Best-selling author Eric Metaxas here April 11

Eric Metaxas 300x500Eric Metaxas, the best-selling author who brought to life heroes of the Christian faith in Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce, and who is featured on the popular “I Am Second” video series, will be speaking twice at Abilene Christian University on April 11.

His visit is sponsored by ACU’s Center for Building Community, which has brought speakers such as UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, economic journalist Knight Kiplinger, Baylor University president Dr. Kenneth Starr and professional golf legend Byron Nelson to the campus in recent years.

Metaxas will speak at 11 a.m. in Moody Coliseum during ACU’s Chapel, which is open to the public. He also will be the keynote speaker at a luncheon at 11:45 a.m. in the McCaleb Conference Center of the Hunter Welcome Center. Individual tickets are $30 and group seats are available as a table of eight for $200. All tickets are available for purchase online. Call 325-674-2156 for questions about the event.

A graduate of Yale University, Metaxas is author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – which reached No. 1 on the The New York Times’ best-seller list – and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, a companion to the film Amazing Grace. His latest book is 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. He is a commentator on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. ABC News calls Metaxas a “photogenic, witty ambassador for faith in public life.”

His writing resume spans Atlantic Monthly and his own blog, as well as Veggietales, for which he was a best-selling author of God Made You Special!, Even Fish Slappers Deserve a Second-Chance and The Pirates Who (Usually) Don’t Do Anything.

He was featured speaker at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

From his “I Am Second” video:

“I remember going to college and really thinking, ‘I don’t know what I believe,’ … and I’m so open-minded that in an environment like Yale, particularly – it’s a very secular environment – by the time I graduated I was really absolutely at sea. I had no idea what I believed or who I was. It got very tough.”



10 Questions with Dr. Charles Ivey

ACU is on a short list of universities in the world whose undergraduate physics students are collaborators on nuclear experiments at Fermilab near Chicago. Here, Dr. Donald Isenhower (’__) meets with his students in 2009 in a conference room at Fermi

ACU is on a short list of universities in the world whose undergraduate students are invited to be collaborators each year with graduate students and physicists on experiments at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago. Here, ACU professor of physics Dr. Donald Isenhower (’81) meets with his students in 2009 in a strategy room at Fermi, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy. A sign on the door indicates the labs and universities partnering on the project.

One of those with a keen interest in this week’s physics conference hosted by Abilene Christian University is Dr. Charles Ivey (’65), professor and chair of ACU’s Department of Physics from 1969-81. He built a program of distinction in physics at Abilene Christian by hiring talented faculty members and securing grants that helped provide research opportunities for students.

Dr. Charles Ivey

Dr. Charles Ivey

Ivey entered the energy business in the early 1980s, serving as vice president of research and development of GeoNuclear Consultants Inc.; vice president and technical director of LaJet Geophysical; president of Russell Petroleum; CEO of Dwight’s Energy Data Inc.; and president and co-founder of SoftSearch Inc., a provider of petroleum analysis software systems for energy companies and financial institutions that later expanded to provide information and analysis to the medical community for the American Medical Association. Ivey later led the merger of Petroleum Information and Dwight’s Energy Data to provide the largest energy information and economic evaluation software company in the world. He also served as CEO of Tobin International, the leading energy mapping company, and many other subsidiaries and acquisitions in several countries.

This week’s conference is the joint Spring 2014 meeting of the Texas sections of the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers and Zone 13 of the national Society of Physics Students. Sessions meet March 20-22 in the Hunter Welcome Center, with some notable speakers on the program.

Growing up in Eula, what or who influenced you to pursue a career in the sciences that would later take you around the world?

I was fortunate because of a great physics and mathematics teacher at Eula. Mr. McCoy was his name and although our school was not large, it allowed me access to the physics labs anytime during the day. I was given extra books and told to pursue wherever my interest took me. Mr. McCoy was always there to encourage and challenge me.

You earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry. What made you focus later on physics?

