‘A God Thing’: Perrys, WCB, ACU, Madagascar

The Perry family in 1967 (from left): siblings Greg (’83), Susan (’77) and David (’73) with Earline (Davidson ’48) and Lowell (’47).

The Perry family in 1967 (from left): siblings Greg (’83), Susan (’77) and David (’73) with Earline (Davidson ’48) and Lowell (’47).

Susan Perry (’77) says their vacation scrapbooks while growing up had as many images of radio equipment as family members. That happens when your forward-thinking father is an expert in using short wave technology for mass communication and world evangelism.

“Dad was always taking pictures of towers and turntables, scouting out places to share with others who were looking for stations or equipment to purchase,” Susan said. “We got used to it but it probably seemed a bit strange to others.”

The Second Glance essay in the new Summer-Fall 2016 issue of ACU Today, “Short wave radio still makes the Gospel world go round,” is a tribute to Dr. Lowell Perry (’47), his wife, Earline (Davidson ’48), and the legacy they created through World Christian Broadcasting (WCB), which he helped found.

Lowell, a professor of communication at ACU, lost his life in 1977 while searching the Caribbean by plane for a new site for a WCB transmitter tower. Earline carried WCB’s proverbial torch for decades as a board member and de facto cheerleader, until her passing on Feb. 19, 2016.

Ravalomanana, pictured here with ACU president Dr. Royce Money (’64), received an honorary doctorate from ACU in 2008.

Former Madagascar president Ravalomanana, pictured here with ACU president Dr. Royce Money (’64), received an honorary doctorate from ACU in 2008.

She so looked forward to seeing WCB’s long-awaited transmitters begin broadcasting from a mountaintop in Madagascar, but fell just weeks short of living long enough to seeing – and hearing – her husband’s dream come true. Susan made the trip to represent her family.

The story connecting the Perrys, WCB, ACU and Madagascar qualifies by most estimations as “a God thing,” as we often call providential occurrences too difficult to explain or believe.

It includes the considerable influence of former Madagascar president Dr. Marc Ravalomanana, a devout Christian who opened the door to WCB in 2003. “Come build your station,” he told WCB leaders, whom he allowed to use government land near Mahajanga. Thirteen years later, WCB signals from there and from a second station in Anchor Point, Alaska, now reach the entire world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Madagascar Presidential Scholars Program allowed 24 top Malagasy students to graduate from ACU in 2008. Earline was named ACU’s Outlive Your Life award recipient in 2014.

Read this issue’s Second Glance here:

Women’s hoops stars grace cover of new issue

It’s been 20 years since women’s basketball was the cover story of ACU Today magazine. That’s when the 1995-96 team, led by senior Jennifer Clarkson Frazier and sophomore Shalonda Bowden, went 31-2 and advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.

Our newest issue features four student-athletes who are helping the Wildcats reach new heights in NCAA Division I.

Twins Lizzy and Suzzy Dimba, along with Alexis Mason and Sydney Shelsted, are featured in our cover story, “Junior Achievement,” for heroics while leading their team to a 31-4 record last season, an unlikely Southland Conference regular season title, and a berth in the Postseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament. Grant Boone (’90), radio and TV voice of the Wildcats, is the writer.

The talented quartet will be seniors in 2016-17, and their team will open the season against the University of Missouri in the Preseason Women’s NIT, along with 15 of the other top teams in the nation.

Other content in this issue – which, including online-only Bonus Coverage – totals 172 pages:

  • In “Preaching the Write Stuff,” freelance photographer Jeremy Enlow provides a look inside the new Max Lucado (’77) Collection donated by the San Antonio minister and best-selling author.
  • Dr. H. Jeff Kimble (’71) is the 2016 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. A profile of him by Sarah Carlson (’06) leads our coverage of 2016 alumni award winners, including Gilbert Tuhabonye (’01), Jennifer (England ’85) Allen, Ben Jeffrey (’06) and Scotty (’52) and June (’56) Witt.
  • The Vision in Action initiative focuses on groundbreaking of Wildcat Stadium for football, and ongoing construction of Halbert-Walling Research Center and Onstead Science Center.
  • “Is It Worth It?” a look at how ACU is bridging the affordability gap with its value and generous financial aid packages/
  • Tour the new home in Addison for ACU Dallas in “Branching Out”
  • Sarah Carlson’s “Making Waves” probes the role ACU’s Dr. Josh Willis  (’96), senior Hannah Hamilton, and graduates Andrew Miller (’14) and Marissa Walker (’11) played in a massive scientific undertaking that led to the discovery of gravitational waves 100 years after Einstein predicted their existence.
  • The Second Glance essay connects dots between ACU, Madagascar, World Christian Broadcasting and the globetrotting family of Dr. Lowell (’47) and Earline (Davidson ’48) Perry, whose longtime vision for bringing the Gospel to the entire world via shortwave radio was realized this spring.
  • Other Bonus Coverage this issue includes images from Sing Song’s 60th show and a gathering of former hosts, hostesses and directors who helped celebrate it in February; an additional 16 pages on the Max Lucado Collection; and a look inside the 2015-16 women’s basketball season.

