Former Wildcats pursue pro football careers

Taylor Gabriel has made a big impression with the Browns.

Taylor Gabriel has made a big impression with the Browns.

It’s always crunch time, so to speak, in National Football League training camps.

But with the 2015 regular season just three weeks away and only two preseason games remaining, many of the men toiling in the late August heat are playing not only for a job but perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Four former Wildcats are on NFL player rosters as of today:

Gates – who is in his fourth NFL season – was signed by the Cowboys on Aug. 20 and made a brief appearance in last week’s game with the San Francisco 49ers. Richardson is in his third season, having played the first first two with the St. Louis Rams.

Second-year players Gabriel and West are drawing rave reviews from their teams for their speed and work ethic. Gabriel caught 37 passes for 629 yards and one TD for the Browns last season, when he and West were undrafted rookie free agents.

Other former Wildcats among NFL newsmakers:

  • Lance Barrow (’77), an ACU trustee and former Wildcat football player, is longtime executive producer for CBS golf and the network’s coordinating producer for the lead NFL game of the week. He has won multiple Emmy Awards for his work.
  • Wilbert Montgomery (’77) begins his 29th year in the NFL this fall, including his second as running backs coach for Cleveland. Thanks to his tutelage last year, the Browns became the first NFL team since 1967 to have two rookie running backs (Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West) rush for more than 600 yards in a season. Montgomery is a former All-Pro player and career standout with the Philadelphia Eagles who has been an assistant coach for the St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens.
  • Veteran Houston Texans defensive back Danieal Manning (’07) retired this summer, ending a nine-year career that began by playing in Super Bowl XLI as a rookie with the Chicago Bears. He earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2008.
Ottawa Redblacks' Aston Whiteside moves in to knock the ball from the hand of Calgary Stampeders' Bo Levi Mitchell during second quarter CFL football action in Ottawa on Friday, July 24, 2015. Whiteside gained possession of the ball to make an interception. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Ottawa Redblacks’ Aston Whiteside moves in to knock the ball from the hand of Calgary Stampeders’ Bo Levi Mitchell during CFL football action in Ottawa on July 24, 2015. (Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

Further north in the Canadian Football League, two other former ACU stars are forging careers where the regular season runs from July to November to avoid the most harsh portion of winter in places like Winnipeg, Edmonton and Montreal.

Quarterback Mitchell Gale (’12) is a backup quarterback for the Toronto Argonauts and defensive back Aston Whiteside (’12) is making headlines for the Ottawa Redblacks.

Whiteside, a ball-hawking defensive end, was one of three CFL Top Performers for Week Five of the season after his season debut consisted of two tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in leading Ottawa to an upset win over the defending league champion Calgary Stampeders. He forced a fumble in overtime to set up his team’s winning field goal.

Gale is in his third year with the Argos, who won the 2012 Grey Cup – the CFL’s version of the Super Bowl – the season before signing ACU’s career passing leader.

Brantly urges students to pursue discipleship

On the first day of classes of Abilene Christian University’s 110th year, perhaps its most well-known graduate called more than 4,400 students to the kind of discipleship to which he also aspires.

“God wants you to be a disciple of Jesus Christ,” said Kent Brantly, M.D., (’03) during ACU’s annual Opening Assembly in Moody Coliseum. The family physician told students in the standing-room-only crowd that God’s calling on their lives is much bigger than career or occupation.

Brantly reflected on his experience with Ebola while delivering the Opening Assembly address at his alma mater.

Brantly reflected on his experience with Ebola while delivering the Opening Assembly address at his alma mater.

“Whatever else you’re studying, whatever else you’re learning, whatever accomplishments you’re pursuing, I urge you: take advantage of this time to learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus because the role of disciple will inform and change and impact every other role you will ever have in your life,” he said.

Brantly, medical missions advisor for Samaritan’s Purse, became the 83rd recipient of an honorary doctorate from ACU, which began the custom in 1938. Previous recipients have included actor Charlton Heston, Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry, pro golf legend Byron Nelson, and a host of legislators, business leaders, educators, scientists and other accomplished professionals from all walks of life. Brantly’s degree was an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Kent and his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06), were honored in February 2015 as their alma mater’s Young Alumni of the Year. Earlier, Kent was Time Magazine’s 2014 Person of the Year as one of “The Ebola Fighters” who helped West Africa overcome an epidemic of the deadly disease that nearly took his own life last summer.

