ACU Remembers: Dr. Arlie Hoover

Arlie J Hoover webLongtime Abilene Christian University history professor Dr. Arlie J. Hoover died Dec. 11 in Pasadena, Texas, at age 78. A memorial service will be held Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. at Clear Lake Church of Christ in Houston (938 El Dorado Blvd., 77062).

Hoover was born March 14, 1936, in Slaton, Texas, and graduated from Slaton High School in 1954. He met Gloria Kay Garrison while the two were attending Florida Christian College and they married June 7, 1959.

He earned an A.A. degree in Bible from FCC in 1960, a B.A. in history from the University of Tampa (1960), an M.A. (1962) and Ph.D. (1965) in history and philosophy from The University of Texas at Austin, did doctoral research at the Free University of Berlin, post-doctoral research at the University of Heidelberg, and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Emmanuel College in Oxford, England (1992). While not an honorary degree, the D.D. was granted in recognition of the influence of his 1980 book, Dear Agnos: A Defense of Christianity.

Hoover was professor of history at Pepperdine University (1964-77) and dean of Columbia Christian College (1977-80) before joining ACU’s faculty in 1980. He retired in 2010 as professor emeritus of history.

A recipient of numerous academic awards, grants and fellowships – including a Fulbright Fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities – he traveled extensively to research and lecture across the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. He was a respected scholar on the Holocaust; German philosopher, poet and composer Friedrich Nietzsche; and world, American and religious history. A prolific writer, Hoover authored 12 books and numerous articles for publications, and spoke German fluently.

He served as a minister for congregation in Florida, Texas, California and Oregon, and as a deacon at the Hillcrest Church of Christ in Abilene.

He was preceded in death by his parents, A.J. and Ruth Elizabeth (Clem) Hoover, a brother, Bobby Hoover; and a sister, Myrna Brown. Survivors include Gloria, his wife of 55 years; two daughters, Arletta (Hoover ’92) Beard and Cathey Hoover (’97); four grandchildren; and brothers Tim Hoover and Nathaniel Hoover.


For the Least of These: The Campbells

Campbell family

Kevin and Sarah Campbell with Zach and Cole.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

When you ask Kevin (’00) and Sarah (Leesman ’01) Campbell who their heroes are, they will tell you: the birth mothers of their two sons.

“They gave us one of the greatest gifts we could ever receive on this earth, and we are truly thankful they entrusted us with their sons,” Kevin writes.

We continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt, with the Campbells’ story of pursuing open adoptions through Christian Homes and Family Services of Abilene. Kevin is chief enrollment officer for ACU, and Sarah is director of student ministries at Highland Church of Christ.

Enjoy Kevin’s account of how Zach and Cole became part of their family:

For Sarah and I, adoption was not a question of if, but when. We had talked about adoption since the days we were dating, and without going into too much detail, Sarah had a medical history and a number of surgeries that meant the likelihood of pregnancy for us was slim to none.

As we made our decision for how we wanted to adopt, we came across three fundamental questions we had to answer.

  1. Did we want our adoption to be domestic or international?

  1. What type of relationship did we want between the birth mother and our family? There are closed adoptions (no contact after placement), semi-open adoptions (letters, pictures and emails) and open adoptions (face-to-face contact, phone calls, text messages, etc.)

  1. What method did we want to pursue with our adoption? There is fostering to adopt, private adoption, and adoption via agency.

There is not a right way or a wrong way to adopt; it is where a family is called to pursue. We chose to go down the path of domestic, open adoption via Christian Homes and Family Services because we wanted our children to know their birth mothers, and we wanted to ensure the birth mothers received as much care and support as possible. We cherished the way Christian Homes loved and cared for birth mothers, providing mentors and counseling during the pregnancy and after the birth.

Zach and Cole Campbell

Zach and Cole Campbell

We have adopted two boys, Zach, 4, and Cole, 1, from Christian Homes and were able to bring both boys home from the hospital on their third day of life. They have blessed our lives, and we are grateful they call us mom and dad. But there are two other very significant people in this story, and I would like to shine the spotlight on them: the birth mothers.

Our boys’ birth mothers are two of our biggest heroes! One was a teenager and the other was in her 30s. They each felt they could not provide the home they desired for their child at the time of their pregnancy, and they wanted their boys to be raised in a Christian home. As we pulled away from the hospital to bring the boys to our home, we were overwhelmed with joy and grief at the same time. Joy as our family grew, and grief as we realized the magnitude of the sacrifice the birth mothers made on our behalf. They gave us one of the greatest gifts we could ever receive on this earth, and we are truly thankful they entrusted us with their sons.

