Cuban-born artist makes his mark on Abilene

This colorful mural is a new landmark on Abilene's South First Street.

This colorful mural is a new landmark on Abilene’s South First Street. (Photo by Peter Larsen)

Rolando Diaz, center, talks with Tom Rose, who commissioned the mural in downtown Abilene.

Rolando Diaz (center) talks with Tom Rose (left) at the dedication ceremony for his downtown artwork. Rose commissioned the mural after seeing Diaz paint a mural in Peru. (Photo by Peter Larsen)

Internationally acclaimed Cuban-American artist and ACU alumnus Rolando Diaz (’79) has made a big splash on the city where he got his start as a professional years ago.

This particular splash is a nearly 145-foot-long ocean-themed mural along the side of an historic building on South First Street between Butternut and Cedar in Abilene. Diaz, who grew up in Miami, said he was inspired by childhood memories to create the artwork, which he calls “I See the Ocean.”

Tom Rose, owner of Thomas Everett’s Fine Furniture, commissioned Diaz after seeing him paint one on a church in Peru. Diaz had been invited to Peru by missionaries Lee (’99) and Stephanie (Grigg ’01) Fletcher, who happened to be friends with Rose.

The colorful artwork, which takes up 10 panels on the north side of Rose’s building, was dedicated May 26 followed by a reception nearby at The Grace Museum, where Diaz held his first major exhibition in 1994-95.

“I like that the mural is two blocks away from where my career began,” he said.

Mayor Norm Archibald ('76) speaks during the artwork dedication in downtown Abilene.

Dr. Norman Archibald (’76 M.S.), Abilene’s mayor, speaks during the dedication ceremony in downtown Abilene.

His career-launching show, “A Common Thread,” dealt with the poor “and the idea that we are all connected no matter where you are in life,” said Diaz, who now makes his home in Dallas. So it was fitting that during the six weeks he spent creating the mural, he met a number of Abilene’s homeless population.

“I did not realize at the time that so many would pass by there daily,” he said. “I’m never bothered by the homeless. Their insight is always real, because they have nothing to offer but themselves.” Diaz became friends with several homeless Abilenians and even gave one a ride to Oklahoma.

Although it was a steady interruption to his work, Diaz said he enjoyed interacting with everyone who stopped to watch.

“I loved seeing so many friends and people who were strangers who would stop to talk about it. That was one of my favorite experiences,” he said. “Like when I saw a father and his two daughters one day on the sidewalk taking all sorts of photos in front of the mural – laughing and just enjoying that moment so much. Or photographers showing up to take photos. Or a smile or comment. That’s when it all comes full circle. All those hours of working and sweating are not even remembered.”

The reception at The Grace was a special time for Diaz because it gave him an opportunity not only to connect with local residents, “but also give thanks to many who were extremely gracious and kind to me during my college years.”

Diaz immigrated with his family from Cuba as a young boy in 1964 and grew up in Miami, Fla. He attended ACU with his late brother, Christian Diaz (’77), who also was a talented artist and sculptor.

Fans flock to ACU at the Ballpark Night

ACUTXRangers_June15_19617 600x400 96More than 700 Abilene Christian University fans of all ages cheered for new director of athletics Lee De Leon and stayed until the bottom of the 11th inning to celebrate a Texas Rangers win Thursday night at the fifth annual ACU at the Ballpark Night in Arlington.

ACUTXRangers_June15_19358 600x400 96De Leon threw the ceremonial first pitch at Globe Life Park and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo sent everyone but the Chicago White Sox home happy when he rapped a walk-off single to give Texas an exciting 2-1 victory.

Fans gathered before the game at the Rangers Hall of Fame room for a Wildcat Caravan event, meeting ACU head coaches Ken Collums, Britt Bonneau, Julie Goodenough, Jason Bibler and Tom Shaw, and assistant coach IJ Moronu (’12) while picking up a souvenir baseball and football schedule poster, and having their photo taken with Willie the Wildcat.

