ACU Remembers: Dr. Gary Thompson

Dr. Gary Thompson (’60), Abilene Christian University professor emeritus of political science and former Texas state representative, died April 13, 2017, in Blacksburg, Virginia, at age 80 following a brief illness.

Visitation will be at 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 at Cook-Walden Funeral Home (6100 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, Texas 78752). Interment will be at 4 p.m. at the Texas State Cemetery (909 Navasota St., Austin, Texas 78702), with a reception to follow.

Thompson was born June 15, 1936, in Vernon, Texas, and graduated from Tyler (Texas) High School in 1954. He earned a B.S.E. degree in history from ACU (1960), an M.A. in political science from the University of Arkansas (1964), and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Texas (1974). He taught and coached junior high and high school students in Lovington, New Mexico (1960-63), and Chinle, Arizona (1964-67), before moving to Abilene.

Texas Gov. Bill Clements and Dr. Gary Thompson

He worked for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas from 1986-95; otherwise, he taught political science at ACU from 1967 until retirement in 2011, serving as the first chair of the department. He chaired the Faculty Senate, and directed ACU’s American Enterprise Forum and Taft Institute for Teachers. Thompson was an insightful and popular teacher who taught future Congressmen, judges, professors, federal and state employees, teachers, journalists and others who loved public service.

Elected in 1978 to the first of four terms in the Texas House of Representatives, Thompson served on numerous committees and commissions, including Ways and Means, Sunset Advisory, State Affairs, and County Affairs, which he chaired.

In 1958, he wed Nancy Thomas (’59), a fellow student at ACU. She was his beloved companion in marriage and as longtime members of University Church of Christ in Abilene, where he served as elder and for many years in the prison outreach ministry. They established the Gary and Nancy Thompson Endowed Scholarship for political science students at their alma mater.

Thompson was a member of Kiwanis International, and served in leadership roles on the boards or advisory councils of the Heart of Texas Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, West Central Texas Council of Governments, Meals on Wheels, Agape for Children and Youth, Hospice of Abilene, Boys Club of Abilene, and Texas Mental Health Association. He chaired Leadership Abilene in 1982-83.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Virgil and Floy Thompson; and Nancy, his wife of 56 years.

Among survivors are a son, Dr. Tom Thompson (’85); a daughter, Jane (Thompson ’88) Koble; six grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; and a brother, Dr. James Thompson (’64).


Nike innovator Hatfield is a master maker

For someone with an impressive clientele of world-class athletes and products to his credit, Nike’s Tobie Hatfield (’87) keeps a bit of a low profile.

That changed a bit with our new issue of ACU Today magazine, which takes a look at the “Master Maker” whose work as senior director of athlete innovations at Nike has helped a who’s who of the sporting world make headlines. A short list includes Michael Johnson, Mary Decker Slaney, Troy Polamalu, Maria Sharapova and Tiger Woods, among others.

Hatfield, the son of a legendary Oregon high school and Olympic track and field coach, was one of the stable of standout vaulters tutored by Don W. Hood (’55) at Abilene Christian University for more than three decades. Wildcat teams on which Tobie competed won NCAA Division II national titles in 1984, 1985 and 1986, and he was an assistant coach of ACU teams winning national championships in 1987 and 1988.

The writer of Hatfield’s profile – former longtime sports information director Garner Roberts (’70) – was a natural for the assignment. Roberts is a member of the ACU Sports Hall of Fame who chronicled Hatfield’s accomplishments when Tobie was a student-athlete at the university.

Our front cover featuring Hatfield was illustrated by Ron Finger of Brainerd, Minn., an award-winning artist who also produced the Spring-Summer 2015 cover portraying Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03).

The feature concludes with a look at ACU’s Maker Lab, which director Dr. Nil Santana (’00 M.S.) describes as “a place where innovation and creativity converge.” The venue, housed on the first floor of the John and Ruth Stevens Wing of Brown Library, helps learners of all ages develop innovation skills, whether local elementary school students or graduate occupational therapy program students from ACU.


Friends honor ‘Doc’ through scholarship​

Several Dallas-area businessmen and ACU alumni are spearheading an effort to honor the legacy of the late C.E. “Doc” Cornutt (’71) at the university he loved.

