ACU Remembers: William R. Waugh

William R Waugh 3x4 96

William R. Waugh (’59), a talented artist and innovative businessman who founded and developed successful Taco Bueno, Casa Bonita, Casa Viva, Crystal’s Pizza, and Burger Street restaurants across the Southwest, passed away Jan. 20, 2015, in Dallas, Texas, at age 79.

A memorial service will be held at Sparkman-Hillcrest Funeral Home (7405 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas, Texas 75225) on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 10 a.m., conducted by Bill Morrow, with burial afterward at Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas. Visitation with the family will be 6-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, at the funeral home.

Waugh was born Aug. 2, 1935, in Norman, Okla., and graduated from Colorado Springs (Colo.) High School in 1953. He married Francis Vickrey in 1964.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Abilene Christian University in 1959. While at ACU he was president of the Art Club, president of Kappa Pi, vice president of Phi Delta Psi, and a member of Blue Key. In 1965 he attended the Frank J. Reilly School of Art in New York City.

With a commitment to customer service and high standards of excellence, his first venture was in the dry cleaning and laundry business, purchasing a One-Hour Martinizing franchise in 1959 and expanding it to a small chain in Texas and Oklahoma over the next eight years. Waugh’s first Taco Bueno, specializing in Tex-Mex fast-food cuisine, opened on South First Street in Abilene in 1967 and now features 176 restaurants in seven states. In Abilene he developed Tony’s Pizza Cave in 1972 into Crystal’s Pizza and Spaghetti, one of a chain of popular family-focused restaurants in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma for 35 years. He began Casa Bonita in Oklahoma City in 1968 and expanded to locations in Texas, Colorado and Arkansas. With seating for 1,100, its location near Denver was the largest Mexican food restaurant in the world, serving more than 1 million customers a year and entertaining them with cliff divers and water falls, puppet shows, mariachi bands and life-size costumed characters. Waugh sold Taco Bueno and Casa Bonita to the British food company Unigate in 1981. He founded Burger Street in 1985 in Lewisville, Texas, growing the all-drive-through concept store to 14 locations in the DFW Metroplex and four in Tulsa. The company is poised to expand over the next year in a new phase of growth.

He was board chair of Waugh Enterprises Inc., senior board chair and founder of Plaza National Bank, president and CEO of Rembrandt Antiek Gallerie, and board chair of Christian Services of the Southwest. Waugh also served as a trustee or regent of ACU, Pepperdine University, Dallas Christian School, the Hockaday School, the Dallas Salvation Army, Dallas Christian Leadership, and Heartbeat Ministries. He was a visiting lecturer for the business schools at Abilene Christian, Southern Methodist and Baylor universities.

Mabee Business Building

Mabee Business Building

“Bill had unique and remarkable gifts as an entrepreneur, artist and man of faith,” said former ACU trustee J. McDonald Williams (’63), retired chair and CEO of Trammell Crow Company. “He built nationally renowned business enterprises. He approached all of life as an artist, with an acute attention to detail, whether a new restaurant or a new business school building at ACU as chair of its campaign.”

Waugh had a special relationship with his alma mater. Besides serving as an ACU trustee (1982-98) and member of the Senior Board (1998-2007), he received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Citation in 1982, was named the College of Business Administration’s 1983 Entrepreneur of the Year, served on the COBA Dean’s Advisory Council, and was the college’s first adjunct professor of business. He also was an influential leader on planning committees for the Mabee Business Building and Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building.

“Bill’s leadership in design of those two facilities resulted in new structures at Abilene Christian, and years later, influenced the aesthetics of the Hunter Welcome Center and the Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center,” said Dr. Jack Griggs (’64), Overton Faubus Professor Emeritus of Business and former COBA dean. “He marked the campus through his capacity for thinking big and his attention to detail.”

Dr. J. William Petty (’64), former COBA dean who is now professor of finance and W.W. Caruth Chair of Entrepreneurship at Baylor University, believes Waugh deserves much of the credit for the campus aesthetics for which ACU is known today. “He had an eye for beauty and a commitment to nothing less than excellence,” Petty said. “As a result, we have a business building that will stand the test of time. ACU was never to be the same after Bill.”

“He was a gifted human being who had incredible insight into consumer behavior and customer service related to retail,” said COBA dean Dr. Rick Lytle. “Bill was always kind and gracious to me, my students on their many field trips to Dallas, and our college. He was generous to us in many ways.”

Sowell Rotunda and Chapel on the Hill

Sowell Rotunda and Chapel on the Hill

He was known for nurturing long-term relationships and grateful people spoke often of how he provided them transformational opportunities. His commitment to the growth of his employees and those around him were hallmarks of his success in business and life. Waugh donated his time and money to causes that included orphanages, learning institutes, and feeding and clothing those in need around the world. He was an involved member of Prestoncrest Church of Christ, and his honesty and integrity were beyond reproach.