We have enjoyed seeing our boys interact with their birth mothers and their birth mothers’ extended families, who will know and love our boys throughout the years. We have pictures of the birth mothers in each boy’s room, and we regularly pray for them as a family. We thank God for the decision of love and sacrifice they made in choosing life for our boys and choosing us to be their parents.

Adoption has been a front row seat to witnessing God’s redeeming love in our lives, the lives of our sons and in the lives of their birth mothers. We have been blessed beyond measure to see how God makes beautiful things out of every situation.

In the weeks to come, we will introduce you to other alumni who help make a real difference in the world – and enrich their own families – by adopting and fostering children. If you have an adoption story or photos you would like to share with us, please email Robin Saylor, robin.saylor@acu.edu.

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Time, Life, SI: Wildcats have covered them all

Kent Brantly POY 3x4 96dpiThis is Dec. 10 and it’s been 58 years – to the day – since Wildcats appeared on the front covers of Life and Time, two of the most iconic news-feature magazines in the world.

Bobby Morrow and Kent Brantly, M.D., were the honorees, the first an Abilene Christian University junior who was an Olympic hero and the second a 2003 graduate serving as a medical missionary in West Africa. Both have generated miles of headlines for their alma mater.

Morrow (’58) was on the Dec. 10, 1956, issue of Life magazine, crossing the finish line to win one of his three Olympic gold medals in Melbourne, Australia.

Morrow was featured on the Nov. 10, 1956, issue of Life magazine.

Morrow was featured on the Dec. 10, 1956, issue of Life magazine.

Brantly, a physician for Samaritan’s Purse who overcame great odds to survive the deadly Ebola virus disease he contracted in Liberia this summer, is one of several health professionals to appear on covers of Time magazine today as one of “The Ebola Fighters,” the magazine’s Person of the Year for 2014.

After recovering from his illness, Brantly went on to make life-saving donations of plasma to others being treated for the disease and has been speaking around the nation to remind people of the urgent need to stop Ebola where it originates overseas. Twice he has been a special guest of President Barack Obama at The White House. A compilation of Kent’s experiences can be seen here.

He and his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06) will be honored Feb. 15, 2015, as ACU’s Young Alumni of the Year.

Life was a celebrated magazine published in several forms and frequencies from 1883-2007. The photo-rich publication was known for publishing the memoirs of Harry S. Truman and Sir Winston Churchill, works from Ernest Hemingway, and images from noted photojournalists such as Alfred Eisenstaedt and Gordon Parks. News and photo correspondents from Life and Time accompanied troops in several wars, changing the public’s perception of armed conflict.

The celebrity of Morrow – who appeared on TV’s “The Ed Sullivan Show” and also won the 1957 Sullivan Award (no relation to Ed) as the nation’s top amateur athlete – was fueled further when he appeared on the cover of the Jan. 7, 1957, issue of Sports Illustrated as its 1956 Sportsman of the Year. Finalists for the recognition were New York Yankee stars Mickey Mantle and Don Larsen, heavyweight boxing champion Floyd Patterson, NFL MVP Frank Gifford, and Heisman Trophy-winning running back Paul Hornung of Notre Dame.

The June 19, 1961, issue of Sports Illustrated featured Earl Young (’62).

The June 19, 1961, issue of Sports Illustrated featured Earl Young (’62).

Morrow also was on Sports Illustrated’s July 2, 1956, cover along with Duke University’s Dave Sime. The two American sprint sensations were expected to star in the upcoming 1956 Olympic Games, although Sime missed participating because of an injury. Morrow lived up to the fanfare, and more, as a worldwide audience watched him win the most medals since Jesse Owens in 1936.

ACU junior quartermiler Earl Young (’62), made the front cover of Sports Illustrated’s June 19, 1961, issue, a few months after he won a gold medal for his country in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. “The Bright New Hopes of U.S. Track” was the cover story title.


ACU Remembers: Dr. Ted Starnes

Ted Starnes 600x600 96Dr. Ted Duncan Starnes (’55), former Abilene Christian University theatre technical director and director of university events, died Dec. 7, 2014, in Abilene, Texas, at age 81, following a 38-career in higher education at ACU and Pepperdine University.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10 at Hillcrest Church of Christ (where Starnes was a member), followed by burial at Elliott-Hamil Garden of Memories Cemetery. Visitation with the family will be 5:30-7:30 p.m. today at The Hamil Family Funeral Home (6449 Buffalo Gap Rd.)