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

ACU Remembers: Joe B. Baisden

Joe Baisden 1 headshot 250x400 96Joe Bon Baisden (’59), veteran evangelist and former longtime trustee of Abilene Christian University, died Aug. 17, 2016, in Belton, Texas, at age 79.

Visitation is from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Belton Church of Christ (3003 N. Main St., Belton, Texas 76513). Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church (506 N. Main St., Belton, Texas 76513), with burial before the service at North Belton Cemetery. A reception will follow the service at First Baptist.

He was born Dec. 7, 1936, in Ennis, Texas, and was salutatorian of the 1955 graduating class of Killeen (Texas) High School. After graduating from ACU with a B.S.Ed. degree, he married Janelle Davis (’56) on June 20, 1959. He did graduate work in music at The University of Texas at Austin and in Bible at ACU.

Baisden served as a minister for many churches, including congregations in Austin (1958-61, 1963-65); Bloomington (1961-63); Washington, D.C. (1965-67); Abilene (1967-70); and the Belton Church of Christ (1971-2004). He conducted gospel meetings and singing workshops for years, and after retiring, served as interim minister for 12 congregations. He and Janelle also were active in promoting Christian camping.

Everywhere he lived, he was a giant in community service. Baisden was a longtime member of the Belton Lions Club (Lion of the Year for 1973-74); Belton Area Chamber of Commerce; Belton library board; and vice chair of the Bell County Child Welfare Board. He served as a Belton councilman and received the Harris Fellowship from the Temple Rotary Club. He also was secretary of Austin’s Northeast Kiwanis Club and president of Abilene’s Key City Kiwanis Club. He received a Friend of Education award from Texas State Teachers Association (1986) served on the Chaplain’s Professional Consultation Committee for Scott and White Memorial Hospital, wrote a weekly column for The Belton Journal, and served on the Parent Advisory Committee for Belton ISD.

He served on ACU’s Board of Development (1975-91), its first Visiting Committee for the College of Biblical Studies (1982-87), the university’s Board of Trustees (1991-2007) and its University Council (2008-16). He received ACU’s Distinguished Alumni Citation in 1980, and in 1991, he and Janelle were presented ACU’s Christian Service Award.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William Joseph Baisden and Bonnie Dean (Whatley) Baisden.

Among survivors are Janelle, his wife of 57 years; a son, Donnie Baisden (’85); two daughters, Jane Anne (Baisden ’86) Cox and Katherine (Baisden ’90) Gibson; and six grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the Abilene Christian University’s Baisden Scholarship Fund (online or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132), Belton Church of Christ’s Camp Koinonia or Scott & White Hospice.

10 Questions with David Ramsey from Rio

David Ramsey in Rio 600x400 96The Games of the XXXI Olympiad – also known as the 2016 Summer Olympics from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – are the fourth such assignment for sportswriter David Ramsey (’81), an award-winning journalism graduate of Abilene Christian University. A columnist for The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colo., 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. Follow Ramsey’s daily coverage here.

Ramsey received ACU’s 1994 Gutenberg Award from the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication for distinguished professional achievement. This image of him from Rio is courtesy of photographer Mark Reis of The Gazette, a veteran of eight Olympic assignments. See some of Reis’ Olympic coverage on this Instagram page.

David Ramsey

Compared to other Olympic assignments, what was involved in traveling from your home in Colorado Springs to Brazil?

Getting here was easy. I flew from Denver to Houston for a direct flight to Rio. I was joined on the flight by three dozen Olympians, including volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh-Jennings and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. Seven Homeland Security officers were at the gate in Houston.