“Bill was generous with his time,” said former ACU trustee Holt Lunsford (’85), CEO and president of Holt Lunsford Commercial in Dallas. “He wanted to stretch your thinking by introducing thoughts and material that inspired him, and hopefully you. I have countless articles with a cover note that says, ‘Thought you might be interested.’ It was his way of encouraging business as a mission, not just a vocation.”

The World Missions Globe inside Sowell Rotunda

The World Missions Globe inside Sowell Rotunda

Former ACU board chair Don W. Crisp (’64), CEO of Rosewood Trust Company, recalled weekend retreats Waugh helped host that brought thought leaders together to inspire the faith of his close friends. “Those opportunities changed my life. Exposure to teachers and thinkers like Dr. Lynn Anderson (D.Min. ’90), Jim McGuiggan, Landon Saunders and Stanley Shipp (’46) literally changed the way I see God and the world,” Crisp said. “Carol (Crosen ’64) and I remain so grateful to be included in those groups. Bill’s generosity has blessed so many.”

Waugh married Liwei Wang on Jan. 19, 2004.

He was preceded in death by his parents, W. Ray and Ruby Waugh. Among survivors are Liwei, his wife of 11 years; two daughters, Lisa Nicole (Waugh ’95) Miethe and her husband, John-Hayden Miethe (’95) of Franklin, Tenn.; Anna Christina (Waugh ’97) Richards and her husband, Bubba Richards of Brentwood, Tenn.; a son, Nicholas David Waugh (’97) and his wife, Robin Abigail Waugh of Franklin, Tenn.; a stepdaughter, Ya Zhou of Toronto, Canada; grandchildren Britain Avery Miethe, Elijah Daniel-King Miethe, Emerson Nicole Miethe, Favor Shalom Miethe, Ian Bray Miethe, Love Mercy Miethe, Parker Hayden Miethe, Ryan Isabella Miethe, Grayson Richards, Brayden Russiano, Campbell Russiano, Greyson Russiano, Holden Russiano, and Jonah Nicholas Waugh; and a brother, Thomas Lee Waugh (’62) and his wife, Carole Lynn Waugh of Flower Mound, Texas.

Memorials may be made online to Abilene Christian University (or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132), the Dallas Salvation Army or Dallas Christian School.


Hawkins, Smiley bring comedy to campus

Tim Hawkins

Tim Hawkins

Two of the nation’s most popular “clean” comedians will bring their high-energy humor to Abilene Christian University’s Moody Coliseum on Feb. 28 when Tim Hawkins and Bob Smiley (’94) perform in concert at 7 p.m.

The family-friendly event is a fundraiser for Abilene Christian Schools that is sponsored by ACU, Arrow Ford and Chick-fil-A. General admission, group and premium reserved tickets are $21-42 and can be purchased online here.

Smiley, a former elementary education major who won $500 during a standup comedy competition as a student at ACU, is married to Wendy (Hines ’95) and has three children.

He got his start touring with Christian artists such as Clay Crosse, Newsboys, Third Day and Audio Adrenaline. His more than 15-year career has blossomed while taking him to churches, schools, comedy clubs and corporate events around the world.

Tuna Fish Mafia-Bob 3x4 96

Bob Smiley (’94)

Smiley frequently appears in concerts with Hawkins, a talented songwriter and guitarist – married with four kids – whose combination of comedy enfused with music has earned a worldwide following, if 100 million-plus views of his YouTube videos, 200,000 Facebook followers and sold-out shows are any indication.

Both draw upon their life experiences for humor, from marriage and family relationships, to parenting, to outrageously funny insights about church life. In those realms in particular, no subject nor idiosyncrasy is immune from their zingers and playful exploration/celebration.

Comedy is their Christian ministry, and their laughs are as pointedly self-inflicted as aimed at the often hilarious humanity of others.

Watch videos of Smiley here.

Watch videos of Hawkins here.


For the Least of These: The Steeles

Greg, Tiffany and Erik Steele

Greg, Tiffany and Erik Steele

Greg (’08) and Tiffany (Thompson ’09) Steele met while students at Abilene Christian University and found a common bond in the idea of adopting a child.

“Many people think that adoption is a fall-back plan or a safety net for infertile couples,” Tiffany says. “Adoption is anything but that. It is pure love, joy and completely miraculous. We always planned and prayed for our sweet Erik; we just didn’t know God’s timing on the matter.”

Greg is preaching minister at Heritage Church of Christ in Rowlett, and Tiffany teaches middle school at Firewheel Christian Academy in Garland.

We continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt with Tiffany’s account of their journey to adopt Erik:

A Heart for Adoption

Everybody’s story has to start somewhere. Erik’s story began long before he was ever conceived, deep inside our hearts.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

Greg and I met at Passport at ACU in the summer of 2005. We were both planning on being members of the Big Purple Marching band. He played the tuba, and I twirled baton and participated in color guard. Once we offcially started school in August, we became quick friends. We ended up going on our first date that fall, and the rest is history. I remember the moment I knew I wanted to marry Greg. We were sitting outside McKinzie Hall talking about children. He said he always imagined having children AND adopting children. He felt very strongly that God calls us to care for the orphan and widow, and he thought adoption was a wonderful way to do just that. I had always imagined adopting a child, and to find someone with the same idea was absolutely mind-blowing.

