10 Questions with attorney Lori Windham

Lori Windham discusses the Hobby Lobby case on MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews, March 25, 2014

Lori Windham discusses the Hobby Lobby case on MSNBC Hardball, March 25, 2014

As senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Lori (Halstead ’01) Windham, J.D., has argued some controversial cases, among them the right of a Santeria priest to conduct animal sacrifice in the garage of his Texas home.

Now as a member of the legal team representing Hobby Lobby’s challenge of the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate, she is at the center of a case that stands to set precedent in the relationship between government and religion. The case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court with a ruling expected by the end of the month.

The health care act mandates that for-profit businesses with 50 or more employees provide contraception coverage, including “emergency contraception” that can work after conception to destroy embryos. The conservative Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby chain, David Green and his family, believe that once conception has occurred, preventing a pregnancy is the termination of life.

The case is important, Windham said, because it asks whether people give up their religious freedom when they open a family business.

“The government argues that the business has no rights because it is a business, and the Green family has no rights because they are just owners,” she said. “If the government can divide and conquer fundamental rights in that manner, it sets a dangerous precedent.”

Though Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius is perhaps her most publicized legal challenge, Windham has argued other precedent-setting cases for the Becket Fund, a Washington-based civil rights law firm that defends the free expression of all religions against government interference. In addition to the Santeria priest, she has represented Amish builders penalized for their traditional construction practices, evangelical churches unable to use their property for worship and public school districts sued for accommodating religious expression.

In this Q&A, she talks about what it’s like to present a case to the U.S. Supreme Court, her most memorable lawsuits and her thoughts on Christian higher education:

How did you get into the area of religious liberties law?

The relationship between church and state has always fascinated me. It’s been a puzzle Christians have struggled to solve since the first century. We don’t have all the answers, but I believe that the U.S. Constitution is a great blueprint for how to respect religious belief while also promoting freedom for those who disagree. While at ACU, and again in law school, I took internships focused on this issue. I was a research assistant studying this issue during law school, and when I graduated, I had the opportunity to come to the Becket Fund and do religious freedom work full time. I jumped at the chance, and I have been doing this work ever since.

What’s your favorite part of your job? What makes you say, “Wow, I love it when I can do that?”

When we win! In all seriousness, I love it when I can spend time with my clients, hearing their stories. An Amish community in upstate New York ran into problems with a local building code that didn’t accommodate their way of life. The Amish were actually facing jail time for following their religious practices, but we got the town to dismiss all the charges.

While the case was going on, I spent a lot of time in lamplit farmhouses talking to Amish men and women about their way of life, how they understand the Bible, and the steps they take to protect their communities from modern society. (Also, eating their cookies. Did you know you can pay a lawyer in cookies?) The first time I stepped into an Amish home, it was like stepping back in time.

I’m grateful to be part of cases that allow me to meet and learn about communities so different from my own.

What is it like presenting a case before the U.S. Supreme Court? Do you have a sense of being a part of history?

I’ve been part of two Supreme Court cases and written a number of friend-of-the-court briefs. We rely on well-known Supreme Court advocates for the argument itself. There’s something special about being in the courtroom when your own case is being argued. You see things that can’t be conveyed in a transcript, or even a recording. People line up for days in advance to get into an important argument.

The court has a sense of pomp and circumstance that’s different from other places, even here in Washington. There’s excitement in the air when the buzzer rings and the justices start to file in. You’re reminded of how many important issues have been decided in this same room. They still don’t allow cameras, so you have a sketch artist sitting in the press box trying to capture the scene.

The courtroom is small, so you may end up sitting next to one of the parties or lawyers in a case. As the justices ask questions, everyone is trying to guess what they are thinking and how they might vote. It’s fascinating to hear the arguments directly and then watch the media report on your case and draw their own conclusions about everything you just heard.

What do you consider the most pressing religious liberty issue facing our nation today?

The breakdown of the bipartisan coalition supporting religious freedom. In 1993, President Clinton and an almost unanimous Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, designed to protect Americans of all faiths. In recent years, support for that act, and other religious freedom measures, has splintered along partisan lines. Religious freedom shouldn’t be a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, but an American issue. If we lose the consensus that religious freedom matters to everyone, that sets the stage for a host of different problems.

You’ve argued quite a variety of cases. How do you decide which cases to take?

At the Becket Fund, we look for cases that can change the law. We want to set precedent that will help not only our clients but many others. So we look for a combination of things, like a plaintiff with a powerful story to tell, a state or circuit with favorable precedents, or a split among the appeals courts that tells us an issue is ripe for Supreme Court review. We don’t always guess right, but we have a good track record, and we have won most of our cases.