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

We’re spoiled at the Olympics. I’m on buses for hours every day traveling from venue to venue, but the buses travel in Olympic lanes that are cleared of traffic. This means I’m often rolling fast past traffic jams. Olympic Lanes are great for journalists and not-so-great for Rio drivers.

What do you see from outside your hotel window? 

Rio is a huge city with 11 million people in the metro area. I’m staying in newly built media lodging that will become condos. It’s on the southern edge of the city, and there’s not much out there. I’m surrounded by hills with jungle-like growth, and I go to sleep at night listening to exotic bird calls. I’m happy to have a bed in which to sleep. After a complicated mixup, there was no room for me when I arrived in Rio. After a frantic day, a man named Dark Santos (yes, Dark is his real name) solved my Olympic housing crisis.

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

Security is serious at Olympics. The lines have not been long here in Rio. I spent hours in security lines in 2004 in Athens, but it’s never been as bad since. At the Beijing Games in 2008, security personnel were uncomfortably thorough with frequent pat downs. In Sochi in 2014, the security was lax and workers seemed only lightly interested. Rio is just about right.

What are the most favorite and forgettable foods you have consumed thus far, and why?

The seafood can be amazing, especially at Adega Perola, a Portuguese restaurant near Copacabana Beach. Wish I were sitting there right now instead of typing these words. I eat many of my meals at the media center, and it’s fine. Basic. Fast. Decent food. I’m just happy to have time to eat.

Rio looks like a travel postcard but we hear appearances can be deceiving. What are some of the contrasts you have observed?

Rio is a city of extremes.  It reminds me of Mexico City. When Rio soars, it soars with any city in the world. The mountaintop Christ the Redeemer statue is every bit as beautiful as you expect. The port area is filled with 19th-century buildings and city squares with massive palm trees. The beaches are gorgeous. But when Rio sinks, it’s right down there with the worst of the world. A stream that is essentially an open sewer flows right by Olympic Park. This amazes and depresses me. The slums – favelas – dominate many sections of the city. I have to wonder – anybody has to wonder – if the billions spent on the Olympics could have been better used to clean up the water and build housing and improve life for the poor in Rio.

Which competitions are you covering and what have been your favorite moments thus far, and why?

I’m covering basketball, track and field, swimming, gymnastics, cycling, wrestling and soccer, among others. This is my fourth summer Olympics, and I’ve watched 15 of Michael Phelps’ gold medals. A couple days ago, I rode an elevator with Phelps from a fifth floor to the ground floor. He was looking at his photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated and observing how the image had been photoshopped. He was not pleased. My favorite moment was a personal one. I covered 800-meter runner Boris Berian in high school. He was a multiple Colorado state champ who later lost his way, dropped out of college and traveled home to work the counter at McDonald’s. That was two years ago. He ran in the Olympic 800 finals and, alas, finished last, but he finally reached his potential.

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

The Olympic Parks in Athens and Beijing were astounding monuments to architecture. I walked through those parks every day for two weeks and never stopped being dazzled. But those parks were also astoundingly expensive. I doubt any future Olympic Park will match Athens and Beijing. Rio’s Olympic Park reminds me of London’s Olympic Park. Impressive, yes, but never sensational.

Most Rio residents speak Portuguese. Has language been a barrier or a bridge for you, and why?

Brazilians are kind, patient and almost always willing to help, even if it costs them a few minutes. I learned long ago to be willing to ask questions when I can’t find my way in a city far from home. Last night, I was looking for a famous old and ornate cafe here, the Columbo. The cafe is hidden in a complicated section of downtown with winding and narrow cobblestone streets. I knew I was close, but couldn’t find it. I asked a man on the street for help. He didn’t speak English, but he understood “Columbo.” He led me and a friend for two blocks to the front door of the cafe. That story sums up Brazilians for me.

What advice would you give a journalist covering the Olympics for the first time?

You can’t fully prepare, and you need to be able to improvise, and you need to find a way to survive and thrive without much sleep. In my previous four Olympic trips, I made detailed plans for each day, and I made those plans weeks before the trip. On this trip, I plan a day ahead. I let what’s happening that day dictate my plans. Covering the Olympics reminds me of life as a student at ACU when I was going full speed 18 hours, and sometimes more, each day. Same at the Olympics. I’ll sleep when I return home to Colorado. One other slice of advice: Make sure to get out of the Olympic bubble and have fun. Grumari Beach is a 10-minute cab drive from my hotel. Sitting in the sand, watching the waves and thinking about nothing has become as essential as sleeping and eating.