Greg and I married in August 2008. He was working on his M.Div. at ACU, and all I had left was student teaching in the education department. By May 2012, I had been teaching in the Abilene Independent School District for three years, and Greg graduated with his M.Div. We picked up and moved to the metroplex for Greg to begin preaching.

When Greg and I decided to start trying to have a baby, we both imagined a short and blissful journey to achieving our dream, but day after day, week after week, there was nothing. We tried to ignore the problem, and we told no one. We suffered silently for the first couple of years. There are no words to describe the heartbreak we felt. I know that I felt completely defective. I was made to be a momma, but this just wasn’t working.

We knew that we could love any child, and we felt that God calls us to adopt children who need a home. We never knew if it would be sooner or later, but we knew we wanted it to happen. As we tried and tried, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe this was the time, but I didn’t bring it up.

Many people think that adoption is a fall-back plan or a safety net for infertile couples. Adoption is anything but that. It is pure love, joy and completely miraculous. We always planned and prayed for our sweet Erik; we just didn’t know God’s timing on the matter.

Little did we know that in late August 2010 God put the first stepping stone to lead us straight to Erik. That August evening I met a precious little girl at “meet the teacher.” She stole my heart from the moment I met her. I was so nervous to start my first real classroom teaching job, but this little girl created an immediate peace in my heart, and my heart latched onto hers instantly. My dear Bailey (name changed for confidentiality) was such a joy and, oh, so special. She was always eager to learn, and loved putting her new skills to work. She was such a joy to teach!

Sadly, I did not get to keep my sweet Bailey in class all year. She had some horrible things happen to her in her home. I reported the abuse, and she was quickly taken to a safe place within a 48-hour period. I held her hand at the hospital while she was examined for old bruising, and I held her close to my heart. I thought to myself, “This is why God connected our hearts – so I could help save her life.” I went a year or more without seeing her; then I testified in court as a CPS witness. After all of that, I met Bailey’s new, forever momma, and she was such an amazing woman. God gave me peace that Bailey would be OK.

Erik Steele

Erik love Mickey Mouse, cars, books, trucks and superheroes.

Time passed. Fertility issues still stared me straight in the eyes. I finally went to the doctor, and she told me that Greg and my chances of getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy, and carrying a baby was somewhere between slim and none. I was angry. I remember sitting in my car screaming outside of our local Chick-fil-A (they probably thought I was some kind of crazy person). I yelled at God. I said, “YOU CREATED ME TO BE A MOTHER. WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LET ME BE ONE!” That’s how I felt. I felt so confused. After yelling at God, I made the drive to tell Greg the news. I will never forget how inadequate I felt as I looked my husband in the eyes and told him that I was broken. Greg was amazing. He insisted that I was just who God wanted me to be, and I definitely was not BROKEN.

After the anger wore off, my prayers became obedient and meaningful. I asked God to show us what to do. The adoption idea started to surface again. I thought maybe this is God’s way of telling me that it was time. I brought it up to Greg, and he agreed. We prayed about it for three months then decided in September we would let everyone know that we wanted to adopt.

Fast forward to October. I got a random text message from Bailey’s momma telling me she had good news and that I should call later. I called and ended up in Abilene to see Bailey’s mom. We went outside for her to take a break, and I met a friend of Bailey’s mom who said, her daughter was pregnant and was due in early December. They could not keep the baby.

You know what happens from there. I spent some time with Erik’s birth grandma (affectionately called Nammy), and from there I met Julie. Julie was my age, born only a month apart. She was truly precious, and I instantly fell in love with her. She was beautiful, funny, smart and driven. She was strong, bold and courageous. She was Erik’s tummy momma.

Julie had several devastating life experiences, and just weeks before I met her, she sat in the waiting room of Pregnancy Resources of Abilene planning to ask for an abortion. Little did she know that the love of Christ was waiting for her just behind the waiting room doors. The doctor and nurses there helped her realize that adoption would give life to her son. She left that day with a sonogram of Erik and a plan. Just weeks later, Julie and I met.

Over the next few weeks, we rushed to get a baby boy room ready. We had lots of help from friends, family and our church, and we got everything we needed and more. I went back to Abilene with Greg so he could meet Julie, and we went to some doctor appointments as well. Julie’s doctor let us hear Erik’s heartbeat and then did a special sonogram just so we could see our little guy. It was amazing. I cried through the whole thing. It all seemed so surreal.. But I knew that God had always had a plan. Ever since I was young, God was watching over me. He was watching over Greg as he grew up in the Texas Panhandle, and Julie as she grew up in West Texas. I know God made all of us with each other in mind. Ever since the moment I met Bailey in my kindergarten classroom, God slowly began to reveal this amazing plan to me. He began to connect the dots to an amazing puzzle that would create a true masterpiece.

