as Currie-Strickland Scholars in Christian Ethics and Theology at the university’s ninth annual Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics event earlier this month. Those honored include Shaefer Church, senior Bible major from Farmington, New Mexico; Cheney Cover, junior cross-cultural studies major from Troup; J.T. Hurt, a 2015 HPU alumnus and current graduate student from Brownwood; and Tom Kyle, junior cross-cultural studies major from Salado. Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, professor of Christian studies and dean of the School of Christian Studies, presented the awards.

“At these lectures, we honor these good students,” said Dr. Auvenshine. “But, the reality is that they honor the Lord and us every day as they faithfully serve and study with us.”

Each year, the honorees are selected based on an evaluation of achievement in their classes and on the ways that they have excelled in their thinking in the fields of Christian ethics and theology. This year, each student received a certificate and three books: “Do Justice, Love Mercy” by Phil Strickland; “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?” by Brian McLaren; and “A New Religious America” by Diana Eck.

“Our faculty are privileged to teach many fine students at HPU, but these four have excelled above and beyond what is required,” said Dr. Derek Hatch, assistant professor of Christian studies. “We are all very proud of them and happy to honor them.”

The four students plan to pursue ministry-related goals after graduation. Church hopes to go to seminary and then overseas to be a missionary. Cover wants to minister to refugees in an urban environment. Hurt is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Youth Ministry program at HPU and plans to pursue youth ministry. Kyle plans to attend the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in Dallas to study translation and linguistics. He also wants to work overseas with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

For more information, contact HPU’s School of Christian Studies at (325) 649-8403 or visit

Photo cutline: Dr. Donnie Auvenshine (left), professor and dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies, is pictured with Currie-Strickland Scholars Shaefer Church, Tom Kyle, Cheney Cover and J.T. Hurt.

HPU awards honorary Doctor of Humanities degree to El Paso’s Richard W. Nassar

Dr Richard Nassar for webBROWNWOOD – February 25, 2016 – Howard Payne University recently granted its highest honor, the honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, to Richard W. Nassar of El Paso. Dr. Nassar was awarded the degree during the university’s fall Commencement ceremony in December.

Dr. Nassar was born in Lebanon and immigrated to the United States in 1975. He is an active member and ordained deacon of El Paso’s First Baptist Church. Dr. David Lowrie, senior pastor of the church and former member of HPU’s Board of Trustees, wrote a letter to Dr. Bill Ellis, university president, recommending Dr. Nassar for this honor.

“As a Christian businessman he looked for ways to use his professional and personal influence to advance the cause of the Christ in the world, especially in El Paso,” wrote Dr. Lowrie. “He helped many people escape the dangers of persecution by sponsoring them for citizenship.”

Upon his retirement, Dr. Nassar focused his efforts on establishing a dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews, Dr. Lowrie continued in his letter of recommendation.

“In 2013, he helped the church launch the Middle Eastern Studies Ministry which has created a safe place for people of different Middle Eastern faiths to dialogue and seek greater understanding,” wrote Dr. Lowrie. “All the while, Mr. Nassar’s focus has been on presenting the claims of Christ by his words and example. His influence in the Middle Eastern community of El Paso is vast and very significant. I believe Mr. Nassar is the kind of man of courage and peace who offers hope in our world that we can find peaceful ways to live together.”

Dr. Nassar is an author and poet and recently finished a book of Arabic poetry. The collection is scheduled to be published in Lebanon in 2016.

“HPU was delighted to present its honorary Doctor of Humanities degree to Dr. Nassar, a man who has made the pursuit of peace among nations and the cause of Christ his lifelong mission,” said Dr. Ellis. “We commend the work he has done in El Paso and around the world and join him in prayer for a more peaceful world.”


Photo cutline: Upon receiving the honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, Dr. Richard Nassar addressed the crowd at HPU’s fall Commencement ceremony.

HPU theatre producing “Inventing Montana”

Inventing Montana for webBROWNWOOD – February 25, 2016 – Howard Payne University’s Department of Theatre is producing “Inventing Montana,” a play by Jeanne Murray Walker. Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 25, through Saturday, February 27, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 28. The HPU Theatre is located at 202 Whaley Street in Brownwood.

A comedy, “Inventing Montana” tells the story of Montana Winfield, a university professor and Dickens scholar. A young lady comes to his home to bring him an unpublished Dickens manuscript hoping he will read it and authenticate it. As he reads the manuscript, the Dickens characters arrive and tell their story. Montana’s story alternates with scenes from the Dickens novel, invented by the playwright.

“The interspersing of the modern-day characters and the Dickens characters provides an intriguing evening’s entertainment,” said Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld, professor of theatre and chair of the Department of Theatre.