ACUTXRangers_June15_19660 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19438 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19333 600x400 96ACUTXRangers_June15_19165 600x400 96ACUTXRangers_June15_19400 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19239 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19694 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19251 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19274 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19470 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19742 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19307 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19610 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19651 600x400 96

ACUTXRangers_June15_19725 600x400 96

Smiley headlines conference honoring Olbricht

Tavis Smiley

Tavis Smiley

Dr. Thomas H. Olbricht won’t be present but the 35th annual Christian Scholars’ Conference beginning Wednesday at Abilene Christian University still bears his name and reflects his enthusiasm for biblical research.

Dr. Tom Olbricht

Dr. Tom Olbricht

“Tom is the academic renaissance man, with a Ph.D. in rhetoric, an M.Div. from Harvard and substantive scholarship in Restoration history,” said conference director Dr. David Fleer (M.Div. ’81), professor of Bible and communication, and special assistant to the president at Lipscomb University. “His inclusive and collaborative spirit embodies the best amongst us, and sets a high standard for our future.”

The June 3-5 event is attracting nearly 400 faculty, staff, administrators and students from 87 colleges, universities and seminaries who gather annually to hear from leading authors and researchers who study Christianity. This year’s attendees represent such universities as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Duke, Penn State, Loyola Chicago, Emory, Baylor, SMU, Rice and Vanderbilt, as well as Abilene’s three church-related institutions.

The conference is headlined by several top speakers, including best-selling author and PBS late-night talk show host Tavis Smiley who is presenting “Poverty: The Greatest Threat to American Democracy?” Other featured lecturers and plenary speakers include:

  • Dr. Robert Lewis Wilken of St. Paul Center of Biblical Theology and the University of Virginia on “The Vocation of the Christian Scholar: Love of Learning and the Desire for God”
  • Dr. Choon-Leong Seow of Princeton Seminary on “The Book of Job in its Cultural Milieu”
  • Dr. Philip Jenkins of Baylor University on “Families, Populations, and the Reshaping of Global Faith”
  • Dr. Christian Wiman of Yale Divinity School on “Hammer is the Prayer: Radical Doubt, Realistic Faith”
  • Dr. Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College on “The Quest for a Moral Presidency: Jimmy Carter, Progressive Evangelicalism, and the Religious Right”

Olbricht, distinguished professor emeritus of religion at Pepperdine University, now lives in Maine and is recovering from a health issue. He served ACU in several roles from 1970-85, including dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, chair of graduate Bible, professor of Bible, and founding director of the ACU Press. He also was editor of Restoration Quarterly. With Olbricht as director, ACU hosted the Christian Scholars’ Conference during its early years but now it rotates from one Christian university campus to another each June.

Three major lectures and plenary presentations are named after scholars with roots on ACU’s theology faculty: Dr. Everett Ferguson (’53), Dr. John T. Willis (’55), and the late Dr. Frank Pack and his wife, Della, a former instructor of English.

Thursday night’s activity includes a live episode of “Tokens” downtown at the Paramount Theatre. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. performance are $15 and available at the door. The variety program is broadcast nationally on NPR each week from Nashville, Tenn., hosted by Dr. Lee C. Camp and featuring top musicians and scholars. The eclectic mix of participants has drawn the praise of critics who rave about it.

Wiman is the featured guest this week and the show includes performances by Buddy Greene, Odessa Settles, Brother Preacher, Abilene’s Revolution Strings, and the Most Outstanding Horeb Mountain Boys.

“ ‘Tokens’ is part great music, part university lecture, part cultural analysis, and part good conversation, featuring Nashville’s finest musicians and songwriters, provocative interviews with best-selling authors, all mixed up with enough humor and satire to keep things ever lively,” according to its website.

See the full conference schedule here. 

Silver lining: Baseball season ends on HI note

ACU head coach Britt Bonneau greets TCU head coach _______ before a recent game.

ACU head coach Britt Bonneau greets TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle at home plate. The Horned Frogs of the Big 12 Conference were ranked No. 2 in the nation when they narrowly beat ACU, 4-3, at Crutcher Scott Field.

Somewhere over the Rainbow Warriors, season No. 25 of baseball 2.0 at Abilene Christian University came to an end last weekend. There was no pot of gold awaiting the Wildcats after beating the University of Hawaii, 7-4; just a second straight victory and the first season-ending win since 1995 when the Internet itself was still 1.0.

