Oglesby named ACU’s top teacher for 2014

ARobert Oglesby 2014 500x600bilene Christian University’s top teacher for 2014 is Robert Oglesby Jr. (’81), instructor of Bible, missions and ministry, and director of ACU’s Center for Youth and Family Ministry. He was presented the Teacher of the Year award at May Commencement in Moody Coliseum. The annual honor is based on nominations from graduating seniors.

Oglesby also works part time with the Southern Hills Church of Christ as a family minister in its youth and family ministry program. He earned a M.A. degree in marriage and family studies from ACU (1992) and has worked as a youth minister in Temple, Texas and Abilene.

J.W. Treat (1976 and 1963), Dr. John Willis (2006 and 1974), Dr. Perry Reeves (1998 and 1988), Dr. LeMoine Lewis (1977 and 1956) and Dr. Jim Nichols (1989 and 1977) are the only two-time recipients of the teaching award, which was first presented in 1953. Treat taught foreign languages at ACU, Lewis taught Bible, Reeves teaches chemistry and Nichols teaches biology. Willis just completed his 42nd year on the faculty of the College of Biblical Studies.

Previous winners:

Joyce Haley, journalism and mass communication (2013); Andrew Little, J.D., management sciences (2012); Randy Harris, Bible, missions and ministry (2011); Dr. Tracy Shilcutt, history (2010); Dr. Jonathan Stewart, accounting and finance (2009); Dr. Richard Beck, English (2008); Adam Hester, theatre (2007); Dr. John T. Willis, Bible, missions and ministry (2006); Dr. David Wray, Bible, missions and ministry (2005); Dr. Steven Moore, English (2004); Dr. Paul  Morris, physics (2003); Dr. William “Bill” Rankin, English (2002); Charles Trevathan, J.D., sociology (2001); and Michael Winegeart, management sciences (2000).

Dr. Charles Mattis, biology (1999), Dr. Perry Reeves, chemistry (1998), Dr. Jim Nichols, biology (1997), Dr. Stephen Weathers, English (1996); Dr. John Little, biology (1995); Dr. Chris Willerton, English (1994); Dr. Rick Lytle, management sciences (1993); Dr. Don C. Jackson (1992), management sciences, Dr. Mel Hailey, political science (1991); and Dr. Monty Lynn, management sciences (1990).

Dr. Jim Nichols, biology (1989); Dr. Perry Reeves, chemistry (1988); Dr. Charlie Marler, journalism and mass communication (1987); Jozell Brister, business administration (1986); Elizabeth Campbell Rotenberry, exercise science and health (1985); Benny Gallaway, history (1984); Dr. Herschel Avinger, education (1983); Dr. Paul Faulkner, marriage and family (1982); S.E. “Sam” McReynolds, mathematics (1981); and Dr. Bea Speck, history (1980).

Dr. F.M. Churchill, agriculture (1979), Dr. Neil Lightfoot, Bible (1978), Dr. LeMoine Lewis, Bible (1977), Dr. J.W. Treat, foreign languages (1976); Dr. Rex Kyker, communication (1975); Dr. John Willis, Bible (1974); Dr. B.E. Davis, journalism and mass communication (1973); Dr. Overton Faubus, business administration (1972), Dr. Juanita Avinger, education (1971); and Dr. Carl Brecheen, Bible (1970).

Dr. Clark Stevens, biology (1969); Dr. Tommy McCord, chemistry (1968); Dr. Abe Malherbe, Bible (1967); Dr. Ed Brown, communication (1966); Troy Caraway, art (1965); Dr. Zelma Odle, English (1964); Dr. J.W. Treat, foreign languages (1963); Dr. James Culp, English (1962); Dr. Keith Justice, agriculture (1961); and Norman Whitefield, art (1960).

W.C. Sikes, mathematics (1959); Dr. Frank Pack, Bible (1958); Dr. Orval Filbeck, education (1957); Dr. LeMoine Lewis, Bible (1956); Dr. Paul Witt, chemistry (1955); J. Roy Willingham, M.D., biology (1954); and Penn Gilbreth, education (1953).

Summit program booklet now online

You can make plans now to attend Abilene Christian University’s 108th annual Summit by exploring the program booklet now online. More than 130 top preachers and teachers are scheduled to present Sept. 21-24 on the theme “Earthed: Discovering Our Origin in God.”

Theme Speakers are Don McLaughlin, pulpit minister at North Atlanta (Ga.) Church of Christ; Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, New York Times best-selling author and Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga.; Lawrence Murray, assistant professor of psychology and family studies/liberal arts at Oklahoma Christian University; Sam Barrington, pastor of Living Stones Church in South Bend, Ind.; Dr. Stanley Hauerwaus, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School; Sam Gonzalez (’93), campus minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio; and Randy Harris, popular author and speaker, and instructor of Bible, mission and ministry at ACU.

Special Guest presenters are Brown, Hauerwaus and Andrea Dilley, author and documentary producer from Austin.

Taylor was featured in the April 28 cover story of Time magazine. She was named in 1996 by Baylor University as one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world, along with Dr. Fred Craddock, Billy Graham and Dr. Charles Swindoll. Hauerwaus’ book, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic, was named one of the 100 most important books on religion of the 20th century.

Ghosts, zombies highlight Shakespeare festival


“The time has been that when the brains were out, the man would die, and there an end. But now they rise again …”

Macbeth was not speaking of zombies when he delivered this line in William Shakespeare’s famous play – but he could have been.

That’s essentially the premise of William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead, a humorous twist on the typical summer performances of the Abilene Shakespeare Festival, which wraps up this weekend.

This year’s shows – Land of the Dead and Macbeth – share that line in common, among the many famous Shakespearean turns of phrase Land of the Dead adapts for its dialogue. The play is set entirely in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where the famed playwright, Francis Bacon, top actor Richard Burbage, Queen Elizabeth and her retinue have barricaded themselves against the terror and chaos that “the affliction” has visited upon London at the turn of the 17th century. Besides the zombies, the characters also must navigate the tensions within the theater – particularly between Shakespeare and his actors, and between the queen and her advisers.

Directed for the Abilene Shakespeare Festival by professor of theatre Gary VarnerLand of the Dead was written for the 2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival, where it became a hit and garnered rave reviews.

The other, ahem, thriller this week is Macbeth, directed by Adam Hester (’77), professor and chair of theatre. The production – which chronicles the descent of a heralded Scottish general into murder and madness – comes with a twist of its own: Although hewing closely to the Old English of the original, the script replaces 1000s Scotland for 1930s Brooklyn and substitutes kings for mob bosses. The performance stars in the title role Josh Blann (’00), associate professor of drama at Tarrant County College-Northwest and a member of the Actors’ Equity Association – marking the second consecutive year the Abilene Shakespeare Festival has included a professional Equity actor, said Dawne Swearingen Meeks (’95), associate professor of theatre.

“It’s wonderful training for our students to work alongside an equity union professional,” she said. “It also will allow us to eventually hire a union stage manager so our students can start earning points towards their union status. … We are thrilled for this opportunity!”

Several actors perform double duty during the performances. Among them: Jacob Alexander, senior acting major from Vestavia Hills, Ala. (Macduff, Macbeth’s nemesis, and Shakespeare); Miranda West, senior musical theatre major from St. Louis, Mo. (Lady Macbeth and Kate, the Globe’s costume designer); Ben Starkey, junior theatre major from Garland (Banquo, Macbeth’s friend, and Burbage, who co-owned the Globe and starred in many of Shakespeare’s plays) and Kari Hatfield, assistant professor of theatre (Lady Macduff and Queen Elizabeth).

William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead will be Wednesday, July 2, with a talkback session immediately afterward, and Saturday, July 5. Tickets are $10 each. Macbeth will be Thursday, July 3; admission is free, with a talkback session afterward. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. in Fulks Theatre of ACU’s Williams Performing Arts Center, and doors open at 7 p.m.

Alumna’s firm wins U.S. Supreme Court case

lori windham

Lori (Halstead ’01) Windham speaks about the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp v. Sebelius cases. (Video still via CNN)

An Abilene Christian University alumna is in the national spotlight today after the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., announced its ruling in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby.

Lori (Halstead ’01) Windham, J.D., senior counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, is a member of the legal team representing Hobby Lobby’s challenge of the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate. She holds a political science degree from ACU and a law degree from Harvard University.

“This case is about the freedoms of all Americans – women and men – and it’s something that all Americans should celebrate today,” Windham said in a press conference shortly after the ruling was announced.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that closely held companies — including those owned by a family with religious convictions — cannot be required to cover some types of contraceptives for their employees.

In a Q&A earlier this month on the ACU Today magazine blog, Windham talked about the excitement of taking a case to the nation’s high court, as well as other religious freedom cases she has argued in her nine years with the Becket Fund.

Windham was named ACU’s 2009 Young Alumnus of the Year.

Preparation underway for VIA projects

Chambers Hall – which has served as residence hall, dining hall, library and the home to several academic departments – will eventually make way for the Halbert-Walling Research Center.

Chambers Hall – which has served as a dormitory, dining hall, library and the home to several academic departments since 1929 – will eventually make way for the Halbert-Walling Research Center.

As fundraising continues for ACU’s historic Vision in Action initiative, preparation is underway this summer for construction of two new science buildings and two new on-campus stadiums.

Track detail 600x400Crews this morning began groundwork on what will become a new stadium for ACU’s legendary track and field program and dominant women’s soccer team – clearing and leveling the site on Campus Court, south of Wells Field and north of Edwards Hall.

Among the changes to campus caused by the work is the closure of Oliver Jackson Boulevard, which runs south from Ambler Avenue to Coliseum Way, and the north portion of the Edwards Hall parking lot.

Likewise, several campus offices are shifting to make way for the former occupants of Chambers Hall, as well as WFF (the campus custodial services) which occupied a small building behind Chambers. Both structures eventually will be demolished to make way for the Halbert-Walling Research Center.

Soccer detail 400x400

Before that can happen, however, a series of dominoes must fall across campus, involving seven other facilities. The Department of Language and Literature will move to the Hardin Administration Building after the Graduate School takes up residence in the renovated third floor of Brown Library. The Department of Psychology will move into McKinzie Hall after the Office of Student Life occupies the renovated lower level of the McGlothlin Campus Center. And WFF will move into the Nichols House across Campus Court after renovations to the Vanderpool Building allow staff to move there from Zellner Hall, which will clear room for the Nichols House’s current occupants.

Meanwhile, crews are finishing foundation and electrical work on the Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium. Delays in acquiring permits have pushed the projected completion date for the project into September. Likewise, the Campus Center renovation is not expected to be complete until later in the fall, delaying psychology’s move until after the semester.

Vision in Action is a $75 million fundraising effort that will transform the ACU campus in a way not seen for nearly 50 years. At its conclusion, ACU will feature three new science facilities – the Bennett laboratories, the Onstead Science Center and the Halbert-Walling Research Center – and two new stadiums, including Wildcat Stadium, the first on-campus football facility in more than 70 years. To date, $49.7 million has been raised, including the largest gift in ACU history.

More information about Vision in Action can be found here.

Wildcat fans cheer Gilbreth and Rangers

Photo by Jeremy EnlowMore than 750 alumni and fans of Abilene Christian University attended Monday night’s ACU at the Ballpark game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Texas Rangers couldn’t solve the Cleveland Indians, but at least former Wildcat baseball great Bill Gilbreth (’69) got things off to a good start with a successful ceremonial first pitch  (one that didn’t make ESPN for dubious reasons).

Photo by Jeremy Enlow

Gilbreth puts on his game face before taking the mound at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

The hard-throwing lefty has a knack for rising to the occasion when the Indians are in town: his first major league win was a 5-1 complete-game gem during his rookie year (1971) for the Detroit Tigers.

This was the third straight year for an alum to have the pre-game first-pitch honor, following 1960 Olympic gold medalist Earl Young (’62) in 2013 and ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) in 2012, the same year country recording artist Aaron Watson (’00) performed the national anthem.

Thanks to freelance photographer Jeremy Enlow and ACU Exceptional Fund program manager Rachael Hubbard, here are a few images from Monday night; you can view others on the Alumni Relations Office Flickr gallery:

Photo by Jeremy Enlow14201707728_eb1d7eb3cf_zPhoto by Jeremy Enlow






Gilbreth to take mound before Rangers’ game

Bill Gilbreth win vs. NYYankees

Gilbreth pitched the Detroit Tigers to a 5-1 win over Cleveland in his first major league game in 1971.

Ceremonial first pitches at major league baseball games tend to be more flop than fantastic, like the errant and globally ridiculed attempt in late May by an artist more experienced at rapping than throwing. But if the designated catcher assigned to receive another such pitch before the June 9 game between the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians isn’t paying attention, he could be in for a different surprise.

That’s the night more than 700 Abilene Christian University alumni and friends will be on hand for the annual ACU at the Ballpark event at Globe Life Ballpark in Arlington. They’ll have an opportunity in the All You Can Eat Porch to cheer one of their own before the game when Bill Gilbreth (’69) throws the ceremonial first pitch.

And while it’s been more than 40 years since Gilbreth has thrown from a mound in a major league baseball park, don’t be fooled. The left-handed accountant for Abilene Diagnostic Clinic can still throw awfully hard. At age 66, he will be the first to tell you he may not be able to see home plate as well, but he still knows how and can deliver a baseball to a destination, and quickly.

Gilbreth struck out 18 hitters in a game four times in his ACU career.

Gilbreth struck out 18 hitters in a game four times in his ACU career.

Gilbreth is still the standard by which all Wildcat pitchers are measured. He never played high school baseball because Abilene Christian Schools, where he attended, didn’t field a team. But he was a summer sandlot standout and dominated competition while playing at ACU and earning all-Southland Conference honors. He led the NCAA in strikeouts in 1968, and compiled a four-year (1966-69) record of 25-9 with 445 strikeouts, a 2.15 ERA and two no-hitters. Four times Gilbreth struck out 18 batters in a game.

He was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the third round of baseball’s 1969 amateur draft, and compiled a 34-32 record and 3.22 ERA during parts of five seasons in the minor leagues (Class A Rocky Mount Leafs in the Carolina League, Class AA Montgomery Rebels in the Southern League, and Class AAA Toledo Mud Hens in the International League) .

Gilbreth made his major league debut June 25, 1971, in a 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians in Tiger Stadium. He pitched in nine games his rookie year, earning a 2-1 record. He played two years (1971-72) for the organization, and again in 1974 for the California Angels before retiring. He befriended teammate and fellow Texan Nolan Ryan while in Anaheim, and when ACU decided to bring back intercollegiate baseball on campus, the two played important roles in the plan.

Ryan lent his name to the university for two major fundraising events in his honor in Arlington and Abilene, helping raise the funds necessary to build Crutcher Scott Field and begin to endow scholarships for student-athletes. When the Wildcats fielded a team in 1991 for the first time in 11 years, Gilbreth was the head coach who led them. He served in that role five seasons.

He was inducted to the ACU Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.

Detroit's all-star outfielder Al Kaline (left) congratulated Gilbreth on a win in his first major league game in 1971.

Detroit’s all-star and future Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline (left) congratulated Gilbreth on a win in his first major league game in 1971.

Gilbreth remained friends with his former teammate Nolan Ryan after the two played together in California.

Gilbreth remained friends with teammate Nolan Ryan after the two played together in California. As a Texas Ranger, Ryan was at the pinnacle of his career in the early 1990s when he allowed ACU to honor him at fundraising dinners in Arlington and Abilene, with proceeds benefiting Wildcat baseball and its new home at Crutcher Scott Field.

Gilbreth (left) was ACU’s head coach when the Wildcat resumed intercollegiate baseball in 1991.

Gilbreth (left) was ACU’s head coach when the Wildcats resumed intercollegiate baseball in 1991.

10 Questions with attorney Lori Windham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was the most fascinating case?

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

Why did you choose to attend Abilene Christian University?

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

Tell us about your experience as a student at ACU

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

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

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

Anything you would like to add?

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

ACU Remembers: J.C. Brockman

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

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

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

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

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

Shirley running again for Navajo presidency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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