Following the run in Brownwood, the theatre department will tour the show to the Christian University Theatre Festival, to be held this year at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview March 2-4.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and children. They are available for purchase on the evenings of the performances. Admission is free for HPU faculty, staff and students. For more information, call HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts at (325) 649-8500.


Photo cutline: Bryce McWhirter (Montana Winfield), sophomore from Pflugerville, and Hailey Green (Margaret), sophomore from Kennedale, rehearse a scene from “Inventing Montana.”

HPU debaters win big at home tournament

SSB at HPU for webBROWNWOOD – February 23, 2016 – Howard Payne University debaters Braxton Clark, junior from Southlake, and Isaac Sommers, junior from Boerne, won the open parliamentary debate division at the Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association Spring Championship tournament held at Howard Payne University February 5-7. HPU hosted and competed against 22 teams from 16 colleges and universities.

Clark was named to the Texas All-State Forensics Squad, a prestigious group of students who are nominated by coaches and meet stringent criteria including win/loss records in speech and debate, grade-point average, community service and leadership.

Dr. Julie Welker, professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication, directs HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau (SSB) speech and debate team.

“Braxton has been a tremendous leader for SSB over the last two years,” she said. “His leadership has helped to grow our team as he has taken an active role in coaching the freshmen and sophomores.”

Clark also won sixth place top debate speaker and Sommers was named 10th place top debate speaker.

Students on the team also competed in individual events, including extemporaneous speaking (current events), impromptu speaking, prose, poetry, informative speaking and persuasive speaking. Also competing were team members Morgan Ashmore, senior from Weatherford; Andrea Balderas, junior from Lytle; Christopher Freeland, sophomore from Bangs; Reagan Grisham, sophomore from Arlington; and Aimee Orozco, sophomore from Shepherd.

“Our team did exceptionally well,” said Dr. Welker. “Braxton and Isaac fought hard to advance and their victory was well earned. I’m proud of the way our team performed and we are continuing to prepare for upcoming tournaments.”

Student Speaker Bureau hosted the three-day tournament on the HPU campus. Almost 200 competitors, judges and coaches were on campus for the weekend.

HPU will travel to Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif., in March to compete in the National Christian College Forensics Association national championship tournament.


Photo cutline: HPU Student Speaker Bureau members that competed in a tournament on the HPU campus earlier this month included, from left, Isaac Sommers, Braxton Clark, Morgan Ashmore, Reagan Grisham, Andrea Balderas and Christopher Freeland. Not pictured is team member Aimee Orozco.

HPU faculty and staff members support heart health awareness

Heart Month 2016BROWNWOOD – February 23, 2016 – Several Howard Payne University faculty and staff members wore special t-shirts on Friday in support of the American Heart Association’s American Heart Month. A group of HPU employees wear the shirts each February to increase heart health awareness.

Back row, left to right: Diane Hackney, custodial supervisor; Ferrisa Childs, assistant director of student aid; Sarah Griffin, library administrative assistant and acquisitions coordinator; Susan Sharp, administrative assistant for the School of Education and certification officer; Kim Bryant, associate professor of communication; Tammy Dake, custodian; and Renee McClung, custodian.

Front row, left to right: Gretchen Campbell, executive assistant to the vice president for student life and dean of students; Dora Hernandez, facilities department coordinator; Dr. Julie Welker, professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication; Nikki Donathan, cashier; Lucina Ortega, custodian; and Cheryl Mangrum, associate director of admission.


HPU students place third in brief writing at national Moot Court tournament

By Emily Peisker, HPU senior

BROWNWOOD – February 22, 2016 – Howard Payne University’s Isaac Sommers, junior from Boerne, and Rebeca Puente, senior from Waskom, students in HPU’s Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, advanced to out rounds and ended in the top 32 at the 2015-16 American Collegiate Moot Court Association National Tournament. The duo placed third in the brief writing component of the ACMCA National Tournament held at California State University in Long Beach.

The ACMCA National Tournament hosted 80 teams from across the nation, representing the top 25 percent of all competing teams. The teams compete in 10 different regional tournaments around the nation to qualify for the national competition. Sommers and Puente placed first in the South Texas Regional ACMCA Tournament at Texas A&M University School of Law in November to qualify for the national competition. The pair also won top orator awards at the tournament.

Moot Court is a simulated oral argument, similar to an argument made before an appellate court. The argument lasts around 15 minutes, during which time the attorney presents an argument and answers questions posed by the panel of judges. The arguments are evaluated on the application of the law to the facts of the case.