ACU Remembers: Dr. Chantrey Fritts

Fritts 175x225 96Longtime Abilene Christian University teacher education professor Dr. Chantrey Alfred Fritts Jr. (’53) died Aug. 9, 2016, at age 85. He was a 41-year resident of Abilene, spending the final few years of his life in Lubbock while caring for his wife through a medical crisis, and then his own struggle with Alzheimer’s.

Fritts was born April 9, 1931, in Sterling, Colo., and graduated from South Denver High School in 1949. He married Aynsley Lillian Ruth Pennock on June 11, 1955.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from ACU, and a master’s (1954) and a doctorate in education from the University of Denver (1967). He was a teacher, counselor and administrators in Denver Public Schools for 14 years. He joined the ACU faculty in Fall 1967, beginning more than four decades of service as professor and chair of teacher education, and supervisor of student teachers at his alma mater.

Among his accolades were being named ACU’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year in the College of Professional Studies (1986-87), and receiving the Mentor Award from the Texas Student Education Association (1985), and the Kyle Kilough Award as educator of the year by the Texas Society of College Teachers of Education, Texas Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Texas Teacher Center Network (1988). He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Fritts retired in 2001 as professor emeritus of education, and was a longtime elder at Abilene’s Hillcrest Church of Christ.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Edna Violet Smith and Chantrey Alfred Fritts, Sr., and a sister, Nancy Vourexes.

Among survivors are Aynsley, his wife of 61 years; three daughters, Debbie (Fritts ’80) Paxton, Jennifer (Fritts ’82) Carpenter and Toga Broom; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Freshman send-off inspires new questions

Whether you’re sending your first child off to college – or your sixth, drop-off day is a bittersweet experience. We’ve gathered a collection of thoughts of Wildcat parents whose students will join the ACU family next week. We’d love to hear your thoughts, too!

The Stirman family

The Stirman family (from left): Troy (’91), Sarah (Riley ’91), Riley (’20) and Ashley (’19).

By Troy Stirman

As we are getting ready to take our second child to campus in less than a week, the contrast with taking our first to campus is pretty stark.

With our first child two years ago, there was a lot of angst and hand-wringing replete with emotional tidal waves that came in, asking repeatedly if we had done enough, prepared her enough, taught her enough, ad nauseum in light of the coming transition. Would she make friends easily? Will she like her roommate? Will she enjoy her new living arrangements? How difficult will her classes be? Will she meet a boy?

Now that we are in transition with our son, Version 2.0, the questions are different. When will that school start date get here? What do you think we should do with the extra space? Should we turn that into a man cave or a sewing room? What if we set it up as a hobby room? Maybe we should just sell the house and build?

It’s not that we think we are awesome parents, or that we are comforted in the fact that our firstborn made the transition exceedingly well, but rather we feel a general peace that this is a natural leap in the progression of our offspring making their way into the world. To grow. To lead. To aspire. To learn. And above all, to make a difference. In this case, the ACU difference.

May we claim Christ, and may Christ claim you both as you continue to lead and serve the kingdom. We are very proud of you!

Ronny Landis, son of Karen (McCarty ’84) and Ron Landis (’01)

Ronny Landis, son of Karen (McCarty ’84) and Ron Landis (’01)

By Karen Landis

Parents sending students away to college need to be constantly praying for the student’s spirituality, safety, well-being, academic success, social experiences, financial education and overall welfare. Parents should begin praying for their future family well before conception and as long as the parent lives. In this era we often forget to pray. We need prayer back in our faith.

If youd like to share reflections on dropping off an ACU freshman, or offer advice to parents on how to survive college drop-off day, email robin.saylor@acu.edu.

Other posts in this series:


College send-off differs second time around

Whether you’re sending your first child off to college – or your sixth, drop-off day is a bittersweet experience. We’ve gathered a collection of thoughts of Wildcat parents whose students will join the ACU family next week. We’d love to hear your thoughts, too! Below, M.C. and Shane Jennings reflect on sending their second student to ACU.

The Jennings family

The Jennings family (from left): Shane (’89), Morgan (’17), Zach and M.C. (Hayes ’91).

