Campus a fall oasis for southbound Monarchs

A monarch rests at one of ACU's butterfly gardens.

A Monarch rests on a Gregg’s Blue Mistflower at one of ACU’s butterfly gardens.

Each year, Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), also known as milkweed butterflies and “King Billy” butterflies, make an amazing multi-generational migration from as far north as Canada to their winter homes in southern Mexico and California. This journey – like that of migratory birds such as snow geese, cormorants and pelicans which frequent West Texas – thrills viewers who eagerly anticipate their arrival each year at spots along the way.

Monarchs at the Hunter Welcome Center butterfly gardens

Monarchs dominate this gathering at the Welcome Center butterfly garden.

The campus of Abilene Christian University is one of the places Monarchs visit each year and the first butterflies arrived in Mexico the last week of October this fall.

Abilene has in years past hosted monarchs in large roosting colonies frequenting local pecan trees as favored sleeping areas. As recently as 2011, the Monarch migration came in stunning numbers to our campus, clustering in the large pecan trees around the Hardin Administration Building and Phillips Education Building. However, numbers in subsequent years have dropped dramatically for a variety of reasons, including the excessive heat and drought that plagued the central U.S. in 2012 and drops in the caterpillars’ food supply, the milkweed plant.

A queen butterfly (foreground)

Queen butterflies look similar to monarchs, especially at rest with their wings closed. When open, their different markings are more distinguishable.

Even though the number of Monarchs on campus this fall was small, the ones who came were warmly welcomed with two special garden spaces. Planted on the east side of the Hunter Welcome Center and the south side of Brown Library, they are filled with drought-resistant native plant species specially chosen to attract butterflies of all kinds. Plants include Gregg’s Blue Mistflower (Conoclinum greggii), “New Gold” lantana (Lantana x hybrid ‘New Gold’), butterfly bush (buddleia davidii), and several varieties of salvia. According to Corey Ruff, ACU director of physical resources, building and grounds, Gregg’s Blue mistflower attracts butterflies like no other plant material.

This summer the gardens were primarily occupied by Queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus), which at first glance resemble monarchs. But when the Monarchs finally arrived in early October, the difference in size and markings was easy to spot. For about three weeks the gardens were covered with many varieties of butterflies, becoming more active as the temperatures warmed during the day. Finally, a cool front on Halloween sent them on their way south.

With the short, cold days of winter fast approaching, the gardens will sleep, too – waiting for the warmth of spring and a new generation of these lovely winged creatures to remind us of God’s beauty and creativity.

“Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.”

– Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association

Buckeye buttterfly (Junonia coenia)

Buckeye buttterfly (Junonia coenia)

American Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis)

American Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis)

Red Admiral buttterfly (Vanessa atalanta)

Red Admiral buttterfly (Vanessa atalanta)

A monarch's lower wings are lighter in color than the upper ones. Queen butterflies have the same dark orange colors above and below.

A Monarch’s hind wings are lighter in color than the fore ones. Queen butterflies have the same dark orange colors front and back.

Monarchs also like to gather on pecan trees on the ACU campus.

Monarchs also like to gather on pecan tree leaves on the ACU campus.

For the Least of These: The Tidmores

tidmore family

Taylor and Heather Tidmore with their children (from left) Anna, Sara, Mason and William. (Photo courtesy of Debbie Riggs)

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

For the Least of These,” a feature story in the latest issue of ACU Today magazine, takes a look at several Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to rescue orphans around the world.

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,

Meanwhile, enjoy this account of the Tidmore family, whose life plans did not include adopting a child. God, they found, had different plans. Taylor Tidmore, M.D., (’99) is an Abilene physician. He and his wife, Heather (Watts ’99), have four children: Anna, 10; Mason, 8; William, 6; and Sara, 2.

The Missing Puzzle Piece

Adoption was never in our plan. In fact, about four minutes after our third child was born, my wife declared we were done having children, and I fully agreed. Well, I think God likes taking the declarations we make and declaring He has a whole other plan.

