Recognizing Excellence: COBA 2020-2021 Award Winners

We’ll admit it, we are biased. We think that we have some of the greatest business and technology faculty and staff in the country. This past year they went above and beyond to pursue excellence and care for students during the challenging school year. We’re excited to announce those faculty and staff who were named as 2020-2021 COBA award winners for the Department of Management Sciences, the Department of Accounting and Finance, and the School of Information Technology and Computing.

Dr. Phil Vardiman

By student vote, the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year for the Department of Management Sciences is Dr. Phil Vardiman. Dr. Vardiman is a beloved professor who is known for his jokes, his enthusiasm, and his care for his students. He is often seen engaging with students in his office, the classroom, or on walks around campus. Presley Davis (’21) shared, “He has continued to be my number one supporter throughout my time with COBA. He cares for his students and wants to share our successes. He’s a lovely professor and friend.” 

Skylar Morris (’21) expressed his gratitude for Dr. Vardiman saying, “This man is single-handedly the reason I am happy where I’m at with my choice of major and career. He is so exciting, passionate, and happy to be teaching us. He is also the reason I am pursuing grad school because he has made me feel like I can be better. Every time I have an accomplishment, I want to tell him because he cares so much about his students and gets so genuinely excited. This man is truly the best professor I’ve had.”

Dr. Jody Jones

By student vote, the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year for the Department of Accounting and Finance is Dr. Jody Jones, another widespread student favorite. A newer addition to the COBA faculty, he stands out for his engagement with students and his ability to simplify hard topics. Senior finance major, Jon Bennett, explained, “He makes the topics interesting and applicable to real life. He goes above and beyond for his students. He makes going to class seem fun even at 8:00 AM.” Dr. Jones shared that it is a blessing and honor to know you are appreciated by your students and peers and to know one is valued.

Rebekah Jones, a senior finance and marketing major, expressed the impact Dr. Jones has had on her. “Jody goes above and beyond to ensure his students’ success not only in college but also post-graduation. His class has offered the most real-world applicable information in my COBA experience. Additionally, the level of difficulty is at a perfect point where you are motivated to try hard and learn, but he always offers grace with grades if you show that you are willing to work hard and redo assignments. Jody has a great sense of humor which makes him very approachable and easy to talk to before or after class. I appreciate getting to know him a bit each class and learn from his experiences. So much of why I love ACU is because of the opportunities there are to get to know professors who truly care about you – Jody has exemplified that.”

Dr. Brian Burton

By student vote, the 2020-2021 SITC Teacher of the Year is Dr. Brian Burton. Senior digital entertainment technology major Camila Rodriguez shared, “Dr. Burton is an amazing mentor. He always pushes us to do our best work and encourages us to pursue our goals and ambitions.” Dr. Burton is a valuable member of the SITC team and SITC Director Dr. John Homer shares why. “Dr. Burton has led the DET program for more than a decade, mentoring and working with every student who has gone through. He is dedicated to his work and cares deeply about his students. I think this award shows that his students feel similarly about him.”

Dr. Mindy Welch

Finally, the 2020-2021 Online Teacher of the Year is Dr. Mindy Welch. As a member of the ACU Dallas online team, Mindy has been a valuable asset to her students. Dr. Jennifer Golden explained that Dr. Welch loves her ACU students. “She is patient, encouraging, helpful, and a great professor overall. She receives consistent exceptional feedback in her classes. It is a pure joy to work with her because she is always coming up with new and innovative ideas to make the online classroom engaging, challenging, and spiritually encouraging. I cannot think of a better person for our Online Teacher of the Year.”

Director of the online MBA program, Dr. Vardiman, expressed, “Mindy is a teacher who not only wants her students to learn but also succeed in life. She loves teaching!!! Mindy is willing to go the extra mile for each of her students. She is wonderful to work with and sets the bar very high in her teaching style. She shares the example of Christ in how she cares for her students.” Upon receiving the award, Dr. Welch shared, “Honestly, it means so much to me! I know that Christian higher education is an act of service in God’s Kingdom. It is about preparing the next generation to show passion and leadership. Getting an award like this is just an affirmation from God that I am where he needs me to be.”