Meeting Erik for the first time

Meeting Erik for the first time

Erik was born in the early morning hours at Abilene Regional Medical Center on Nov. 29, 2012. He was perfect from head to toe. Greg and I witnessed our son’s birth. It was the single most miraculous thing I have ever witnessed.

Our journey to meet our son began in our hearts and ended in a small hospital room in Abilene that was filled with love. God brought Erik to all of us, birth family and adoptive family, for a reason beyond any we can imagine.

There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t thank God for Erik, his birth family, the doctors and nurses at Pregnancy Resources, and my sweet Bailey and her momma.

It is truly amazing to see how beautifully God weaves our lives in such an outstanding way beyond any we could imagine. God always has a plan, even when you feel there is nowhere to turn. All you have to do is reach out, take His hand and jump. He will take care of the rest!

Erik is now 2 years old. He is healthy and happy. He is the only grandchild on either side of our families, so he is spoiled rotten!

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:


Hot-shooting Wildcats ready for CBS telecast

Parker Wentz

Parker Wentz

On the eve of its biggest home game in years, the Abilene Christian University men’s basketball team is grateful what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas.

Scuffling along with a 4-6 record in late December after road losses to Tulsa, California-Riverside, Houston, Loyola-Chicago and Boise State, few fans expected head coach Joe Golding’s team to do much more than struggle in its continued transition to NCAA Division I competition.

But the Wildcats beat South Carolina State on Dec. 22 and Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 23 to win the Upper Division championship of the Continental Las Vegas Classic at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The tournament title gave ACU a rare piece of hardware to take home – a trophy – as the Wildcats won’t be eligible for postseason championships until the 2017-18 season because of their move to Division I.

Harrison Hawkins

Harrison Hawkins

After a close loss (83-81) to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz., on Dec. 28, the Wildcats have reeled off three consecutive wins to open Southland Conference play and move to 9-7 on the season. They handily beat Central Arkansas, Nicholls State and Northwest Louisiana – the latter an experienced team with a head coach looking for his 600th career win in Natchitoches. But ACU spoiled the Demons’ party, big-time, shocking a team projected to finish second in the Southland.

“In all my years, I don’t know that I’ve seen a better shooting night against my team,” said Mike McConathy, who has coached college basketball for 32 years, the last 16 for Northwest Louisiana. “They moved the ball beautifully, they played smart and they played hard. But they hit some tough, tough shots too, and those are the ones that jump out, looking back.”

In the win, hot-shooting guards Harrison Hawkins (31 points), Parker Wentz (29) and LaDarrien Williams (20) scored 80 of ACU’s 95 points and contributed mightily to the team’s 16 of 27 three-point field goal shooting (.593 percent).

Head coach Joe Golding

Head coach Joe Golding

Next up for the Wildcats is Stephen F. Austin State University in the first-ever game to be nationally broadcast from Moody Coliseum. Tipoff is at 11 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday). Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students (those younger than age 5 get in free). Half-price tickets are available with a military ID. ACU students, faculty and staff receive free admission.

Both teams are undefeated at 3-0 and tied for first place in the Southland, so you couldn’t ask for a better scenario for CBS Sports Network to choose as its game to broadcast to the nation. Grant Boone (’91) will handle the play-by-play and Van Chancellor – who coached the 2004 U.S. women’s Olympic team to a gold medal and won four WNBA titles with the Houston Comets – will provide color commentary on the telecast.

The ACU women’s team (8-6 overall, 1-3 in the Southland) plays SFA (10-5, 3-1) at 2 p.m. in Moody, although that game is not televised.

The Lumberjack men are a formidable opponent: 13-3 overall this season with wins in 25 straight Southland games. SFA was 32-3 last year in the regular season and 18-0 in the Southland, advancing to play in the NCAA National Tournament for the second time. They beat Virginia Commonwealth in the first round before falling to UCLA.

Those watching on TV or in person for the first time will see a game played on Dee Nutt Court, which was dedicated Nov. 22 before the Duquesne game in honor of the 1950 ACU graduate and late great former ACU head coach.

The Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau is welcoming CBS Sports to Abilene with a sign contest: fans can create a sign and post it to the ACVB Instagram account (@VisitAbilene) or Twitter account (@AbileneCVB). The winner will be announced at noon Saturday.


ACU Remembers: Judy Beauchamp

Garvin and Judy Beauchamp

Garvin and Judy Beauchamp

Ermon Pearl “Judy” (Jones ’41) Beauchamp, one of the namesakes of a landmark amphitheatre at Abilene Christian University, died Jan. 9, 2015, in Abilene, at age 96.