When I arrived at ACU as a freshman, there was not a robust physics program. I majored in chemistry and minored in mathematics because they were stronger programs – but not what I really wanted to do. My graduate studies at The University of Texas steered me into chemical physics. Chemistry is a great field of study, but physics is where I found my calling, and all my research was done in the laboratory of the chair of the physics department. Dr. Mike Davis was an inspirational professor who oversaw my research in electron diffraction.

What are some of the lessons you learned working outside academia in your career?

The ability to continually learn new fields was possible because physics, mathematics and chemical physics, combined with computer science, enable you to do just about anything of a technical nature. I am proud of the fact that my companies employed thousands of people. Imagine the satisfaction of creating careers for so many because of ideas that came out of my head. I loved building, acquiring and running companies because when a company performs better, it is great for all the employees, managers and investors. I always heard from customers and competitors that our company culture was the best in the industry. I just kept doing what I was doing when a professor at ACU, trying to empower people to accomplish more. It is a simple concept of great power.

To what do you attribute the success of the ACU physics program through the years?

Great teachers and well-conceived curriculum with research opportunities outside the classroom have always formed the base of an ACU physics education. In Dr. Paul Schulze (’62), I had an ideal partner building the initial program. We wanted to emphasize undergraduate research and have the opportunity for our work to be funded in part by grants. We made sure graduate-level topics were present in physics classes. That has paid off with so many distinguished students who have followed and continue to be produced by our program. That a number of today’s physics faculty were once undergraduate students at ACU says a lot about the outstanding preparation of our students. The ACU faculty and students today greatly exceeded the high expectations I had for the future of the department and what I started.

Dr. Rusty Towell supervises students each summer who work with him at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island in New York.

Dr. Rusty Towell, professor and chair of physics and engineering, supervises ACU students each summer who work with him at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island in New York.

Dr. Rusty Towell (’90) tells prospective students that ACU has the best undergraduate physics program in the world. How so?

The high-level undergraduate research opportunities are not typical at other universities, or reserved only for graduate or post-graduate students and faculty. ACU students work alongside some of the brightest nuclear physicists in the world at places like Fermilab, Brookhaven, Los Alamos and other national labs. They have built nearly all the nuclear detector panels on one of the colliders at Brookhaven, which means every experiment done there owes its success to ACU and its undergraduates. New science facilities on our campus will only expand the opportunities our professors and students can have to do research together. Now is a great time for new students as the departments of physics and engineering expand and grow, and I know they will continue the level of excellence that has been firmly proven.

How does it make you feel to continue to be connected to students and to know undergraduates from ACU have such rare opportunities today to work at national labs like Brookhaven and others alongside graduate students and physicists from around the world?

It makes me proud and humble. I am awed by the work of the faculty here that followed me. The warm feeling of a former student calling to share their success is wonderful. The opportunities I have to lecture and advise students at ACU and other universities are something I don’t take for granted. These activities are very fulfilling. Our students are achieving great things as undergraduates, and the record shows they excel after graduation in many diverse fields. I always thought it was a great advantage to be from this program at ACU.

Why is it important for physics and engineering programs to be close partners at ACU?

Most people are not aware that physics and engineering majors share much of the same foundational educational experiences. Students in each program share many of the same classes at the freshman and sophomore levels, then branch out or specialize in various studies as juniors and seniors. It makes sense for engineering and physics to be paired at ACU, and I think the new lab space they’ll share this fall will be a natural learning environment that will benefit both. Certainly the off-campus research in the physics program will have applications for engineering majors as well. It’s a win-win. Physicists with knowledge of engineering and engineers with knowledge of physics are going to be better prepared than either in isolation. I know; I have earned a few engineering awards and have employed many types of Ph.D.s and engineers.

Later this week, some of the world’s top physicists will be on campus to speak at the joint sectional meeting of the American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers, and Society of Physics Students in Texas. In 1979, you coordinated this same conference at ACU, with speakers from Texas-Austin, California Institute of Technology, UCLA, the past chair of advanced studies at Princeton, and other top universities. What value does such an opportunity mean to ACU and its faculty and students, and what are you hoping to hear from speakers on this year’s program?