By M.C. Jennings

The difference in having a boy moving into the dorm vs. a girl moving into the dorm? We bought everything he needs in less than two hours.

P.S. Since the countdown to moving in is on, proceed with caution when you approach me if you can’t handle a woman who might cry at the drop of a hat. I am on the verge of tears at the weirdest things. Heaven help me …

By Shane Jennings

I am very excited and feel incredibly blessed to be sending my son, Zach, to ACU this fall. ACU is a place, like every university, where students will face all kinds of challenges, and they will have opportunities to learn how to deal with and overcome those challenges on their own.

It has been a huge blessing to watch my daughter, Morgan, a senior, grow and mature in her years there so far. Her example of success makes the thought of seeing Zach move out of our home and into the dorm a lot more fun.

I love my kids more than I could possibly put into words, and I cherish all the years that they have spent in our home so much. But, as sad as the thought of them moving out of our home can be, I know that it would be even more sad to watch them turn into adults who were unprepared to move out and successfully live their lives on their own. It gives me great comfort to know that they will spend a few transition years at a place like ACU, where they can grow and mature and find their wings and do all of that with a focus on the Lord.

My prayer is that Morgan and Zach will grow closer to the Lord in every way during their years at ACU and that they will look for His purpose for them in all that they do, and also have the courage and wisdom to follow the Lord’s direction at ACU and beyond. I will shed a tear or two here and there, I’m sure. But I know that many of those tears will be tears of joy as I watch them continue to grow and mature and excel.

May God bless all our children in that regard.

If youd like to share reflections on dropping off an ACU freshman, or offer advice to parents on how to survive college drop-off day, email robin.saylor@acu.edu.

Other posts in this series:


8 tips for surviving freshman move-in day

The Carroll clan

The Carroll clan: Anne, Morgan (Sconiers ’12), Keith (’13), Carl Hooper, Caryn (Carroll ’08) Hooper, Kent Brantly (’03), Amber (Carroll ’06) Brantly, Donnie (’77), Lisa (Spann ’79), Kevin (’16), Jonathan (’13), Allison (Gervais ’04), Geoff (’04) and Jamie (Pittenger ’05). Photo by Tammy Marcelain.

Whether you’re sending your first child off to college – or your sixth, drop-off day is a bittersweet experience. We’ve gathered a collection of thoughts of Wildcat parents whose students will join the ACU family next week. We’d love to hear your thoughts, too!

By Lisa and Donnie Carroll

Move-in Day is almost here!

We’ve gone through it six times now, with one more to go. With No. 6, it was like, “Bye, Son – have a good life.” (Poor dear. We love you!) 

If this is your firstborn, though, brace yourself for the emotions – they’re real. Your family life will never be the same – as each student leaves, a new family personality emerges. You are entering a new phase of life – the “Leaving the Nest” phase. That takes some getting used to.

After a couple of months, you’ll see that life really does go on. It might look a little different, but it’s good. Your student is grown, and you can relate on a new, more friendly level. So, embrace these “final” moments as you witness your student’s independence. Isn’t that our goal as parents? Well done! Let’s start moving!   

  1. Whether your student knows his/her roommate or not, they should have some contact with each other before move-in day. Girls, especially, like to coordinate their decor, and some communication can really help. They won’t need two refrigerators or TVs, microwaves, towel warmers or aquariums in one dorm room.
  2. Let your student pack their own “stuff,” and encourage them to keep it to a minimum when moving into a dorm. College students move a LOT, and dorm rooms are generally small. Less is more in the dorm. And besides, you’ll be storing their stuff for years to come anyway!
  3. Bring some cash and tools for last minute put-togethers and trips to Wal-Mart – or better yet, Goodwill.
  4. Help with the big stuff, and then allow your student to unpack and settle into their room on their own.
  5. Make (or purchase) a small First Aid Kit, and locate the campus doctor’s office, for that inevitable first illness or accident.
  6. Avoid hovering. Instead, expect your student to be responsible and independent. If something is forgotten, it probably won’t be life-threatening. (Consequences are great teachers.)
  7. Take a picture or two of this milestone, hug goodbye, and drive away. It’s certainly OK to have a lump in your throat – the tears are tears of joy! The college years are years of tremendous growth – let ’em go to grow!
  8. You’ve entrusted them to their perfect Father for years now – keep trusting and keep praying, and in this next phase, enjoy your relationship with them and watch admirably as they find their role in His great story!