What has been the most memorable and/or significant case in your career?

Hobby Lobby will probably go down as the most memorable. A couple of years ago, we handled a case involving hiring rights for religious schools. It went to the Supreme Court, but did not get a lot of press coverage because the issues were pretty complex. We won a unanimous decision, and it was the first time that the Supreme Court had decided this particular issue.

Although it wasn’t popular or sexy from a media perspective, it upheld an important constitutional principle that the government cannot interfere in the special relationship between a church and its ministers. It was one of the rare cases where “separation of church and state” was used to protect the integrity of churches. It’s the kind of case that will be added to law school textbooks. I’m honored that I was able to be part of such an important decision.

What was the most fascinating case?

In addition to Hobby Lobby and the Amish case, I handled a goat sacrifice case in Euless. That was probably my most controversial case to date. This client was a Santero who sacrificed goats in his garage as part of a religious ceremony. The question was how far a city could go in restricting religious exercise in a person’s own home. We relied on a Texas religious freedom law that had never been interpreted by the courts. We won, and since that time, the same law has been used to protect other religious groups, including a child wearing a religious symbol in public school and Christian ministries housing the homeless.

Why did you choose to attend Abilene Christian University?

Growing up in the Churches of Christ, I was always interested in attending a Christian university. When I visited ACU as a high school student, I loved the people and the classes, and I could see myself living and studying there for the next four years. I was honored that ACU awarded me a scholarship that made that dream possible.

Tell us about your experience as a student at ACU

The political science department has done tremendous work. I had fascinating, thought-provoking courses that forced me to examine my assumptions and taught me how to argue my points. Dr. Mel Hailey (’70), Dr. Neal Coates (’87), Dr. David Dillman (’70) and Dr. Gary Thompson (’60) all challenged me in different ways. I’m indebted to them for a great education and preparation for a top law school.

In addition to the political science department, I had several biblical studies courses that pushed me to study more carefully and develop my faith. I spent a lot of time in the journalism and mass communication department, where professors sharpened my writing skills.

I’ll never forget Sunday night devos, worship in the amphitheater and Spring Break Campaigns. I was blessed to have great classes, great friends and a great experience.

Anything you would like to add?

I’ll always be grateful to ACU for a strong Christian education. Christian education, especially higher education, is critically important because it wrestles with tough questions about faith and how it applies to and interacts with many different areas of study. After I graduated and went on to a secular law school, I realized how much I missed studying our laws through the lens of a rich faith tradition. ACU is doing God’s work, and I’m blessed to be part of that community.


ACU Remembers: J.C. Brockman

J C BrockmanFormer Abilene Christian University trustee John Clarence “Jay” Brockman (’49) of Angleton died May 22, 2014, at age 86.

J.C. was born Dec. 7, 1927, in Houston and graduated from Boling (Texas) High School in 1945. Brockman served as a master sergeant in 1946-48 during World War II. He left college in Abilene to come back to Brazoria County to help with the family clothing business in West Columbia.

Brockman married Roberta Gray Niblack (’49) in 1949 in Lubbock. He was president of Brockman’s Stores from 1954 until becoming board chair in 1982. Involved in the church and community his whole life, he was a elder, president of the Texas Retailers Association, a trustee on Angleton ISD school board, and a commissioner for the Port of Freeport. He served as president of the Angleton Chamber of Commerce, the Brazoria County United Way and the Angleton Rotary Club, where he never missed a meeting in 56 years. He was a member of ACU’s Board of Trustees from 1977-92.

He was preceded in death by his parents, John Creel and Willie Grey Brockman; two sisters, Mary Louise (Brockman) Haggard and Eleanor (Brockman ’42) Barton; and a great-grandchild, Eli Case Bouse.

Among survivors are his wife of 65 years, Roberta Gray “Perk” Brockman; two sons, John Brockman (’72) and Mac Brockman (’76); two daughters, Mollie (Brockman ’74) LeMoine and Sara (Brockman ’80) Bouse; 10 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and a sister, Billie (Brockman ’51) Arnold.


Shirley running again for Navajo presidency

Joe Shirley 190x190This week is the anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act, legislation signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge on June 2, 1924, granting rights to all Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States.

Ninety years later, a notable beneficiary is Abilene Christian University alumnus Dr. Joe Shirley Jr. (’73), who recently became a candidate again for president of the Navajo Nation, running for an unprecedented third term of office.