Starnes was born July 5, 1933, in Houston and graduated from Abilene High School in 1951. After earning a B.A. in speech/drama from ACU in 1955, he served in the U.S. Army from 1955-57, earned a Master of Arts degree in speech/drama from Pepperdine University in 1961 and a doctorate in drama education from the University of North Texas in 1983. He also studied at the University of Southern California.

He met Beverley Camp (’57) during his senior and her freshman year at ACU, and they married July 5, 1957.

Starnes twice served as director of theatre at Pepperdine (1961-70 and 1976-79) but invested the majority of his career at ACU, where he joined the faculty as assistant professor of communication in 1970 and became associate professor in 1979. He was named director of university events in 1979, director of volunteer development and ACU events in 1989, and he retired in 1999.

His organizational skills and his years of expertise in theatre, lighting and staging – he was largely technical director of numerous dinner theatre shows and Homecoming musicals at ACU but also directed dinner theatre productions such as “The Rainmaker” in 1982 – served him well after he left the classroom. Starnes’ later work encompassed directing Sing Song and Freshman Follies, and overseeing design and production of major ACU events such as Commencement, Opening Assembly, the President’s Circle Dinner, fundraising venues, and concerts at venues from Moody Coliseum to the Paramount Theatre in Abilene to the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.

Starnes volunteered his time as a design, production and technical consultant for the West Texas Rehabilitation Center telethons and fundraising dinners, the Abilene Opera Association and the Abilene Preservation League, and as a visiting director for the Abilene Community Theatre. After retirement, he worked part time at The Hamil Family Funeral Home. In 2005-06 he was a member of ACU’s Centennial Photography Archivists Team.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Rufus and Willow Drue (Garner) Starnes; a brother, Rufus G. Starnes Jr. (’41); and two sisters, Elaine (Starnes ’48) Bryant and Yvonne (Starnes ’48) Smith. Among survivors are Beverley, his wife of 57 years; two sons, Robert Mac Starnes (’88) and Thomas Duncan Starnes; a brother, Mac D. Starnes (’58); and three grandchildren.


ACU Remembers: Don M. Shultz

Don Shultz 250x300 96Donald M. Shultz (’52), former longtime trustee of Abilene Christian University, died Dec. 6 at age 85 in Atlanta, Ga.

A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10, at the North Atlanta Church of Christ (5676 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody, GA 30338). Visitation will be today from 6-8 p.m. at Sandy Springs Chapel (136 Mount Vernon Highway NE, Sandy Springs, GA 30328).

Born Nov. 1, 1929, in Topeka, Kan., Shultz earned a B.S. degree in business administration from ACU in 1952 and a certification in ministerial counseling in 1990. He was a football letterman and member of the A Club while a student at Abilene Christian.

He married Susie Ogletree on Nov. 14, 1953, and served nine years in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Shultz was an executive with Ford Motor Company for 32 years who worked in Dallas; Oklahoma City; Houston; Chicago; Detroit; Atlanta; San Jose, Calif.; and Cologne, Germany. He retired at age 57 to work full time in ministry at the North Atlanta Church of Christ, where he served as an elder and helped envision the Genesis Center for Christian Counseling, a ministry of that congregation. Previously, he was an elder at the Campbell (Calif.) Church of Christ.

In 1981, ACU awarded Shultz its Distinguished Alumni Citation. He was a member of the ACU Board of Trustees from 1986-2005 and also served as chair of Greater Atlanta Christian School. In 1991 he was named Dunwood (Ga.) Rotary Club’s Volunteer of the Year.

Shultz was preceded in death by his parents, Dewey and Mildred Shultz, and a brother, Dale Shultz (’51).

Survivors include Susie, his wife of 61 years; a daughter, Camie (Shultz ’80) Fetz; sons Brad Shultz (’82) and Todd Shultz (’87); brothers Larry Shultz (’57) and Ron Shultz (’66); five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.


For the Least of These: The Mendenhalls

The Mendenhall family: Janet, Doug, five children (Jake, Hart, Brooks, Cade and Hailey Grace), three daughters-in-law or daughters-in-law-to-be, and one grandson.