In the fall of 2009 my wife, Heather, and I started an in-depth study of the book of John through Bible Study Fellowship. As I studied John, I was blown away about how much Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit. Growing up we had discussed God, Jesus and a lot of things I shouldn’t do, but we didn’t talk much about the Holy Spirit. The verse that blew me away was John 16:7: “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Jesus was basically saying that having the Holy Spirit was better than Jesus being there with them physically.

So for the first time in our lives we started praying daily that the Holy Spirit would fill us and lead us. Over the next few months the Holy Spirit did begin to change us. One way that occurred was through Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Through this book Mr. Miller challenges you to examine the story your life is telling. God does not want us to have a boring, safe, mundane story. He created us to tell exciting stories with our lives that impact His Kingdom.

It really got my wife and me to reconsider our family’s story.

Our current story looked so selfish. I was a new physician who had been practicing for two years. Our story looked like this – a nice family, living a nice, safe life in a nice house, accumulating nice things, and taking nice trips. It was all very nice, but not the story we wanted to tell nor the story we wanted to pass on to our children.

Not long after that we read “Jantsen’s Gift by Pam Cope. It’s the story of Randy and Pam Cope, and how through the loss of their son, Jantsen, they started an organization that radically changes the lives of vulnerable children in Ghana, Vietnam and Cambodia. It also tells the story of the Copes adopting two children from Vietnam. When I read this it just hit me – adoption was one way we were going to change our story.

We had never once discussed adopting before this, so when I brought it up to Heather one night she looked at me like I was crazy, but she didn’t say no. She said let’s pray about it. So that’s what we did, and over the next few weeks God made it evident to us that was what He wanted us to do. Never in our lives had we felt such a strong calling. So strong that we felt we would be disobedient if we said no.

So in fall 2010 we started the process to adopt a child from Ethiopia. When we began we were told the process would take 12 to 18 months. Well, things did not go as planned, and it was 38 long months later before we brought our daughter, Sara, home. The process was much longer and more difficult than we would have ever imagined. Several times we wanted to quit, and God always found a way to keep us on track during those periods of doubt. The process taught us more about faith, patience and trusting in God’s plan than any other event we have ever been through. It was not easy, but the really great things in life are rarely accomplished with ease.

On Nov. 1, 2013, Sara joined our family forever. She is active, smart, strong willed, beautiful, funny, and so full of joy and life. She was the puzzle piece our family needed to be complete, but the piece we didn’t even know we were missing.

Now it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows since she came home. There have been many tough days and many tears shed over the last year. The process repeatedly reminds us to let go of our false sense of control and let God lead us. It reminds us that the world is broken, but that God wants his people to join Him in the process of redeeming and restoring the broken. It reminds us that our own adoption into God’s kingdom came at a very high cost. It reminds us that following God where he leads is rarely easy, but always worth it.

And finally, it reminds us not to make any big declarations about our plans for the future. We’ll just leave that up to God.

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VIA News: Track, Bennett reflect progress


Grass on the soccer pitch, the new purple track, dirt at the construction site and sand in the long-jump pits provide a contrast in colors at the new track/soccer stadium.

The West Texas sky, grass on the soccer pitch, new purple track, dirt at the construction site and sand in the long-jump pits provide a contrast in colors at the new track/soccer stadium.

Heading into the extended Thanksgiving weekend, a pair of Vision in Action projects on the Abilene Christian University campus are making visible progress.

Crews from Beynon Sports Surfaces earlier this month finished laying down a vibrant purple track that certainly pops against the deep green of the newly installed soccer field. With that, the most important part of ACU’s new track/soccer stadium – the playing and running surfaces – are in place. The track arrived in liquid form, in 39 enormous 330-gallon containers, each weighing more than 2,700 pounds, before being spread in multiple layers over the previously lain asphalt. The top layer was mixed with purple rubber granules and left to cure.