Tribal law prohibits a person from serving more than two consecutive terms, as Shirley did from 2003-11 when he became the Navajo’s only two-term president. But it does not exclude a former president from sitting out an election cycle to run again. Ben Shelly, the current Navajo president, was Shirley’s vice president from 2007-11. Only six men have served as president since the tribal government was restructured in 1991. Before that, the Navajo were led by a chairman.

With more than 300,000 enrolled members, the Navajo are the largest of the 566 federally recognized Native American tribes, and live on more than 27,000 acres of land in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Shirley and his family reside in Chinle, Ariz., where he is an Apache County supervisor.

Shirley has a distinguished career in social work. He majored in business at ACU, with minors in Bible and English. He earned a master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University and an honorary doctorate from Northern Arizona University. He received ACU’s Distinguished Alumni Citation in 2007.

He served on the Navajo Nation Council from 1986-99, including as chair of the Labor and Manpower Committee, the Advisory Committee, the Tax Commission, and the Ethics and Rules Committee. In 1996, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Counties in Washington D.C., which represents more than 3,000 counties throughout the U.S. In 1997, he served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the President’s Commission of Sustainable Communities in Washington, D.C., and from 1985-91, was a member of the Public Lands Committee. He was appointed by Native American leaders to co-chair the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Tribal Budget Advisory Council and the Sovereign Protection Initiative.

Shirley’s academic and professional background provides unique insights to the socioeconomic challenges the Navajo face in today’s world. Historically, reservations have some of the lowest employment rates in the U.S., and struggle to attract private enterprise and investment.

Navajo Code Talkers were the unsung heroes of World War II, when U.S. forces utilized them from 1942-45 to communicate in a language that Japanese forces could not intercept and interpret successfully. The innovative strategy began with 29 Navajo Marines and eventually grew to about 500.


Ash honored with award from Pepperdine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarlier this month, longtime Bible faculty scholar Dr. Tony Ash (’59 M.A.) became the most recent Abilene Christian University graduate to receive the Distinguished Christian Service Award from Pepperdine University.

The presentation was made May 1 in Malibu, Calif., at the 71st annual Pepperdine Bible Lectures, for Ash’s work as an “inspiring Bible professor, mentor of university students; specialist in C.S. Lewis, minister, author, and former director of the Pepperdine Bible Lectures.”

Ash has taught at ACU since 1962. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in 1956, a master’s degree from ACU in 1959 and a Ph.D. in church history from the University of Southern California in 1966. He has lectured on many university campuses and preached for hundreds of churches around the nation. His books include Decide to Love, Pray Always: What the New Testament Teaches About Prayer, and commentaries on Luke, Acts, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and other books of the Bible.

Episodes of Ash’s upcoming 10-part video series, Jack & Me: What C.S. Lewis Means to Me, were shown at the Lectures. The series was filmed on ACU’s campus and in Oxford, England, where Lewis taught for years at Oxford University’s Magdalen College and died in 1963.

Pepperdine’s Distinguished Christian Service Award was created to honor professors, ministers, missionaries and other church leaders from within Churches of Christ who have given their lives in service to the cause of Christ. Another ACU alumnus – Randy Hall (’73), senior minister for two decades of the Campbell (Calif.) Church of Christ – also received the same award from Pepperdine, but a day earlier at the university’s Lectures, which ran April 29 – May 2. 

Ash and Hall  join other former recipients of Pepperdine’s award with ACU connections, including Dr. Carisse Berryhill, Dr. Everett Ferguson (’53), Dr. John C. Stevens (’38), Dr. Neil Lightfoot, Dr. Carl (’52) and Smitty (Smith ’94 M.S.) Brecheen, Dr. Paul (’52) and Gladys (Shoemaker ’52) Faulkner, Dr. John (’55) and Evelyn (Forrest ’56) Willis, Dr. Royce (’64) and Pam (Handy ’65) Money, Dr. James (’64) and Carolyn (Roberts ’65) Thompson, and Dr. Charles (’68) and Judy (Bailey ’69) Siburt.


ACU Remembers: Dr. Floyd Dunn

Floyd Dunn 400x500px

Dr. Floyd W. Dunn (’44), professor emeritus of chemistry and one of the first Graduate School deans at Abilene Christian University, died May 26 in Abilene at age 93.

Visitation is at Elliott-Hamil Funeral Home (542 Hickory St., Abilene, Texas 79602) on Sunday from 4-6 p.m. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday in the Chapel at University Church of Christ.

Dunn was born Dec. 15, 1920, on a family farm in Dayton, Ark. He hitchhiked from Conway, Ark., to Abilene in 1941 to attend ACU, where his brother, Frank, was enrolled.