It’s a great opportunity that doesn’t come our way often. It gives ACU even more exposure to its peers in higher education and allows our undergraduates to present their research at a professional conference without leaving campus. This particular meeting, like others ACU has hosted, is truly an important scientific contribution.

Two of the speakers on this year’s program – Dr. Robert Hargraves, recently retired from Dartmouth University, and Kirk Sorenson, a nuclear engineer formerly with NASA – are internationally known advocates for the development of thorium as an energy source. What makes thorium an alternative to uranium?

Many years ago, thorium was a promising option actually recommended by the key scientists who developed the first reactors. The U.S. instead decided to concentrate its nuclear program on uranium fuel and pressurized water reactors via a political decision not supported by many scientists. Thorium is less toxic than uranium and has the potential to be more cost-effective and much kinder to the environment (a molten salt thorium reactor can actually consume dangerous spent nuclear fuel). It also is an abundant material. Other nations such as China and India are making huge advancements in the development of thorium as a nuclear fuel source, and the U.S. can no longer sit on the sidelines and allow other countries to gain an advantage in this enabling technology. ACU is fortunate to have two of the top experts on thorium to be plenary speakers at this conference.

In your address to ACU graduates at Commencement in May 1981, you said, “A wise person once told me that my own education was more valuable than any property or riches and yet my title, degrees and accomplishments mattered very little.” Do you still believe that, and why?

What I learned is the power of a useful education is the enabler for accomplishing whatever you may choose to pursue. Education is the great enabler.  I received a great education at ACU, and was guided by people inside and outside the classroom who had a profound impact on me. I met a fine Christian gentleman in Ray McGlothlin Jr. (’49), former chair of ACU’s Board of Trustees, who gave me opportunities in the corporate world to apply my tool kit of skills to real-world problems. The experience changed my life. There are so many to thank; I know it is fruitless to try naming them all.

Three basketball foes make NCAA tourney

ACU forward Austin Cooke battles Xavier's Isaiah Fillmore (31) and Justin Martin (20) in a Nov. 25 game in Cincinnati, Ohio.

ACU forward Austin Cooke battles Xavier’s Isaiah Fillmore (31) and Justin Martin (20) in a Nov. 25 game in Cincinnati, Ohio.

How tough was the non-conference men’s basketball schedule played by Abilene Christian University in 2013-14?

Two of the Wildcats’ early season opponents were named this afternoon to the NCAA tournament, and a third thinks it should be.

Xavier (21-12 overall, 10-8 in the Big East Conference) made it, as did Iowa (20-12 overall, 9-9 in the Big Ten). Towson (23-10 overall and 13-3 in the Colonial Athletic Conference), was left on the outside looking in at the Big Dance.

Two other ACU opponents – Maryland and St. Bonaventure – had solid records in 2013-14. The Terrapins were 17-15 overall and 9-9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and St. Bonaventure finished 18-15 overall and 6-10 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

ACU plays in the Southland Conference, whose champion earns an automatic bid, which Stephen F. Austin State won impressively with its 31-2 overall record and perfect 18-0 mark in the league. ACU lost to SFA, 64-48, in a game in Nacogdoches played without the Wildcats’ two top scorers. The Lumberjacks, a No. 12 seed in the West regional, will meet fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University in a game in San Diego, Calif.

SFA played a strong schedule, earning a 52 RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) score that is one of the tools used by the NCAA Selection Committee (Xavier was 47 and Iowa 57). The Lumberjacks’ non-conference schedule also included Texas, Towson, East Tennessee State, James Madison, Marshall, Samford and North Carolina-Wilmington. SFA’s only losses were on the road at Texas and ETSU.

ACU Remembers: Dr. Clyde Austin

Clyde AustinDr. Clyde Neal Austin (’53), the Robert and Mary Ann Hall Chair and professor emeritus of psychology at Abilene Christian University, died March 7, 2014, in Abilene following an illness. The renowned expert on the study of cross-cultural re-entry was 82 years old.