Meanwhile, crews have poured the foundation for the new fieldhouse, scheduled for completion by April 1, and supports are in place for the stands and pressbox, scheduled for completion in January. (You can always check out the progress via the live webcam atop Edwards Hall.)

Work also has begun across campus on a pair of related projects – north of Ambler Avenue, crews have cleared space for field events such as discus that would damage the soccer pitch if they were placed inside or alongside the track. East of Judge Ely Boulevard, crews have begun digging trenches for drainage pipes that will funnel and collect stormwater from the site of ACU’s two new stadiums. Construction on Wildcat Stadium, ACU’s first on-campus football facility in more than 70 years, will begin when fundraising for the project is complete.

A peek inside the new home of laboratories and offices for the Department of Engineering and Physics.

A peek inside the new home of laboratories and offices for the Department of Engineering and Physics.

On the south side of campus, the Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium have made rapid progress since overcoming a series of delays caused by a regional steel shortage, as reported earlier this month by the Optimist. With steel now in place, crews have begun installing walls, installation and air conditioning ducts on the former gym’s new second floor. Outside the facility’s south wall, crews have begun covering a new steel facade with brick, and new windows are days away from being installed, said Kevin Roberts (’88), ACU’s vice president for planning and operations.

“It’s progressing just as we hoped it would,” he said. Crews hope to complete the project in January.

Staff and administrators in the Office of Student Life, meanwhile, appear to be just weeks away from moving into new offices in the bottom floor of the McGlothlin Campus Center, where students once bowled and ate in the Bean Sprout. Moving day is scheduled for Dec. 5, Roberts said; crews then will move the Department of Psychology – Chambers Hall’s last remaining occupants – into the old Student Life offices in McKinzie Hall and begin the process of demolishing the 85-year-old former residence hall, cafeteria and library to make way for the future Halbert-Walling Research Center.

Crews are covering with bricks the new arched facade on the south side of Bennett.

Crews are covering with bricks the new arched facade on the south side of Bennett.

As with Chambers, demolition of Walling Lecture Hall – the first step of transforming Foster Science Building into the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center – won’t begin until after students leave for Christmas break in December, Roberts said, although demolition on both buildings will not move to the exteriors until January.

Vision in Action is the $75 million initiative launched in February 2014 by three historic gifts, including the largest in ACU history; it will result in three new science facilities and two athletics stadiums on the ACU campus. Fundraising continues for the final two projects: Wildcat Stadium and the Halbert-Walling Research Center. For more information, visit

For the Least of These: A home for Elliott

S-S 2014 For The Least Of These 48-54 rbhOne of the feature stories in the Spring-Summer issue of ACU Today is “For the Least of These,” a look at several Abilene Christian University alumni involved in helping rescue orphans around the world.

The opening spread is an engaging portrait of Elliott, a youngster who spent most of his first two years of life at Neema House Baby Home, the Tanzanian ministry of Michael (’65) and Doris (West ’66) Fortson of Temple, Texas.

The image, as well as others there and in our online-only Bonus Coverage, is the work of Stina Granfors, a talented photographer from Gothenburg, Sweden, who volunteered there in Summer 2013.

Read our 21-page story online here or by clicking on the image above of Elliott.

In the weeks to come on this blog, we will introduce you to alumni who help make a real difference in the world by adopting and fostering children. For now, enjoy this essay from Dorris about Elliott and “trying to change the course of one precious life at a time”:

A Home for Elliott

Dreams do come true – sometimes. Two years ago a baby boy was left abandoned at the government hospital in Arusha, Tanzania. He was so tiny a wedding ring would slip easily off and on his arm or leg. Just a whisper of a baby, Elliott was not much to see, a little scrap of humanity that looked more tadpole than baby. Neema House Baby Home was called but knowing that he was too small to survive at 1.65 pounds, Elliott was left in a wire basket tray at the hospital to survive on his own. His bed at the hospital looked like the one baby Noah is living in now while we wait for him to get big enough to bring home.

