ACU Remembers: Clint Howeth

Clint HowethClinton Everett Howeth (’52), former longtime director of admissions and placement at Abilene Christian University, died Dec. 17, 2014, in Glen Rose, Texas, at age 84.

He was born Sept. 12, 1930, in Glen Rose, where he also graduated from high school in 1948. Howeth earned a degree in agriculture from ACU the same year – 1952 – as he married Shirley Belcher (’53). He earned another bachelor’s degree (in business) from ACU in 1974 and a master’s degree in management and human relations in 1975.

After serving from 1953-55 in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict, he worked as assistant personnel officer for the USDA Soil Conservation service in Temple. He joined the ACU staff in 1966 and served 26 years, most of them as director of admissions and placement. He also was an international admissions counselor, traveling throughout the Far East to recruit students. Howeth was president of the Texas Association for School, College and University Staffing, and a member of the Southwest Placement Association and of the National Association of Foreign Student Admissions. He was recognized as ACU Professional Staff Member of the Year in 1980, served as chair of the ACU Credit Union board and retired in 1992.

Howeth was preceded in death by Shirley, his wife of 63 years who passed away 12 days earlier; and his parents, Floyd and Ethel (Eddy) Howeth. Among survivors are his daughters, Debbie (Howeth ’75) Lambert, Denise (Howeth ’77) York and Diane (Howeth ’83) Hulburt; six grandchildren; and six great grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorials to be made online to the Gilmer and Lois Belcher Scholarship Fund at ACU (or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132).


Basketball teams head to Kansas, Nevada

ACU junior guard Whitney West heads up the court in a Nov. 19 game with Texas-San Antonio.

ACU junior guard Whitney West drives up the court in a Nov. 19 game with Texas-San Antonio.

The men’s and women’s basketball teams at Abilene Christian University are nearing the end of their early season schedules. And as expected, ’tis the season for upsets and yawners, mismatches and blowouts, and we’re not talking about March Madness here. It’s November Nuttiness, December Did-You-See-That? or whatever else you’d like to call what is otherwise known as early season intercollegiate action. In NCAA Division I, it’s the time of year when many infrequent and often unequal opponents meet each other on the court, and when they do, some strange things are sure to follow.

In men’s basketball – while they’re not exactly strangers – Kentucky built an unthinkable 44-7 halftime lead Saturday in pummeling UCLA, 83-44. Less than three weeks ago, defending Big Ten Conference regular season champion Michigan fell at home to New Jersey Institute of Technology. Michigan State, the Big Ten’s defending postseason tournament champion, was shocked yesterday by Texas Southern University – which entered the game with a 1-8 record – in East Lansing. The Spartans have appeared in the NCAA national tournament 17 straight seasons; the Tigers were there last year but only four other times in the last 24 seasons. Southland Conference newcomer Incarnate Word has upset Princeton and Nebraska, the latter considered one of the 2014-15 season’s most epic upsets.

And on it goes with teams such as Wisconsin-Green Bay (defeated Miami), Brown (Providence), Yale (UConn), Southeast Oklahoma (Tulsa) and USC-Upstate (Georgia Tech) posting unexpected victories over highly respected opponents. When basketball is played in the fall semester, no lead is safe nor win assured.

Women’s basketball teams have not seen as many upsets, although unranked Tennessee-Chattanooga has taken down No. 4-ranked Tennessee and No. 7 Stanford to wake up fans and make coaches think twice about their schedule-making next season.

ACU’s Harrison Hawkins (11) and Boise State’s Mikey Thompson (1) battle for a loose ball in the Broncos' big win over the Wildcats.

ACU’s Harrison Hawkins (11) and Boise State’s Mikey Thompson (1) battle for a loose ball in the Broncos’ big win over the Wildcats.

Today, ACU teams are coming off big games Saturday with first-time opponents.

The men’s team (4-7) and its shooting are as cold as the places they’ve played in the last week. In Idaho, the Wildcats (making only 20 percent of their shots from the field) scored their lowest point total in 30 years in a 77-33 loss at Boise State, which has won more than 21 games three of the last four seasons. Three nights earlier in Chicago, head coach Joe Golding’s team shot 25.5 percent in a 83-44 loss to Loyola.

ACU owns a win over Sacramento State this season and has lost to Duquesne, California-Riverside and Houston. In the latter, the Wildcats outrebounded the Cougars in Hofheinz Pavilion before an ESPN3 audience and trailed by just two points with 5:15 to play until UH went on a 12-2 run to overcome the upset bid.

The women’s team (7-2) is in first place in the Southland Conference after an 80-44 pounding Saturday of the Air Force Academy in Moody Coliseum. Head coach Julie Goodenough’s team – which won 18 games last year in its first year of Division I play – has wins over Eastern Washington, George Mason and Missouri-Kansas City. The Wildcats’ only two losses are to Texas Tech and Texas-San Antonio. Last season ACU beat the Lady Red Raiders in Lubbock.

The men are in Las Vegas for the Continental Las Vegas Classic this week featuring games with South Carolina State on Monday and either Southern Utah or Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Tuesday. Their loss to Boise State was ACU’s first game in the holiday tournament. The women head to Manhattan, Kan., to play Kansas State on Monday night, their second game this season with a member of the Big 12 Conference.

Southland Conference play begins Jan. 3 for both ACU teams. Follow the Wildcats at acusports.com and on this blog.


For the Least of These: The Del Balsos

del balso family

LaShanda and C.J. Del Balso with their daughter, Chassity, celebrate “adoption day.”

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

The adoption process for LaShanda (Quin ’01) and C.J. Del Balso became an opportunity for soul searching about how they would start a family and what they could offer a child.