A memorial service will be held April 5, 2014, at 2 p.m. in Abilene’s University Church of Christ, where Austin served as a member, deacon and elder.

He was born Dec. 5, 1931, in Karnes City, Texas, and married Sheila Ann Hunter (’53) on July 20, 1951, in her hometown of Dodge City, Kan.

After graduating in 1953 from ACU – where he was president of the Students’ Association, played in the Wildcat Band and on the golf team – he was a biology, science and history teacher in 1954-55 at North East High School in San Antonio, and preached for the Copperas Cove Church of Christ.

Following a Korean War assignment in the Army in 1955-56, Austin became an instructor of psychology at Abilene Christian and later, director of placement (1957-59) and director of admissions and placement (1961-69), before being named assistant professor of psychology in 1969. Other than an 18-month leave of absence in 1970-71 as a vocational missionary at American Community School in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and another to work on his doctorate, his career at his alma mater spanned 41 years. He also was an adjunct professor at Eastern Washington University.

Austin earned a Master of Personnel Service degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Ph.D. in industrial psychology from the University of Houston. He did post-doctoral studies in family therapy at Hahnemann Medical College and the Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, and in gerontology at the University of Southern California, and was a licensed psychologist and counselor, and certified marriage and family therapist.

He held the first professorship in the Robert and Mary Ann Hall Chair of Psychology and Intercultural Studies at ACU. The chair was founded in 1995 to enhance understanding of the special psychological dimensions of foreign service, especially missions work.

“While he was an excellent psychologist and classroom teacher, Clyde was always a missionary at heart,” said ACU chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64). “He was a humble and talented servant of the Lord whose reach went far beyond his presence.”

Dr. Clyde Austin (right) and his wife, Sheila, greet SMU president Dr. Gerald Turner (’68) at an event celebrating Turner's selection as ACU's Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 1988.

Dr. Clyde Austin (right) and his wife, Sheila, greet Dr. Gerald Turner (’68) at an event celebrating Turner’s selection as ACU’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 1988. At the time, Turner was chancellor of the University of Mississippi; today he is president of Southern Methodist University.

“Clyde was especially helpful to me as I was doing my research on missions teams,” said Dr. Sonny Guild (’69 M.Div.), assistant professor of Bible, missions and ministry, and associate director of ACU’s Halbert Institute for Missions. “He welcomed me for days as I sat in his office mining the gold out of his files. He was so very generous and willing to share his resources with others for the benefit of missionaries and the Kingdom. Missions and especially missionary care made great strides forward because of his work. He will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Chris Flanders (’89), associate professor of missions in the Graduate School of Theology and director of the Halbert Institute for Missions, recalled the thoughtfulness and hospitality of the Austins, who identified closely with missionaries and their families because of their own experience living outside the U.S. “When Clyde and Sheila did a seminar for the parents of the members of my church-planting team that went to Chiang Mai, Thailand, he made it a point to send a hand-written letter expressing hope and encouragement to each of the parents whose children were about to move half way around the world,” Flanders said. “It made a great impression on my parents.”

Austin’s research and frequent publications focused on culture shock and re-entry, including two books, Cross-CulturalRe-entry: An Annotated Bibliography, and Cross-Cultural Re-entry: A Book of Readings. He served as a consultant and conducted pre-field psychological assessments for more than 400 missionary candidates on six continents. Austin chaired the 1989 International Conference on Missionary Kids, a workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, with more than 800 delegates from 61 nations.

He served as contributing editor of the Journal of Psychology and Theology from 1989-91 and was a delegate to the State of Texas White House Conference on Aging. He was named outstanding professor in ACU’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences for 1983-84.

Among survivors are his wife of 62 years, Sheila; a son, Steve Austin (’84); daughters Jan Austin-Scott (’76), Marcia (Austin ’78) Moore and Joanna (Austin ’82) Rose; and eight grandchildren.