A memorial service will be held Monday, Jan. 12, at 1 p.m. at University Church of Christ in Abilene, where the couple were longtime members.

She was born April 6, 1918, in Wilson, Okla., and enrolled in Abilene Christian with her twin brother, Thurmon “Tugboat” Jones (’41) in 1937, the same year she met Garvin V. Beauchamp (’41). Judy was a member of Ko Jo Kai social club at ACU.

The couple married May 28, 1941, and lived in Abilene; Redding, Calif.; and Midland, Texas, before returning to ACU in 1950 when Garvin was named head football coach of their alma mater.

Judy was active in her home congregation for 75 years, was a founding member of Women for Abilene Christian University, and was known for a 25-year sales career at Bowie’s Jewelry Store. She and Garvin were beloved for their nearly half century of service to ACU and lives of integrity that will long outlive them both. He died Dec. 2, 2002, after a career on the Hill as assistant and head football coach, athletics director, dean of students, vice president of student services, and vice president of special services.

Beauchamp Amphitheatre 6x4 96The Beauchamps were honored at a tribute luncheon in 1987 in the Abilene Civic Center. ACU’s Tower of Light, Chapel on the Hill, and Garvin and Judy Beauchamp Amphitheatre were dedicated Aug. 28, 1989, a day before the opening of the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building. The amphitheatre has become one of the university’s most popular gathering places for students as the home of candlelight devotionals during Welcome Week and other occasions.

Judy was preceded in death by Garvin, her husband of 61 years; her parents, Elvie and Priscilla Jones; and four siblings, Ballard, Stanley, Thurmon and Jeraldine. Among survivors are a son, Gary Beauchamp (’64); a daughter Priscilla “Prissy” (Beauchamp ’65) Jones; five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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For the Least of These: The Whitakers

Brandon and Lori Whitaker with their children, from left, James, 5; Jovanika, 6; and Avery, 9.

Brandon and Lori Whitaker with their children (from left) James, 5; Jovanika, 6; and Avery, 9.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

Brandon Whitaker (’96) and his wife, Lori, always knew they wanted to adopt but had never considered an international adoption and had certainly never considered adopting siblings. That all changed when Lori took a missions trip with her church to Haiti.

Brandon tells how James and Jovanika joined their family, as we continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt.

Brandon works for the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission in Fort Worth, and Lori is a first-grade teacher in Arlington. They have one biological daughter, Avery, 9, in addition to their two adopted children.

A Curve Ball

After Avery was born, we wanted another child and tried unsuccessfully for several years to conceive. About this time, the devastating January 2010 earthquake hit Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Our church had ongoing missions work in Haiti and had planned a trip several months after the earthquake. My wife decided she wanted to go. I could not go because I have a condition that does not allow me to sweat. To take a trip to one of the poorest countries in the heart of the Caribbean, just after what little infrastructure they had was destroyed, would be extremely dangerous for me (I eventually made it over there, though).

After Lori’s first visit, she fell in love with the country and the people of Haiti. When she came back, we began to talk about adopting. My wife is adopted, and we always knew we wanted to adopt at some point. This particular option had never really crossed our minds before. But God works in mysterious ways and our plan is not always His plan.

My wife decided to go back to Haiti again on another missions trip. At this point, we were a little more serious about adopting but had the mindset that if this is what God wanted, He would show us. We knew we wanted a little girl between 1 and 3 years old, and at that time in Haiti if you applied and were approved, you could actually handpick the child you wished to adopt. So my wife went into that trip with the mindset not necessarily to find our future daughter, but with an open mind and heart willing to listen to God if he spoke.

As it turns out, there was a 2-year-old girl named Jovanika who clung to my wife’s leg immediately after she walked into the Creche, or orphanage. Each day the girl would find my wife and would not leave her side. After several days of truly connecting with this little girl, my wife decided to inquire as to which children were adoptable and not yet matched with a family. To her surprise, Jovanika was the only girl between the ages of 1 and 3 who did not yet have a family. We soon found out she had just been brought to the orphanage about a month before. Lori sent me a text message from Haiti with Jovanika’s picture that said, “I think we found our girl.”

When Lori got home, we talked and prayed about the adoption and decided this was it. She was our girl, and we wanted to bring her home to join our family. We submitted our application and were approved a couple of days later.

Shortly after getting approved, though, we got another email from the director of the Creche. The director told us that Jovanika had a little brother, also at the Creche, and that they did not like to separate siblings. Jovanika was new to the Creche and their records, which are not great to begin with, had not been updated when we applied. We were told they would not allow us to adopt Jovanika without adopting her brother also. They understood if we could not do this and would be happy to place us with another girl when one became available.

To say this was a curve ball is an understatement! After several more days of prayer, discussion, consultation and a hard look at our finances, we decided that this was God’s plan for our lives – that we had been chosen to be the parents of not just Jovanika but James as well. The rest would work itself out, we felt. And it has!