Before heading home to Fort Worth, Kent signed copies of his and Amber’s new book, Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us Into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic.

Provost Dr. Robert Rhodes (left) and president Dr. Phil Schubert (right) presented Brantly with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Provost Dr. Robert Rhodes (left) and president Dr. Phil Schubert (right) presented Brantly with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.


A doc named Callan served Rotan for 107 years

One of the keepsakes of Maurice Callan, M.D., was a horse-drawn doctor's carriage similar to the one his grandfather likely used to call on patients in rural Fisher County. This image of Maurice appeared in the  Winter 2000 issue of ACU Today magazine.

One of the keepsakes of Maurice Callan, M.D., was a horse-drawn doctor’s carriage similar to the one his grandfather likely used to call on patients in rural Fisher County. This image of Maurice appeared in the Winter 2000 issue of ACU Today magazine.

A family physician – as well as an era – has passed in West Texas’ Fisher County with the death Aug. 10 of Chester Maurice Callan, M.D. (’52).

He represented the third generation of Callans to deliver babies, perform surgeries and see to the health care needs of grateful people in the farming community of Rotan, about 30 miles from Sweetwater. His grandfather, W.W. Callan, M.D., began practicing medicine there in 1907, when the town was less than a year old. He was followed by Maurice’s father, Chester U. Callan, M.D. (’24), who mentored his son.

Deana (Hamby ’94) Nall profiled Maurice in the Winter 2000 issue of ACU Today magazine:

As Rotan’s third Dr. Callan, he has done everything from delivering babies to performing orthopedic surgery. “And I took out a jillion pair of tonsils,” he adds.

After being cared for by three generations of Callans, some of Rotan’s citizens wouldn’t think of going to anyone else.

“His daddy and his grandfather were doctors for as long as I can remember,” says Edna Gattis, longtime Rotan resident and a patient of Callan’s. “I think he’s wonderful.”

Like Gattis, the people of Rotan have been appreciative of Callan’s work.

“I’ve been treated a lot better than I deserved,” he says.

After graduating in 1956 from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston – where his father attended – he returned home to join his dad’s practice.

“Residencies for family practice were unheard of,” Callan says. “Really and truly, I did my residency under my dad.”

Maurice practiced medicine in Rotan with his father, the late Chester U. Callan, M.D.

Maurice practiced medicine in Rotan with his father, the late Chester U. Callan, M.D. (’24), who was an ACU trustee for 50 years.

Working with his father in Rotan was tough at first, Callan recalls. “People would say, ‘No, I don’t want you – I want the real Dr. Callan.’ ” Despite being like a prophet without honor in his hometown, Callan cherished the opportunity work with his father. When asked why he didn’t choose to practice in a larger city and possibly make more money, he smiles.

“That’s a good question,” he says.

For this Rotan boy-turned doctor, family ties played a major role in this important decision.

“I really wanted to work with my dad. That was one of the greatest things in my professional life,” he says. “He was very wise and a very good teacher. We learned to really work together. I still miss him,” he says about his father, who passed away in 1987.

The people of Rotan eventually warmed to the younger Dr. Callan. They trusted him for an array of medical service, including delivering countless Rotan babies.

“I thought delivering babies was real rewarding because that was one reason people came to the hospital – they wanted to be there,” he says.

“I was always amazed,” he adds with a smile. “These parents would have visions of grandeur for their babies. ‘Our son will be the president of the United States’ or ‘There goes our daughter – Miss America.’ Then I’d go visit those same people 16 years later and all they’d be trying to do was the get the child grown and without him killing himself or someone else – if the parents didn’t kill him first.”

Chester Callan served on ACU’s Board of Trustees from 1928-78, and was honored by the American Medical Association and featured in the Saturday Evening Post in 1948 as “the Model Country Doctor.” When Rotan citizens voted in 1930 to use Works Progress Administration funds from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program to construct a community swimming pool rather than a hospital, Callan built his own.