The Mendenhall family: Janet, Doug, five children (Jake, Hart, Brooks, Cade and Hailey Grace), three daughters-in-law or daughters-in-law-to-be, and one grandson.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

We continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt, sharing the story of the Mendenhalls, whose life took a curve when they were least expecting it.

Dr. Doug Mendenhall (’82) is journalist in residence and an instructor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at ACU. His wife, Janet (Dampier ’86) is a neighborhood coordinator for an Abilene non-profit called Connecting Caring Communities. They have five children: Jake, 24; Hart, 22; Brooks, 20; Cade, 17; and Hailey Grace, 11.

Here’s how a chance meeting in a driveway brought Hailey Grace into their family.

A Chance Encounter

Back when we were still a childless young couple and had time to talk to each other, we decided to adopt. Friends who were doing this across racial lines were a great example, and we knew we wanted to follow in their steps.

Years went by, and three boys were born to us. We had less and less time to talk, but did not drop the dream of adoption.

In Alabama in 1997, we finally went through all of the steps to place our names on the list to adopt a biracial infant through a Christian agency. It was a short list.

Our fourth son joined us that fall when he was 2 days old, coming home to big brothers who were 3, 5 and 7 but knew something important had just happened in their lives.

Janet Mendenhall and Hailey Grace

Janet Mendenhall and Hailey Grace

We knew then that our family was complete. We had not specified a gender to the adoption agency, but with four boys now and the email address “boyzville,” the puzzle pieces seemed to have fallen into place.

The next five years were a blur of ballgames, birthdays, baths and bedtime stories, with four growing boys in perpetual motion.

We had neither the energy nor the bedrooms for any more children.

A few days before Christmas 2002, though, deep in the season of Nativity, all six of our lives slowed down suddenly.

Our next-door neighbors’ daughter was an employee now of the very agency through which we’d adopted our son. She came home to visit her parents, and was in their driveway when Janet pulled into ours one morning.

“How’s that new job going, Jennifer?” Janet called across the driveways.

The reply was a bittersweet story about the birth of a beautiful biracial girl. Her adoption had fallen through, so Jennifer had just driven her to her foster mother.

“But somebody’s going to adopt her, right?” Janet asked.

No, actually.

“But surely now there’s a waiting list, right?” Janet asked.

No. The agency had no prospective parents for a baby of this color.

“I think we’re supposed to get her,” Janet told Jennifer. As soon as she made this pronouncement, Janet could see some big holes in it. “I don’t even know if they’d let us. We don’t have the money, and they might think we’re too old.”

They talked more, and Jennifer assured her that from the agency’s viewpoint, all of the holes could be filled. The baby girl could easily become our daughter.

But how could Janet really know if God was guiding her pronouncement?

I know, she thought; I’ll go inside and tell Doug, and if he laughs at me, I’ll know it wasn’t meant to be.

So she did. I heard the simple story.

The solution seemed obvious to me, too. So I didn’t laugh.

One month after her birth, this beautiful girl came home to four big brothers.

“Finally, someone to be in MY club,” her youngest brother said proudly.

She has changed Boyzville in many wonderful ways, but that’s a longer story for another time.

I don’t know why, but we still have that old email address. Maybe it’s a gentle reminder that we don’t really know the plan for our lives.

In the weeks to come, we will introduce you to other alumni who help make a real difference in the world – and enrich their own families – by adopting and fostering children. If you have an adoption story or photos you would like to share with us, please email Robin Saylor, robin.saylor@acu.edu.

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For the Least of These: The Joneses

Jones family

The Jones clan is all smiles outside the courthouse on “adoption day.” The brothers (from left) are Canaan, Judah, Levi, Seth, Titus and Silas.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

When Cory (’01) and Christina (McCarty ’01) Jones prayed for God to disturb their cliché suburban lives, they weren’t expecting the answer to be three more sons. But that’s exactly what they got.

The couple has three biological boys (Levi, 11; Titus, 8; and Seth, 6) and adopted three more boys (Judah, 6; Canaan, 4; and Silas, 3) after fostering them. Christina is an occupational therapist in Little Rock, Ark., and Cory is pulput minister at CrossWalk Family of God.

Read Christina’s account of their family’s “accidental adoption,” as we continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to rescue children around the world.

An Accidental Adoption

First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes baby in a baby carriage.

Indeed, that playground song was pretty accurate for my husband and me. Cory and I graduated from ACU in 2001, completely smitten with each other. We married the summer after graduating and then moved to Richmond, Va., where he had a job as a youth minister.