Following a year as a business major, he took an interest in biology during a class taught by Dr. Paul Witt (’22), patriarch of the science program at Abilene Christian. Witt’s influence proved far-reaching in Dunn’s life: he later changed his major to chemistry and married Witt’s daughter, Pauline (’44) on Oct. 27, 1944. Floyd and Pauline met in a voice class of Dr. Leonard Burford (’25), and later entertained troops at nearby Camp Barkeley during World War II with her piano skills and his singing.

The Dunns moved to Boulder where he earned a M.S. degree from the University of Colorado in 1946 and a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry in 1950. He was the first ACU graduate to earn a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in chemistry. The couple returned to Abilene in 1946 so he could begin a more than three-decade-long career teaching chemistry at Abilene Christian.

He began the university’s first research program in chemistry and was the first faculty member to receive research support from outside granting agencies. He assisted Dr. Fred J. Barton (’37) in organizing ACU’s Science/Math Research Fund, serving as dean of research and chair of the ACU Research Council, and chair of the Health Professions Advisory Committee. Among Dunn’s students were Dr. Tommy McCord (’54), Dr. Alvie Davis (’55), Dr. Don Lewis (’52) and George W. Knight (’55), who went on to become ACU chemistry professors. Knight became a groundbreaking inventor and research scientist for Dow Chemical Company.

Dunn poses in front of the Chemistry Shack on ACU's campus in 1944, wearing his Commencement regalia.

Dunn poses in front of the Chemistry Shack on ACU’s campus in 1944, wearing his Commencement regalia.

While on academic leave from ACU, he began a decades-long relationship with institutions of higher education in Thailand. From 1958-59 he served as a consultant at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok with a team from The University of Texas. Many of the Thai institution’s lecturers studied with Dunn from 1963-65 when he was professor of biochemistry for the University of Tennessee Medical School. From 1965-68, the University of Illinois assigned Dunn to teach biochemistry in Chiang Mai, where Thailand’s first medical school outside of Bangkok was established.

When Dunn returned to Abilene in 1968, he began to befriend and act as academic advisor to Thai graduate students who would eventually number more than 200 at ACU. Floyd and Pauline provided a home away from home for many of them. “I have seen some Thai students come to ACU and become Christians because of it,” he once said. “There is nothing more rewarding than knowing your work can in some way bring people to Christ.”

Dunn served as full-time dean of ACU’s Graduate School from 1972-84, succeeding Barton in the role, and retired in 1986.

In 1996, Dunn was named Commander of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand, and an honorary doctorate from Chiang Mai University in 2005, presented by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. A library at that university bears his name, as does the Dunn Conference Room in ACU’s Foster Science Building.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Mae (Waters) Dunn; two brothers, Frank Dunn (’40) and Harold Dunn; and a sister, Anita Knowles. Among survivors are Pauline, his wife of 69 years; two daughters, Shirley Dunn (’70) and Nina (Dunn ’75) Dikin; a son, James Dunn, M.D. (’71); three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorials to be made online to the Paul C. Witt Endowed Scholarship or the Floyd and Pauline Dunn International Scholarship at ACU (or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132).


Anthony tells grads to seek work they can love

April Anthony mug 2008Abilene Christian University trustee April (Bullock ’89) Anthony was the featured Commencement speaker May 12 in Moody Coliseum at ACU. April is CEO of Encompass Home Health and Homecare Homebase, both of which she founded. In February, she and her husband, Mark Anthony (’86), made the largest gift in ACU history: $30 million for construction of an on-campus football stadium, for the College of Business Administration, and for a new science building in honor of the late Robert R. Onstead. The construction is part of the university’s $75 million Vision in Action initiative to build three science facilities and two on-campus  stadiums. One of the Anthonys’ three children is an ACU student. 

Good afternoon and congratulations to all of today’s graduates.

I’m excited to be here today but I have to admit: about two months ago when Dr. Schubert called me and asked me if I would be willing to speak at Commencement, I was sort of taken aback by the request. As you will soon come to see, I’m not an eloquent presenter. I don’t make speeches for a living, I don’t have any fancy regalia or advanced degrees. I’ve only achieved the same bachelor’s degree that you are being awarded here this day.

But in spite of all those obvious limitations, and after some considerable thought, I decided that perhaps I would have a few moments of things to share with you that would be of value.

April Anthony Commencement 5-2014You see, 25 years ago, I sat exactly where you are sitting today, with my mother sitting behind me, proud of the accomplishments I had achieved. And as I looked forward, I saw all kinds of opportunities ahead: opportunities for a career at Price Waterhouse where I had obtained a position, opportunities for financial independence – which made my father happiest of all – and opportunities to gain influence in the world of business. But the fact is, the opportunity I wanted the most was the opportunity to retire, the opportunity to fall in love, get married, have a family and be a stay-at-home mom.