That 1995 campaign also was the last time an ACU team won as few as 17 games, as this year’s did. The Wildcats’ fortunes flipped in 1996 – from a record of 17-36 to 41-18 – in part because new head coach Jimmy Shankle brought with him one of his former players at Lubbock Christian University, a spunky, young assistant named Britt Bonneau. There is ample evidence to suggest the future is bright now, too, and Bonneau – who took over from Shankle in 1997 and next year will celebrate his 20th season as head coach – is again in the middle of it all.

At first blush, this year’s ACU baseball team doesn’t appear to have made progress in its second season in Division I. In fact, the Wildcats won one fewer game than last year. But look a little more closely. In 2014, ACU won 18 total games, but six of those came against teams that are not D-I. All 55 games on this year’s schedule were against Division I opponents, meaning the 17 victories were actually a significant increase in the D-I win column.

Next, consider the caliber of competition. In 2014, ACU’s strength of schedule (SOS) ranking, according to college sports statistics website, was 200th out of the 301 teams in Division I. In 2015, that number shot up to 114th. In other words, this year’s schedule was almost twice as tough as last year’s. (Incidentally, ACU’s SOS is the highest of any team in the Southland Conference.)

A team’s SOS is dependent largely on the conference in which it plays. For example, every team in the Southeastern Conference will naturally have high SOS rankings because there are so many good teams in that league. (To wit: six of the top 10 in SOS are SEC teams and no one from that league is ranked lower than 58th.)

But teams can, to some degree, control their non-conference schedule by playing tough opponents. And Bonneau did. The Wildcats’ non-conference SOS was the 18th toughest in all of Division I. Again, that number is the best among Southland Conference teams.

Another important point about SOS: in no way does it reflect how a team actually performs. For example, a team could have the toughest schedule in the nation but lose every one of those games by 15 runs. That team would perhaps earn respect for playing good opponents but also not be any good. ACU not only took on all comers in 2015 – 14 games against seven nationally ranked teams – the Wildcats frequently took them down to the wire.

The first of those close calls came March 3 against then-No. 5 Texas Tech University in Lubbock when ACU was edged at the tape of a 16-inning marathon, 6-5. A month later, the Wildcats lost three more one-run games in a 10-day stretch that was as remarkable as it was frustrating.

On Monday, April 6, Bonneau hornswaggled the Horned Frogs of TCU to come to Crutcher Scott Field. At the time, they were the No. 2 team in the nation. Think about that for a second. That would be like the Duke University men’s basketball team coming to Moody Coliseum or the University of Alabama football team showing up at Shotwell Stadium. In perhaps the most high-profile game ever played on campus, ACU took a 3-2 lead on TCU into the 7th before falling, 4-3.

ACUBaseballTCU_May15_28687 7x4 96Eight days later, “The Crutch” was packed again as Tech played ACU in Abilene for the first time since 1976. Down 7-5 in the bottom of the 9th, the Wildcats scored once and loaded the bases with the tying and winning runs before falling 7-6.

Less than 24 hours and 300 miles later, ACU got off the canvas to battle another heavyweight: the top-ranked team in all of college baseball that week, the Texas A&M University Aggies, in a game televised on the SEC Network. The Wildcats scored a run in the first and third innings; the Aggies answered with a run of their own in each frame. In the bottom of the 7th, A&M pushed a two-out run across and held on to win, 3-2.

Ten days. Three games against teams ranked (at the time) second, 19th and first in the nation. Three one-run losses. And these weren’t the juggernauts’ JVs. In each case, all three opponents put their regulars in the lineup and used their closers to finish off the games.

In these two seasons as a transitional Division I member, ACU teams have had plenty of big moments. Volleyball and women’s basketball each upset Texas Tech in 2013. In January of this year, men’s hoops upset one of the highest scoring teams in the nation then played its first ever nationally televised home game on CBS Sports Network. Football capped a run of three straight nail-biters against teams either from the major college ranks or a perennial playoff contender from ACU’s new level, the Football Championship Subdivision, with a win over frequent bowl participant Troy University.

But baseball’s stretch of one-run losses to three powerhouse teams in a span of 10 days may top the list. Especially when you remember some of the scores against these teams last year. The two losses to Tech in 2014? 6-2 and 19-2. A&M? 20-2. Those results, as ugly as they look on paper, are the rule when a first year D-I team takes on an established program with more scholarships and more of nearly everything else. How ACU played this year is for sure the exception.