Cornutt, former Abilene Christian University trustee and board chair, died in Dallas in 2016 after an extended illness shortened his life and career of service. Among survivors are his wife, Linda (Core ’70) Cornutt; daughters Sara (Cornutt ’99) Boucher and Shelly (Cornutt) Goguen; a son, Chris Cornutt (’01); a sister, Molly (Cornutt ’71) Goodwin; and a brother, Dr. James Cornutt (’72).

Having made such a significant impact on the Dallas community, as a leader and philanthropist, his friends wanted to honor not only his achievements but who he was as a person, said Jim Orr (’86), J.D., vice president for advancement at ACU.

They are building support for the C.E. “Doc” and Linda Cornutt Endowed Scholarship, which benefits students in the College of Business Administration (COBA). Gifts to the scholarship from friends and fellow ACU alumni so far total approximately $125,000, with the goal of reaching $200,000.

“Doc and Linda exemplify our mission of educating students for Christian service and leadership,” Orr said. “They are widely admired, and it speaks highly of them and the university that people not affiliated with ACU would support our students as a way of honoring their friends. They can see the difference our alumni make in the world.”

Cornutt’s career included time as executive vice president of Woodbine Development Corporation; chair of Hunt Oil Company and Hunt Refining Company; president of Hunt Realty Corporation and Hunt Financial Corporation; and chair and CEO of Argent Property Company.

He served as a trustee of Abilene Christian from 1989-2010, including three years as board chair (2007-10). He co-chaired the university’s $100 million “To Lead and To Serve” and its $150 million Centennial campaigns, received a Distinguished Alumni Citation in 2005, and chaired the COBA Advisory Board.

Chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64) worked closely with Cornutt during his tenure as ACU’s 10th president.

“Doc Cornutt had a passion for many things – his family, his church, his business career, and certainly on that list, Abilene Christian University,” Money said. “He gave generously of his time, his abilities and his resources so that many who follow him might have the same ACU experience that so profoundly shaped his life.”

ACU’s endowment is managed by an award-winning investment team, and every year, a portion of the interest generated from the endowment provides money for numerous programs and scholarships such as the one named for the Cornutts. (Click here for a list of endowed scholarships.)

As of Dec. 31, 2016, ACU has received $189 million in endowment gifts while disbursing $274 million in scholarships and other funding. The endowment has a value of $386 million.

“Funding or contributing to an endowed scholarship is a great way to honor a loved one that also will make a difference in generations of students’ lives,” Orr said.

To learn more about the C.E. “Doc” and Linda Cornutt Endowed Scholarship or how to contribute, please call Jim Orr at 325-674-2659 or make a gift online here.


Gilbreth’s MLB career celebrated in new issue

A new MLB season begins in earnest today but a special one in the life of Wildcat baseball great Bill Gilbreth (’69) is celebrated in the Winter-Spring 2017 issue of ACU Today magazine.

“A Tiger in My Hometown” is my recollection of a trip last June to Detroit with Gilbreth and Dr. Gary McCaleb (’64), vice president of the university. It commemorated the 45th anniversary June 25, 2016, of Gilbreth’s MLB debut as a hard-throwing left-hander from Abilene and ACU.

Gary and I hatched this plan for several months last year, revealing it to Gilbreth on a trip one spring night to a Texas Rangers game in Arlington. The Tigers were gracious hosts for our weekend trip in June, thanks to Elaine Lewis, the club’s vice president for community and public affairs.

Gilbreth and MLB Hall of Famer Al Kaline say goodbye after a visit June 25, 2016, in the Tigers’ front office, where Kaline is a special assistant to the general manager.

Bill was reunited with former teammates Al Kaline, Willie Horton and Gene Lamont, and other members of the 1971 staff. He was a special guest at the annual meeting of the Mayo Smith Society, where former teammate and 1968 World Series MVP Mickey Lolich was the speaker at a luncheon attended by about 200 fans at the Hockeytown Cafe.

He saw the house he and his wife, Phyllis (Collier ’69), once rented from fellow Texan and teammate Norm Cash. He visited with longtime Detroiters and former Wildcat baseball players Eric Vaughn (’92), Randy Rodriguez (’80) and Cory Rodriguez (’79), and found his commemorative paver on the Walk of Fame at Comerica Park.