Neema was just starting out then and we didn’t have a good camera so Elliott’s earliest pictures are just memories. No one thought he would live anyway, so why take pictures? But that undeniable spark of God Life in this little one just wouldn’t quit and for four months he fought to live. Abandoned by all who knew where he came from, from anyone who had ever had a dream of life for him, somehow Elliott survived.

We thought Elliott was a girl at first and had churches praying for baby Elizabeth. The nurses changed his diapers and he had a tiny slip of paper with the name “Elizabeth” in his bed, so of course we thought he was a girl. It was funny the day we found out he was a boy and we had to send out emails asking people to take Elizabeth off their prayer list and please put Elliott on!

Today, the dream of a life and a good home for Elliott has come true. Tammy Stansbury from Temple, Texas, and I visited last week in his new home with his proud mom who kept trying to get Elliott to perform and show us how smart he is today. He is 2 years old and can count to seven and is learning to write his name. His little face has filled out and he has a puppy. His new mom and dad have a nice home, not a mud hut with thatched roof, but a cement home with a porch and columns and windows with glass and a front door that locks. His mom and dad are a bit older; they had a son who worked as a mechanic in a garage and an engine fell on his chest and crushed him. Elliott is their second chance and you can feel the love and pride they have for him.

Neither Michael nor I can tell you how this makes us feel. My throat stops up and I just have to lift my hands skyward in praise to a Great and Mighty God who could take what evil meant for death and bring it to life and we get to be a witness to it: a life not expected to be lived, dreams not expected to come true but a God who does the unexpected. It doesn’t get any better than this.

I have just finished reading a book, “The Invention of Wings,” by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s the story of two young women, one bound in slavery but believing that in Africa her people could fly and  the other, a young woman enslaved just as tightly to her Southern culture also dreaming of flight and escape to a different life. Lucretia, her Quaker friend tells her one day, “We’re all yearning for a wedge of the sky aren’t we. I suspect God plants those yearnings in us so we will at least try and change the course of things. We must try, that’s all.”

As I read those words in Sue’s book, I thought of the dream of Neema House Baby Home, trying to change the course of one precious life at a time, just like Elliott and thinking that occasionally, we win. Most of the time we walk around thinking it’s all about us but it isn’t; we are not the center of anything. God has put us here to make a difference, to try and change things somehow, someway for the hurting and the hopeless of this world. The answer to the age-old question of “Why does God allow babies to starve in Africa?” is more often “He doesn’t, we do.” And he never told us to feed the millions, just one he said, just feed one, the one you know about, one cup at a time.

Our God is the God of the unexpected. There is nothing more powerful in our lives than every day, in some way, asking God to be big for us and do the unexpected. I think He loves that, don’t you?

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De Leon brings Division I experience to role

Lee De Leon press conference 6x6 It’s been a dozen years since Abilene Christian University went “out of network” to hire a director of athletics, but it’s not as unusual as one might think for the Wildcats to lean on someone for that job who does not have a framed ACU diploma on the wall.

Lee De Leon was introduced to the public Thursday as only the eighth person to hold that position on The Hill and the third to have an undergraduate degree from somewhere besides ACU.

The first was A.B. “Bugs” Morris, just one year removed from his graduation at Texas A&M when ACU president Batsell Baxter hired him in 1924.

With duties as director of athletics and head coach of the football, basketball and baseball teams, Morris was a jack-of-all-trades and master of many. At the slight size of 5 foot 7 inches and just 150 pounds, he had quarterbacked the Aggies to a win in the inaugural (1922) Cotton Bowl, and played shortstop on its baseball team while leading the Southwest Conference in runs scored and hitting.

By the time he retired in 1969 from athletics administration to promote ACU’s A.B. Morris Athletic Fund, he had become a giant in his field and eventually was enshrined in four sports halls of fame.