About a year after we married, we were surprised to find out that we would be in the market for that aforementioned baby carriage sooner than we had planned. Nine months later our little red-headed surprise rocked our world, but his arrival didn’t hold a candle to the time we accidentally adopted three boys.

jones-family-300

The Jones family in pre-adoption days.

Fast-forward to 2010. We were living in Houston and very much enjoying the cheaper cost of living. Cory was a youth minister at West Houston Church of Christ, I was working part time as an occupational therapist, and together we were raising our three young boys Levi, Titus and Seth.

We hadn’t intended to go the biblical route with our boys names. We actually fell in love with the name Levi, thanks to a contestant on the show “Fear Factor.” Then when baby No. 2 came along and continued the not-a-girl pattern we had already fallen hard for the name Titus. Thus, obviously by the time boy No. 3 arrived the ship was too big to turn, and Seth naturally became Seth.

We were a small family of five living in a five-bedroom house and beginning to feel the weight of that gluttony. Cory was involved with several homeless ministries downtown, and it was especially sickening knowing that thousands of people were sleeping on the streets while we had extra rooms in our house that we didn’t ever step foot in.

We explored a few ways to use our house to help others, but adoption was never on our radar. At one point, through some loose connections, we learned of a single man and his daughter who needed a place to stay and we connected with them, but it fell through at the last minute.

All the while, the verse from Luke 12 that promises “to whom much is given, much is expected” was gaining steam in our minds.

I knew of a family that had been involved in foster care, and I started asking them some practical questions about what it took and how the system worked. I can’t say that I ever felt a special calling to be a foster mom, but at the same time, as I learned more about what it entailed, it weirdly felt like a role I had been preparing for my whole life.

And so in August of 2011, with our official foster license mounted by our front door, a CPS worker pulled into our driveway with two scared little dark-skinned boys. Ten days later she returned to our house toting their 3-day-old half-brother, still wearing his hospital tags. We now had six boys under the age of 8, and they filled our house with dirty diapers, insurmountable loads of laundry, Curious George, sibling rivalries, tear-filled nights and laughter – so much laughter.

In June of 2012, the judge declared it was time that the boys return to their mom. After 11 months in our home the goodbye was gut-wrenching and hard, and all those other things that people sometimes use as excuses when they say they could never be foster parents.

jones-boys-400

The six Jones boys today.

But it was also beautiful. Ours was a unique relationship with the birth mom. We had grown to love her and with grace could see her as a wounded soul and not as a list of criminal charges. We were rooting for her.

She loved us back, too – which is why after a hard reunion with her boys, she called me and said, “I can’t do this. I think you should adopt them.”

We never became foster parents to adopt, and had actually moved to a new state during the six weeks she had them back, yet we found ourselves fighting the system to add her three boys to our family. We changed their names to Judah, Canaan and Silas, because we wanted to claim them as ours and mark their new stories in faith.

It has been three years now since we prayed those first prayers asking God to disturb our cliche suburban lives. I’m not the same woman I was back then; the number of boys who call me momma and the number of moments I have cried out to God have both dramatically increased in a weird pattern that can only mean they are related.

Our adoption journey has beautifully dripped with God’s presence throughout, but it has also been painful because it was born out of tragedy. All adoptions are. I didn’t know the sacrifices it would take to fuse a blended family together. My husband and I strongly believe that adoption was never God’s original hope for any child. It is a redemptive “Plan B” for our sin-filled world. But it’s worth it; my boys are so worth it.

And so are the thousands of others just like them who are in need of a permanent family. That’s why we are making plans to adopt again – this time on purpose – but both times on faith.

In the weeks to come, we will introduce you to other alumni who help make a real difference in the world – and enrich their own families – by adopting and fostering children. If you have an adoption story or photos you would like to share with us, please email Robin Saylor, robin.saylor@acu.edu.

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For the Least of These: The Schroeders

Schroeders

Laura and Jared Schroeder with their sons (from left) Sam, Oliver and Tucker.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

“We could have chosen a gender. We could have chosen a race. We could have tried to customize the details. But instead we chose to let God do the choosing. To be open to whoever God wanted to be our child. And He did good. God did SO GOOD! I wouldn’t change a thing.” – Laura Schroeder, reflecting on the day nine years ago that Tucker became her child

Dr. Jared Schroeder (’00) and his wife, Laura, met while taking journalism classes at ACU. “I asked her out on our first date while we were standing in [journalism professor] Charlie Marler’s front yard,” Jared recalls.