I left ACU 25 years ago with a great education, a great job, but no prospects for a great husband. But the God that we serve is good, and as He has done so many times before and after in my life, he provided. He provided my heart’s desire when through a blind date I met my husband, Mark.

We began dating that summer after graduation, were engaged about a year later, and were married before the second anniversary of my graduation. It seemed to me that life was headed exactly where I had always dreamed that it would. Now all I needed to do was work a few years, save a little money, allow us to build a nest egg so that I could, in fact, retire and be a stay-at-home mom.

But although God is always good, sometimes he’s sneaky. Sometimes He’ll slip up on you and provide you with an opportunity or a challenge that you never imagined would come.

About a year after Mark and I were married, I decided that it was time to leave Price Waterhouse. At Price Waterhouse you work a lot of long hours, and it wasn’t particularly fun as a newlywed to not see your husband very often. And so I decided I just needed a new job, a place where I could work for a couple of years as I began that transition.

So at the conclusion of busy season in 1992, I went on the job search. I was fortunate. It was a good time in the job market, and I had four job offers. Three of those job offers made a ton of sense. They were good companies that I had audited in industries that I had experience for positions that I was well qualified. But one of those job offers made absolutely no sense. You see, it was to go to work as a controller being in charge of an accounting department at a home healthcare company. I had just turned 25 at the time, and I had very little business being in charge of anything. I was new to leadership and lacked the requisite skills to lead a department. And I knew nothing about home care or even healthcare for that matter.

But, as my husband will tell you, I’m pretty fond of being in charge. So being enamored with the opportunity to take on a position of leadership, I decided to jump right in – in spite of my lack of knowledge, experience or even qualifications for the position at hand. And here came God with a surprise attack of His will in my life.

You see, shortly after I arrived on the scene in this home healthcare company, I discovered that one of the subsidiaries of the company was struggling significantly. They were losing quite a bit of money, and it was going to negatively impact the other aspects of the business. As a financial leader, it was my responsibility to find someone to acquire that business so that we could get it out of our organization. And I gave it my best shot.

I spoke to my friends at Price Waterhouse, I made connections with other people in the healthcare industry, but in spite of all my best efforts, I found no interest in this particular business. And so after a few weeks of failed attempts to sell this business, I went to the owner of the company to explain my efforts. Being one who doesn’t really like to fail, in the middle of the conversation, the following sentence came out of my mouth even as a total surprise to me: I explained my failures and I said, “Hey, what if I just buy the business?”

And he said, “Sold.”

And I said, “Wait, wait, wait. I was just talking hypothetically. I can’t actually buy it. I don’t have any money. I couldn’t pay you anything for it. But I could just assume the losses that have been incurred.”

And again he said, “Sold.”

And again I said, “Wait, wait. I’m still kind of talking theoretically here. I’ve got to see what my husband thinks of this grand idea.” So that evening I drove home in my car (that I could barely afford the payments for) to my home (that was leveraged to the max with the biggest mortgage we could get and badly in need of remodeling and repair), and I shared with Mark my grand proposal that had literally slipped out of my mouth earlier that day.

And he quickly said, “What do you know about home healthcare? Why in the world do you think you could handle this?” I remember as if it was yesterday saying, “It just doesn’t seem that hard. I think I can do it.”

That’s how my auspicious career in home care began. Mark’s obviously a pretty trusting guy. So the next day I went back to work and I explained to the owner that I was ready to transfer this business into my name. So with 58 days of experience in the home healthcare industry, at the ripe old age of 25, I became the owner of a home health business that was struggling, losing money that I didn’t have.

And so the first thing I had to do was lay off as many employees as possible. I had to take on any responsibility that I could remotely handle. I was responsible for hiring and firing. I was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business, the building and for sales and marketing and accounting. And in the process, here came God again, sneaking up on me every day with a business that I was falling in love with, a business that challenged me relative to my financial skills, a business that inspired me to be the kind of employer I had always wanted to have, a business that made a difference for patients in crisis.

And all of a sudden, what I came to realize was that God was calling me in a completely different direction than I had ever imagined I would go. So you’re wondering, “Why is she telling us this long story?” Well, I hope there’s a few simple takeaways that you can think about from my story.

When you leave this place, you’ll leave here with jobs. The statistics show that if you don’t have one today, you will by the end of the summer. As you enter those jobs, I would challenge you to look beyond your paycheck, to look beyond the opportunities for a career or a position of authority but instead to seek to find your calling in your work.