Maurice was a longtime elder at Rotan Church of Christ, where he established Operation Starfish to feed orphans in Zimbabwe and educate people there about AIDS. He served on Abilene Christian’s Advisory Board, was a member of the Science and Mathematics Visiting Committee and retired from his medical practice in 2015 after 58 years.

Callan told ACU Today 15 years ago that he probably would never retire, needing to work to support his passion for helping others. “I need the money to go to Africa,” he said.

His memorial service was Aug. 13 in Rotan. Read his obituary here.

Halbert gift tops science capital campaign

VIA-Youtube-Email-500x281-ImageA recent gift of nearly $3 million from alumni Jon (’82) and Linda (Ellis ’83) Halbert has helped Abilene Christian University reach its capital goal in the Vision in Action (VIA) initiative to build three major science facilities.

Linda and Jon Halbert

Linda and Jon Halbert

The generosity of the Dallas couple means ACU has raised $45 million to build the 54,000-square-foot Halbert-Walling Research Center, the 85,000-square-foot Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center and 22,000-square-foot Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium.

The university launched the $75 million VIA initiative in February 2014 with an ACU-record $55 million in gifts. Fundraising continues for science equipment and operational endowments, as does fundraising for Wildcat Stadium, a proposed on-campus venue for football. ACU has completed two of its five VIA building projects: new Elmer Gray Stadium for track and field, and women’s soccer, and a renovation of historic Bennett Gymnasium for undergraduate research by its internationally respected Department of Physics and Engineering.

Among earlier donors to the Halbert-Walling Research Center were Jon’s brother, David D. Halbert (’78) and his wife, Kathy (Gay ’78), who contributed $15 million from their Caris Foundation.

“We are extraordinarily grateful to Jon and Linda for their difference-making gift,” said ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91). “The Halbert brothers believe in the importance of providing world-class science facilities for our students and faculty. David and Kathy stepped up with the first gift for a research center and Jon and Linda capped our fundraising goal for it. We accomplished this in record time for ACU, and I believe it will inspire other people to team with us to finish the rest of the Vision in Action initiative strong.”

The late Dean Walling, Jon and David’s grandfather, was an ACU trustee and founding chair of the university’s 21-year, three-phase Design for Development campaign that led to the construction of numerous major facilities in the 1960s and 1970s. A landmark gift in 1962 from Dean and his wife, Thelma (Bernard ’33), was the first to help build Moody Coliseum.

“Jon’s family has a long legacy of supporting and loving Abilene Christian,” said Linda Halbert. “We always loved Walling Lecture Hall and want to honor Dean Walling’s commitment to the school. We are enthusiastic about how these new facilities are changing the campus so dramatically.”

“Supporting the sciences at ACU is definitely a family legacy we want to carry on,” said Jon Halbert. “We are excited and inspired by the changes taking place and feel blessed to be a part of them.”

Jon said the couple did not make their gift for personal recognition but to advance a Halbert legacy through their family foundation and philanthropic interests.

“We are committed to healing disenfranchised people around the globe,” Jon said. He and Linda were founding contributors for ACU’s Halbert Institute for Missions, which honors the memory of Jon and David’s late mother, Jo Ann (Walling ’54) Halbert. “She loved to help people and build churches,” said Jon, who believes his alma mater has long espoused the kind of missional thinking permeating all its academic programs.

“It takes high-quality facilities to attract the best and brightest students and faculty,” Linda said. “What we’re helping build will make ACU as highly respected as any campus that educates future scientists and physicians to make a real difference in the world.”

Jon is board chair of Dallas fundraising and creative agency Pursuant and vice chair of Dallas poverty-fighting partner CitySquare. Together, the Halberts run the Jon and Linda Halbert Family Foundation. In 2012, they were co-executive producers of Rising From Ashes, a critically acclaimed documentary film about the Rwanda national cycling team.

Visit for more information about VIA projects.

Cover story tells the Brantlys’ amazing journey

Layout 1Life has been a whirlwind for Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03), since his surreal summer of 2014, when the ACU graduate was living quietly with his family as a physician and medical missionary in West Africa, only to become gravely ill and make headlines on every major news network.