Jared was editor of The Optimist student newspaper. Laura was a student at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene but taking classes at ACU for a minor in journalism. They met in Marler’s Opinion Writing class and the rest, as they say, is history.

Jared is now an assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Laura works at the elementary school her boys attend, and is also the clinic coordinator and nutritional consultant at Hope Wellness Center. They have three children: Tucker, 9; Oliver, 7; and Sam, 5.

Learn how they chose Tucker as we continue our series on Abilene Christian University alumni who help make a real difference in the world – and enrich their own families – by adopting and fostering children. If you have an adoption story or photos you would like to share with us, please email Robin Saylor, robin.saylor@acu.edu.

The Color of Love

Tucker has brown skin and no one else in the family does. He’s noticed.

It is easy for a 9-year-old to notice differences in skin color, or that most of his friend’s families have the same skin color. It is harder for Laura and me to explain the love and life-changing experiences, for many people, that led to him joining our family.

We’ve never hidden from him or his youngest brother, Sam, that they are adopted, or that their birth mothers gave them to us. We show our boys their birth mothers’ pictures and talk with them about their adoptions.

Tucker’s not yet old enough to hear about the day in November 2004, in our quiet kitchen in San Angelo, when Laura and I had God reach right into our hearts and begin the process that would lead us to that tiny wad of a baby that was handed to us in the Christian Homes offices in Abilene in fall 2005.

Adoptions start with piles of paperwork. As Laura and I began to plow through all of the questions that day, we came to a form that allowed us to determine, by checking boxes, what types of kids we would be willing to accept. Would we accept children from families with certain illness histories? What about birth defects? What about race?

These were difficult questions. We started to check the easy boxes first. Then our hearts started to feel heavy. We felt convicted about our picking and choosing. From the beginning, this was a process spurred by faith. God had put adoption on our hearts. Eventually, we found the only answer God would have us give was to check all the boxes. Have faith.

When we handed in our paperwork, the social worker kindly explained to us that our choice meant we would almost certainly receive a “hard-to-place” child. The child, she indicated, would almost certainly be of a different race or have a family or health background that would be a concern to some. Not everyone in our families was comfortable with our choices, especially regarding the potential race of the child, which led to an awkward Christmas that year.

Later, we would learn that as our families wrestled with our announcement about our intended adoption that Christmas, Tucker was conceived. And as God worked on our families’ hearts the following fall, Tucker was born.

By the time he was handed to us, as we met this 7-week-old boy God had very purposefully placed into our hands, our families were there excited to receive him.

Tucker has brown skin and no one else in our family does. When he asks about this, we explain to him that that is just the way God wants it. It’s part of a love story that was written for him and for us.

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Wildcats make headlines, history in Division I

ACUFootball_AveMaria_58911It’s taking a little longer than expected for students and some fans of Wildcat athletics to warm up to life in NCAA Division I, but the David vs. Goliath moments are coming fast and furious, and Abilene Christian University is winning its share of them.

Just by playing in the Southland Conference, ACU (Fall 2014 enrollment of about 4,400) is swimming in the deep end of the pool with institutions far larger, in most cases: all but Houston Baptist (2,198) have enrollments of from 8,000-15,000 students, with Sam Houston State the biggest at 19,214. Non-conference games offer the opportunity to challenge – and beat – even larger foes:

Sophomore forward Lizzy Dimba scored 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds in a Nov. 19 loss at Texas-San Antonio.

Sophomore forward Lizzy Dimba scored 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds in a Nov. 19 loss at Texas-San Antonio.

The women’s basketball team beat George Mason (33,917 • Atlantic 10 Conference) and Missouri-Kansas City (15,746 • Western Athletic Conference) in a holiday tournament this week. Head coach Julie Goodenough’s team is 5-1 in the early season, including a win in Moody Coliseum over Eastern Washington (13,453 • Big Sky Conference). Last season the team beat Texas Tech (35,134 • Big 12 Conference) in Lubbock and returns there Dec. 3 for a rematch. This season, the Wildcats have a home game with the Air Force Academy (4,619 • Mountain West Conference) and a road game at Kansas State (24,300 • Big 12 Conference).