A commemorative paver on the Walk of Fame at Comerica Park marks Gilbreth’s years as a pitcher for the Tigers.

Perhaps the best memory was being the last current or former player to stand on the mound at the historic site of Tiger Stadium. That revered piece of real estate on the corner of Michigan and Trumbell avenues has now been completely razed so the Willie Horton Field of Dreams, part of an urban youth sports complex, can rise instead.

Many thanks to mlive.com freelance photographer Mike Mulholland for his excellent work documenting Bill’s return trip to Motown.

Be sure to read the 10 additional pages of Bonus Coverage in our online edition, where extra images and stories reside. See the viewer above.

Gilbreth autographs photos shot for one of his 1970s-era Topps baseball cards.

(From left) Former ACU baseball players Dr. Gary McCaleb, Cory Rodriguez, Ron Hadfield, Bill Gilbreth and Eric Vaughn in Dearborn, Mich.

(From left) Eric Vaughn, Bill Gilbreth, Randy Rodriguez and Ron Hadfield at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

Former ACU baseball players Dr. Gary McCaleb (left) and Ron Hadfield (right) accompanied Gilbreth on his return trip to Detroit, the first since Bill’s MLB debut 45 years earlier.


ACU to face SMU after WNIT upset of OSU

Senior guard Alexis Mason calls a play while being guarded by OSU’s Katelyn Loecker.

Two days after their biggest win since beginning a transition to NCAA Division I, Julie Goodenough’s ACU team (23-8) is preparing for the second round of the postseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament and a matchup Monday night in Dallas against SMU (18-14).

Tipoff is 7 p.m. in Moody Coliseum on the SMU campus, where ACU’s opponent has a 12-3 record this season. Purchase tickets here for the game.

On Thursday night in Stillwater, ACU overcame an early run by Oklahoma State University to build a 12-point lead and eventually a 66-56 upset win over their opponent from the Big 12 Conference. The Wildcats earned a game with SMU after the Lady Mustangs beat Louisiana Tech University on Friday night.

Against OSU, the Wildcats were powered by double-digit scoring from each of their starters: seniors Lizzy (14 points) and Suzzy Dimba (12), Sydney Shelstead (12) and Alexis Mason (10), plus freshman Breanna Wright (11). Shelstead lead ACU in rebounds with seven.

Here’s a look at some of the action, shot by photographer Steven Christy, from the big win over OSU:

Sydney Shelstead outreaches teammate Alexis Mason (15) to grab a rebound against OSU.

Lizzy Dimba is one of ACU’s four seniors this season.

Suzzy Dimba drives around OSU’s Rodrea Echols.

Freshman Breanna Wright was ACU’s “X factor” in the win, according to head coach Julie Goodenough. She played 40 minutes, scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds.

ACU head coach Julie Goodenough was OSU’s head coach from 2002-05.


New issue headlined by Nike’s Tobie Hatfield

Nike’s Tobie Hatfield (’87) is featured on the new Winter-Spring 2017 issue of ACU Today magazine, which mailed last last week. The former ACU pole vaulter has helped Nike soar to new heights while serving as senior director of athlete innovations at the company’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., near Portland.

Hatfield has designed competition-ready footwear worn by some of the world’s top athletes, such as the gold spikes sprinter Michael Johnson first used to win gold medals during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Other beneficiaries of Hatfield’s handiwork are amputee marathon and triathlon star Sarah Reinertsen and Florida teen Matthew Walzer, whose pioneering Flyease shoes were named an Invention of the Year by Time magazine.

Former longtime ACU sports information director and track and field guru Garner Roberts (’70) wrote 0ur profile of Hatfield and the front cover illustration by Minnesota artist Ron Finger captures Nike’s “Master Maker” as we describe Tobie. The profile of Hatfield is accompanied by a sidebar from assistant editor Robin (Ward ’82) Saylor about ACU’s Maker Lab, where the next generation of Abilene Christian innovators get their start.