You see, most of us will spend more time at work than we will doing any other single activity, so my charge to you is to find meaning and inspiration in your work, to find work that you love, that challenges you not to just be the best employee you can be, but to be the best person that you can be – that makes you excited to go to work every day.

I’ve been fortunate, and I’ve had much success in my career. I could have achieved that original goal of retirement long ago, but I haven’t done that because I believe I am called to lead my company, called to be a great employer, called to honor God in my work, called to care for those in need, called to give them the quality of care they need at the end of life.

Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you will know when you find it, and it just gets better and better as the years roll on. As someone who believes they’ve found their calling, I can tell you just how true those words are.

I hope that each of you will keep looking until you find work that you love, work that inspires you, work that you feel called to. But I also tell you this story to inspire you to believe that anything is possible, that this place has prepared you to achieve more than you could ever imagine.

One of my favorites quotes is that “God does not call the equipped; he equips the called.” My hope for you is that you will believe in yourself, that when opportunity knocks that you will respond with confidence, knowing that if you trust in God, lean not on your own understanding, that He will equip you for the opportunities that are before you.

And finally, I tell you this story to say that when you become convicted enough about why, you will figure out how. For me, I lacked the skills, the knowledge, the experience, the financial resources to become a business owner at the age of 25, but in spite of that when I arrived in the homecare industry I quickly became convicted about why I was there, and so I did what had to be done to learn the business from the ground up, to acquire the financial resources necessary to allow it to grow, to lead with conviction and make a difference in the lives of employees and patients.

My hope for you is that you will find something that you will become so convicted about that you will overcome any obstacle to fulfill your dream.

ACU has given you the foundation that you need to be successful in work, in life, in relationship, in ministry. My prayer for you is that you will build on that solid foundation, that you will find inspiration in whatever you choose to do, and that in all things you will work as if working for the Lord.

Congratulations, Class of 2014.


ACU Remembers: Dr. Kenneth Williams

ACU Ken WilliamsLongtime former biology professor Dr. Kenneth Buck Williams (’50) died May 8 at age 84 in Abilene.

He was born Jan. 18, 1930, in Petersburg, Texas, and graduated from high school in Durango, Colo. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from ACU in 1950, a master’s degree in botany from the The University of Texas in 1959, and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Arizona in 1970.

He married Norma Jean Tomlinson (’53) on June 6, 1952, in Canyon, and the couple lived in Waco while he served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He enjoyed farming throughout his life and was a longtime member of Abilene’s University Church of Christ.

Williams joined the ACU faculty as associate professor of biology in 1967, retiring officially in 1992 as professor emeritus of biology but continuing to teach part time until 2001. For years he taught a marine biology field course during summer sessions in Mexico, and regularly accompanied students on road trips to study botany, zoology and geology at historical sites in 14 western states and Canada, and on marine biology field courses in Mexico. He was founding curator of a herbarium in ACU’s Foster Science Building, and also taught summer courses in biology, botany and pre-nursing for 19 years at the Navajo Nation’s Diné College in Tsaile, Ariz.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Willie Benjamin and Evelyn Isabelle (McClintock) Williams; twin infant brothers, and a son, Brad Williams. Among survivors are Norma Jean, his wife of 61 years; a daughter, Sharol “Cherri” (Williams ’75) Goad and her husband, Jamie Dale Goad (’75), D.D.S.; a son, Mark Williams (’78); two brothers, Kevin Williams (’59) and former ACU art professor Dr. Arthur Williams; three sisters, Bennie Belle (Williams ’51) Price, Marquisette (Williams ’62) Strand and Priscilla Dick; and two grandchildren, Briton Sharod Goad (’03) and Adrian Jarrod Goad (’06).

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ACU’s long purple line: a father’s perspective

Ruth, Caleb, David and Luke Ramsey

Ruth, Caleb, David and Luke Ramsey

Veteran award-winning Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper columnist David Ramsey (’81) writes often for ACU Today magazine. Last Saturday, he was in Moody Coliseum to watch his son, Caleb, graduate with the Class of 2014. Caleb’s brother, Luke (’13), and sister, Ruth (’10), also are Wildcats.

David says his parents met in 1949 when his father was in the infirmary in the basement of McKinzie Hall, suffering so badly from a case of mumps that he could not speak. Sixty-five years later, David’s words about the experience of a now deep-rooted ACU legacy family may resonate with you, as they did with us:

As my son, Caleb Ramsey, walked into Moody Coliseum for graduation, a few thousand of us sat in a circle watching the procession. The vibe was all about happy. Parents and grandparents were thrilled to see their babies finish a long journey to a degree. I was jubilant, as were many in the room, to see the burden of tuition payments lifted.