The men’s basketball team is 2-2 thus far, with losses to Tulsa (4,597 • American Athletic Conference) and Duquesne (9,984 • Atlantic 10), teams with deep experience in NCAA March Madness tournaments and the NIT. Duquesne drew a crowd of 2,100 to Moody last week and although the Dukes won 102-81, the game marked the appearance of the most highly successful men’s program to play at ACU since the Wildcats upset Pepperdine (7,700 • West Coast Conference) in 1984. ACU’s non-conference schedule is not as daunting as last year (Maryland and Iowa of the Big Ten Conference, Xavier of the Big East Conference, St. Bonaventure of the Atlantic 10, and Towson of the Colonial Athletic Conference) but includes upcoming games with California-Riverside (21,297 • Big West Conference), Sacramento State (29,300 • Big Sky Conference), Houston (40,750 • American Athletic), Loyola University-Chicago (15,902 • Missouri Valley Conference), Boise State (22,003 • Mountain West) and South Carolina State (4,000 • Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference).

Junior guard Parker Wentz scored a game-high 31 points against Duquesne.

Junior guard Parker Wentz scored a game-high 31 points against Duquesne.

One win from the football team’s 6-6 season this fall came over Stephen F. Austin State, a Southland rival that qualified for the FCS (Football Championship Series) national playoffs. And in a game played Nov. 1 in the Metroplex, ACU upset Central Arkansas, knocking the Bears from first place in the Southland and spoiling their playoff plans. Earlier in the year, the Wildcats lost 38-37 in the final seconds to FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) member Georgia State (32,842 • Sun Belt Conference) in a game televised nationally on ESPNU, and stunned Troy (23,290 • Sun Belt) with a 38-35 win Sept. 13 on ESPN3. Troy has made five appearances in bowl games in the past decade; the win was ACU’s first over an FBS opponent in 51 years. Three Wildcat losses in 2014 were by a total of 10 points.

In Spring 2014, the baseball team played Arizona State (76,771 • Pac 12 Conference), Arizona (36,932 • Pac 12), Texas Tech, Texas A&M (58,809 • Southeastern Conference), Oklahoma (30,786 • Big 12), Oklahoma State (25,708 • Big 12), Missouri State (22,731 • Missouri Valley Conference) and Utah (31,660 • Pac 12) in 2014. In 2015 the Wildcats play home games Feb. 13-15 against Nevada (18,227 • Mountain West Conference) and Feb. 24 with Texas Tech – the Red Raiders’ first baseball game at ACU since 1976 – and road games at Texas Tech, Texas-Arlington (33,311 • Sun Belt), Texas A&M, TCU (10,033 • Big 12), Arizona State and Arizona. Don’t miss games with Southland foes either; 18 players from universities in ACU’s conference were chosen in the MLB Draft this year. The Southland sent two teams to the NCAA playoffs in 2014 and is one of the strongest baseball conferences in the nation each year. ACU upset Arizona – the 2012 College World Series champ – 6-5 in its next-to-last game in 2014.

The volleyball team scored wins this fall over Jackson State (9,508 • Southwestern Athletic Conference) and Weber State (13,080 • Big Sky) and gained valuable experience in non-conference matches with Baylor (16,263 • Big 12), Portland (3,900 • West Coast), Texas-Arlington, North Texas (36,221 • Conference USA), Texas State (36,790 • Sun Belt), TCU, Texas Tech and Air Force.

The women’s soccer team would have qualified for the Southland tournament in each of the past two seasons had the Wildcats been eligible for it. They made a big splash in 2013 with a 13-5-1 overall record and 7-5 mark in the Southland, and followed that up with a 5-4-2 league record in 2014. Their non-conference opponents this fall included Tulsa, Texas-El Paso (23,003 • CUSA), North Texas, TCU, Texas-Pan American (20,053 • WAC), and Texas Tech. SFA, the Southland’s regular-season champ for 2014, narrowly beat ACU, 1-0, with a goal in the 82nd minute of play.

The tennis teams showed in Spring 2015 they could compete and dominate in the Southland. The women (18-6 overall and 9-3 in conference) and men (17-10 overall and 5-1 in conference) had big seasons, and the men won the postseason National Invitational Tournament in Omaha, Neb.

The men’s track and field team finished fourth in the Southland’s 2014 outdoor championship meet in May and the women’s cross country team was fifth in the league meet in November.

In Spring 2014, the women’s softball team split games with Rhode Island (15,800 • Atlantic 10), beat Texas-Arlington and took four of five games from Prairie View A&M (8,608 • SWAC). Their 2015 schedule includes games with Missouri State, Louisiana-Monroe (8,527 • Sun Belt), Louisiana Tech (11,271 • CUSA), North Texas, Oregon (24,548 • Pac 12), Tulsa, Baylor and Jacksonville (8,693 • Atlantic Sun Conference).