Sure signs of spring: windy days, NFL scouts

Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel

Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel

Scouts from National Football League teams know Abilene is more than a place to stop for barbeque, steak and breakfast burritos. In recent years, it’s become a place to shop for future pro players on display at the Wildcats’ annual Pro Day at Wally Bullington Football Practice Facility.

The latest crop participated yesterday, with 11 teams sending scouts with stopwatches and notepads to take notes on a wind-blown day. And wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and running back Charcandrick West did not disappoint.

In fact, the two seniors each ran eye-opening times of 4.27 in the 40-yard dash.

See for Lance Fleming’s report on their and eight other former Wildcats tested yesterday by scouts from the Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans.

Running back Charcandrick West

Running back Charcandrick West

Last fall, Gabriel finished his sparkling career ranked second in ACU history in catches (215), yards (3,027) and touchdown receptions (27), and fourth in all-purpose yards (3,880). West is the only player to have a career with 2,000 rushing, 1,000 receiving and 750 kickoff return yards. He is fifth in all-purpose yards (3,823) and fourth in touchdowns (35).

Bernard Scott and Johnny Knox can be credited with putting ACU football back on the NFL’s radar in 2009, when both were invited to the league’s Combine in Indianapolis, Ind. With ESPN and other sports media chronicling each workout, wide receiver Knox ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times in Combine history – 4.25 unofficially and 4.34 officially – and Scott showed speed and agility on par with running backs from far larger universities. Weeks later, the Chicago Bears made Knox their pick in the fifth round and Scott was drafted in the sixth by Cincinnati.

NFL scouts from 17 teams were at ACU’s Pro Day in 2011. Fifteen were present in 2012 but only one came in 2013 (the Dallas Cowboys), before the crowd swelled again yesterday. Other universities holding Pro Day workouts around the nation Friday included Ohio State (where scouts from a near-record 31 teams tested 15 players), Arizona State, Arkansas State, Northern Illinois, Southern Mississippi, South Alabama and Pittsburg State (Kan.). Earlier this week, 21 scouts tested eight players at TCU. According to legendary NFL talent evaluator Gil Brandt, former vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, the ratio of team scouts to players this week at various universities included Wisconsin (20:10), Arizona (25 :15), Illinois (18:5), Furman (15:5), Northern Arizona (12:13) and Central Michigan (10:11).

Scouts from 23 teams were present at Texas A&M’s Pro Day this week to watch just one player: tackle Jake Matthews. Notably absent were quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans. Manziel merits his own Pro Day March 27, which Evans will attend. Matthews, Manziel and Evans are projected to be first-round selections when the NFL Draft takes place May 8-10.

It’s difficult and perhaps impossible to relate NFL draft choices and free agent signees Pro Day attendance, but suffice to say that scouts only spend time where talent is known to reside.

Johnny Knox is working to regain his health after a serious injury in 2012 (Photo by Bill Smith).

Knox recorded one of the fastest 40-yard times in NFL Combine history in 2009. He retired in February 2013 after career-ending back surgery following an injury in 2011.

A conversation with Lisa Shannon

Lisa Shannon visited Abilene Christian University on March 3, 2014, to speak at the ACU Peace Conference sponsored by the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution. Shannon, founder of Run for Congo Women, was the first national grassroots activist in the United States working to raise awareness of the forgotten humanitarian crisis in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since her lone 30-mile trail run in 2005, thousands have joined Run for Congo Women, now an international movement which has sponsored more than 1,400 war-affected Congolese women through Women for Women International. Shannon’s first book, A Thousand Sisters, targets mainstream audiences, detailing her journeys into war-affected eastern Congo in January through February 2007 and in May 2008.

Casey featured in ‘Religion & Politics’ profile

Shaun CaseyAs a career theologian, Dr. Shaun Casey (’79) has always answered to a higher power.

These days he also finds himself influencing United States diplomacy in the nation’s capital as the only Abilene Christian University graduate working in the State Department for Secretary of State John Kerry.