Yes, this was a day of celebration.

And, for many of us, a day of remembrance.

I was sitting in Section J, but my mind kept drifting.

Dr. John C. Stevens

Dr. John C. Stevens (Photo by Clark Potts)

I thought of my father and mother, David Leon (’51) and Mary Ann (’52) Ramsey, who had graduated long ago in cozy Bennett Gymnasium from what was then known as Abilene Christian College. They had cuddled Caleb, now 6-foot-2, when he was tiny, and we talked, even then, about the day this little boy would walk proudly across the podium as an ACU graduate.

I thought of relaxing and laughing at Towne Crier Steakhouse while eating hamburgers with Dr. John C. Stevens (’38), the former ACU president who ranks as one of my heroes. He was a man of mighty intellect, but he taught me most about humility and the requirement of peace. Dr. John told me, many times in that booming voice of his, arguing never solves anything.

Dr. Walter H. Adams

Dr. Walter H. Adams

I thought of sitting in the front row at Moody with Dr. Walter H. Adams (’25), ACU’s legendary academic dean, at Opening Assembly and listening to him sing “Oh, Dear Christian College” in his deep, fine bass. Dean Adams gave my daughter, Ruth, a savings bond to pay for her college education. “For ACU!” he scrawled on a note. To me, Dr. Adams is Mr. ACU. The man who embraced this far-away idea of a thriving Christian university set on a hill. The man most responsible for making this idea a reality.

Dr. Kelly Hamby

Dr. Kelly Hamby (Photo by Shelli Starkey)

I thought of the late Dr. Kelly Dean Hamby, my dear friend, Caleb’s grandfather and one of the many deeply loved professors in ACU’s rich history. Dr. Hamby took his devotion to Christian education to Zambia in southern Africa and labored there many years before returning to again work with ACU students. Kelly traveled the world seeking to reveal Christ’s love to everyone he met. He left a powerful example for Caleb, his youngest grandchild. He left a powerful example for us all.

I’m sorry to say David Leon and Mary Ann and Dr. John and Mr. ACU and Kelly Dean could not sit beside me at Moody. They’re all gone, but thinking of them and their smiles and their sacrifices and their perseverance and their love and their faith filled me with overwhelming joy.

My father graduated from Abilene Christian in May 1951, beginning a long purple line that lingers. He was a peaceful man who was also, in his own way, gleeful. He walked through life with a bounce, and we’re talking literally here, in every step. He savored every day.

In May, 2014 my baby boy raised his arms in triumph as his name was announced in Moody Coliseum. Caleb is blessed with his grandfather’s rare blend of optimism and determination, and there’s even a hint of David Leon’s bounce in his walk.

Caleb is the 23rd ACU alum in his extended family and the 16th ACU graduate.

He will not be the last.


ACU Remembers: L.D. “Bill” Hilton

Bill HiltonL.D. “Bill” Hilton (’48), whose 57-year administrative career spanned service to four presidents at Abilene Christian University, died May 13, 2014, in Abilene at age 88.

A memorial service will be held Friday, May 16 at 10:30 a.m. at Hillcrest Church of Christ, conducted by Hamil Family Funeral Home, with burial at 2 p.m. in the Texas State Veterans Cemetery at 7457 West Lake Road in Abilene. Visitation with the family will be 6-7:30 p.m. tonight at the church building.

Leo Dale “Bill” Hilton was born Sept. 23, 1925, in Rocky, Okla., and graduated from Rocky High School in 1942. He served with the U.S. Army Air Force in the South Pacific from 1943-46 and married Alvah Jean Henderson (’47) of Waco on March 31, 1947.

He graduated from ACU in 1948 with a B.S. degree and earned a M.Ed. degree from Hardin-Simmons University in 1952. He received an honorary doctorate from Amber University in Dallas in 1990, and also attended Oklahoma State University.

Hilton was a teacher and coach at Bayfield (Colo.) High School and worked in the business and sales departments of Meggs Company and Montgomery Ward before beginning a legendary 57-year administrative career at Abilene Christian University, where the Hilton Room (1991) and Hilton Food Court (2007) in the McGlothlin Campus Center were later named in his and Alvah Jean’s honor.

He began work at Abilene Christian in 1950 as instructor of business administration and accounts payable clerk. He went on to become assistant bursar (1952), assistant professor of business administration (1956), assistant business manager, business manager (1969), vice president of finance (1970), vice president of finance and administration (1990), and vice president (1992). He was named vice president emeritus in 1990 and officially retired in 2007 as vice president emeritus for finance and administration.