ACU’s previous directors of athletics:

  • 1924-69 – A.B. “Bugs” Morris
  • 1969-88 – Wally Bullington (’53)
  • 1988-90 – Don Drennan (’58)
  • 1990-95 – Cecil Eager (’71)
  • 1995-2002 – Stan Lambert (’75) 
  • 2002-03 – Shanon Hays
  • 2003-2014 – Jared Mosley (’00)

De Leon is 33 years old and since 2011, has been associate director of athletics for development and executive director of the Lobo Club at the University of New Mexico. He earned degrees from Notre Dame and Texas A&M, and brings athletics marketing and fundraising experience at four Division I universities – New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana State and Houston.

He made a good impression yesterday while explaining that ACU athletics will be unyielding in its support of the faith-based education of ACU, unwavering in its support of student-athletes and unrelenting in its community engagement. De Leon said his personal goal is to “make an impact for Jesus Christ in college athletics.”

ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert said he believes De Leon is “a proven leader of people” whose experience will help the Wildcats “navigate the challenges and opportunities of the NCAA landscape.”

De Leon replaces Jared Mosley, who was recently named CEO and president of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

Rhodes featured in Veterans Day Tribute

Dusty Rhodes video

The story behind Saving Private Ryan – Steven Spielberg’s intense, cinematic masterpiece that was nominated in 11 categories (and won five) in the 71st Academy Awards – especially resonates with me today.

In the 1988 film, Pvt. James Francis Ryan, a World War II paratrooper portrayed by Matt Damon, became the object of an intense search across Normandy shortly after the D-Day invasion of 1944 for the youngest sibling of three other soldiers who had been killed in action. Not wanting to present such devastating news about all four brothers to their mother, Gen. George C. Marshall issued orders that settled upon 30-year-old Capt. John H. Miller (a Pennsylvania high school teacher portrayed by Tom Hanks), who chose six men to scour the countryside with him for Ryan and bring him home safely and immediately.

Three of the six in Miller’s group died while accomplishing that, including Miller, whose dying request of Ryan on a hard-fought bridge they had just won together were, “Earn this. Earn it.”

Years ago, my grandmother, Nina, had five sons – Gibson, Terry, Ben, Billy and David Pullen – who were each called away to military service from their small Kentucky farm to places like Pearl Harbor and the Panama Canal. Unlike three of the four Ryan sons in the story written by Robert Rodat, they all returned safely. My mother’s brothers went on to live long and full lives, and while they are now deceased, I am grateful for the blessing of their safe-keeping. I am thankful their mother need not have received a letter from Marshall quoting Abraham Lincoln of “… the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom.”

I was reminded of that when watching Spielberg’s epic film this past weekend, and today, as the Abilene Christian University campus stopped to remember Veteran’s Day.

With a backdrop of ACU’s large U.S flag, this morning’s annual tribute in Moody Coliseum included stirring patriotic music from ACU’s A Cappella Chorus; comments from president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91); the introduction of ACU student Tina Marie Darby, a staff sergeant who served four years of active duty in the Army in places like Bosnia and Afghanistan and is now in her 16th year in the Texas Army National Guard; a prayer by retired Brig. Gen. Jerry Strader (’52); and introductions of special guests such as Col. Michael Bob Starrcommander of the 7th Bomb Wing at Abilene’s Dyess Air Force Base.

Today’s program in Moody Coliseum also featured a touching video vignette about Abilene’s A.L. “Dusty” Rhodes (’59), a veteran of the Korean War who described an instance on the Inchon River when a fellow Marine shielded him from a North Korean bullet that could have taken Rhodes’ life but missed its mark. Rhodes recalled what he considers to this day to be the greatest honor he could ever have: “A soldier, risking his life for me.”