The Wildcats’ upset of Central Arkansas knocked the Bears out of first place in the Southland Conference.

The Wildcats’ upset of Central Arkansas knocked the Bears out of first place in the Southland Conference.

Because of the nature of multi-team tournaments and meets, facing off against student-athletes from much larger universities is nothing new to the track and field, cross country, tennis and golf programs, but the schedules make bigger headlines in sports such as football and basketball in which contests are frequently televised regionally and nationally.

The football team already has its biggest road games in years scheduled with Fresno State University (Sept. 5, 2015, in Fresno, Calif.) and Air Force (Sept. 3, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo.).

The Wildcats’ new track and field stadium will be christened April 11 when ACU hosts Texas Tech, TCU and New Mexico in the second annual Wes Kittley Invitational, the most high-profile quadrangular meet in Abilene since 1960, when Michigan, Ohio State and Texas squared off with ACU in Elmer Gray Stadium before a standing-room only crowd.

Stay tuned by following this blog and acusports.com for Wildcat action and news in Division I athletics. Most important of all, make plans to be present when ACU teams compete at home and on the road. There is no replacement for the energy and support fans can show their team, especially when there is history to be made.


Campus a fall oasis for southbound Monarchs

A monarch rests at one of ACU's butterfly gardens.

A Monarch rests on a Gregg’s Blue Mistflower at one of ACU’s butterfly gardens.

Each year, Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), also known as milkweed butterflies and “King Billy” butterflies, make an amazing multi-generational migration from as far north as Canada to their winter homes in southern Mexico and California. This journey – like that of migratory birds such as snow geese, cormorants and pelicans which frequent West Texas – thrills viewers who eagerly anticipate their arrival each year at spots along the way.

Monarchs at the Hunter Welcome Center butterfly gardens

Monarchs dominate this gathering at the Welcome Center butterfly garden.

The campus of Abilene Christian University is one of the places Monarchs visit each year and the first butterflies arrived in Mexico the last week of October this fall.

Abilene has in years past hosted monarchs in large roosting colonies frequenting local pecan trees as favored sleeping areas. As recently as 2011, the Monarch migration came in stunning numbers to our campus, clustering in the large pecan trees around the Hardin Administration Building and Phillips Education Building. However, numbers in subsequent years have dropped dramatically for a variety of reasons, including the excessive heat and drought that plagued the central U.S. in 2012 and drops in the caterpillars’ food supply, the milkweed plant.

A queen butterfly (foreground)

Queen butterflies look similar to monarchs, especially at rest with their wings closed. When open, their different markings are more distinguishable.

Even though the number of Monarchs on campus this fall was small, the ones who came were warmly welcomed with two special garden spaces. Planted on the east side of the Hunter Welcome Center and the south side of Brown Library, they are filled with drought-resistant native plant species specially chosen to attract butterflies of all kinds. Plants include Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinum greggii), “New Gold” lantana (Lantana x hybrid ‘New Gold’), butterfly bush (buddleia davidii), and several varieties of salvia. According to Corey Ruff, ACU director of physical resources, building and grounds, Gregg’s Blue mistflower attracts butterflies like no other plant material.

This summer the gardens were primarily occupied by Queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus), which at first glance resemble monarchs. But when the Monarchs finally arrived in early October, the difference in size and markings was easy to spot. For about three weeks the gardens were covered with many varieties of butterflies, becoming more active as the temperatures warmed during the day. Finally, a cool front on Halloween sent them on their way south.

With the short, cold days of winter fast approaching, the gardens will sleep, too – waiting for the warmth of spring and a new generation of these lovely winged creatures to remind us of God’s beauty and creativity.

“Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.”

– Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association

Buckeye buttterfly (Junonia coenia)

Buckeye buttterfly (Junonia coenia)

American Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis)

American Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis)

Red Admiral buttterfly (Vanessa atalanta)

Red Admiral buttterfly (Vanessa atalanta)

A monarch's lower wings are lighter in color than the upper ones. Queen butterflies have the same dark orange colors above and below.

A Monarch’s hind wings are lighter in color than the fore ones. Queen butterflies have the same dark orange colors front and back.

Monarchs also like to gather on pecan trees on the ACU campus.

Monarchs also like to gather on pecan tree leaves on the ACU campus.