“Bill inherited the work Lawrence Smith (’29) did for years as bursar of the university,” said president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91). “That transfer of knowledge and expertise from one respected business leader to another helped make Abilene Christian a financially sound institution and ensured the success we enjoy today, especially in our endowment. He secured our growth from a small college in West Texas to a university respected around the world.”

The Hilton Food Court in ACU's McGlothlin Campus Center is named for L.D. "Bill" and Alvah Jean Hilton.

The Hilton Food Court in ACU’s McGlothlin Campus Center is named for L.D. “Bill” and Alvah Jean Hilton.

Hilton created ACU’s first financial aid program for students; started a credit union, retirement fund and annual performance review program for faculty and staff; and made financial arrangements for landmark estate gifts to the university. Late in his career, he oversaw ACU’s investments in ranches and petroleum assets.

“Bill will go down in ACU history as one of those select few individuals who not only spanned several decades of distinguished service to the university, but more importantly, as one of a handful of key people who is responsible for the current strength and reputation of ACU,” said chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64). “He was behind the scenes most of the time, but his keen financial mind and deep sense of stewardship made all the difference.”

“Sitting together with him in many meetings, I came to see him not only as a chief financial officer, but as a faithful steward of the university’s resources,” said vice president Dr. Gary McCaleb (’64). “His financial acumen, combined with unimpeachable integrity, was extremely reassuring when important decisions were being made.”

His civic roles spanned coaching Eastern Little League baseball and election to the Abilene City Council (1980-83). He also was a board member of the Taylor County Chapter of the American Red Cross, and excelled in various leadership roles for the Abilene Civitan Club, Texas District of Civitan International, the City of Abilene’s Board of Adjustment and its Planning and Zoning Commission, the Education Committee of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, Abilene Christian Schools’ Board of Trustees and its PTA, the Abilene Christian High School Booster Club and Chorus Parents Club, and the Abilene Higher Education Authority.

Hilton served as a deacon at Graham Street Church of Christ, and a deacon and elder at Hillcrest Church of Christ, both in Abilene.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Bernice Hilton; a sister, Vashti McColum; and a granddaughter, Morgan Elizabeth Hilton. Among survivors are Alvah Jean, his wife of 67 years; two daughters, Mary Alice (Hilton ’70) Horne and her husband, Clint, of Houston, and Lou Ann (Hilton ’94) Riley and her husband, John (’86), of Glasgow, Kentucky; two sons, Bobby Hilton (’74) and his wife, Nancy (Rutherford ’75), of Nederland, and Don Hilton (’79) and his wife, Sheila (Booker ’79), of Abilene; grandchildren Jennifer and Regan Baker, Shane Hilton (’01), Brady (’07) and Stephanie (Maycock ’07) Hilton, JuliAnne and Heath Huston (’08), Marissa (Hilton ’09) and Caleb (’09) Northrup, Rebecca (Riley ’06) and Brock Button, Rachel and Michael Martin, David and Jenny Riley, Pam and David Quill, and Missy and Hollis Millikin; and 12 great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be made online to the L.D. “Bill” and Alvah Jean Hilton Endowed Scholarship at ACU (or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132), the General Scholarship Fund at Abilene Christian School (2550 N. Judge Ely Blvd., Abilene, Texas 79601), and the Zambia Medical Mission Fund (P.O. Box 3393, Abilene, Texas 79604).


Cox cited for community catalyst work

Reg Cox (’84), minister of the Lakewood (Colo.) Church of Christ, has come a long way since earning his psychology degree. He has served as an admissions counselor at Abilene Christian University, a campus minister in south Florida, then back to ACU for nearly 17 years in various Student Life leadership roles at his alma mater.

More recently he’s made a name for himself as a “community catalyst,” as he likes to describe his role. The 57-year-old church leader recently told the Denver Post that he relishes the mission he’s taken on: to bring leaders of various churches in the Lakewood community together so challenges can be tackled en masse, such as a struggling elementary school the group has helped turn around the past two years. The leadership Cox has provided has helped reverse declining enrollment and low achievement test scores, and raise nearly half a million dollars to build new sports fields to keep kids interested in school and out of trouble.

“I’m really kind of the connector,” Cox says. “I’m not necessarily making it all happen. I’m just connecting people who have opportunities, resources, influence and knowledge.”

Listen as Cox shares advice for fellow ministers and offers creative suggestions for making a difference right where they live while opening doors to share the Gospel with others through unconventional means.