The Wildcats made huge strides in conference play, too, more than doubling last year’s win total in the league: from a record of 6-18 and a 13th place finish in 2014 to 13-17 and 9th. The turnaround bodes well for 2018, ACU’s first year of postseason eligibility. The top eight teams in the standings qualify for the Southland tournament. Had the team been eligible this year, ACU would’ve finished just a single win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi University shy of getting into the tournament. And who wound up winning? Houston Baptist University, the No. 7 seed. The same team ACU defeated two games to one in a series at HBU in April.

The final four games of the season last week in Arizona were a fitting end for a team that proved it could, if nothing else, take a punch. Tuesday night against No. 12 Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., the host Sun Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a flurry of soft singles and added a run on a sacrifice fly in the 6th to go up 4-0. ACU got on the board in the 7th but fell, 4-1. Two nights later in Tucson in a battle of matching mascots, the University of Arizona’s Wildcats won, 9-0. ACU had two errors, a botched rundown and another handful of plays that could or should have been made but weren’t in a game coaches and some of us who have observed the team all year agreed was the ugliest loss of the season.

So what happened the next night? Only the most handsome win, a 2-1 cliffhanger that ended when sophomore third baseman Aaron Draper calmly smothered a hard grounder and threw to first to defeat the 2012 College World Series champions. In a gesture that speaks to his class and ACU’s resilience, Arizona’s legendary head coach Andy Lopez met Bonneau at home plate with his right hand extended and said, “Not many teams would have come back after last night the way you did. That’s a great win for your program.”

Lopez would know better than almost anyone. Like Bonneau, he has been the head coach at a Division II school, California State University, Dominguez Hills; and a Church of Christ-affiliated institution, Pepperdine University, which he led to the 1992 Division I national championship.

It was actually the second win in as many years against Arizona. But unlike last season’s, which was answered the next day by a 14-1 season-ending loss to those Wildcats, ACU followed this one up against a different opponent with a far different outcome. Against Hawaii – which finished .500 in the highly competitive Big West Conference and had come to Tucson to take on Arizona for a couple of weekend games – ACU got six strong innings from freshman starting pitcher Drew Hanson but fell behind the Rainbow Warriors, 4-2, heading to the bottom of the 7th, setting the stage for one final comeback. After an RBI groundout by Alex Copeland, centerfielder Colton Hall bounced a single into left to score senior slugger Tyler Eager to tie the game. Freshman catcher Mason Spracklen untied it with a single to center that scored Hall and put ACU in front, 5-4. A two-out howitzer of a homerun to center in the bottom of the 8th by sophomore Russell Crippen added a coveted pair of insurance runs, and the Wildcats bid aloha to the 2015 season with a 7-4 victory.

How many wins will this year’s progress produce in 2016? Probably not 41 as in 1996. Changing coaches is a little easier than changing NCAA classifications. But the transition period means Bonneau has four years to become an overnight success.

His and all ACU programs are now halfway through that period. Assuming the university remains on track and fulfills the necessary requirements to be approved as a full-fledged Division I member, this year’s freshmen will be seniors in 2018 when the Wildcats are finally eligible to go to the playoffs. That means the next time Hanson takes that same mound in Tucson, it could be in an NCAA Super Regional game. And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow might just be a ticket to the College World Series.

ACUBaseballTCU_May15_28929 7x4 96

Harbers presented with honorary doctorates

(From left) ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert, Lacy Harber, Dorothy Harber, Board chair Dr. Barry Packer and provost Dr. Robert Rhodes

(From left) ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert, Lacy Harber, Dorothy Harber, Board chair Dr. Barry Packer and provost Dr. Robert Rhodes

Known throughout the Southwest for their generosity, Lacy (’61) and Dorothy Harber became the recipients today of one of Abilene Christian University’s highest accolades: an honorary doctorate.

Each of the Harbers were presented today with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of the leadership they have demonstrated through lives of selfless service to others.