Other content in this issue – which, including 50 pages of online-only Bonus Coverage – totals 136 pages:

  • An update on the Vision in Action initiative shows the Halbert-Walling Research Center as it prepared for an open house celebration, and progress on new Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium through the eyes of Hoar Construction project manager Sean Cagle (’06), a former Wildcat football player.
  • “A Tiger in My Hometown,” my travelogue about teaming with Dr. Gary McCaleb (’64) to take former ACU and MLB star pitcher Bill Gilbreth (’69) to Detroit, Mich., last June for the 45th anniversary of his debut in the majors. In our online edition, this story is followed by Bonus Coverage of Gilbreth’s amazing experience. 
  • A celebration of Dewby (Adams ’50) Ray, recipient last spring of the Dale and Rita Brown Outlive Your Life Award.
  • Profiles of students from around the nation who are enrolled in ACU Online graduate degree programs.
  • Our Second Glance essay was written by Amy (Nichols ’92) Boone, one of the two originators of ACU’s now iconic Candlelight Devotional in Beauchamp Amphitheatre. The event celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall, and Boone shares its backstory.
  • Bonus Coverage this issue also includes memorable images from “So Long, Shotwell,” a photo essay shot by freelancer Jeremy Enlow of the final home football game last November in Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium.

Watch this blog in the days to come for backstories of some of these major articles. Enjoy the full issue by clicking on the viewer above.


Stillwater Ran Deep: Coach recalls OSU days

ACU women’s head coach Julie Goodenough

Stillwater, Okla., wasn’t Julie Goodenough’s first rodeo.

But heading back there 15 years later to lead Abilene Christian University into a women’s basketball battle against against her former team, Goodenough admits the bull was bigger than she thought.

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

“I honestly had no clue,” she recalls, “about the vast difference between coaching in the Big 12 and the American Southwest Conference.”

In April 2002, after guiding Division III Hardin-Simmons University to 188 wins, seven conference titles and six trips to the national playoffs, Goodenough left Abilene for the bright lights and big expectations of the Big 12 Conference. At 33, she was the youngest head coach in Division I.

“I loved my job at HSU and had not really thought about leaving,” Goodenough says. “When the opportunity to coach at Oklahoma State presented itself, I was so excited and unbelievably thankful. Based on my success at HSU, I was totally confident I could turn the OSU program around.”

Goodenough was head coach at Oklahoma State University for three seasons.

The OSU program had been led the previous 19 seasons by Dick Halterman, who directed the Cowgirls to a conference title and seven NCAA Tournament appearances when they were members of the old Big 8. But when that league merged with four Southwest Conference teams to create the Big 12, wins in women’s basketball were tougher to come by. Suddenly, those Big 8 schools were tangling twice a year in conference with coaching legends Jody Conradt of The University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tech University’s Marsha Sharp, each of whom had won a national championship.

OSU went 39-57 in conference games during its first six seasons of Big 12 play. Halterman was on the hot seat, which was set completely ablaze by a flaming Coale. Sherri Coale had lifted the archrival University of Oklahoma program from women’s basketball obscurity to national prominence. No Sooner had OU reached the NCAA Tournament championship game in 2002 than OSU made a change. Halterman out, Goodenough in.

It didn’t take long for her to realize what and where she had gotten herself into.

“I had never had even one full-time assistant in my career,” remembers Goodenough. “At OSU I hired a full staff of coaches and also support staff. Recruiting the entire country was also foreign to me. My recruiting area had mainly been a 250-mile radius around the Big Country. I was definitely learning my job day by day.”

She also was instantly managing a multi-million-dollar budget after nearly a decade of the coupon-clipping necessitated by the limited resources of Division III. And if anything, Big 12 competition had grown even tougher. By the time Goodenough got to OSU in 2002, Kim Mulkey had put Baylor University on the map of women’s hoops and would win a pair of national championships over the next decade.

“It was a great experience to coach against Marsha Sharp, Jody Conradt and Kim Mulkey,” says Goodenough. “You’ve got to be so prepared. There’s not much margin for error.”

Especially not in the world of big-time college athletics. Goodenough’s teams struggled to slay those giants of women’s basketball. And after three seasons, OSU made a change. Goodenough was hired at age 33 and fired before turning 36.