After two years, our adoption was completed in August 2013, and we brought James and Jovi (our nickname for her) home that same month. They have truly been a blessing, and we couldn’t imagine having one without the other. They have adapted extremely well. I think the fact that they had each other when they came home to us helped with their transition. James and Jovi have two other biological siblings, and we know the family that adopted them. They came to visit us this past summer, and occasionally we Facetime or Skype with them. We want to make sure they stay in touch.

If you want to read more about the adoption, Lori started a blog in June 2010 called “From Haiti to Home” in which she chronicled the adoption process and her other trips to Haiti. Between three kids and teaching full time, she has not been able to keep the blog up to date. Surprisingly, we don’t have as much free time as we used to!

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:


VIA News: Chambers’ explosive final act

IMG_0645Chambers Hall at Abilene Christian University is too close to Phillips Education Building to bring it down with a bang, but the 85-year-old former residence hall, cafeteria, library and academic building still saw some fireworks Wednesday.

The Department of Psychology, Chambers’ final occupants, were moved out over the Christmas break, leaving the building empty – and providing a training ground for local police, who practiced forceable entry, hostage negotiation, SWAT-team maneuvers and other procedures inside its empty halls, classrooms and offices.

“It’s a unique opportunity to have a building that’s still fully functional, with lighting and air conditioning,” said Jimmy Ellison, chief of police and director of public safety for ACU. “You just don’t get that opportunity often. It’s a good combination of an office and academic building.”

The building was roped off, and access to the building was tightly restricted because of the use of live explosives. In an email to campus, the ACU Police Department cautioned, “You may also see officers and SWAT team members going into/out of Chambers Hall and hear sounds of gunfire or other small explosions inside Chambers Hall as officers conduct various aspects of training and exercises.”

ACUPD partnered with the Abilene Police Department to conduct the exercises, which continue into today. ACU facilities crews will scour the building this week to remove any remaining usable items, such as doorknobs, hinges and the like, after which the demolition process will begin with asbestos abatement. When the time comes for removing the building itself, it will come down brick-by-brick rather than all at once.

Chambers will make way for the new Halbert-Walling Research Center, part of the $75 million, five-project Vision in Action initiative that will transform ACU’s science and athletics programs.

A worker paints lane lines onto the stadium’s running surface last month. This image was taken from the live webcam atop Edwards Hall.

A worker paints lane lines onto the stadium’s running surface last month. This image was taken from the live webcam atop Edwards Hall.

Other VIA updates:

  • Demolition has begun in Walling Lecture Hall, through which passed thousands of astronomy students, Chemistry Fair spectators and social club members. At least some of the latter took matters into their own hands – literally – before Christmas. A group of men from Gamma Sigma Phi, which has held social club meetings in Walling for decades, held a “chair party” the weekend of December Commencement, providing the opportunity for GSP students and alumni to take home a seat from the 45-year-old lecture hall.
  • Construction continues on the new Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium – the projected completion date is in February – and the new track and soccer stadium along Campus Court, which remains on schedule to open in time for a major track and field meet April 11 involving ACU, Texas Tech, TCU and New Mexico. Crews painted lane lines on the running surface before Christmas, then began work on seating for fans on the west side of the venue. Construction also continues on the new fieldhouse on the stadium’s north end.
  • Fundraising continues on the final two VIA projects – Halbert-Walling Research Center and Wildcat Stadium, which will be ACU’s first on-campus football facility since 1942.

ACU Remembers: Wayne Holt

Wayne Holt web mugFormer longtime Abilene Christian University trustee Wayne Holt (’56) died Jan. 2, 2015, at age 81. A funeral service will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, at the Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas (1924 Broadway Street, Lubbock, TX 79401), with visitation at 1:30 p.m.

He was born May 6, 1933, in Olney, Texas, and graduated from Olney High School in 1951. He attended Paris (Texas) Junior College and ACU, where he met Patsy Hufstedler (’57) on a blind date and married her Oct. 8, 1955. He played football at Abilene Christian and also was a boxer.

Holt owned and operated J.D. Hufstedler Truck Co. in Lubbock. He moved to Austin in 1996 to work with his son, Mark Holt, at Stuart Customs until retiring in 2008 and returning to Lubbock in 2013.

He was vice chair of the ACU Advisory Board before serving on ACU’s Board of Trustees from 1972-96. Holt also was a trustee of The Children’s Home of Lubbock, coached Little League baseball, and was a Bible school teacher and elder at Broadway Church of Christ.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Arthur Judson Holt and Flora Irene Holt. Among survivors are Patsy, his wife of 59 years; four sons, Richard Holt (’78), Mark Holt (’80), Mike Holt (’83) and Ragan Holt (’87); 10 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a brother, Carl Holt.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorials to be made online in Wayne’s name at ACU (or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132) or online at The Children’s Home of Lubbock (P.O. Box 2824, Lubbock, TX 79408).