One of the few people to have contracted and survived the Ebola virus, he is now the face of efforts to help developing nations defeat and prevent one of the world’s most devastating infectious diseases.

From the White House and Congress, to the American Medical Association and medical missionary societies, to neighborhood churches and his own alma mater, Brantly and his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06), have been busy telling and showing others what it means to love and serve their neighbor. The international platform they have been given to share their experiences is unprecedented.

In the cover story of ACU Today magazine’s new Spring-Summer issue – “The Education of a Medical Missionary” traces their yearlong journey and looks at the influential people and experiences behind their time as Abilene Christian University undergrads. Robin (Ward ’82) Saylor and Paul A. Anthony (’04) contributed to the writing and award-winning Minnesota artist Ron Finger created illustrations of the Brantlys.

Amber and Kent have been ambassadors to the world on behalf of medical missions, their faith and ACU. They are well-spoken, humble and intelligent, never failing to give glory to God for healing and for the opportunities that have now marked their lives.

Kent will be on campus Aug. 24 as featured speaker at Opening Assembly (11 a.m. in Moody Coliseum), marking the first day of ACU’s 109th school year. He also will be presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. At 1:30 p.m., he will sign copies of his and Amber’s new book, Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us Into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic.

He also will sign books at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 21 during ACU’s 109th annual Summit.

Spring-Summer 2015 issue on the way

From the day Kent Brantly, M.D., was released in August 2014 from Emory University Hospital until today, he and Amber have been given an extraordinary platform on which to talk about their faith and their experiences with Ebola. (Photo courtesy David Morrison / Samaritan's Purse)

From the day Kent Brantly, M.D., was released in August 2014 from Emory University Hospital until today, he and Amber have been given an extraordinary platform in the international media from which the two ACU alumni can talk about their faith and their experiences with Ebola. (Photo courtesy David Morrison / Samaritan’s Purse)

Although it’s in the mail, you don’t have to wait for the Spring-Summer 2015 issue of ACU Today magazine to arrive. You can sneak a peak now at its 134 pages (84 from the printed edition and another 50 pages of Bonus Coverage in the online-only edition).

  • “The Education of a Medical Missionary” is our look behind the life and career preparation Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03) and his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06) Brantly, received while students at Abilene Christian University, and how the Ebola virus Kent contracted this time last summer has changed their world and their calling.
  • An additional 50 pages of Bonus Coverage this issue look back at highlights and top performers from the 2014-15 intercollegiate athletics seasons at ACU.
  • B. David Vanderpool, M.D. (’52) is a pioneering surgeon and perhaps ACU’s most accomplished graduate in the field of medicine. He’s also a dedicated servant of people in eastern Ukraine who benefit from his ability to bring valuable medical equipment from the U.S. to that conflict-torn region of Europe and to improve the lives of young people living in orphanages. Vanderpool is profiled as the university’s 2014 Outlive Your Life award recipient.
  • “Life on the Hill,” a behind-the-scenes look at a Fall 2014 marketing promotion for enrollment marketing and admissions featuring eight top students who provided a social-media-savvy look at ACU through their eyes. Learn how ACU used their webisodes of a carefully planned yet candid social experiment to better connect with high school students.
  • “Lamesa Legends” celebrates the long careers of twin sisters Patty (’67) and Tippy (’67) Browning, who recently retired after 47 highly successful seasons as girls’ volleyball coaches at Lamesa High School in West Texas.
  • “Highly Prized” is a profile of professors Dr. Donald Isenhower (engineering and physics) and Dr. Mel Hailey (political science) who each received major national awards this past school year for their teaching and mentoring of ACU students. Isenhower graduated from Abilene Christian in 1981 and Hailey in 1970.
  • A Q&A with Dr. Shaun Casey (’79), a career theologian working in the U.S. State Department for John Kerry, who helps shape how the nation considers religion in its policies with other governments;
  • A Second Glance essay by Andrea Lucado (’08) is about the late Stanley Shipp (’46) whose influence over Andrea’s father, Max (’77), shaped his ministry.

Watch this blog in the days to come for backstories of some of these major articles in the new issue.