“It feels bad,” says Goodenough, “being told you’re no longer wanted.”

Turns out Goodenough was wanted, just by someone else. After a year off, she was named head basketball coach at Charleston Southern University, where she spent six seasons before being hired to lead ACU into Division I. In her five seasons with the Wildcats – four of them against Division I competition – Goodenough’s teams have won three conference championships. Her record here is 104-43, and overall she is closing in on 400 career coaching victories.

And for a second straight season, with ACU in its final year of being ineligible for the Southland Conference or NCAA tournaments, Goodenough has taken the Wildcats to the most prestigious postseason event possible, the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, and a date with – of all teams – those Cowgirls of Oklahoma State. It will be her first time inside Gallagher-Iba Arena since she was the OSU coach.

The memories have come flooding back this week as she returns to the place that made her a Division I head coach for the first time. Not all of them are good. But they are enough, personally and professionally.

“My family loved Stillwater,” Goodenough reflects. “Our daughters both accepted Christ and were baptized there. At OSU, I learned how to coach at the DI level and did so by coaching against some of the greatest women’s basketball coaches ever. I made tons of mistakes which have helped me become a better coach today.”

When the WNIT bracket was revealed late Monday night, Goodenough acknowledged the past to the cheering crowd assembled but celebrated the present.

“I will always consider it a privilege and a blessing to have coached in the Big 12,” she said. “I will tell you, though, currently I have the best job in America.”

ACU plays Oklahoma State in round one of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament tonight at 7 p.m. in Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla. The game can be heard on 98.1 FM in Abilene or on acusports.com.


Angels and Demons: Clothed in righteousness

Northwestern State University head basketball coach Mike McConathy sports his P4X shirt.

For two-and-a-half hours on a recent Saturday, Mike McConathy was the worst dressed man in college basketball. The men’s head coach of Northwestern State University had arrived at Moody Coliseum decked out smartly in a gray sport coat with crossing purple stripes, black slacks and a dark mock turtleneck. But just before his team tipped off against Abilene Christian University, McConathy slipped on a bright orange, long-sleeve, moisture-wicking athletic shirt.

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

He never looked better.

The front of the shirt bore three prominent characters that convinced McConathy, quite the character himself in his 18th year leading the Demons, to commit such a fashion faux pas: P4X, the name of the foundation benefiting from funds raised during that doubleheader between ACU and Northwestern State.

P4X originated as the rallying cry for Rex Fleming: Pray 4 Rex. The son of ACU associate director of athletics for media relations Lance Fleming (’92) and his wife, Jill, Rex was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in November 2010. His two-year battle engaged innumerable supporters from among the extended ACU community, the city of Abilene, various corners of college athletics and the worldwide web via social media.

Jill, Rex and Lance Fleming

When Rex passed in November 2012, the Flemings wanted to find a way to assist and comfort families fighting pediatric cancer in the same way they had been blessed. So in 2013, they established the P4X Foundation, tweaking the acronym from pray for Rex to play for Rex. Through a series of promotional events over the last four years, the P4X Foundation has raised more than $200,000 and partnered with healthcare organizations where Rex was treated, such as Hendrick Hospice Care and West Texas Rehabilitation Center, to create spaces where families can congregate, regroup and find strength. The foundation also has made numerous gifts to individual families at places like Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

The idea to designate that aforementioned Saturday, Feb. 11, as P4X Day at Moody was hatched in January and came together quickly. It began with a conversation between Lance Fleming and ACU associate men’s basketball coach Brette Tanner, who volunteered to reach out to the Northwestern State coaching staff, many of whom he has known from his years as an assistant at Stephen F. Austin State University. Even though ACU’s athletics department moved forward with plans to recognize the P4X Foundation that day, NSU as the visiting institution had no obligation to participate.

Not only did both McConathy and his women’s basketball counterpart Jordan Dupuy verbally agree to be part of the program, they each put their money where their mouths were. Each NSU team enthusiastically accepting the invitation to wear specially made warm-up shirts with their team colors (orange with purple lettering) similar to the purple and white versions ACU players would wear. And despite the fact that neither coach has a personal connection to ACU – in fact, Dupuy is in his first season with the Lady Demons and was making his first trip here – both sought out Fleming courtside and wrote a personal check to the foundation.