Sommers and Puente completed a successful Moot Court season, including their unanimous win at the UNT Law Invitational Tournament held at the University of North Texas Dallas Law School in October. Sommers also received the fourth-place oralist award at that competition.

Lorianna Kelley, coach for the Moot Court team and assistant professor of government at HPU, serves as a member of the ACMCA board of directors. She praised her team for the success they have had during the last year.

“Isaac and Rebeca demonstrated that they were one of the best Moot Court teams in the nation, finishing in the top 32 of almost 400 teams,” said Kelley. “Their oral advocacy and brief-writing skills won them high praise at the tournament.”


Photo cutline: Howard Payne University’s Isaac Sommers (second from left) and Rebeca Puente (third from left) placed third in the brief writing component of the ACMCA National Tournament. They are pictured with competition judges.

HPU professor presents Christian theatre workshop at TETA conference

Nick Ewen for webBROWNWOOD – February 22, 2016 – Nick Ewen, assistant professor of theatre at Howard Payne University, presented two workshops at the annual Texas Educational Theatre Association (TETA) TheatreFest convention in Dallas last month. The workshops were titled “Lord Nick’s Armor Tricks” and “Roles, Souls and Holy Goals: How to Act as a Christian.”

“Lord Nick’s Armor Tricks” is a workshop that Ewen, a 2002 HPU graduate, has presented many times since 2006. The workshop is about inexpensive, alternative ways for schools to make costumes for theatre productions. Ewen came up with the idea for the workshop unintentionally but out of necessity. Construction and financial constraints led Ewen to create his own homemade armor. Ewen bought inexpensive items from local stores and transformed them into the costumes he needed.

“Costumes are expensive and are a large part of a production budget,” said Ewen. “Costume design is not what I do. This was something fun I tried and it turned out to be a big hit as a workshop.”

The armor workshop led to Ewen’s newer workshop, “Roles, Souls and Holy Goals: How to Act as a Christian.” Ewen said that he felt God was calling him to do something more, so he created a workshop for Christians in educational theatre. At this well-attended TETA workshop, Ewen taught educators that they and their students can put on a great theatre production without compromising their Christian beliefs and integrity.

“The work some schools do in theatre is shocking,” said Ewen. “When high school students audition for scholarships each year, about 75 percent of the auditions include very adult themes –things that aren’t appropriate and that I wouldn’t want my kids to think about or say. These situations are difficult, so I wanted to have a workshop at TETA to talk about what it means to be a Christian in theatre.”

Some of Ewen’s goals for the workshop were to acknowledge his personal relationship with God among a large group of his Texas theatre co-educators, to share his personal revelations about the nature of Christianity as it relates to the profession of theatre and to share in a discussion about the challenges and blessings of being a Christ follower in the role of a “servant artist.”

“I am so proud to have been able to represent HPU at TETA and to have had the opportunity to show many Texas theatre educators who are Christians that they are not alone,” said Ewen.

For more info about HPU’s theatre department, please contact the School of Music and Fine Arts at 325-649-8500.


Photo cutline: Nick Ewen presented a Christian workshop at the TETA convention in Dallas last month.

Father’s love of HPU lives on through children

Alvin Ray TurnerBROWNWOOD – February 15, 2016 – Growing up, the children of Col. Alvin Ray and Patsy Allene Turner heard many stories about their parents’ time at Howard Payne University. Following his death, Col. Turner’s family honored his legacy by establishing the Alvin Ray Turner Scholarship fund at HPU, designed to benefit students majoring in mathematics.

Col. Turner, a 1953 HPU graduate who served in the United States Air Force, and his family moved often to various locations around the country. As he was born and raised in Blanket, Col. Turner enjoyed bringing his family back to Brown County and HPU whenever possible.

“Any time we went to Brownwood, we cruised through Howard Payne,” said Mary Alice Turner, the youngest of Col. and Mrs. Turner’s four children. “Going back to HPU was a big deal.”

According to Mary Alice, her father was very studious and received several scholarships to attend HPU.

“His family didn’t have much money,” she said. “The scholarships were a huge factor in his ability to attend college and lead an active student life.”

She reminisced about her parents’ first encounter in college.

“Dad was a football player and basketball player and, back then, the athletes ate lunch before everyone else,” she said. “He saw Mom and waited for her outside the cafeteria. He asked her to go to the Wednesday night prayer service with him.”

The pair eventually started dating.

“They became big sweethearts,” said Mary Alice. “My parents were one of the couples on campus in those days.”

The Turners were married in 1954 following her graduation from HPU and his earning his wings from flight and pilot training. Shortly after, Col. Turner left for Thailand and Korea. He later served in Vietnam as well. Upon his retirement from the Air Force with 27 years of service, the couple settled in Florida.