The Dean’s Award for Research was given to Dr. Monty Lynn for his outstanding research that resulted in the publication of two books this summer. Dr. Lynn hopes his research results in helping others. “Having these books recognized with the Dean’s Award for Research is an honor and adds to the hope that these works make a contribution to scholars, practitioners, the church, and students.”

Dr. Monty Lynn

Dr. Lynn’s research and the resulting books were born from his own experiences in the classroom and his desire to teach others how to use their vocation to reach out to help a hurting world. “Several years ago, a couple of ACU business students inquired about how they might apply what they had learned in business within developing economies. Because of their inquisitiveness, we created a special topics course in the class, International Poverty and Development. The course was cataloged a couple of years later and we still offer it today. Although my training in this field was limited, I looked for learning and research opportunities. Two observations became clear along the way. One was that while many Christian congregations engaged in relief and development activities, they often did so without the benefit of international development insights. A second observation was that a wonderful history of Christian engagement in relief, development, and advocacy existed but few knew the actors or ideas that flowered through the ages.”

Dr. Lynn went on to explain how the books came to fruition. “I pursued these two questions and two books were published in summer 2021 which are the fruit of that labor. With the help of Rob Gailey (Point Loma Nazarene University) and Derran Reese (ACU), Development in Mission was released by ACU Press. It attempts to surface fresh insights in missions and development that can aid churches and individuals who engage in global poverty alleviation. The second book, Christian Compassion published by Wipf & Stock, recounts in quick procession, the thoughts and actions of Christians endeavoring to extend the love of Christ to others, from the first century to the present.”

Steph Brown

The 2020-2021 COBA Staff Person of the Year was awarded to Professional Development Manager Steph Brown. Steph has taken the COBA professional development program to the next level with the implementation of COBA EDGE which helps prepare students for internships and jobs beginning their freshman year. She keeps business and technology students engaged and on track as they learn and grow professionally during their time in the college. Dean Brad Crisp explained why Steph is such a valuable member of the COBA team. “Steph took on two significant challenges for the college over the last year. First, she took over the Internship for Credit courses for each major, both administering the growing program and teaching the academic portion of the students’ internship course experience. Internships make a huge difference in the professional development and career placement of our students. Second, Steph partnered in the pilot of the Suitable platform, which was initially called Accelerate in the spring and will be called Compass this fall. COBA believes strongly in holistic student development, and we appreciate Steph’s contributions to not only help our students grow professionally but in all parts of their lives.”

Steph was humbled by the honor. “The award is, of course, sincerely appreciated. In all transparency, however, I have a difficult time accepting an award for myself when I have witnessed our other staff members have such a positive impact themselves. The past year has shown how every staff person in COBA has risen to the occasion and taken care of business, no pun intended. They have taken more responsibilities on top of their existing initiatives and done it with such a spirit of collegiality. I care for my colleagues and feel cared for by them. That, in itself, is better than receiving a reward.”

Dr. James Prather

The Outstanding Junior Faculty Member Award was given to SITC professor Dr. James Prather. Dr. Prather is known for engaging with students both inside and outside the classroom to help them pursue their goals. He said, “The Weathers Fellowship for Outstanding Junior Faculty is indicative of the excellent support we have here at ACU for teaching and research. I’m excited for what this award will enable me to do with my students over the next year. Many talented faculty have received this award in the past and I’m honored to be counted among their number.”

Dean Crisp added, “Drawing on his education in computer science and biblical studies, Dr. James Prather combines his passion for faith and technology in ways that inform and strengthen his teaching, scholarship, and service. He actively mentors students spiritually, inside and outside of class. James engages students in undergraduate research, supervising students as they present research at international conferences. And, he is a fun and loyal colleague. Dr. Prather shows that the future is bright for the School of Information Technology and Computing.”

Finally, the Dean’s Award for Service and Leadership was given to all of the COBA faculty and staff. Juggling what the year brought forth was not an easy task. Dr. Crisp was proud of the way the faculty and staff members showed students and their colleagues’ dedication and perseverance throughout the challenges of the pandemic.