McConathy, his eyes glistening while listening to Fleming speak of Rex and living to tell his story, even told NSU sports information director Doug Ireland and the Demons’ radio announcer Patrick Netherton they need to get a team together for the P4X Foundation golf tournament in Abilene on May 15. Don’t bet against it. This is the same coach who drove to Huntsville, Texas, to attend the visitation services of a woman he’d never met: the wife of Kooter Roberson, veteran play-by-play man for NSU rival Sam Houston State University.

In his explanation that faith and good deeds go hand in hand, James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “Even the demons believe.” It’s true. I watched it happen.

Rex was a familiar face at ACU sporting events his whole life, here standing behind (from left) his dad, Lance, Chris Macaluso and Grant Boone.


ACU Remembers: Judge Jack Pope

Judge Andrew Jackson “Jack” Pope (’34), retired Texas Supreme Court justice and 103-year-old giant of Lone Star State judicial history, died Feb. 25, 2017, in Austin.

Services honoring his life today at Austin’s University Avenue Church of Christ were followed by his burial at the Texas State Cemetery. Flags across Pope’s beloved home state will fly half-staff March 3-7 in his memory, at the request of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Pope was born April 18, 1913, in Abilene and graduated rom Abilene High School. He was a speech major who starred on the Abilene Christian University debate team, played intercollegiate tennis and was elected student body president. He earned his juris doctor in 1937 from The University of Texas at Austin.

He met Allene Nichols in Austin and they wed June 11, 1938.

Pope’s law practice in Corpus Christi with his uncle, W.E. Pope, was interrupted when Jack enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II. He served on military legal staffs in Corpus Christi; Washington, D.C.; and San Diego, Calif., returning to Corpus Christi following the war. He went on to serve as judge of the 94th District Court (1946-51), as justice in the 4th Court of Civil Appeals (1951-64), as associate justice on the Texas Supreme Court (1964-83) and as the 23rd chief justice (1983-85) in state history.

Hailed as “the father of Texas water law,” Pope served longer than any Texas Supreme Court justice, authoring what is believed to be a record 1,032 opinions across his distinguished career.

Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht considers Pope a judicial icon. “His hard work, scholarship, common sense, humor and integrity are legendary. No Texas judge has ever been more committed to serving the rule of law and the cause of justice. He was my mentor, role model, counselor, and most especially, my friend. Texas has lost a great, great man,” Hecht said.

Pope was committed to law reform, initiating new procedures for handling grievances against attorneys, changing venue rules and promoting the Texas Rule of Judicial Education. He was responsible for helping bring computer technology to all state appellate courts, wrote the first Jury Handbook for jurors, sponsored the creation of the State Law Library, and helped draft the first Judicial Code of Conduct. In 1984, he helped implement Texas’ IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts) program, which provides free legal service in civil matters to more than 100,000 needy families a year. In 2012, Gov. Rick Perry signed the Chief Justice Jack Pope Act (HB 1445/SB 635) to honor Pope’s IOLTA work more than three decades earlier.

“He devoted his life not only to the efficient administration of justice, but also to ensuring that justice is available to all,” former Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson said. “Jack Pope will be remembered as second to none in the annals of Texas law.’

Pope is a beloved figure at Abilene Christian, where he served on the Board of Trustees from 1954-83. The interdisciplinary Jack Pope Fellows Program at ACU was established in 1989 after proceeds from a gala fundraising dinner in Austin created an endowment to teach students about public service in the classroom, allow them opportunities to attend special lectures, gain practical experience, and volunteer in community-shaping projects.

He received many honors, including the top alumni award at ACU and The University of Texas School of Law. The Texas Center for Legal Ethics, which Pope co-founded in 1989, gives an annual Chief Justice Jack Pope Professionalism Award, presented to an appellate lawyer or judge who epitomize the highest level of professionalism and integrity. In 2010 the judicial section of the State Bar of Texas presented Pope with its inaugural Judicial Lifetime Achievement Award. On April 18, 2013, Pope was honored by the Texas House of Representatives with a ceremony at the capitol recognizing his 100th birthday, including the passing of a resolution in his honor.