A citation from ACU’s Board of Trustees reads, in part:

“In the name of Jesus they have given freely of their time and resources to worthy causes in which they believe. In particular, their gifts accumulated over a lifetime to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital are without parallel. Born in Abilene to a family of modest means, Lacy was for several years a grateful recipient of the hospital’s characteristic grace: free medical care and bus fare to travel with his mother to Dallas for treatments. He overcame the health issues of his youth and later remembered Scottish Rite with his and Dorothy’s landmark philanthropy.”

Recipients of the Harbers’ generosity have included Texoma Medical Center, Wilson N. Jones Medical Center, the Salvation Army, Opportunity Village, and ACU, where an estate gift from the couple will benefit the College of Biblical Studies.

The Harbers, who live in Denison, Texas, received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2014, joining six former U.S. presidents and Nobel Prize laureates among previous winners.

ACU has awarded more than 80 honorary doctorates since 1940, with previous recipients including Tom Landry, Charlton Heston, Dr. James Dobson, Sen. John Cornyn, Byron Nelson and other leaders representing professionals in ministry, business, education, government, law and health, among others.

Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03), director of medical missions for Samaritan’s Purse and one of the Ebola fighters recently named TIME magazine Person of the Year, will receive an honorary doctorate from ACU on Aug. 24 when he also is the featured speaker at Opening Assembly on the first day of the 2015-16 school year.

Blasingame tournament scheduled for June 1

Rachel Blasingame

Rachel Blasingame

Rachel Blasingame was not a golfer but more than 140 students have benefited from scholarships created by a tournament raising funds in her name, helping them attend the university she planned to graduate from one day.

The 12th annual Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament will be held June 1 benefiting the Rachel Blasingame Endowed Scholarship at Abilene Christian University. Blasingame, a junior at Mesquite (Texas) High School when she died in a 2003 car accident caused by a drunk driver, had plans to graduate from ACU as have many other of her family members.

This year’s tournament will be held at Buffalo Creek Golf Club in Rockwall, Texas. Visit the tournament website to reserve your spot or one for your foursome, and learn about sponsorship opportunities. A $100 entry fee includes breakfast, lunch, a raffle and silent auction. The tournament is a scramble format with a 9 a.m. shotgun start.

Rachel’s parents are Guy (’79) and Julie (Grasham ’80) Blasingame of Mesquite.

Better Days: A Baltimore son hopes for his city

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

When West Baltimore erupted in chaos and conflict recently, so did social media.

Before the responding ladder trucks could douse the businesses set ablaze in the protest of the death of Freddie Gray, millions of itchy-fingered Americans took to Twitter, Facebook and other assorted apps with knee-jerk analysis that fanned the flames of what feels increasingly like a four-alarm firestorm of racial tension.

ACU men's basketball assistant coach Patrice Days

ACU men’s basketball assistant coach Patrice Days

Patrice Days didn’t have the luxury of engaging in electronic debate and pontification. He needed to keep his phone free for an actual call. The assistant men’s basketball coach at Abilene Christian University grew up in Baltimore and still has family there, some of whom were in the neighborhood where and when it all went down.

When I messaged him on that Monday night to see if his loved ones were OK, he wasn’t sure.

“Waiting to hear back from my brother and grandparents,” Days texted. The next morning, he buzzed me to say, “Just got off the phone with my family there. It’s quiet right now on their side. For now anyways.”

“My father is right in the middle of it,” he later told me. “He’s OK, but he’s not going outside. My grandmother is in kind of a neutral point in the area. She keeps the phone at her bedside at all times, so when I didn’t hear from her, I got nervous.”

ACU men’s basketball guard Isaiah Tripp

ACU men’s basketball guard Isaiah Tripp

One of Days’ recruits, freshman Isaiah Tripp (’19), who led Baltimore’s Edmonson-Westside High School to a state title, lives minutes from Mondawmin Mall where much of Monday’s melee occurred. When I contacted Tripp’s father, Keith, that night to see if the family was OK, he replied early Tuesday, “We appreciate your prayers for our town. We need them. It’s the morning after, and the destruction is evident. We are hoping control is gained soon. We are praying because things have gotten way out of man’s hands.”

The life of a college coaches is almost by necessity nomadic and Days’ has been even more than most. Since matriculating at Caldwell Community College as a player in 2001, Days spent the better part of a decade on university and prep school coaching staffs up and down the east coast, from southern Vermont to northern Florida, before arriving at ACU as an assistant to head coach Joe Golding (’99) in 2013.