Mary Alice TurnerCol. Turner was a lifelong learner. In addition to the Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and secondary education he received from HPU, he also earned both a bachelor’s degree and Master of Business Administration degree from The University of West Florida in Pensacola.

He and his wife were both active in many churches and served as Sunday School teachers and in lay leadership. The Turner children created a scholarship fund at HPU to honor their parents’ fondness for the university, love for each other and their faith in God.

“My parents’ love for the Lord always inspired me,” said Mary Alice. “Their marriage was 100 percent based on their faith. It was a huge testimony to us kids. Dad, as a local boy, and Mom always remained supporters of HPU as well.”

To learn more about the Alvin Ray Turner Scholarship fund, contact HPU’s Office of Institutional Advancement at (325) 649-8006 or 800-950-8465.


Photo cutlines:

Alvin Turner, pictured in HPU’s 1951 Lasso yearbook, was crowned Harvest King during his sophomore year.

Mary Alice Turner, the Turners’ youngest child, recently wore her father’s Howard Payne letterman’s jacket out to dinner.

HPU’s symphonic band to present concert

BROWNWOOD – February 12, 2016 – The School of Music at Howard Payne University will present the symphonic band in its first concert of the spring semester on Thursday, February 25, at 7:30 p.m. in HPU’s Mims Auditorium.

The band will present a varied and exciting program, including selections from Gallop, from First Suite for Band, and El Camino Real-A Latin Fantasy, both by the legendary American composer, Alfred Reed. Other selections include Variations on a Korean Folk Song by John Barnes Chance; Undertow, by the new American composer for band, John Mackey, as well as selections from Les Miserables, arranged by Warren Barker.

“This is an exciting slate of music that our students have been working really hard to prepare,” said Corey Ash, associate professor of music and director of bands. “There is sure to be music to delight the musical tastes of everyone in attendance.”

There is no charge for this concert and the public is encouraged to attend.

“Bring a friend and enjoy an evening of exciting music, compliments of HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts and the symphonic band,” Ash added.

For more information, contact HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts at (325) 649-8500.

HPU love story connects generations

Brett and ShannonBROWNWOOD – February 12, 2016 – Like many men who are getting ready to “pop the question,” Brett Ellis, Howard Payne University senior, wanted to plan the perfect proposal for Shannon Matthews of Brownwood, also an HPU senior.

“I originally wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” he said. “Then I talked to my dad and my grandma.”

Brett’s father, Dr. Bill Ellis, HPU president, and grandmother, Nancy Ellis ’48, are quite familiar with HPU romances. Nancy met her husband, Dr. Ray Ellis ’50, at the university and her parents met there as well.

“They told me about a tree out at Riverside Park where my great-grandparents got engaged,” Brett said. “Later, my grandmother showed me the exact tree.”

Brett planned a picnic lunch for Shannon under the tree, complete with the same meals they ordered from Prima Pasta on their first date two years before.

“I thought it was just going to be a celebration of our two-year anniversary of dating,” said Shannon. “He told me he wanted to do something special. We didn’t even get to start eating before he said he had something to ask me.”

Brett admits he was a bit anxious.

“I was really excited and I just couldn’t wait,” he said.

Shannon happily accepted his proposal and the couple will be married on the HPU campus this June.

“I think it’s really fun be a part of this family tradition,” Shannon said of the proposal. “It’s really neat to me to be a part of that story.”

The couple met in choir during Shannon’s freshman year and Brett’s sophomore year.

“I think it started on Easter holiday,” said Shannon. “We had a three-day weekend and he messaged me on Facebook to ask how my break was going. The more we talked and the more we saw each other in choir, the more we clicked. By the second week of talking, we both thought, ‘Okay, I really like this person.’”

Following graduation, Shannon, a family studies major, plans to pursue a career in education and children’s ministry. Brett, a music performance major, plans to attend seminary and pursue a career in music ministry.

Shannon said she still teases Brett about the circumstances of their first date.

“Before we went to Prima Pasta, he asked me if I wanted to go and meet his parents,” she said. “So on the first date, I met his parents who are also the president and first lady of the university I’m attending. It was a little nerve-wracking. But his parents were so nice.”

Through his engagement to Shannon, Brett has enjoyed learning more about his family connections at HPU.

“It’s really cool hearing my grandma talk about how she met my grandpa here and how her parents met here,” he said. “I enjoyed getting to hear the stories from her point of view. It’s great to have that connection with my future wife in the same place, walking around the same campus.”


Photo cutline: Brett Ellis and Shannon Matthews are pictured at the tree under which Brett proposed last spring. Photo by Rindy’s Photography.