Veterans Day evokes many personal memories for Americans, some intensely painful. War is political and costly and does not always end with a parade down Main Street. It often requires – as did World War II – many to die so that many others can be saved. The current and former soldiers gathered today in the coliseum represented three generations of Americans willing to risk their lives for our freedom and for the freedom of others around the world. Their self-sacrifice should not be lost on us.

In the final scene of Saving Private Ryan, an elderly James Ryan kneels in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France after finding the grave of a man who died so that he might live.

“I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough,” Ryan said while reflecting on John Miller’s final command decades before. “I hope that at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”

On this Veteran’s Day, I can’t think of finer words.

VIA News: Ground broken for Onstead Center

FROM LEFT: April (Bullock ’89) Anthony, Dr. Robert Rhodes, Kay Onstead, ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91), Larry Gill of the Dodge Jones Foundation, Students’ Association executive president Rodney Johnson (’15) and ACU board chair Dr. Barry Packer (’78) were in the first wave of special guests to participate in the ceremonial event just north of the eventual construction site.

Abilene Christian University celebrated groundbreaking Monday for the new Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center, ceremonially beginning the third of five projects in the university’s historic Vision in Action initiative.

The event, which took place outside Walling Lecture Hall on the campus’ south quad, honored the generosity of Kay Onstead, whose $10 million gift for a facility that would match the reputation of ACU’s world-class science programs was the first of three cornerstone contributions that launched Vision in Action.

Kay Onstead

Kay Onstead

“I feel like I got way too much credit today,” Onstead said at a lunch honoring her immediately after the groundbreaking. “It’s a little bit embarrassing.”

Vision in Action is the $75 million initiative to build three new science facilities and two athletics stadiums. Work on the Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium is scheduled to be complete by January, while a new stadium for the soccer and track and field programs is scheduled to open in April. Fundraising continues on the Halbert-Walling Research Center and football’s on-campus Wildcat Stadium.

Onstead’s gift in December 2012 created the momentum that made possible other significant gifts, including the largest in ACU history, said Dr. Phil Schubert (’91), university president.

That gift, a $30 million contribution from April (Bullock ’89) and Mark Anthony (’86), included $5 million for the Onstead Science Center. The Anthonys, lifelong friends of the Onsteads, were also on hand for the groundbreaking.

“I’m just so grateful this is happening,” said Onstead, whose husband, Robert, was founder of Randall’s Food Markets and a member of ACU’s Board of Trustees for decades before his death in 2004. “I don’t want to take any credit. God has given Bob and me much. I’m just so grateful.”

Charles Onstead

Charlie Onstead

The ceremony, held under a warm sun and clear skies, featured Schubert and provost Dr. Robert Rhodes, as well as words of thanks from Maxwell Moore, a senior biochemistry major from Abilene, speaking on behalf of ACU’s science students, and a response from Onstead’s son, current ACU trustee Charlie Onstead.

Moore praised the science faculty for their love and support of students.

“The donation that made this building possible is another form of investment in ACU’s science students,” he continued. “I can’t even comprehend the amount of money, but the value is in the fact that it’s an investment in students from people who believe in us and our futures. Gifts like that say that the students participating in the sciences at ACU are valuable.”

Schubert noted that he had interned as an accountant at Randall’s shortly after his graduation from ACU, and that a scholarship provided through an endowment created by the Onsteads helped pay for his tuition.

“There’s a lot of personal sentiment in my feeling today,” he said. “The Onstead family left an indelible mark on my life. … To be sitting here today, in this time and this place, celebrating what I know will be the same type of blessing for generations, decades of students – it’s an amazing moment, one for which I’m truly grateful.”

The Onstead Science Center will feature a transformation of the current Foster Science Building. The first phase – the demolition of Walling Lecture Hall and construction of a new glass-walled lobby to bridge the east and west wings of the building – will begin around Jan. 1; the final phase, renovation of Foster’s interior, will begin after Halbert-Walling is constructed.

Mayor, city press on in quest for future water

S-S 2014 High Hopes for H2O 36-41Rain the past two days in West Texas has fallen on some of the thirstiest ground around.