But Baltimore is home. So as he watched the news coverage of his city in flames, he didn’t just see familiar territory; he saw himself.

Patrice Days was a standout basketball player as a teen in Baltimore, Md.

Patrice Days was a standout basketball player as a teen in Baltimore, Md.

“The city’s speaking out,” said Days. “The kids are venting. I even felt that way when I was younger. I was angry but didn’t know why. Seeing somebody getting murdered, seeing somebody getting stabbed. Being part of the wrong crowd and seeing people do wrong for no apparent reason. I didn’t understand it. My outlet was anger. I would fight people.”

One such rumble led to a run-in with the law. But the responding officer, Craig Singleterry, met Days’ clenched fists with an open hand and an invitation to a different way of channeling his anger.

“I had to be 12 years old at the time,” Days recalled. “I loved basketball, but there were also some other things out there I was involved with. Craig caught me on the court. I got into a confrontation with some guys. He kind of broke it up. I happened to be talented at the time. He convinced me to come to the PAL (Police Athletic League) Center.”

Police Athletic Leagues date back to 1940 and, according to the national website, “work to prevent juvenile crime and violence by building the bond between cops and kids.” The organization counts such heavyweight heroes as Muhammad Ali, NBA star Oscar Robertson and entertainer Billy Joel among its alumni. The Baltimore PAL program was founded right as Days arrived at a crossroads.

“They had us playing everything,” Days said. “Their outlet was sports to keep us busy and out of the streets. It was like, ‘If we’ve got practice at this time, we can’t be in the street. If we have a game, we can’t be in the streets.’ It was always some sport, whether it was boxing, baseball, soccer.”

It worked. Days stayed off the streets and into sports, in part because Singleterry enlisted the help of athletes from professional teams in the area such as Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Keith Booth from the University of Maryland men’s basketball national championship team, and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who himself endured a criminal conviction to become one of the city’s most philanthropic public figures.

“They would come down there all the time and bring other pros,” said Days. “It gave me and all of us kids hope. And I feel like there’s not a lot of that going on in Baltimore anymore.”

Keith Tripp echoed that sentiment.

“Our youth here need something,” he told me. “No rec centers, no extracurricular activities, no guidance equals frustration, build-up and this mess.”

The 13th chapter of Luke begins with a strange exchange between Jesus and some of his followers about, ironically, a police killing. Many in those days believed if any kind of calamity came upon a person, he or she probably had it coming. In that pre-Twitter universe, disciples were likely speculating face-to-face what juicy sins those Galileans had committed to deserve their demise.

Jesus wouldn’t retweet.

Instead, He challenged his followers to take responsibility for their own behavior. That’s what Days wants to do to help his hometown heal.

“We need more non-profit organizations. And I think we need more of us, people who are successful to go back home and have some kind of impact,” Days said. “When I go back to Baltimore, it means something for me to walk in that gym because I made it. These kids need someone to look up to like I had.”

For the Least of These: The Roses

Trevor and Courtney Rose with newly adopted Henry

Courtney and Trevor Rose with their newly adopted son, Henry

Trevor Rose (’04) has experienced both sides of the adoption process as an adopted child and now an adoptive parent.

“Looking back on the process from start to finish, we see God’s hand sculpting this work. The timing was too perfect to be anything other than God’s timing,” he says.

Enjoy his story as we continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt.

Trevor is the first assistant county attorney in Cherokee County, Texas, and his wife, Courtney, is a pediatrician in Tyler.

Two Sides of the Coin

My adoption story begins long before I was born. The couple I call Mom and Dad had trouble conceiving a long time before I was born. They adopted a girl in 1976 and decided to adopt again a few years later. Time passed while they waited for a little boy, and in 1981, I was born. They adopted me from Christian Homes for Children (now Christian Homes and Family Services) based in Abilene. They provided a wonderful home for me growing up.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

Fast forward a few years. I graduated from ACU in Spring 2004. A few months later, a friend from ACU set me up with a blind date. My wife, Courtney, and I have been together ever since. At the time, she was in medical school and I was applying to law school. We were married in September 2007 just in time for her to graduate and move to Houston for residency, leaving me behind to complete my law degree a year later.