His office has a view of the Washington Mall, and his responsibilities to Kerry are groundbreaking as the special advisor of the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives. A recent profile in Religion & Politics, a website of the John C. Danforth Center at Washington University in St. Louis, gives an excellent portrayal of the ACU graduate.

Read Casey’s profile in Religion & Politics

As a “portal for engagement with religious leaders and organizations around the world,” Casey’s office “reaches out to faith-based communities to ensure that their voices are heard in the policy process, and it works with those communities to advance U.S. diplomacy and development objectives,” according to the State Department’s website.

His work was praised recently by President Barack Obama in remarks at the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast.

A native of Paducah, Ky., Casey served as a sportswriter on The Optimist newspaper while earning his bachelor’s degree at ACU. He later received M.Div. and Doctor of Theology degrees from Harvard Divinity School and a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Casey is on leave from Wesley Theological Seminary, where he is professor of Christian ethics and director of the National Capital Semester for Seminarians.

Atchley, Minick, Shedd named to ACU board

Abilene Christian University announces the addition of three members to its Board of Trustees: Bill Minick (’82) of Dallas, Rick Atchley (’78) of North Richland Hills and Marelyn B. Shedd of Abilene.

Bill Minick is president of PartnerSource, the largest consulting firm on alternatives to workers’ compensation. He graduated summa cum laude from ACU in 1982 with a B.B.A. in finance, received his J.D. degree from Pepperdine University School of Law in 1985 and then earned a Master of Laws degree in taxation at Southern Methodist University School of Law.

Minick practiced law for nine years before starting PartnerSource in 1994. In addition to work in recent years on the ACU University Council and the College of Business Administration’s Dean’s Advisory Council, Minick serves on boards and committees for Pepperdine University and the City of University Park, and is an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scouts of America.

He has three children and is married to Dr. Melissa Tonn, who serves on the Board of Regents for Texas Woman’s University.

Rick Atchley has been the preaching minister for The Hills Church of Christ since 1989. He graduated as valedictorian from ACU in 1978 with a B.A. in communications and a minor in Bible. After interning at various congregations in Dallas, Atchley became the preaching minister for Abilene’s Southern Hills Church of Christ in 1978. He continued his education at ACU, earning an M.A. in religious communications with a minor in Bible in 1982.

In February 2014, he was named ACU’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.

Atchley and his wife, Jamie (Lyda ’81), have three children.

Marelyn Shedd serves as regional president at First Financial Bank for Abilene, Odessa, Albany, Clyde and Moran, Texas. She graduated with a B.B.A. in finance and economics from Baylor University in 1983 and has worked for First Financial Bank since 1991.

Shedd is on the board of Abilene Arts Alliance and also serves as board chair of the Community Foundation of Abilene and the Hendrick Medical Center Foundation, and vice president of the Development Corporation of Abilene. She previously served on the boards of Goodwill Industries of West Texas, United Way Abilene, historic Paramount Theatre, Abilene Ballet Theatre, and the Advisory Council of Hendrick Home for Children.

She and her husband, Glen, have two daughters.

ACU’s Board of Trustees is the governing body for the university and trustees are elected at the board’s February meetings each year. They are eligible, if elected, to serve up to five three-year terms. Trustees are asked to contribute to various committees in which their leadership, expertise and influence are best utilized to set policy, guide the institution’s long-term direction and ensure it fulfills its mission to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.

Hahn co-chairs National Prayer Breakfast

Hahn and Money

ACU chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64) attended the National Prayer Breakfast, which Hahn co-chaired.

One of the highlights of the political career of U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn (’74) was realized Feb. 6 when she co-chaired the 62nd annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

A California congresswoman, Hahn was co-chair with U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas. She introduced President Barack Obama to the audience, and led the closing prayer.

“For centuries, faith-based communities from all around the world have played a crucial role in guiding and strengthening our spiritual health and development,” said Hahn. “This remarkable breakfast provides a rare and special opportunity for leaders to come together, put aside our labels and divisions to unite in prayer and fellowship. I believe in the power of prayer and its ability to unlock doors and soften hearts. It was a humble honor to pray with the President, my congressional colleagues and world leaders in the spirit of Jesus.”