Brantlys begin national book tour in NYC

Called-for-Life book coverOne of the busiest weeks in the lives of Dr. Kent (’03) and Amber (Carroll ’06) Brantly begins today in New York City where the two Abilene Christian University graduates begin a national book tour.

Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us Into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic is released Tuesday, July 21, a year to the day Kent became ill with the Ebola virus disease while serving as a medical missionary in Liberia for Samaritan’s Purse. Co-authored with David Thomas for WaterBrook Press, the book details Kent’s and Amber’s experience and the role faith fills in their lives.

The couple appeared Tuesday on NBC’s Today show and on HuffPost Live, and will be interviewed later in the week on:

Kent, who is now medical missions advisor for Samaritan’s Purse, authored “Ebola Still Poses a Serious Threat,” an op-ed piece published in the July 18 edition of The Washington Post.

Starting July 25, the Brantlys will begin book signings in South Carolina and North Carolina that will take them to Fort Worth, Houston (The Woodlands) and Kent’s hometown of Indianapolis, Ind., in the near future. Follow their schedule here.

The couple is the subject of the cover story of the upcoming Spring-Summer 2015 issue of ACU Today magazine. “The Education of a Medical Missionary” will look at how an ACU education prepared the Brantlys for lives of service to others, and will mail the last week of July.

On Aug. 24, Kent will receive an honorary doctorate from his alma mater and be the featured speaker at Opening Assembly in Moody Coliseum.

Watch the ACU Today blog for updates and links to their media interviews.

ACU alum leads life-changing initiative at Nike

Matthew Walzer (left) wears special Nike sneakers designed by ACU alumnus Tobie Hatfield (right). The footwear system is designed for people with disabilities. (Nike photo)

Matthew Walzer (left) wears special Nike sneakers designed by ACU alumnus Tobie Hatfield (right). The footwear system is designed for people with disabilities. (Nike photo)

New footwear designed by Nike innovator and former Abilene Christian University pole vaulter Tobie Hatfield (’87) is a game-changer for people with disabilities. The newest Lebron Zoom Soldier 8 uses Flyease technology, a wraparound design allowing for rear entry with no laces to tie while still providing needed ankle support. The new sneakers will be released to consumers in limited quantities beginning July 16 through

Hatfield is director of Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, a think tank producing some of the sports world’s greatest products and technologies. In 2012, he received a copy of a letter written by 16-year-old Matthew Walzer of Parkland, Fla., who has cerebral palsy and told about the challenges he faced in his quest for independence.

This video captures the exceptional story behind Nike Flyease, an easy-entry footwear system designed by ACU alumnus Tobie Hatfield to help athletes of all abilities and ages perform better.

This video captures the exceptional story behind Nike Flyease, an easy-entry footwear system designed by ACU alumnus Tobie Hatfield.

“My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Nike CEO Mark Parker and posted online. “As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating and, at times, embarrassing.”

The letter quickly went viral and eventually made its way to Hatfield, who was inspired to engineer a mass-market shoe for Walzer and others who have trouble tying shoelaces.

Hatfield is perhaps best known for creating Michael Johnson’s famous gold spikes that propelled the sprinter to double gold in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and appeared on the cover of Time magazine. He also pioneered Nike Free, a technology designed to let feet move more naturally and freely than with traditional athletic shoes.

He’s designed shoes for other Olympians and top athletes as well, including tennis great Maria Sharapova, former NFL All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, fencing star Mariel Zuganis, golfer Tiger Woods, pole vaulter Stacey Dragila, beach volleyball standout Misty May-Treanor, and Olympic gold medalists Tim Mack and Tristan Gale.

The Flyease technology is not Hatfield’s first foray into footwear designed to help athletes with disabilities. In 2006, he began work with his friend Sarah Reinertsen, a professional paratriathlete, whose leg was amputated when she was 7 years old. The result of that collaboration was the Nike Sole and Spike Pad for athletes who wear prosthetic blades.

“Sarah said there would be so many more amputees who would actually get out there and exercise if they had a system like that,” Hatfield said in a 2013 interview for ACU’s WC Magazine.

Hatfield says his own experience as an athlete and coach helps him relate to the challenges of athletes he works with now.