A few years into residency, we began trying to conceive a child, with no luck. A struggling young attorney and an underpaid resident could ill afford many fertility treatments, but we tried anyway. After one round of intrauterine inception, Courtney’s physician gave us the news that it would be extremely unlikely she would conceive with fertility treatments, much less naturally.

Trevor Rose as a child with his adoptive parents and sister

Trevor Rose as a child with his adoptive parents and sister

Because of my background, we had always planned to adopt at some point. In our hearts, we knew God had a plan for us. After a few years of continuing to try to naturally conceive (still no luck there), Courtney completed her residency program, and we moved to Tyler. We found a church, met tons of amazing people, and were eventually invited to a fundraising dinner for Christian Homes. There, we connected with some of the amazing people who work at Christian Homes, many of whom know my parents from when they adopted me. It was at that dinner that we began the process of adoption.

We chose Christian Homes to help us with our adoption. We attended orientations, waited, filled out forms, waited and waited some more. After re-evaluating some selections we had made on one of the many forms we filled out, we discovered a few mistakes. After 14 months of waiting, we corrected those errors, and within two months received “the” phone call.

We traveled to meet the birth mother and fell in love with her family. We were at the hospital for our baby’s birth. Henry is now 7-1/2 months old. We consummated his adoption Feb. 19 at the Taylor County Courthouse in Abilene. In so doing, I was one of the first Christian Homes adoptees to subsequently adopt from Christian Homes.

Looking back on the process from start to finish, we see God’s hand sculpting this work. The timing was too perfect to be anything other than His. There were many difficult nights when we wondered if we would ever receive a call, but looking back, we can see that God wanted to bless our lives with this birth family and this particular child. I only hope and pray that God will guide us in raising Henry and help us to be a Christ-like example to him amidst the constant bombardment of this world.

Swab story: Young starts life-giving relay

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

Earl Young (62) had the finest of his many memorable moments on a track running the second leg of a relay. Last Monday at Moody Coliseum, he went first.

The man who as a 19-year-old sophomore at Abilene Christian University helped the United States win a gold medal and set a world record in the 4×400 meters joined me on stage in Chapel to kick off ACU’s first Delete Blood Cancer Relay. For 48 hours, we asked students, faculty and staff to add their names to the international bone marrow registry by completing a brief informational form and swabbing the inside of their cheeks to get a cell sample.

To me, the registration drive seemed like an easy way for the campus community to do something meaningful. For Young, it was personal. In September 2011, he went into his doctor’s office hoping for a quick cure to solve a sniffle. He came out with a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and a prognosis that was even worse.

Earl Young (’62) won an Olympic gold medal in Rome in 1960 and has survived cancer.

Earl Young (’62) won an Olympic gold medal in Rome in 1960 and has survived myeloid leukemia.

“The doctor told me I had about three months to live,” Young told the Chapel crowd Monday, “unless I had a bone marrow transplant. I’m an optimistic guy, so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ I had no idea what a transplant involved.”

Young recounted the story of hearing his doctor say most people over the age of 70 aren’t approved for transplants. But just as he was no normal 19-year-old when he won Olympic gold, Young was no normal septuagenarian. His sprinter’s body had held up through the years, so the search began. For three months, doctors scoured the international marrow donor database trying to locate someone who shared all 12 human leukocyte antigens with Young.

Of the 22 million registered, they found one perfect match. Just one.

Two weeks after Young was diagnosed with AML, Christine Waag volunteered to get swabbed as part of a donor registration drive in her hometown of Offenburg, Germany. Two days before Christmas of 2011, she was notified she would have the opportunity to play Santa Claus for an anonymous blood cancer patient. After agreeing to undergo the three-hour donation procedure, Waag was flown to Dresden, Germany, to have her marrow extracted and delivered to the U.S. where it was transplanted into Young on Jan. 21, 2012. Transplant protocol prohibits either party from discovering the other’s identity until two years after the operation. By the time Young learned in January 2014 who his benefactor is, Waag’s blood had overtaken his own. His blood type – B positive since birth – has become hers, O.