Dr. Brad Crisp

“As I have watched COBA faculty and staff navigate a pandemic over the last year or more, I have seen our faculty and staff serving and leading in so many ways beyond their normal roles. Faculty learned new skills in online teaching, taught in classrooms scattered all across campus (while also engaging the students on Zoom), engaged in important and difficult conversations about how we can better serve our students, and all the while cared for students dealing with health challenges and other disruptions. And, our staff continued to advance their individual responsibilities while rising to unique challenges related to the pandemic, building renovations, the winter storm, and so much more. I couldn’t give the Dean’s Award for Service and Leadership to just one individual this year because all of our faculty and staff are so deserving.”

As a college, our vision is to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. The past year has taught us that this vision is more than words on a page. This vision came alive in countless classrooms and offices all over this campus and inspires us to be the change we want to see. Let’s go change the world, Wildcats.

 

 

 

 

 

Internship Spotlight: Meagan Thomason

For students, the winter break can be one of the most optimal times to work on your resume and career search because you have spare time to search for internships or apply for jobs depending on where you are in your academic journey towards graduation. To help students get started, we have been posting Tip Tuesday advice on our social media that guides you through small and easy steps that you can take over the next four weeks to help you find interesting career options and get your resume and social media ready for potential employers.

To give you some encouragement on your internship journey, we wanted to share an internship story from one of our current students, senior management major Meagan Thomason from Midland, TX. She interned for ER Senior Management, LLC which provides service across Texas to owner-operated/managed senior living retirement communities. Meagan worked in one of their Abilene locations where she assisted in Human Resource (HR) functions. Meagan’s internship duties were varied as she told us, “This semester I have specialized in the Associate Satisfaction Surveys in pulling data and displaying the survey results. I mostly worked with Excel and Canva. I also assisted in recruitment by reading resumes, scheduling interviews, and sitting in on those interviews. Along with all that I assisted in coding insurance invoices among other HR-related tasks.”

Meagan found that seeing the tangible results of her labor was incredibly satisfying and made this the favorite part of her internship as she saw the findings being put to good use within the company. She told us, “I worked so hard on the surveys for so long and finally seeing the results and all my hard work being sent back out to the four different communities. It felt good to finally have others see what I had been working on for so long.”

Internships offer students more than just course credit or, in some cases, financial gain. They can also offer great experience and insight as Meagan found, telling us that she learned, “The stress of dealing with a crisis in the office along with the importance of writing a good solid resume. It’s important to keep a level head, especially when working in the healthcare industry during a pandemic. This internship also allowed me to figure out what part of the business I wanted to go into after graduation. I was unsure before, but this internship taught me the value of Human Resources and why HR exists.“

Looking forward, this internship is shaping her future as she gained invaluable hands-on experience teaching her lessons that she could not have learned in a classroom. Her internship helped her explore and discover what area of HR she was interested in and what it would take to be hired by another company in the future. Meagan told us that the experience as a whole has helped her to take initiative and prepare to make the transition from a university student to her future career in the industry.

Meagan advises future interns, “Keep a notebook and write down EVERYTHING you do. This will help you in updating your resume and in future interviews when you’re asked about what you did during your internship. It also helps you keep track of your tasks you’re assigned and if you’re asked about something you did a month previously, you can turn to that page and explain exactly what you did.” She also suggested to “Keep a google calendar of everything you have going on. This semester I worked at my internship and a part-time job. I’m also one of Delta Theta’s pledge officers and a full-time student. It can be a lot and Google Calendar helped me schedule out my weeks.”

Meagan said that the classes she took, particularly in excel and personal selling, prepared her for the internship and future employment as they directly applied to her internship as she developed surveys and assisted in recruitment and resume review. Meagan also felt that the mock interviews she participated in through COBA Edge assisted in her interview process.

Meagan has enjoyed her time in COBA and says one of her favorite things about being a business major happened early on in her academic career. “I would say the Venture Out project in Monty Lynn’s Intro to Business class was one of my favorite classes. Trusting a bunch of freshmen with the funds to buy and sell products? That was a really fun first project for college.” Meagan’s hands-on holistic COBA experience has been extremely valuable to her in preparing her for her internship and in preparation for her future career.

We love assisting students as they journey through classes, internships, and career searches. If you would like help with your resume and internship or job search, you can contact Steph Brown with COBA Edge at srb19c@acu.edu.You can also check out our social media every Tuesday during break to get tips on what you can be doing now to prepare for internships and future careers!