For the Least of These: The Porters

porter family

Kevin and Rebekah Porter with their children (from left) Lily, 9; Zy and Ray, 3; Natalie, 12; and Everly, 6.

A feature series from ACU Today

A feature series from ACU Today

Kevin (’99) and Rebekah (Dawes ’00) Porter knew that God had called them to adopt. “Even still, without shame, I admit that we were all scared to death,” Rebekah says.

The 9-month-old twin boys they were presented for adoption had been born eight weeks premature, and because of trauma, abuse and neglect were only at a 3- to 4-month level of development.

“When I looked into those big brown eyes, I was not overcome with an infinite supply of love or an instant connection like I expected,” Rebekah recalls. “Instead, I saw lots of wounds and heartache and every reason not to love them. So, for the next few days we prayed, we thought, we talked, we prayed, we cried, we questioned, we thought, we prayed, we questioned.”

Ultimately, the Porters didn’t let their fear get in the way, and in April 2013 they added Ray and Zy to their family.

Enjoy Rebekah’s account of their faith journey, as we continue our series about Abilene Christian University alumni who have followed their hearts to adopt.

Kevin is vice president of human resources at Lauren Engineers & Constructors in Abilene, and Rebekah is a stay-at-home-mom.

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A Journey of Trust 

I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on them. Oh my heart. Were these my babies?

The process had started with a huge stack of paperwork just months before, although God had been leading us to this journey from the early years in our marriage. Adoption was a word we threw around loosely from the beginning. Oh sure, we should adopt some day … as if it were no big deal. The season came when the Lord began to soften our hearts and make the far-off dream of adoption a reality.

I can go back to that moment so easily. January 2012. God, what are you up to? In the stillness of the moment, my heart is pounding and I sense you are about to do something wild and crazy in me. What is it? These words were straight from my journal. After several confirming and outrageous events my husband, Kevin, and I along with our three girls began a journey of absolute trust with Father God as he led us to expand our family through adoption. Trusting God’s character and heart for us is where the journey truly began.

Even as I write this, my heart is swelling with similar emotions that I felt as we heard the Lord ask us to partner with the foster care system in Texas. We knew. Absolutely knew that God had called us to adopt. Even still, without shame, I admit that we were all scared to death. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. So many times one, if not all of us wanted to run, like Jonah. Satan hates redemption. He hates the orphan and the outcast and will use fear, doubt, insecurity and flat out disobedience to keep them isolated and lonely.

But God. God is the one who sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). Regardless of our fear of the unknown, fear of what ifs, fear of the future, or fear of losing, God’s goal was to restore hope and healing to the orphan. Although it would have been easy to stop the process, become numb and paralyzed to what he was asking us, we pushed through. We trusted. And He was faithful with us every single step of the journey. He was with us in the darkest moments and He was with us in the most joyous times.  Faithful.

We heard about the 9-month-old twin boys who were in need of a new placement. Twins? Twins. We really wanted a boy, but the thought of two of them was quite overwhelming. How in the world could we parent well to five kids? Are you sure, God? Twins? Twins. We were able to meet and hold the boys during a supervised visit before we ultimately decided to accept the placement. They were born eight weeks premature and along with trauma, abuse and neglect, they were only at a 3- to 4-month-old development, which meant they could not sit up or crawl. They both had torticollis; one of them had to the wear a helmet to help with his severely misshaped head and what they had lived through to this point in life was just about too much. The girls fell head over heels immediately, while I felt this wall slowly start to creep up in my heart and Kevin was unsure if this was the best scenario. The fear in their eyes matched the fear in my heart.

When I looked into those big brown eyes, I was not overcome with an infinite supply of love or an instant connection like I expected. Instead, I saw lots of wounds and heartache and every reason not to love them.  So, for the next few days we prayed, we thought, we talked, we prayed, we cried, we questioned, we thought, we prayed, we questioned. We had no idea what their long term health would be.  There was no way of knowing if physical therapy, Early Childhood Intervention and speech therapy would do any good. We had no clue if we would have happy, healthy babes or those with severe mental, physical and/or emotional challenges.

But God. God knew. He knew every detail about the boys and loved them more than they will ever know. He had plans for them, plans to give them a hope and future; plans to prosper them (Jeremiah 29:11). Above all else our hearts’ desire was to be aligned with His, so we trusted and said yes.

My once manageable life turned to complete chaos that day in the middle of June when we picked up the twins from the agency.  That was the day we became a family of seven, even though adoption would not be final for several months. That was the day we put our hearts on the line to love. To love is to risk.

We are going to call him Ray. I was excited to send this text to my dad because he shared a middle name with one of the boys. Sadly, this was the last bit of communication I had with my dad because late that very night we received the most horrific phone call from my mom telling us that my dad, at age 58, had a massive heart attack and passed away.