Obama thanked Hahn and also recognized the work of another Abilene Christian University graduate, Dr. Shaun Casey (’79), who is special advisor for faith-based community initiatives in the U.S. State Department. A story about Hahn in the upcoming Spring-Summer 2014 printed issue of ACU Today will provide some insights into her experience.

Although the overall event is a gathering chiefly covered by C-SPAN and other major media on Thursday morning, the National Prayer Breakfast also includes a Wednesday night banquet, and breakfast, luncheon and dinner meetings the next day. Hosted by the House and Senate Prayer Groups the first week of February each year, each meal event draws more than 3,200 people from more than 100 nations to the Washington Hilton.

Two ACU alumni have been featured at the National Prayer Breakfast: Curt Cloninger (’76) in 2012 and Max Lucado (’77) in 1999. Lucado, a minister and best-selling Christian author from San Antonio, was a keynote speaker at the Thursday breakfast, while Cloninger presented his dramatic monologue, “Jesus Speaks,” at a Thursday lunch. Cloninger is an artist-in-residence at Perimeter Church in Atlanta, Ga., where he is an actor and writer.

Founded by President Abraham Lincoln, the National Prayer Breakfast began became an annual event in 1953 in Washington, D.C., at the suggestion of newly elected President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said the White House was “the loneliest house I’ve ever been in.” One of the hosts and speakers at that first gathering was hotel pioneer Conrad Hilton. “It took a war and the frightening evil of Communism to show the world that this whole business of prayer is not a sissy, a counterfeit thing,

10 Questions with David Ramsey from Sochi


The latest most Excellent Adventure of David Ramsey (’81) will end Feb. 23 when the XXII Olympic Winter Games conclude. An award-winning sportswriter for The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colo., he is covering his fourth Olympic Games, this time in Sochi, Russia. He writes about professional and collegiate sports in and around Colorado Springs, the home of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Olympic Training Center, and for ACU Today magazine when he can. You can follow his daily coverage here.

Photos of Ramsey from Sochi are courtesy of veteran photographer Mark Reis, whose coverage can be seen here, including a video of him explaining how he befriends people at Olympic venues, smoothing the way for him to do his job.

David Ramsey

What was involved in traveling from your home in Colorado Springs to Russia?

The journey to Sochi was the wildest of my career. I woke up on Monday, Feb. 3, in New York City after covering the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl and had to return to Denver by Tuesday morning to begin my journey to Russia. One problem: It snowed 10 inches in New York. Two of my flights were cancelled, forcing me to take a train to Baltimore to catch a flight to Denver. I arrived in Denver at 8 p.m. Monday night after a full day of travel and awoke at 6 a.m. the next morning to start 17 hours of air travel to Sochi.

What’s involved in getting around Sochi and to the various competition venues?

I rode a gondola on the final segment of my epic trip from a hotel room in Manhattan to a hotel room in Sochi. It’s the only way to arrive at the Panorama Hotel, which deserves the name. I sit in that gondola at least twice a day, and the ride never fails to dazzle me. On a few late nights/early mornings last week, I was sitting in that gondola at 2 a.m. after a long day of work while looking out at the mountains glowing in strong moonlight. An inspiring view.

Buses carry us to competition. I spend a lot of time on buses. It’s a two-hour journey, via gondola and bus, from my hotel in the mountains to the skating and hockey and other events at the Olympic Park on the edge of the Black Sea. I’m sitting on a bus while typing these words. It’s 1:52 a.m., and I’m about halfway home.

Hotel accommodations in Sochi have made headlines for not being up to par. What is yours like, and what does it lack?

I’m a little embarrassed by my hotel. On my other three Olympic trips (Athens, Beijing and London) my rooms were basic, similar to dorm rooms. And I am a dorm expert after living in college dorms for seven of my eight semesters. The room in Sochi is plush and the hotel features an outrageously beautiful Olympic-length pool along with a full Euro-style sauna. Not all of my sportswriter friends have been so lucky, and I’ve tried to keep my magnificent hotel and room a secret.