“Why I Teach” Series Closing-Professor Appreciation

As we come to the end of our “Why I Teach” series, we (the student workers, Katie Norris and Maddy Crockett) wanted to take a moment to appreciate the professors. 

Each and every one of the professors works endlessly and dedicates their time to us and for us. We have compiled a few comments from students around COBA to give snippets of appreciation for their professors. Many professors are not mentioned-but nevertheless, they are just as appreciated. 

 

Dr. David Perkins 

“Dr. Perkins was my first accounting professor in COBA. The thought of taking an accounting class was terrifying to me, but thank the Lord for Dr. Perkins. His heart is so gentle and kind and he cares SO much. He truly wants the best for his students and that is so evident in the way he builds relationships with them.” – Presley Davis, junior management major

“I appreciate Dr. Perkins’ attention to detail when it comes to teaching and making sure the class understands what is being taught.” –  Sam Onstead, freshman financial management major

 

Dr. Dennis Marquardt

“He has given me great advice on pursuing my career and I always loved his class. He is always motivated and excited and he is also very personal with everyone in class.”  – Joseph Crockett, sophomore management major

“He always sees the best in everyone and is a great listener!” – Bryce Adams, junior financial management major

 

Dr. Ryan Jessup

“Dr. Jessup cares deeply about good education and teaching students to think critically. He has challenged me personally to think more intentionally about my education, career, and faith. Furthermore, he has taught me about the importance of making good decisions in business and in life. His classes are rigorous and challenging, but very rewarding. I appreciate Dr. Jessup’s desire to help students truly learn.” – Luke Stevens, senior marketing major

“I appreciate Dr. Jessup because he really cares about his students and he does a great job of keeping us engaged throughout the semester. He is willing to help his students when we ask. Dr. Jessup is a great example of a professor who teaches us about marketing as well as challenges us in our faith.” – Sloan Polvado, senior marketing major

 

Dr. Andy Little

“It is clearly evident that Andy cares about his students by the way he shows up and shares his knowledge with us. His class made me love learning about law! I appreciate him!” – Emily Goulet, junior accounting major

 

Dr. Don Pope

“I appreciate how Dr Pope creates intrigue behind business stats and engages his class in exercises to better understand the advertising and business world we live in through stats.” – Ben Fridge, sophomore financial management major

 

Dr. Katie Wick and Dr. Monty Lynn

“Shoutout to Dr. Wick and Dr. Lynn for making my mornings really awesome!” – Jose Rodriquez, Freshman

 

Dayle Hayes Honored with Scholarship at the HR Southwest Conference

Dayle Hayes

Every fall, more than 2,500 HR professionals attend the HRSouthwest Conference (HRSWC) held in Fort Worth, Texas. The conference is the largest regional educational and networking event for human resource professionals. HRSWC is organized by DallasHR, the Dallas-based SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) Affiliate Chapter, and has been designated as the official State of Texas SHRM Conference. 15,000 student members participating in the 27 chapters of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) are given the opportunity to attend this conference with working professionals.  Dr. Malcolm Coco, faculty sponsor for the ACU Chapter of SHRM and Director of Internships for COBA said, “One of the highlights for students is the opportunity to be nominated for the Excellence in Education Scholarship. As you can imagine, the scholarship is very competitive with each chapter being able to nominate candidates for the award.”

Dayle Hayes, senior marketing and human resource management major and President of SHRM, is one of four recipients of the HR Excellence in Education Scholarship given this past October. Winners of the scholarship have shown excellence in academic pursuits as well as their professional and personal lives. The award selections were based on accomplishments in human resources, academics, campus and community involvement and recommendations from professors, advisors and/or employers. The scholarship recipients each receive a $1,500 grant plus shared proceeds from The HRSouthwest Conference Silent Auction.

Dayle says, “I am very excited and thankful to be awarded this scholarship. As Dr. Coco’s TA, I have been able to benefit from his leadership as the sponsor of SHRM’s student chapter on campus as well as attending some of the Big Country SHRM monthly meetings with him, where he sits on the board of directors.”