Trust. The days and weeks ahead were the hardest I have ever faced. I wanted to quit. I wanted to give up, and quite frankly I wanted to give them back. My heart hurt too much to open it up to risk and to love. Going through the motions mostly, I cared for them, changed them, fed them and cleaned up after them. I loved them, but I would not let myself get close to them. Kevin was bonding with them, but that place of security that I had created kept me from bonding. Never had I needed Jesus more. I sat across from the boys one morning over breakfast. One of them was just crying and crying. I could do nothing to settle him. Our eyes met and I heard his heart scream out: “I WANT MY MOMMY.” For the first time, our hearts collided with the same longing. I wanted my daddy. That moment my heart shifted and the wall rattled. We were facing similar loss and were all in a place of desperation. Our only hope was to trust.

That wall did not fall immediately; it was a process. There were more significant moments and little milestones that caused the bricks to start to crumble. Parental rights had been voluntarily terminated, and I battled being ecstatic that we were on our way to final adoption and feeling like, “Oh, crap. This thing is for real.” CPS had come for a monthly visit with news we were not expecting. The bio-mom had changed her mind. She would appeal. My heart jolted and my eyes filled with tears. The caseworker was talking but I could not hear her. All I knew was that we were in jeopardy of losing our boys and that was not OK. Finally, it was not OK. Wall down.

I began to pray more and more for their bio-mom, and God gave me a love for her. I saw her in the courtroom when we went to see if her appeal would be granted. I wanted to run up and hug her, but that would be weird so I refrained. I asked the Lord to show me where He was that day in the courtroom. In my head, I saw Him standing behind her as she pleaded to the judge. I knew no matter the outcome we could trust that He was there. Decision denied. Motion to move toward final adoption approved.

I looked at my kids differently when we returned home that evening. Five kids. I had five kids: three birthed from my body and two birthed from my heart, yet all mine. Again, I was overwhelmed. This time I was not overwhelmed with fear, but feelings of gratitude and humility. God had deposited a tiny dream within us years ago and was beautifully faithful to complete it.

The journey is not over, for we have a lifetime to live it out. The boys completed physical therapy, speech therapy and ECI. At 15 months, they were tested in gross/fine motor skills, cognitive skills and speech. Not only did they meet 15-month goals, they were meeting goals of an 18 month old and 24 month old. They have been healed of torticollis, and skull surgery for the one in the helmet was not needed. They are happy, healthy and absolutely adorable. They talk up a storm, sing all day long and make us laugh. A lot. Not only does God give, he gives abundantly!

God continues to refine my heart and restores each breath with oceans of grace. He is all that we need for today. He is faithful and He is good. The road is not easy. Lots of days I want to scream (and sometimes do) and pull my hair out, but running or hiding is less of an option. Lying beside them before they fall asleep at night, hearing them sing and tell me about every kind of car, truck and tractor they saw throughout the day, melts me. Loving them from an unprotected heart is the only real way to love.

Oh, for grace to trust Him more … 

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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: Dr. Bennett Hutchinson

Bennett Hutchinson 2x3 96Dr. Bennett B. Hutchinson (’63), former longtime Abilene Christian University professor of chemistry, died Dec. 30 in Nashville, Tenn., at age 72. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 10, at the Otter Creek Church of Christ (409 Franklin Road, Brentwood, TN 37027). A memorial service in Abilene is being planned for a later date.

Hutchinson was born Aug. 7, 1942, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and graduated from Littlefield (Texas) High School in 1959. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from ACU, an M.S. in inorganic chemistry from The University of Texas of Austin in 1965, and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1970.

He married Nancy A. Richardson (’75 M.A.) on June 27, 1970, and the Hutchinsons were honored as Abilene’s Family of the Year in 1985. He was active in community and in local politics, serving as a Democratic precinct chair in Taylor County and as a delegate to the state Democratic convention. Hutchinson chaired the Subcommittee on Hunger in Abilene on the 1986 Mayor’s Task Force and served for three years as board chair for Meals On Wheels Plus Inc. of Abilene.

At the time of his passing, he was professor of chemistry and former dean of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences at Lipscomb University, whose faculty he joined in 2004. Hutchinson was professor of chemistry at ACU from 1969-90, chair of the natural science division at Pepperdine University from 1992-98 and dean of Oklahoma Christian University’s College of Science and Engineering from 1998-2003. He also was sponsor of international programs and director of OC’s campus in Vienna, Austria.

While at ACU, he was a visiting professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin and a post-doctoral fellow at Texas A&M University and Case Western Reserve University. Hutchinson received more than a half million dollars in grants from the Robert A. Welch Foundation, Dow Chemical Company and the Texas Energy Research and Application Program, among others, and was a prolific author of published research, often conducted alongside ACU students. He also was a sponsor for Frater Sodalis, Phi Lamba Omega and the Chemistry Club, and served as a deacon at Minter Lane Church of Christ and Highland Church of Christ.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Earl and Pearl Hutchinson. Among survivors are Nancy, his wife of 44 years; a daughter, Amy (Hutchinson ’93) McBride; and three grandchildren.