“I get goose bumps even now when I think about it,” Waag said at the time of the donation. “Each person may have only one genetic twin in the world.”

Waag’s twin said the same thing to the Chapel audience Monday.

“There are 13,000 people right now in the United States waiting for a bone marrow transplant,” Young said. “And every one of them has a match somewhere. You may be for that person what (Christine) was and is for me.”

Lines form on the floor of Moody Coliseum as donor applicants gather following Chapel last Monday.

Lines form on the floor of Moody Coliseum as donor applicants gather following Chapel last Monday.

You could hear a swab drop. I got the cotton ball rolling by taking my cheek sample on stage and passing the baton to Students’ Association president Beau Carter (’17), ACU head football coach Ken Collums, and Wildcat pitcher Thomas Altimont (’16). Hundreds followed them onto the coliseum floor.

Thanks to Young’s inspiration and the perspiration of Dr. Jan Meyer (’87), executive director for ACU’s Center for Christian Service and Leadership; her right-hand man, John Alan Archer (’14); and Amy Roseman, donor recruitment coordinator from Delete Blood Cancer’s Dallas office, more than 500 (and still counting) ACU students and staff got swabbed and joined the international donor registry.

Swab kits await the more than 500 donor applicants from among students, faculty and staff at ACU.

Swab kits ready for the international donor registry from the more than 500 applicants at ACU.

Relay men are accustomed to sharing glory, and Young is eager to do that in this case. In fact, ACU’s registration drive is the culmination of a series of efforts that was hatched on campus last October when Meyer hosted her peers from other Christian universities. She gave Young the floor to introduce himself and share his dream of signing and swabbing college students coast-to-coast. Since then, he has spoken at Lipscomb University, Oklahoma Christian University, Harding University and York College. The drive at Lipscomb in Nashville has already yielded what appears to be a donor match.

Wednesday, as we concluded the campaign in Chapel, we prayed for the same thing to happen with the hundreds of swabs that had been taken during those three days. Even after the amen, students kept coming. I snapped a picture of the swab mob with my phone and posted it on various social media sites. One of the first to “like” the photo was my only Facebook friend from Offenburg, Germany. When I messaged Waag to to tell her about our event and thank her for helping Young, she replied, “My englisch (sic) is not so good. I am so happy that I could help him and someday I’ll hold him in my arms. Love, Christine.”

When I forwarded that message to Young, he said, “Love can be shown in many ways. Hard to top showing it in a gift of life.”

If you would like to register to become a marrow donor, click here.

ACU Remembers: Bill Hart

2006 Bill Hart 675x510 96dpiAward-winning sportswriter Bill F. Hart (’52), who wrote about Abilene Christian University athletics for decades while forging a storied newspaper career in West Texas, died April 21 at age 83 in Baird, Texas.

A memorial service for Hart will be at 10:30 a.m. today at Baird Church of Christ (Interstate 20 and F.M. 2047), with internment at nearby Ross Cemetery.

He was born in Abilene, Texas, on July 20, 1931, graduated from Baird High School in 1948 and married Linda May (’55) on Aug. 17, 1956, in Megargel, Texas. The Harts were longtime members of the Baird Church of Christ where Bill served as an elder for many years.

Hart was sports editor for The Optimist and on the staff of radio station KACC as an ACU student, and taught classes in his alma mater’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication in the late 1970s.

He began work for the Abilene Reporter-News in 1973 following newspaper jobs in Lubbock, San Angelo, Temple and Binghamton, N.Y. He retired in 1999 after 47 years of full-time sportswriting but continued authoring a Sunday column for the Reporter-News until his death.

Hart was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame, the ACU Sports Hall of Fame and the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame. He was an officer in the Texas Sports Writers Association who was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of high school football and track and field. He was sports editor during part of his Reporter-News tenure.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Willie Conner Hart; a brother, J.C. “Buddy” Hart (’41), and a grandson, Justin Travis Hart.

Survivors include Linda, his wife of 59 years; daughters Cindy (Hart  ’84) Hickerson and Marilu (Hart ’88) Hall; sons Dr. Charles Randall Hart (’86) and Keith Lee Hart; 10 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; six step-grandsons; one step-great-grandson; and a sister, Mary Jo (Hart ’37) Garner.