While a student-athlete at Abilene Christian, Hatfield was part of four NCAA Division II track and field championship teams, three as a pole vaulter and one as an assistant coach.

After graduating from ACU in 1987, he followed the footsteps of his father, who was a college coach for more than 40 years. Hatfield took a full-time coaching job for Wichita State University, but when Nike offered him a position in 1990, he set off on a new career path.

Hatfield thrives on the innovative atmosphere in the Nike Kitchen, which got its name early in the company’s history after co-founder Bill Bowerman used a waffle iron filled with liquid rubber to create the first waffle sole.

“We’re constantly working on new things. It’s the nature of what we do,” he said. “We’re very passionate about how we go about it because we care. It’s exciting because we know eventually we are going to be able to help people in many respects. And it’s not just about making people go fast or high. It’s about quality of life as well. To me that’s an even bigger thing.”

ACU Remembers: Dr. David K. Lewis

David Lewis 3 3x3 96Dr. David Kenneth Lewis (’73), former assistant professor of Bible and director of Abilene Christian University’s Center for Adolescent Studies, died July 10, 2015, in Grapevine at age 66.

A memorial celebration will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, July 13, at Lake Highlands Church (9919 McCree Road, Dallas, Texas 75238).

He was born Nov. 23, 1948, in Nashville, Tenn., and graduated from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Ind. He married Pam Perry, on April 23, 1970, in Fort Worth.

Lewis earned two degrees from ACU – a bachelor’s in Bible and communication in 1973 and master’s in communication in 1975 – and a doctorate in marriage and family studies from Texas Tech University in 1987.

He joined ACU’s faculty as a part-time instructor of speech in 1977 and became associate professor in Fall 1985. Lewis left ACU in 1996 to re-enter full-time ministry, and has been an executive, business and life coach in Keller, Texas, since 2010. He was adjunct professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Dallas from 1999-2004 and also taught at The King’s University at Gateway Church.

A leading Christian authority on adolescent psychopathology, he originated the concept of huddle groups for mentoring young people in churches, and helped build ACU’s nationally renowned youth and family ministry program. His ministry career spanned 35 years.

Lewis directed ACU’s Center for Adolescent Studies and its annual Youth and Family Ministry Conference. He helped lead groundbreaking research to measure the influence of electronic media upon adolescent spirituality, with findings presented at a 1996 ACU conference keynoted by New York Post chief film critic and best-selling author Michael Medved.

“I stand on his shoulders and give him all the credit for leading not only the growth of a youth and family ministry program at ACU but influencing the development of those at other Christian universities,” said Robert Oglesby Jr. (’81), director of ACU’s Center for Youth and Family Ministry. “He was a great one and will be missed by all of us who believe in the importance of youth and family ministries in our churches. We wouldn’t be where we are today without his leadership and the scholarship he helped introduce in this field.”

He spoke at many conferences and workshops, wrote numerous scholarly articles and co-authored three books – Dying to Tell: The Hidden Meaning of Adolescent Substance Abuse; Shattering the Silence: Telling the Church the Truth About Kids and Their Sexuality; and The Gospel According to Generation X.

Lewis also served in youth and family ministry at Abilene’s Highland Church of Christ and South 11th and Willis Church of Christ, Lake Highlands Church in Dallas and Cross Timbers Community Church in Keller.

While in Abilene, he was a marriage and family therapist at Cunningham and Associates, a therapist and director of religious life for Woods Psychiatric Institute, chair of the Abilene Educational Force on Substance Use, a consultant and teacher for the Abilene ISD, and in private practice as a marriage and family therapist for 13 years.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Louise Truell Lewis. Among survivors are Pamela, his wife of 45 years; sons Christopher Lewis, David “Israel” Lewis (’93) and his wife Leslie (Mabry ’93) Lewis, and Jeremy Lewis (’98) and his wife Randie; a brother, Bobby Lewis; a sister, Billy Patton; and two grandchildren, David Caleb Lewis and John Carter Lewis.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to Help in David’s Healing Journey at or online to ACU’s Center for Adolescent Studies (or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132).