“The hardest part of the process was being honest with ourselves about what challenges we were willing and able to commit to,” LaShanda says.

The Del Balsos share their story as we continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt. LaShanda works in risk management for the Union Pacific Railroad, and C.J., is director of technology for Prince of Peace Christian School. They live in North Richland Hills, Texas, with their daughter Chassity.

Love that Transcends

My husband and I met in Abilene in 1999 when I was an ACU sophomore and he was a sophomore at Hardin-Simmons University. After graduating in 2001, we moved to California. In 2010, our lives changed again, when we returned to Texas. I thought it was a simple job relocation; however, larger divine plans were at work.

Click above to watch a short video slideshow.

Click above to watch a short video slideshow.

After having some very candid conversations, we decided to explore adoption. What initially began as an “exploration” quickly became our first option to start a family. We joined our church’s adoption support group and learned more about the adoption process. Once the decision to adopt was reached, we moved forward by choosing an adoption agency.

The hardest part of the process was being honest with ourselves about what challenges we were willing and able to commit to, in regards to children with mental and physical disabilities. For me, my heart broke every time we declined to move forward with a proposed child. It was truly a heart-aching time, but a purely genuine and honest reflection on what is in the “best interest of the child.” We even experienced the rejection of not being chosen as the adoption parents.

We also encountered the decision of transracial adoption. Our interracial relationship added the unforeseen hurdle of adopting a child that will look different from one of his or her parents. If African-American, the child would look different from his or her father but just like his or her mother, and vice-versa. After 13 years of marriage, race differences had become a nonissue. The adoption process forced us to evaluate our decision based on what we could offer the child by way of unmitigated love that transcends defined racial barriers.

Throughout it all, we learned that children are a blessing uniquely designed for a family. On Nov. 21, 2014 – National Adoption Day – Chassity became a permanent, legally recognized member of our family. We were so delighted to be able to finalize our adoption on such a special day.

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, by Dec. 24.

You can follow new stories in this series on the ACU Facebook page.

See previous posts in this series:


For the Least of These: The Rodriguezes

rodriguez family

Lena and Joey Rodriguez had their family photo taken to celebrate their twins’ first birthday. Photo courtesy of Christina (Metcalf ’02) Powell.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

Joey and Lena (Guerrero ’02) Rodriguez took a winding path toward parenthood with their share of heartbreak along the way.

“We knew if we remained strong and faithful, God would restore our broken hearts,” Lena writes. Now they are the parents of three children – two adopted – and grateful for the life they lead.

We continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt, with the Rodriguezes’ story of faith and hope. Joey is the varsity men’s soccer coach at Sam Houston High School in Arlington, Texas. Lena is a painting and drawing instructor at The Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy. They live in Grand Prairie.

Our Babies in a Basket

I met my husband Joey, a student and soccer player at Hardin Simmons University, the summer before my freshman year at ACU. He was working in Sikes Hall painting and caulking windows during the time I lived there for a summer program.

rodriguez kids

Twins Lola and Mila, 4, with 1-month-old Ezra.

Little chats here and there turned serious, and after seven years, we decided to get married. A couple of years into our marriage we felt it was time to start a family. We thought it would happen quickly. We were both in great places, career wise. Joey was coaching a successful soccer program at Arlington Sam Houston High School, and I was teaching art in Grand Prairie. But after months, and then years of waiting, we began to accept the fact it might never happen.

We found out it would be difficult for me to conceive physically. Fertility treatments weren’t feasible on teachers’ salaries, and although I always loved the idea of adoption, many of those options were also not financially possible.

Once we began to table the idea of children, we were pregnant. It was late summer in 2010, and we wasted no time sharing the great news and singing God’s praises for this miracle. Unfortunately, not long after, we went for our second sonogram to find out our baby no longer had a heartbeat. We were devastated. So many of our friends and family our ages were already on baby number two or three, and we were back at square one.

We knew if we remained strong and faithful, God would restore our broken hearts. We continued to invest in the lives of our students, who were also big supporters for us during this time. If we couldn’t be parents to our own children, we would help guide the lives of those in our classrooms, or in Joey’s case, on the soccer field. To this day I still consider many of those kids “my kids” and stay in touch with them often.

November came, and the Tuesday before Thanksgiving we received a call that gave us unexpected hope. There was a young mother in Abilene who delivered twin girls that she couldn’t provide for but wanted to find good parents for them. We were connected through mutual friends and pastors in Abilene who knew of our desire to be parents, and the ball began to quickly roll.

After just a couple of weeks of praying and extensive paperwork, we picked up our daughters at just a little over a month old. We named them Mila and Lola. The adoption was final on Nov. 17, 2011, on National Adoption Day. Just when we couldn’t believe our happy ending included TWO beautiful babies, we found ourselves expecting three years later.

rodriguezes on wfaa

WFAA-TV in Dallas covered the Rodriguezes’ story recently. Click on the photo above to watch the report.

There was definite hesitation about this pregnancy but less pressure because we were already blessed to be parents. God is good and does “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20), and for months that scripture stayed on our hearts and minds.

We were officially on-the-record excited when we found out our baby was a boy. Our sweet Ezra Antonio was born a month early on Sept. 30, 2014. He was tiny, but healthy and strong.

So here we are, parents of three beautiful children. We often tell the story of baby Moses to our twins, and they know that Ezra was our baby in the belly, but they were our babies in the basket. They love their little brother, and life is good.

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, by Dec. 24.

You can follow new stories in this series on the ACU Facebook page.

See previous posts in this series:


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.

You can follow new stories in this series on the ACU Facebook page.

See previous posts in this series:


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.

You can follow new stories in this series on the ACU Facebook page.

See previous posts in this series: