For the Least of These: The Johnsons

johnsons and their adopted son

Roland and Margaret Johnson with their adopted son, Mike.

Teresa (Johnson ’78) Terry’s parents were nearly 60 years old when they adopted her youngest brother, Mike. Read her story as we continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt.

Never Too Old

My parents both attended ACU as did my siblings and I. My dad, Roland Johnson (’40), liked to work out mathematical situations, and he once figured out that he and my mother, Margaret Johnson (’40), had had pre-teens in their home for 45 years! My oldest sister was 19 and a freshman at ACC when I was born, and I also had another sister who was 12 years older than me as well as two brothers who were 17 and 14. Two years later another sister was born.

When I was around 12 and my sister around 10, my parents decided to foster babies from the maternity home in Lubbock. We had fostered one for about a month, but due to my mother’s health problems, they decided not to foster other babies.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

However, a couple of years later, we got a call asking if we could foster another baby. They said he was almost 6 months old and the person who had been caring for him had other commitments and could not continue fostering him. My parents said to bring him on. When we saw him, he gave us the sweetest smile and we all fell for him.

Some time before he turned 2, representatives from the maternity home came out to talk to our parents about him. The visit ended with my parents asking if they were too old to adopt him. They were told that they weren’t, and adoption procedures began. On Dec. 1, 1972, he became my legal brother and the seventh child for my parents.

Johnson family

This photo of the Johnsons was taken when Teresa was 2 years old.

Dad and mother were almost 60. They worried that they might not be around to see him grow up but they lived around 40 more years, long enough to see him grown and see his own children.

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.

You can follow new stories in this series on the ACU Facebook page.

See previous posts in this series:

Mitchell, Brantlys honored on Alumni Day

Craig Fisher (__), Elise (______ ’__) Mitchell and Dr. Phil Schubert (’91)

Craig Fisher (’92), Elise (Smith ’83) Mitchell and Dr. Phil Schubert (’91).

From Northwest Arkansas to West Africa, the winners of Abilene Christian University’s two most prestigious awards were honored Sunday for their achievements in the worlds of public relations and medical missions.

Elise (Smith ’83) Mitchell was honored as the 2015 Outstanding Alumna of the Year, the 57th in a line that, among recent winners, has included best-selling author Max Lucado (’77) and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Leeson (’78). Mitchell is founder and CEO of the Mitchell Communications Group, based in Fayetteville, Ark., and the new Dentsu Aegis Public Relations Network, a subsidiary of the mammoth Tokyo-based Dentsu Inc.

“ACU gave me the best opportunities,” an ebullient Mitchell told the audience. “It helped me find my faith. It changed me powerfully, and then I went on to live my life. It was really you all along that have enabled all of these things to happen to me. It was the power of God.”

Schubert (left) and Fisher (right) presented the Brantlys with their award.

Schubert (left) and Fisher (right) presented Dr. Kent (’03) and Amber (Carroll ’06) Brantly with their award.

Winners of the 2015 Young Alumni of the Year Award were Dr. Kent (’03) and Amber (Carroll ’06) Brantly, whose story of survival in the face of Ebola has inspired millions.

“I’ve never received an honor as prestigious as this one,” Amber Brantly said, “except when Kent asked me to take his hand in marriage. I’m sappy like that.”

The trio were honored in the annual Alumni Day Luncheon on the ACU campus. An audience of more than 350 in the McCaleb Conference Center gave multiple standing ovations during the event, which was emceed by university president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91). The awards were presented by Craig Fisher (’92), director of alumni relations and annual projects and director of university relations.

Mitchell and her husband, ________.

Mitchell and her husband, Raye.

In introducing the Brantlys’ tribute speakers, Schubert praised the honorees’ “amazing graciousness with which they approach every aspect of their life. Their real goal is to do good in the world and inspire others to do the same.”

Allison Brown, co-founder and medical director of Mission Lazarus, a Honduran relief agency, noted Kent and Amber’s compassion, empathy and respect for others.

“It’s an extremely rare combination to find in a single individual, and I know that it’s God who put them in Amber, just as it’s God who put them in Kent, and it drew them to each other.”

In accepting the award, Kent Brantly said he didn’t expect it to be so emotional.

“Thank you so much for your support of us, your belief in us,” he said, “and in what God can do with two willing people.”

The Brantlys were accompanied by a large contingent of family members.

The Brantlys were accompanied by a large contingent of family members.

Mitchell was feted for her “noble spirit,” “inspiring vision,” generosity and “unconditional love” by longtime colleague and friend, Blake Woolsey, executive vice president in Mitchell’s firm, the Mitchell Communications Group.

“Elise is unique and extraordinary in incredible ways,” Woolsey said. “She is an example for all of us.”

In a video tribute, Dr. Cheryl Mann Bacon (’76), professor and chair of journalism and mass communication told Mitchell, “We are so proud of you. We are a better program because of you.”

“I don’t know who you are talking about,” Mitchell said upon taking the stage in ACU’s Hunter Welcome Center, “but she sounds fabulous.”

Mitchell, who graduated with a degree in public relations, praised ACU for both the academic and spiritual preparation she received.

“This school taught me how to give,” she said. “I learned that being a giver is a priceless experience.”

Mitchell set her shoes aside to be photographed with her friend, ____________.

Mitchell set her shoes aside to be photographed with her former ACU roommate, Janie (Oliver ’83) Coggins.

Watson to play iconic Nashville music venues

Aaron Watson 6x6 96You can pinch Aaron Watson (’00) and let the Abilene Christian University graduate know he’s no longer dreaming:

He’s about to put his well-worn Cowboy boots on two of the biggest stages in his chosen line of work.

One of the brightest young stars in Texas country music, Watson will perform Sunday night (Feb. 15) at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., and make his Grand Ole Opry debut Tuesday, March 31.

The Ryman gig is part of the Sam’s Place – Music for the Spirit series of Christian/gospel-themed concerts. He will perform along with host Steven Curtis Chapman, Ellie Holcomb, Josh Turner, Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, and Point of Grace.

Holcomb is the daughter of ACU alum and songwriter/producer Brown Bannister (’75), who has won 14 Grammys, 25 Gospel Music Association Dove awards and was inducted in 2014 to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (joining others including Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Amy Grant, Bill and Gloria Gaither, Pat Boone, Ricky Skaggs, Al Green, Michael W. Smith and Aretha Franklin).

According to the Ryman website:

“Sam’s Place takes its name from charismatic evangelist Samuel Porter Jones (1847-1906), who gained fame in the region for his energetic sermons filled of fire and brimstone during the mid-1880s. On May 10, 1885, he led a tent revival in downtown Nashville for more than 5,000 which was attended by riverboat captain Thomas Green Ryman (1841-1904). Ryman experienced a conversion that night and, inspired by the multitude unable to find room under the tent, made it his mission to construct of a great tabernacle ‘for all denominations’ to join in worship. Seven years later, the Union Gospel Tabernacle opened its doors in 1892. It was Jones, while delivering Ryman’s eulogy at the Tabernacle on Christmas Day in 1904, who proposed the building’s name be changed to Ryman Auditorium to thunderous agreement.”

The March 31 show in the Opryhouse features Watson, The Charlie Daniels Band, Easton Corbin and Larry Gatlin.

Gatlin also has a Texas connection, having been born in Seminole, quarterbacked Odessa High School in 1964, lived in Abilene, played football for the University of Houston and – together with his two siblings as Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers – recorded 33 Top 40 singles with one of the top country/pop/gospel groups of the 1970s and ’80s.

Watson joins Holly Dunn (’79) and Ronnie Dunn (’76), formerly of Brooks and Dunn, as the only former Abilene Christian vocalists to perform live for an Opry audience. Those two Dunns are not related, but Holly’s brother, Chris [Dunn] Waters (’73), was a successful songwriter in Nashville.

Holly is the only ACU graduate to have been a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Watch this blog for more information about Watson’s Opry performance and ACU’s legacy of Nashville music scene standouts.

Share Your #ACULoveStory

Larry and Gloria Bradshaw

A Chapel seating assignment brought Gloria and Larry Bradshaw together.

Abilene Christian University students leave campus with more than a diploma: they leave with lifelong relationships – from roommates who became best friends and professors who became mentors to boyfriends and girlfriends who became spouses. This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, ACU is celebrating those marriages whose roots are planted on the Hill.

Kari's news broadcast on radio covered Lyle's football exploits for the Wildcats.

Kari Dorsey’s radio news broadcasts covered Lyle Leong’s football exploits for the Wildcats.

If you met your future spouse on campus – whether at the Bean, on the intramural field, in the Optimist office, during class, before Chapel or at any of hundreds of other spots – we’re offering you the opportunity to share your story this month. Grab that old photo album (or CD, or flash drive) and post a photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with a sentence or two about how you met. Add the hashtag #ACULoveStory, and help us celebrate the relationships begun and nurtured at ACU!

Here are some examples of what an #ACULoveStory looks like:

Dr. Larry (’65) and Gloria (Bradshaw ’65) Bradshaw

“We sat together in Chapel because of our same last names. One evening, Larry was standing on the porch of Mabee Hall, and I walked by with some friends and introduced myself. Two weeks later, he called me at McKinzie Hall for a church date. The romance blossomed, and two years later we were married.” – Gloria Bradshaw

Lyle (’86) and Kari (Dorsey ’84) Leong

“I played football, and Kari was ‘the voice of KACU Radio.’ I tried to talk her into making a big deal on the air about what a big football star I was. Kari never messed up on the air, but the next time she spoke about the team, she got tongue-twisted and flubbed it up in a major way. I felt so bad about it that I asked her on a date.” – Lyle Leong

Since we first issued the invitation last week, we’ve received many terrific – and touching – responses. Among them:

Carol McCarely Snuffer

Carol (McCarley ’88) and Mike (’88) Snuffer: “My parents attended ACC and I met my husband of 26 years in the KACU radio booth and we graduated 1988. Married since 4/8/89 and the proud parents of 5 wonderful kids! #ACULoveStory”

Carolyn (Kelley '58) and David Mickey ('58), Homecoming 1956.

Carolyn (Kelley ’58) and David Mickey (’58) at Homecoming 1956.













Katie Stepp Cunningham

Tony (’07) and Katie (Stepp ’04) Cunningham: “Tony played football for ACU and I never missed a game! Met 2003 … Graduated 2004 … Married 2006 and have 4 children! #aculovestory’

Maria del Pinal Saab Ethnos

Maher (’07) and Maria (del Pinal ’07) Saab: “My husband and I met our sophomore year at ACU during one of the practices for the upcoming Ethnos shows. We remained friends through the rest of our college days and soon started dating not long after graduation. A year after that we were married and have been living happily ever after ever since! #ACUlovestory”














If you’re not on social media, but want to share your #ACULoveStory with us, email We’ll be on the lookout for the best photos and stories to share, and some will be published in a future issue of ACU Today magazine.

National Prayer Breakfast features Brantly

Brantly spoke at ACU in October 2014.

Brantly (’03) spoke at ACU in October 2014.

This morning, for the second consecutive year, an Abilene Christian University graduate participated in the National Prayer Breakfast when Dr. Kent Brantly (’03), led a “Prayer for World Leaders” at the 63rd annual event at the Washington (D.C.) Hilton.

Steve Mack (’82) and Dr. Royce Money (’64)

Steve Mack (’82) and Dr. Royce Money (’64)

Also in attendance today were ACU chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64); trustee Steve Mack (’82), his wife, LaDonna, and his son, Will Mack (’14).

Brantly’s prayer was followed by a keynote address from NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip and the closing prayer was led by Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta, Ga. and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Musical performances were by 2014 Miss Mississippi Jasmine Murray and 12-year-old rhythm and blues singer Quintavious Johnson.

A medical missions advisor for Samaritan’s Purse, Brantly contracted Ebola virus disease while serving in Liberia in 2014 and survived a near-fatal experience that made headlines around the world. He was recently named one of Time magazine’s Persons of the Year.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn (’74) of California served as co-chair of the event. Previous ACU graduates to participate include actor Curt Cloninger (’76) in 2012 and minister/best-selling author Max Lucado (’77) in 1999.

Brantly adapted his words today from “The Lord’s Prayer in Time of War” by Wendy Lyons:

Our Father, who art in heaven, The LORD, The LORD, The God of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness, lover of all peoples of the earth, There is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. Hallowed be thy Name.

Brantly prayed for the world's leaders.

Brantly prayed for the world’s leaders.

Remind us that “all the nations are as nothing before you,” their governments but a shadow of passing age; Authorities are meant to be your servants, to do good to the people under their care and to ensure justice for those who have been wronged. But we all, including our leaders, will stand before your judgment seat, O God. And as surely as you live, O LORD, every knee will bow and every tongue confess and give praise to You. Thy kingdom come on earth.

Grant to thy children throughout the world, and especially to the leaders of the nations, the gifts of prayerful thought and of thoughtful prayer; that following the example of our Lord, we may discern what is right, and do it. Bless the leaders of the nations that they may not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. Bless the leaders of the nations that they might delight in the law of the LORD, that they might meditate on it day and night, that Thy will might be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Help us to protect and to provide for all who are hungry and homeless, especially those who are deprived of food and shelter, family and friends. For true religion that is acceptable to you, O LORD, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to flee corruption. Give us this day our daily bread.

Forgive us for neglecting to “seek peace and pursue it,” and finding ourselves in each new crisis, more ready to make war than to make peace, choosing violence and war over peace and reconciliation. “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves”; Forgive us for neglecting the needs of our people, for choosing corruption and greed over integrity and generosity. Forgive us for oppressing the minority while the majority is filled with pride and self-reliance. We have all sinned and fallen short of your glory, O LORD.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Let us not seek revenge, but reconciliation; Let us not delight in victory, but in justice; Let us not give ourselves up to pride, but to prayer; Lead us not into temptation.

Be present, LORD, to all your children: Be present to those who are killing and to those who are being killed; Be present to the oppressed and to the oppressor; Be present to the leaders of the nations. Deliver us from evil.

Subdue our selfish desires to possess and to dominate; forbid us arrogance in victory and self-pity in defeat; Bless the leaders of the nations, Father, that they might act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with you, O God.

For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

The National Prayer Breakfast was founded by President Abraham Lincoln but has become an annual event since 1953, at the urging of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

ACU Remembers: Mrs. William J. Teague

Peggy Teague 1 400x600 96b

Former Abilene Christian University first lady Margaret Louise (Newlen ’56) “Peggy” Teague, wife of chancellor emeritus Dr. William J. Teague (’52), died Feb. 3, 2015, at age 85 in Abilene.

A memorial service will be held Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, at 1 p.m. at University Church of Christ in Abilene, with Dr. Eddie Sharp (’73) officiating and arrangements by Piersall-Benton Funeral Directors. Family visitation will be after the service at the church. Burial will take place in Nocona, Texas.

Bill and Peggy Wedding 400x600 96Peggy was born Dec. 1, 1929, in Nashville, Tenn., graduating from San Diego High School in 1946. She began studies at San Diego State University, earning a B.A. degree in secondary education from ACU in 1956 and a M.A. degree in education from Pepperdine University in 1963.

She married Bill Teague on June 4, 1948, in San Diego, Calif.

Peggy taught business classes at Hardin-Simmons University (1956-57) and Harding University (1957-59), and she and Bill made study trips to 46 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, South American and the Pacific Basin.

She was active in university and community organizations, including service as president of the national board of Women for Abilene Christian University and ACU Faculty Wives, and as an advisory board member for Friends of the Abilene Public Library. She was president and emeritus member of the historic Abilene Woman’s Club, a Bible school teacher, and active in public speaking on behalf of projects relating to education, religion and politics. In California, she held various district and state offices in the Associated Women for Pepperdine University, was a member of the Delphian Society, and president of the PTA at Morningside High School in Inglewood, Calif.

Bill and Peggy-2 400x600 96“The Teagues have been an integral part of the work of Women for Abilene Christian University, and have been champions on our behalf,” said Dr. Marianna (Yarbrough ’53) Rasco, a WACU board member and chair of the ACU Museum board. “Peggy led our successful campaign to furnish and refurbish the Mrs. Don H. Morris Living Area in the Morris Center and was a constant source of encouragement to students.”

The Margaret L. Teague Spirit Award was created at ACU in 1988 for students who demonstrate an energetic commitment to Abilene Christian values, including “caring, serving and excelling, and loyalty to the purposes of the university.” ACU’s Hope for the Future Appreciation Dinner in August 1991 honored the Teagues. At that event, Bill said he and Peggy shared a dream “to educate so as to empower the spirit of each student. To inspire in each of them the desire to make moral choices. To continue the fight against mediocrity, to conquer ignorance and supply purpose. To help love abound, and to exalt God as the source and sustainer of all life.”

The William J. and Margaret L. Teague Excellence Award, an endowed scholarship program for students at ACU, began in 1989.

In 1991, the Teagues also were named Christian Educators of the Year by 20th Century Christian magazine for careers of service to three Church of Christ-affiliated universities while Bill was an administrator at Harding (1957-59), Pepperdine (1959-70) and ACU (1952-57, 1981-91 as president, 1991-2007 as chancellor and 2007-present as chancellor emeritus).

“Peggy and Bill Teague’s marriage was a love story – for better, for worse; in sickness and in health,” said chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64). “They are an inspiration to many of us in the ACU family. Peggy worked tirelessly for Abilene Christian for many years. She was elegant and gracious in her role as first lady of the university.”

ACU’s Teague Boulevard opened in May 1992 and was dedicated in August of that year, serving as a new front entrance to the university. Across campus, the 43,500-square foot Margaret L. and William J. Teague Special Events Center was dedicated in her and Bill’s honor in February 1999.

“The Teague family name will always be an important of ACU history,” said president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91). “Peggy and Bill have been prominent ambassadors of the university. She shared Bill’s commitment to excellence and helped us raise many standards that continue to shape who we are today.”

She was preceded in death by her parents, Frank Newlen and Amelia Bell Reinke Newlen; and a sister, Florence Parsley. Survivors include William, her husband of 66 years; a son, Tom Teague (’71); two daughters, Susan Reid (’74) and Helen Teague (’83); and grandchildren William Randolph Teague and wife Francis, and Amelia Louise Wildman (’11).

Pallbearers will be Cecil Eager (’71), Scott Dueser, Hutton Jones (’81), Jimmy Parker, Dr. Charles Runnels, Richard “Dick” Shough, Jimmy Tittle (’49), William Randolph Teague, and Jerry Wilson (’71).

Honorary pallbearers will be Mrs. Robert Bein, Mrs. Chris Clark, Mrs. Jack Currey, Mrs. Charles Erwin, Mrs. Bobbie Gee, the late Mrs. Clyde Grant, Mrs. David Hejl, the late Mrs. Boots Hill, the late Mrs. Bob James, the late Mrs. Jack Jordan, Mrs. Tom Kim, the late Mrs. Imogene Mickey, Mrs. Porcia Moore, the late Mrs. Charles Nelson, Mrs. Holbert Rideout, Ms. Georgia Sanders, Mrs. Bill Senter, Mrs. Dick Shough, Mrs. Dick Spaulding, the late Mrs. John C. Stevens, and the late Mrs. Robert J. Tiffany.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorials to be made to Women for ACU (ACU Box 29133, Abilene, Texas 79699-9133) or to Abilene Woman’s Club (3425 S. 14th St., Abilene, Texas 79605).

Peggy Teague and Ruth Stevens, wife of Dr. John C. Stevens

Peggy Teague and Ruth Stevens, wife of Dr. John C. Stevens

The Teagues sing at Opening Assembly, one of their favorite annual events at ACU.

The Teagues sing at Opening Assembly, one of their favorite annual events at ACU.

The Teagues are namesakes of ACU's special events center.

The Teagues are namesakes of ACU’s special events center.

Peggy reads a dedicatory plaque for the Mrs. Don H. Morris Living Area at ACU. Morri s (left) was the wife of the university's seventh president, Dr. Don H. Morris.

Peggy reads a dedicatory plaque for the Mrs. Don H. Morris Living Area at ACU. Morris (left) was the wife of the university’s seventh president, Dr. Don H. Morris, and one of Peggy’s dearest friends.

The Teagues were close friends with the Hestons – legendary actor Charlton (left) and his wife, Lydia Clarke Heston – who visited campus several times in the 1980s and established endowed scholarships at ACU.

The Teagues were close friends with the Hestons – legendary actor Charlton (left) and his wife, Lydia Clarke Heston – who visited campus several times in the 1980s and established two endowed scholarships at ACU.

Dr. Teague’s political and corporate business career in California allowed the Teagues to cross paths with people such as Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas.

Dr. Teague’s political and corporate business career in California allowed Bill and Peggy to cross paths with people such as Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas.

Bill and Peggy-10 400x600 96

Peggy Teague 2 400x600 96

CBS brought U.S. into Moody’s Section F

ACUMBask_SFA_8508 600x400 96The ball seemed to hang in the air forever, like in one of those cheesy ABC After School Specials. This particular moment was special, but it wasn’t after school. It was Saturday, Jan. 17. And it was on CBS Sports Network, not ABC. Abilene Christian University’s halftime buzzer-beating bomb flew toward a sea of purple in Section F.

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

Splash. Score. Chaos.

That 3-point, 30-foot fling took the Wildcats to the locker room with a four-point lead on mighty Stephen F. Austin State University, and the Moody Coliseum crowd of nearly 3,000 – led vocally by a raucous student section crammed into Section F – nearly burst at the seams. The resulting tremor rattled the rafters, the shockwave nearly seismic enough to send me – Land of the Lost-style – hurtling back to an era when this fossil rocked.

Moody opened in 1968. And though it still shows well from multiple angles and in comparison to many facilities around the conference and country, 47 is downright Jurassic in arena years. Dinosaurs like me remember Section F’s glory days. When we put 2,500-plus into the seats for the men’s game against Atlantic 10-member Duquesne University last month, there was chatter among the longer-toothed Wildcats about the rowdiest games the coliseum has hosted. Some pointed to the women’s games in the mid-1990s when Jennifer (Clarkson ’96) Frazier was running roughshod over the Lone Star Conference and leading ACU into the NCAA Division II national semifinals.

ACUMBask_SFA_8537 600x400 96But the consensus pandemonium pick? The Pepperdine-ACU men’s game in December 1984 when Ryant Greene (’87) and Brett Enzor (’88) engineered the Wildcats’ 93-89 upset of the Division I Waves in a battle for no less than the soul of the Restoration Movement. Or so it felt that night.

I got to ACU a few years later in the midst of what became a 44-game home win streak for the men’s team. In those days, about the only way to guarantee a seat in Section F was to get there early. Like maybe Chapel the day before. And once the game started, the energy never stopped. The passion was equal parts choreography and chaos. I remember one of my classmates, Todd Denton (’88), dressing in multiple layers and having his buddies “accidentally” rip his shirt off as if trying to restrain him from attacking the officials when he thought ACU had been ripped off by a bad call.

William Boone (right) assisted his dad, Grant (’__) on the CBS College Sports telecast.

Nick Boone (right) assisted his dad, Grant (’91), on the CBS College Sports telecast.

The win streak ended on the first night of the second semester in 1988. In the ensuing years, Section F’s mystique faded along with the men’s team’s fortunes. There have been flashes of lightning since then – like in 2008 when Tarleton State University came to town for a Top 25 showdown with what wound up a 20-win ACU team – but we never caught it in a bottle to use again.

Now, something special may once again be brewing behind that backboard. Last year, a spunky student group known as Wildcat Reign staked its claim to the best seats in the house at all ACU sporting events, including the 50-yard line at football games and Section F for volleyball and hoops. Those students not only witnessed some great moments in the university’s first season in Division I – like the volleyball team’s upset of Texas Tech University, the women’s basketball team’s win over NCAA tournament team Oral Roberts University, and Parker Wentz’s coast-to-coast, buzzer-beating, goaltend-inducing layup to stun the University of Central Arkansas – they may well have, at least in part, affected the positive outcome with their energy.

ACUMBask_SFA_8615 600x400 96The momentum has carried over this season. Wildcat Reign, dangling free eats from sponsor Buffalo Wild Wings out in front of them, led hundreds of students into the double gym for a watch party to cheer on the ACU football team in its Aug. 27 game against Georgia State that aired live on ESPNU. In addition to the aforementioned Duquesne game, they showed up in full force and throat for the men’s hoops win over Division I opponent Sacramento State University in December.

But the students saved their best for first. Never in the history of ACU basketball had the Wildcats played a home game on national television. (A few games through the years aired on regional networks or, like last year, online via ESPN3.) But for the first time ever, America came to Moody – and vice-versa – Jan. 17 on the airwaves of CBS Sports Network, the cable television offspring of CBS Sports.

ACUMBask_SFA_8641 600x400 96And what they saw was Reign. A steady student downpour of delirium, coupled with the claps of a thunderous community crowd, made Moody feel fuller and sound louder than I’ve ever experienced, peaking when the just-before-halftime heave dropped in. I was calling the game for CBS Sports Network. When the game ended, the ringing in my ears didn’t. I hope it never stops.

There is yet work to do and room to grow. Attendance at Wildcat sporting events isn’t where it needs to be. But Moody’s roof isn’t any higher than the ceiling of ACU’s fan base. Big-time teams and historic moments are coming to Abilene through ACU athletics and shining a national spotlight on the university and the city. And both the campus and Abilene communities are beginning to see what a different game Division I is. The kids are literally and figuratively waving the banner, and they must. No legitimate home court advantage in any collegiate sport exists without a passionate and well-populated student section.

The cameras loved ACU on Jan. 17, and that gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, the volume – in bodies and decibels – can finally be turned back up. And if a Wildcat fan storm really is gathering, its eye will be in F.

ACUMBask_SFA_8620 600x400 96

For the Least of These: The Winklers

Angie Winkler family

Angie Winkler with Jackson, now 16 months old, and Nathan, now 6 years old.

As a crisis mental health therapist, Angie Winkler (B.S. ’01) has worked with numerous children who were in foster care. The need she saw inspired her to become a foster parent herself, and then an adoptive mother, even though she had many reasons not to.

Angie adopted her son, Nathan, at age 4. He had been living with her since he was 15 months old. She recently got word that she will be able to adopt 16-month-old Jackson, who has been living with her since he was 3 weeks old.

Angie, who earned a master’s degree from ACU in 2003, is clinical manager of outpatient services at Research Psychiatric Center in Kansas City, Mo. She tells her story, as we continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt.

A Need Too Big to Ignore

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

“By choice, we have become a family, first in our hearts, and finally in breath and being.” –adoptive parent Richard Fischer

I am single …

I am too young …

I live in an apartment …

I don’t make enough money …

These are all reasonable excuses for waiting to become a parent. And these could have been reasonable excuses for me to wait to become a foster parent, if the decision had anything to do with my personal life circumstances. For me, the decision to become a foster parent was entirely about the thousands of children who are in need of a foster family because they have been abused or neglected. I believe with all my heart that we are called to care for these children. And, when God calls us to care for these children, He is rarely interested in what I’m ready for or my degree of confidence in myself.

During my first five years as a mental health therapist, I worked with a large number of children and families who were in foster care or had been adopted out of foster care. And, because I was a crisis therapist, I was regularly faced with the aftermath of worst case scenarios from the foster care system. Every day I was reminded of the immeasurable damage resulting from loss, rejection, abuse, neglect and early childhood trauma.

Because the constant tragedy of these children’s lives was becoming too much for me to bear, I made the decision to become a foster parent. My intent was to specialize in providing therapeutic foster care for older children with behavioral challenges. I expected to foster for a long time before considering adoption.

That was my plan.

Since July 2009, I have had four children placed in my home for foster care: a 6-day-old boy, a 15-month-old boy, a 3-week-old boy, and a 4-year-old boy. What’s that expression? “We plan and God laughs?” Yeah, God was definitely laughing.

Nathan Winkler's adoption day.

Nathan Winkler’s adoption day.

In August 2009, I picked up my son, Nathan, from an emergency DCFS shelter on the south side of Chicago. He was a tiny 15-month-old whose development was closer to that of a 6- to 9-month-old baby. When the caseworker carried him into the waiting room and we made eye contact, he started clapping. It was at that moment that my son had my heart.

Throughout the first few years, we had weekly appointments with pediatricians, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, developmental therapists, pulmonologists, otolaryngologists, and that doesn’t include visits with caseworkers, lawyers and early intervention specialists. So many of these specialists became personally invested in seeing my son thrive. And, you should know, that my son is a rock star. He has never failed to meet or exceed a goal that has been set for him.

Nearly three years later, in June 2012, a judge so ordered that my son “shall be the same as if he had been born to (me).” On that day I finally let go of the smallest of breaths I’d been holding since the moment I held him for the first time. My overwhelming joy squeezed out the last drops of fear and dread for our unknown future. He was my son, first in my heart, and finally in breath and being.

Nathan's first day of kindergarten

Nathan’s first day of kindergarten

This past August, Nathan began kindergarten – my son who for years worked so hard to overcome his early trauma with therapies to improve his language development, his motor skills and his emotional regulation. This same rock star child is reading at a first-grade level, is meeting all expectations for classroom behavior, is learning to play piano, displays extraordinary athleticism, and has the most infectious belly laugh you’ll ever hear. My son is funny, sensitive, smart, friendly, sweet and endlessly energetic. He is the embodiment of joy.

In October 2013, we welcomed a 3-week-old baby boy into our family. For 15 months, we have been on a roller coaster of fear and anxiety for his uncertain future. This sweet boy has, quite simply, stolen our hearts. We adore him. And the thought of him experiencing pain or neglect is unbearable. In my entire life, I have never found more reason to have faith or felt more urgency toward prayer than I have as a parent.

In January 2015, our foster son’s parents signed consents to voluntarily terminate their parental rights. As I sat in the courtroom, wiping away tears, I finally let go of the breath I’d been holding since the moment I held my son for the first time. We are expecting to adopt Jackson this spring.

Parenthood, single or partnered, is a daily exercise in grace – learning to receive grace and extending it abundantly to your children and to those around you. I am proud and grateful and blessed to be a single, foster, adoptive mom, by God’s grace.

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.

You can follow new stories in this series on the ACU Facebook page.

See previous posts in this series:

ACU Remembers: Ruby Guy

Ruby Guy 2x3 96Ruby Dell (Bonham) Guy, whose long career at Abilene Christian University inspired an annual award to recognize members of its staff who embody selfless service, lived in Grapevine, Texas, and died Jan. 25, 2015, in North Richland Hills at age 87.

A funeral service will be held today at 2 p.m. at the Highland Church of Christ (425 Highland Avenue, Abilene, TX 79605). Services are under the direction of Elmwood Funeral Home. Burial will follow at Elmwood Memorial Park.

Guy was born Oct. 24, 1927, in rural Arkansas, but grew up in Delhi, Okla, where she graduated from high school and worked on the family farm. On Dec. 14, 1946, in Erick, Okla., she married Leroy Guy, a disabled World War II veteran who later was hospitalized for many of the 50 years they were married.

The couple farmed for several years before moving with their four children to Abilene in 1964, where she became a longtime member of Highland Church of Christ. Ruby worked at ACU for 37 years in the business and registrar offices, and in the technical services area of Brown Library. She retired in May 1993 but continued to serve part time in the library.

The Unsung Hero Award for professional staff was established at ACU in 1995 to honor Guy and her close friend, Sammye Lale, who were known for their spirit of helping and encouraging others, especially students. Guy frequently assumed the role of a feisty advocate for students in all matters, from academics to wintertime heat in residence halls. Library co-workers recall her ministry of prayer and how she joyfully entered the back door each day to exclaim, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

An avid sports fan, Guy was a loyal follower of ACU basketball and football teams, and was voted by students to be grand marshal of the 1994 Homecoming Parade.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Leroy; her parents, Albert and Avil Bonham; and a brother, Lee Bonham. Among survivors are two daughters, Barbara Moore and Donna (Guy ’72) Campbell; two sons, Eddie Guy (’79) and John Guy (’82); six grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; three brothers; and one sister.