Off-beat pageant showcases frontier skills

Miss Frontier Texas 2015 Savannah Richardson with Jeff Salmon, executive director of Frontier Texas museum

Miss Frontier Texas 2015 Savannah Richardson with Jeff Salmon, executive director of Frontier Texas museum

Four years ago, Jeff Salmon (’91), executive director for Frontier Texas, asked Abilene Christian University’s student-run advertising agency Morris & Mitchell to come up with an idea to help promote the history museum.

The result was a novel scholarship pageant for local college women called Miss Frontier Texas. It is billed as a competition for “women who prefer denim to diamonds, leather saddles to leather seats, and who believe that there’s nothing wrong with a woman that’s got a little mud on her boots.”

Savannah Richardson, sophomore nursing major from Graham, Texas, captured the 2015 title, along with a $4,000 scholarship, a cowboy-hat tiara and a pair of custom-made boots. Two of the previous winners have been from Abilene Christian, Hailey Wilkerson in 2012 and Sarah Bishop in 2013. The 2014 winner, Jamie Chitty, was from McMurry University in Abilene.

Richardson said she was researching scholarship opportunities when she came across the competition, but that wasn’t her main reason to sign up. “The whole thing, with its unique activities like rifle shooting, camping out and chuck wagon cooking, just looked like a blast to be a part of, scholarship money or not,” she said.

The experience did not disappoint her.

“It’s been such a blessing to me to meet all the girls and make all these close relationships,” she said. In fact, Richardson and one of her fellow competitors became such good friends they plan to be roommates in the fall.

Contestants get a target-shooting lesson.

Rachel Mallory gets a target-shooting lesson from gun expert Michael McCormick. American bison were often hunted on the frontier using .50-caliber rifles.

During the 3 1/2-month competition, Richardson and 14 other contestants faced such challenges as roping a calf, hitting a target with a .50-caliber rifle, chopping wood, washing clothes outside using a washboard and cooking a meal over an open fire. The pioneer cooking challenge was Richardson’s favorite.

“We had to cook pork chops and brown gravy in a cast iron skillet and blueberry cobbler in a Dutch oven,” Richardson said. “While I had researched Dutch oven cooking, I never got the chance to practice it beforehand. I remember going to get different sizes of wood to make my fire and thinking, ‘I have no clue what I’m doing!’

“It was amazing, because during the cooking challenge, Pam [Thomas], the museum educator, would walk around our stations and give us all the advice and answers we needed. She even ran to add water to my gravy when it was burning. So the cooking segment was not only a competition, but also a full out, enjoyable learning experience that I will cherish forever.”

Madison Shaw (left) and Savannah Richardson are ready for the overnight frontier life challenge.

Madison Shaw (left) and Savannah Richardson are ready for the overnight frontier life challenge.

The idea behind the pageant, said Salmon, “was to create something that could have the intensity and drama of a reality television program.”

As Frontier Texas staff and Morris & Mitchell students started creating a series of events for the competition, they realized it would be a great opportunity to engage the participants at a level not often found in traditional academic settings, Salmon said. “We wanted to give participants deep, academic and emotional knowledge of life on the Texas frontier,” he explained.

So in addition to the frontier challenges, contestants are required to learn about Texas history and demonstrate what they know.

The result has been exactly what Salmon had hoped: increased publicity for the museum, which serves as the official visitor center for Abilene and the Texas Forts Trail Region, along an increased appreciation for a colorful era of Texas history by participants and onlookers alike.

The project also served as a great learning experience for students in the Mitchell & Morris agency, allowing them to work with real clients in a professional setting.

“Miss Frontier Texas has been the ideal project, providing the opportunity to move through a classic marketing communications scenario,” said Joyce Haley (’04), faculty advisor for Morris & Mitchell. “From being presented with a client problem, to developing a big idea and creating a complete brand identity to implementing a media event, this project had it all.”

Starting a fire the old-fashioned way - no matches.

Katy Westerlage starts a fire the old-fashioned way – no matches allowed.

Yvette Torres shows off her roping skills.

Yvette Torres displays her roping skills.

Mariana Cedillo takes on the firewood relay.

Mariana Cedillo takes on the firewood relay.