Describe the view outside your hotel window.

One complaint: Did not get one of the full-view rooms at the Panorama, but this probably is a good thing. Much of my writing is done in the room, which boasts a blazingly fast Internet connection. If blessed with a view room, I would spend all my time staring out the window at those mountains. I can see the mountains out of a corner of the window, but have to work at it.

What are the security issues you face each day, and how do you weigh the potential risk with doing your job as a journalist?

Those Chechen rebels/terrorists are a terrifying gang, and I’ll freely admit fear followed me around for a couple months before arriving in Sochi. But once I arrived here, the fear lessened. The feel here is comfortable, and in many ways the Sochi area reminds me of Southern California. I go through multiple security checks each day and get patted down frequently and thoroughly. (This is one of those good news, bad news kind of things.) I don’t feel totally safe. I do feel mostly safe.

SOCHI OLYMPIC GAMES WOMENS' DOWNHILLAre you consuming food and water with caution, or doing as you please?

Water out of the tap is unpredictable, and I don’t drink it. The food has been fine. My trip to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics was the dining highlight of my life with tremendous French, Vietnamese and Spanish food. (No tremendous Chinese food, strangely enough.) Sochi reminds me of the Athens trip in 2004. Almost every restaurant offers the same menu. Haven’t endured a bad meal in Sochi. Haven’t celebrated a great meal, either.

How would you describe the Opening Ceremonies experience?

Let me offer a confession: I do not enjoy the Opening Ceremonies of any Olympics. Watching Danny Boyle’s mega-bizarro ceremony at the 2012 London Games remains four of the longest hours of my entire life. The Olympics are full of authentic drama and heart-gripping surprise. I feel blessed to have covered four Olympics, but consider myself a survivor of the Opening Ceremonies. Had a good seat, with a strong view of stone-faced Vladimir Putin, and was happy with the column I wrote after the Opening Ceremony. Still, those three or so hours will rank as the most excruciating of these Games.

Ramsey covered the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.

Ramsey covered the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.

Which competitions will you be covering, and how do you determine what to write for The Gazette while covering such a complex event?

I am covering just about everything as the lone reporter from The Gazette. I will write about snowboarding and hockey and figure skating and bobsledding and Alpine skiing and X-Games style snowboarding and skiing, and that’s just a partial list. This keeps me busy, and the travel to and from venues can make for a long day. Last night I climbed into bed thinking it had been an easy day, but soon realized it had been a 12-hour day. It still had been my easiest day of these Games. Not complaining. Can sleep when I return home.

Our coverage decisions are a group effort; I am covering these Games with photographer Mark Reis, and this is his eighth Olympic journey. He offers sound advice. At any Olympics, there are times when I’m sitting in a venue while wishing I was sitting in a different venue, but this frustration isn’t the norm. What I want to do is usually what my bosses want me to do, too. I plan to be, for instance, at the gold-medal hockey games, both men’s and women’s.

How does Sochi compare to the other Olympic venues you’ve experienced?

If smarter, I would have been an architect. The Olympic parks at Athens and Beijing were spectacular, and staggeringly expensive. I doubt future Olympic parks ever will match those historically gorgeous efforts by the Greeks and the Chinese. Sochi’s Olympic park reminds me of the park in London: Impressive, but nothing close to Athens and Beijing. The mountain venues in Sochi are stunning, no doubt about that. I watch competitions while surrounded by snow-peaked mountains. They are absolutely beautiful.

What has surprised you most – in a good way – thus far?

I have been happily surprised by the feeling of safety. When the rebels/terrorists blew up those buses and killed those three dozen innocents, it shook me up. My heart mourned for the victims, but my heart also trembled for the dozens of friends who would join me in Sochi. Peace has replaced the fear. I wake up each morning and look out the corner of my window and see the mountains and can barely wait to start my workday. It’s a blessing to be here, doing what I do. Truly, it is a blessing.