If youd like to share reflections on dropping off an ACU freshman, or offer advice to parents on how to survive college drop-off day, email robin.saylor@acu.edu.

Other posts in this series:

Thoughts on a transformative provost

DVR 2010 retirement receptionAbilene Christian University provost emeritus Dr. Dwayne D. VanRheenen, 72, died Aug. 11, 2016, in Washington state following an illness. Plans for a memorial service are in progress.

VanRheenen was provost from 1996-2010, leading the academic side of ACU with distinction and serving as champion over a number of new initiatives and innovations that have strengthened the university as a leader in Christian higher education. In an essay in the Summer 2009 edition of ACU Today magazine following his retirement, dean emeritus Dr. MaLesa Breeding (’80) wrote about the difference he made on the Hill for more than a decade:

As I write from a corner booth in the library’s Learning Commons, I’m surrounded by students and faculty engaged in conversations over coffee, laptops and iPhones. Thirteen years ago, in contrast, this spot would have housed the card catalogs, and the library was where you went if you wanted isolation. Life in the Learning Commons closely reflects how students learn in the 21st century. It is only one of the many ways in which Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen has changed academic life at ACU.

Thirteen years ago, Dwayne arrived on campus to assume the role of provost, a title that often leaves people scratching their heads. Simply stated, ACU’s provost serves as chief academic officer, overseeing all academic programs and working closely with the deans of each college as well as the deans and directors of programs such as the First-Year Program, the Honors College, Study Abroad and the Graduate School. The provost also oversees the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning, the library, the Registrar’s Office, the Office of Institutional Research, and Curriculum and Advising. The job is enormously demanding, but he filled the role with remarkable competence and grace.

Like the work of most dynamic leaders, Dwayne’s work has not been without controversy. In his first year here, he denied tenure or promotion to several faculty members. Supported by some, opposed by others, this action sent a message to faculty that a new day had arrived at ACU.

No longer would faculty be tenured simply because they were committed to the university or had served for a long time, though he saw value in those things. Tenure would require a substantial contribution to one’s discipline and to the integration of faith into each faculty member’s field of study. Today, faculty regularly present and publish at the highest levels, bringing national and international attention to ACU as well as improving their work in the classroom. Dwayne worked tirelessly to ensure faculty had the financial resources and time to accomplish these goals. He understood better than most that the quality of scholarship among faculty members significantly impacted the university’s ability to prepare students to think critically, globally and missionally.

Few people could have stronger intellectual and spiritual convictions than Dwayne. Shortly after his arrival, he began asking the faculty about how we integrated our faith and our teaching. In 1996, this was a new conversation but an exciting one. Faculty began to realize, in this regard, that being a professor in Christian higher education required more than simply being an active member of a local congregation.

Church participation was important to him, of course, but Dwayne pressed the questions that led us to reflect on how we can help students find God in poetry, in history, in the boardroom as well as in the classroom. Further, Dwayne believed openness to other opinions and ideas is an academic imperative, essential to one’s spiritual maturity. He knew scholars in Christian higher education must engage in conversations allowing them to create covenant with others – even those with whom they disagree. He welcomed voices from other cultures, races, ethnic traditions and even other religions. He knew that only through conversations such as these could we prepare our students to engage in a complex world requiring dialogue, not just monologue. His desire was for ACU to produce students who can think in terms of paradox and ambiguity in their search for truth.

During his time at Abilene Christian, Dwayne was a mystery to some people. He demonstrated personal power, yet his demeanor was largely understated. Those who didn’t work closely with him may not have known how hard he could laugh nor how he pastored so many of those with whom he worked. However, Dwayne was widely known as a person of towering work ethic and of high expectations – for himself and for the university. Certainly, the deans and others who worked closely with Dwayne knew he worked more hours in a day than most could imagine, and even after his departure, his expectations of excellence cast a long shadow over us.

Dr. Royce Money, ACU’s 10th president, once referred to Dwayne as a renaissance man and, indeed, he is.

Though his Ph.D. is in communication, he can discuss theological ideas as easily as he can talk about rhetorical analysis. He can engage in deep conversations about phenomenology or feminism, but he also enjoys discussing the latest sporting event. Dwayne lives broadly, modeling what genuine scholarship, teaching and discipleship are all about.