He was preceded in death by his parents, A.J. and Ruth Taylor Pope; and his wife of 66 years, Allene.

Pope is survived by two sons, A.J. Pope III (’63) and his wife, Carla; and Allen Pope (’65) and his wife Karen; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be made online to ACU’s Jack Pope Fellows (or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132). The Summer-Fall issue of ACU Today magazine will have more coverage of Pope’s life and influence.


Halbert-Walling Research Center opens

FROM LEFT: Board chair Dr. Barry Packer, Kathy Halbert, David D. Halbert, president Dr. Phil Schubert, sophomore Diego Zometa and Dr. Jeff Arrington cut a ceremonial ribbon Feb. 17 at the opening of Halbert-Walling Research Center.

The Abilene Christian University community came out in force Feb. 17 to celebrate the grand opening of the Halbert-Walling Research Center, one of the pillars of ACU’s Vision in Action initiative.

Hundreds gathered at the ceremony and toured the 54,000-square-foot facility that serves as the new home for the departments of biology, chemistry and biochemistry and the Body and Soul program for pre-health students. Its laboratories, classrooms and lecture hall boast state-of-the-art equipment and modern designs.

“Our science faculty, students and alumni already lead the way in national and international research and scholarship; it was time they had a home to match their immense talent,” ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) said at the ceremony.

Halbert-Walling is the second of the three science facilities being built or renovated as part of Vision in Action; the Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium opened in August 2015, and the first phase of the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center (formerly the Foster Science Building) was completed in December 2015. The second phase is expected to be completed by the end of 2017. The projects, totaling $45 million of the $95 million initiative, bring ACU’s science facilities into the 21st century.

Diego Zometa

“Moving into Halbert-Walling has felt like moving into the future,” said Diego Zometa, sophomore chemistry major from Sonsonate, El Salvador, at the ceremony. “Everything is up-to-date. Our labs are equipped with new technology, and I know we’re going to achieve incredible things in this space. I’m thankful the university invested in me and in the sciences.”

The opportunities for study and research that will be available in Halbert-Walling will provide students with competitive advantages as they enter the job market or continue their education, said Dr. Jeff Arrington (’82), associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Just as important, the relationships developed with their peers and with faculty will last for years.  

“It’s in the context of these relationships that we are able to teach about life, to share life and faith with our students,” Arrington said. “These relationships, formed so often in the special spaces and activities of our disciplines, are where we truly achieve the mission of Abilene Christian University.”

Guests begin to gather for the open house.

The building celebrates the past even as it looks to the future. A large mural on the first floor pays tribute to the trailblazing men and women of the sciences. It spotlights several ACU alumni, including: Dr. Kent Brantly (’03), known for his work fighting the Ebola virus in West Africa, and Dr. B. David Vanderpool (’52), a renowned pioneering surgeon and medical missionary.

“They are but two of many Wildcats who have contributed to their communities, and to the global community, through professional excellence and a passion for seeking to understand God’s creation,” Schubert said.

Also present at the grand opening among their many family members were David D. (’78) and Kathy (Gay ’78) Halbert of Colleyville, Texas, whose $15 million gift through the Caris Foundation spearheaded the facility’s creation.

Halbert-Walling is named for David’s grandparents, the late Dean (’30) and Thelma (Bernard ’33) Walling. Dean Walling was an ACU trustee from 1976-83 and founding chair of the National Development Council during Design for Development campaigns that built numerous iconic buildings on the campus in the 1960s and ’70s.

“Now, it’s David’s and Kathy’s turn to leave a legacy on campus,” Schubert said. “The Halbert-Walling Research Center is truly iconic, and I am personally so grateful for the Halberts’ leadership.”

Watch for an inside look at the Halbert-Walling Research Center in the Summer-Fall 2017 issue of ACU Today magazine.

The grandfather of David D. Halbert (center) was the late Dean Walling, a legendary leader among ACU trustees and benefactors. Dean and his late wife, Thelma, are namesakes of Walling Lecture Hall, a signature learning space on the new building’s first floor. 

ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (middle foreground) visits with David D. Halbert.

Dr. Jeff Arrington, who also directs the engineering program and is an associate professor of physics and engineering, is interviewed by local media.