The wet-weather system – fueled in part by dying hurricane Vance (now a tropical storm) as it spins off the southwestern coast of Mexico and saunters ashore – is exactly what the doctor ordered to help fight a three-year old severe drought.

West Texas is dry by nature but climate forecasters say the current drought is the result of a combination of global warming, La Nina weather cycles and a slow “desertification” of the region, as explained in “High Hopes for H2O” in the Spring-Summer issue of ACU Today magazine.

Our story profiles the role Dr. Norman Archibald (’76 M.S.) is filling as mayor of Abilene and the city’s de facto evangelist on the subject of water supply acquisition and conservation. Archibald – known by many for his decade of roles in Student Life and in Advancement/Development at Abilene Christian University from 1981-91 – is leading the West Texas Water Partnership, a groundbreaking relationship between Abilene, Midland and San Angelo to secure water for each city’s future.

Archibald also is vice president of Hendrick Health System, Abilene’s largest hospital and medical complex.

Droughts in Texas don’t happen overnight, but they can shift into reverse gear in a surprisingly short period of time, as residents of the Panhandle were reminded in late September when a low-pressure system stalled over the area and created enough rain and runoff to cause Lake Alan Henry, one of Lubbock’s prime water sources, to rise more than 10 feet. Abilene’s rainfall this year is around 14 inches, about eight below normal. It will be several days before city officials learn how this week’s precipitation contributes to three area reservoirs on which it depends: Fort Phantom Hill, Hubbard Creek and O.H. Ivie.

But little will deter Archibald’s work toward securing a new surface water-supply lake 40 miles north of the city. The proposed Cedar Ridge Reservoir will cost some $240 million but when full, go far in creating water for the next generation of Abilenians as well as Archibald’s alma mater.

“We cannot believe that a big rain will answer all of our problems,” Archibald said late this summer, about two months before the city moved to Stage 2 of water conservation restrictions. “We need to pay for additional resources because we do not know when a drought will reoccur in West Texas.”

Abilene’s economy is a growing success story on several fronts. ACU’s $75 million Vision in Action initiative to construct three new science facilities and two on-campus stadiums is its largest building campaign in more than four decades.

That kind of development on campus and across the city takes water to meet today’s needs and into the foreseeable future. “We’re making plans today for the next generation and generation after that – for children yet born,” Archibald said.

Ballot drama delays Shirley’s opportunity

Shirley spoke to ACU students during a Chapel Forum presentation in 2009.

Shirley spoke to ACU students during a Chapel Forum presentation in 2009.

Navajo Nation voters had the opportunity today to elect Abilene Christian University graduate Dr. Joe Shirley Jr. (’73) to a record third term of office as president.

But late-breaking drama in the process has caused the election to be postponed until its executive, legislative and judicial leaders can sort out the pieces of a disagreement over the importance of their native language.

The most populous Native American tribe in the United States (more than 300,000 enrolled members) used ballots today listing the names of Shirley and Chris Deschene as presidential candidates – among other races on the ballot – but the presidential votes will not be counted, according to the Navajo Times.

The Navajo Nation Supreme Court recently declared the Board of Election supervisors in contempt of court for not removing Deschene’s name and postponing the election after it was determined he did not meet the tribe’s requirement to demonstrate fluency in the Diné language. The Navajo Nation Council voted on a proposal to change that longstanding election law but current Navajo president Ben Shelly vetoed the measure.

“We are a nation of laws. I took an oath to uphold the law,” Shelly said the next day in explaining his veto. He lost in primary elections earlier this year and will see his presidency end in 2015 after one term. “Every society has an obligation to hold on to their traditions. If we lose our language and culture, who are we?”