Not long ago in a conversation among deans, Dwayne was referred to as one of the most transformative figures ACU has known. During his time here we have seen the creation or the significant advancement of such initiatives as the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning, the Honors College, the Study Abroad program, the First-Year Program, the College of Education and Human Services, the School of Social Work, the School of Information Technology and Computing, the Graduate School of Theology, faculty renewal leaves, at least six external accreditations, the advancement of women and minority faculty, dollars for faculty development, rigor in tenure and promotion, and a new general education core.

For Dwayne, these things were all in a day’s work. For us, they represented the transformation of a university.

Dwayne’s departure from ACU and his move into retirement was not easy. I remember well the day he announced his plans privately to the deans. The news was met with tearful embraces and prayers – both for him and for us.

He hired each of us. He mentored us all. He prayed with us and, at times, cried with us. He dug us out of holes, both those we fell into and those we dug ourselves. He let us have a lot of fun at his expense. He made us think, and he allowed us to see him think, always without judging or placing blame. He loved us, and he led us – and it is no small thing to say that one has been loved and led by Dwayne VanRheenen. His fingerprints are everywhere.

Because of that, we are forever changed.

Among survivors are his wife, Joan; two sons, Nathan VanRheenen and Derek VanRheenen (’00); a daughter, Michelle (VanRheenen) Westerholm; and a brother, Gailyn Van Rheenen (’69). Watch this blog for a full obituary to come.

Freshman goodbye: Letting the arrow fly

The Andrews family (from left): Carson, Leah (Carrington ’90), Alaina (’20), Mason (’18), Kaden and Kirby (’90).

The Andrews family (from left): Carson, Leah (Carrington ’90), Alaina (’20), Mason (’18), Kaden and Kirby (’90).

Whether you’re sending your first child off to college – or your sixth, drop-off day is a bittersweet experience. We’ve gathered a collection of thoughts of Wildcat parents whose students will join the ACU family next week. We’d love to hear your thoughts, too!

By Leah Andrews

“Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves the bow that is stable.”
– from “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran

Leaving your children at college is a day of significance that is a complete and total mixed bag of emotions. As I prepare to entrust our daughter and second child to Abilene Christian University, I know the full spectrum of emotions that are about to engulf me like a tidal wave.

This is, after all, what I’ve have been working toward, right?!

I spent countless hours teaching her to read, sitting with her warmly snuggled in my lap. I wanted her to to be a successful student. She is successful! This is great! I am so proud of her! But quietly my heart aches – oh, what I would give for just one more hour reading to her in my lap.

I spent many sleepless nights, encouraging her to sleep in her bed, in her own room so that she could be a strong, confident young woman who could be capable of being away from us. And now she is a confident and strong young woman who is excited to take on ACU and this new challenge, I am so happy! But quietly my heart aches – oh, how I would treasure that girl climbing in bed with her daddy and me one more time in the middle of the night to calm her fears.

I had endless conversations about morality, decision-making and her faith as to how it translates into worldly actions so that on this day, when I send her out into the world, I can be confident knowing that she has the best guide with her as she meets this new challenge. And now she is an amazing young woman, and I am so thankful she is so prepared. But quietly my heart aches – oh, how I pray she will call me any time and any day she may need because I will miss these daily conversations. I learned as much from her as she did from me.

You’ll catch me with tears often these days. Sometimes it is the seemingly innocuous moments that catch me off guard and bring the most tears. A late-night laugh session, the smell of her hair as she bounces through the living room, the music coming from her room, tucking her in for one last hug at night, even the sight of her keys on the key hook in the hallway – I have treasured it all, and I am going to miss it so much. I know in my heart that she is off to do great things. I am excited for all she will experience and all the wonderful people she will meet. I know that she really is prepared to go. I know that she has the best guide in the Holy Spirit who will guide her steps. But my momma’s heart, will miss her.

I find comfort in the poem “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I am so thankful for the opportunity she has at ACU. I truly believe that she is poised and ready and she will go “swift and far.” My heart is completely filled, with love, joy, pride and excitement – all mixed in with some sadness for the time that is coming to a close. So, if you catch me on “move-in” day with tears rolling down my cheeks, let my tears be. It’s just my bending in the archer’s hand.

If youd like to share reflections on dropping off an ACU freshman, or offer advice to parents on how to survive college drop-off day, email robin.saylor@acu.edu.

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