Shelly’s question is not purely rhetorical. Forward-thinking Native American tribal leaders struggle with how to preserve their traditional culture while transitioning to 21st-century opportunities for their people, many of whom wrestle with chronic social problems related to low per-capita income in the government-designated lands where they live. Many Navajo reside in 27,000 square miles of territory spanning Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The government capital is in Window Rock, Ariz., part of sprawling Apache County.

Shirley was president from 2003-11 but had to step aside because Navajo law prohibited its leader from more than two consecutive four-year terms of office. When it was determined that Shirley was eligible for a third term as long as it didn’t violate the consecutive terms rule, he listened to tribal leaders and other supporters who encouraged him to run again for the 2014 election. While sitting out one presidential election cycle, he was re-elected to a former role as Apache County supervisor.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Abilene Christian, with minors in Bible and English, and a master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University. Shirley received ACU’s Distinguished Alumni Citation in 2007 and has a long track record of public service to the Navajo. He lives in Chinle, Ariz., with Vicki, his wife of 23 years. They have six children, 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Alum launches ‘simple’ plan to fight Ebola

Global Samaritan Resources’ water purification effort in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake is similar to the one that will be used to combat Ebola in West Africa. Here, GSR trustee Dr. Ben Gray, is pictured with Haitians drinking water purified of cholera and other diseases.

Global Samaritan Resources’ water purification effort in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake is similar to what will be used to combat Ebola in West Africa. Here, GSR trustee Dr. Ben Gray is pictured with Haitians drinking newly purified water.

Abilene’s Global Samaritan Resources, led by executive director Danny Sims (’85) and inspired by Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly (’03), has launched a project to help with the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

“Simple Works – West Africa” is a plan addressing three critical needs: purified water, fortified food and medical supplies.

“We wanted to focus on simple practical things that everyday, ordinary people could do,” Sims explained. “I think most of us are frustrated by complex problems and complex solutions, and large institutions and even governments that don’t seem to do much, or we may not know what it is they are doing. So our plan is to do something very simple.”

Danny Sims (’85) is shown at the Syrian border at the U.N.’s Zatari refugee camp with his driver, Ali Hussein, assessing what U.S. Christians can do for the refugees of the Syrian war.

Danny Sims (’85) is shown on the Syrian border at the U.N.’s Zatari refugee camp with his driver, Ali Hussein, assessing what U.S. Christians can do for the refugees of the Syrian war.

Sims became interested in the Ebola fight after hearing that fellow alum Brantly had contracted the virus while working as a medical missionary in Liberia.

“Kent is a good friend of so many people in the Abilene Christian University community, including one of Global Samaritan’s board members, Brian Thomason (’99), who roomed with Kent in college,” Sims said.

“Like everyone nationally, we were interested in Kent’s story. But like others with ACU connections, we become interested personally as well,” Sims said. “But it was Kent’s focus on the Liberians and other West Africans and his poignant call to be compassionate, to help the thousands who have this disease – as Kent pointed out, the Africans with Ebola were largely ignored before he contracted Ebola – that really moved us.

“We asked, ‘Why doesn’t somebody do something?’ Then we realized we are somebody,” he said.

Stopping Ebola and other killer diseases in West Africa is the key to stopping the spread of diseases to the United States and other countries, Sims said.

He believes Global Samaritan’s plan will work “because I think people are hungry for a set of practical simple solutions that they can be a part of. Our partners are people we know by name. The people they help they know by name. We are interested in sustainable, ongoing relationships with partners we can send food, water and supplies to. And it is something that every day ordinary people can be a part of.”

To that end, Global Samaritan has created a website through which donations are being accepted for specific needs. For instance, $35 will provide a SaveStraw portable water filter/purifier that can be used in any water source to provide clean, safe drinking water. A $65 donation will provide fortified food for a family of five for five days. Other donations provide medical supplies and larger water purification systems.

“Our plan is to send at least three containers full of water systems, food, and health and protective equipment to our partners in West Africa,” Sims said. “It is something that every day ordinary people can be a part of. Together, we can make a real difference.”