Dr. Coco felt that Dayle was a worthy candidate and nominated her because, “of her dedication and professionalism as the student chapter president and as a member of the local professional chapter Executive Board. Dayle has demonstrated leadership and high academic accomplishments. She deserved the nomination and being selected as the recipient of this scholarship.”

Dayle was thankful for the opportunity to gather with professionals in the field. “The conference was great, and I really enjoyed being able to attend for the second time. I went to several speaker sessions and heard about prevalent HR-related topics. There were thousands of HR professionals there, so I also got to network and meet several people in the field. I ran into one of my childhood friends who is a recent graduate and has been working in HR for a couple years now, which was really fun.”

Congratulations to Dayle Hayes on this outstanding honor. Click here to learn more about the HRSouthwest Conference. Learn more about the Big Country SHRM chapter by clicking here.

Dennis Marquardt Hits an Academic Triple

It’s been quite a summer for Assistant Professor of Management, Dr. Dennis Marquardt. Marquardt was

Dr. Dennis Marquardt

voted as ACU’s 2019 Teacher of the Year in May, a prestigious honor as faculty member nominees are submitted by students, and he was named as the new Director for the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership, succeeding founding Director, Dr. Rick Lytle. Dennis was also part of an award winning research team whose paper received recognition at the Academy of Management Conference in August in Boston, MA. The annual conference features over 10,000 management scholars from universities across the globe. We asked him to reflect on the awards, his new position, and what his plans are for the year ahead.

ACU’s Teacher of the Year award came as a surprise for Marquardt, who is deeply humbled, grateful and thankful for the honor. “When it was announced in the first graduation service, it took a little while for it to even register that they were talking about me.  Since there are so many teaching giants at ACU that I deeply admire and respect, I really never thought I would get such an award.” When asked what drives his teaching, Marquardt explained, “It’s a sacred trust when a student comes into my classroom; something I try never to take for granted.  Students are often told that the best way for me to show that I care for them is to maintain the highest of expectations for each of them. I want them to wrestle with tough questions, be exposed to new ideas, and be better equipped as a person than they were before coming to class. While learning is always a chief priority, the thing I care most deeply about as a professor is who my students are becoming as people. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, ‘intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.’ I couldn’t agree more.”

Marquardt teaching at Leadership Summit

Marquardt’s passion for teaching students is evident in his classroom on the ACU campus and in his sessions at Leadership Summit, where he has served as a faculty member and mentor for the last four years. He’s also been involved with Lytle Center weekly chapels and a weekly morning men’s Bible Study that was born from Leadership Summit attendees asking Dennis and Tim Johnston to bring more of the lessons from the mountain to Abilene. Moving into the role of Director for the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership is a natural fit for Marquardt. The Lytle Center is new to many people and Dennis looks forward to spreading the word about the mission of the Center. “Our slogan is: ‘Serving God in the Workplace, Serving the Workplace for God’. As people of faith in Jesus Christ, we believe our calling is to be leaders who influence others for the advancement of the kingdom of God (where hope, peace, and life abound). Because of this, we want the students, alumni, and faculty that we serve to be skilled and capable leaders. This means they can effectively promote a vision, drive change, resolve conflict, build teams, make decisions, and empower others. As highly capable leaders, our students and alumni become effective at the work they do and influential in the environments they operate in. We emphasize in the workplace since work is something we were all designed by God to do. The workplace is also a place of unique community, a unifier of sorts. Nearly everyone at some point in their life will engage in formal work. We work with and for people from all walks of life and backgrounds. While few go to church, nearly all go to work. If the world desires hope, peace, and life then the workplace is a great place to bring it”.

Dr. Marquardt is excited about the opportunity to continue and broaden the work of the Lytle Center. He

Dennis and his wife, Monique

has clear goals and a vision for where he would like to take the Center in the coming years. “The Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership exists to promote hope, peace, and life in the workplace. We do this by introducing individuals to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and equipping them with cutting edge leadership competencies, so that they can be effective servant leaders in the workplace. That’s what coupling faith and leadership means to us.”

Dennis knows that this bold vision will come with some challenges, knowing that the most difficult challenge is in measuring the outcomes of the work done through the Center. “What we are really trying to do is promote spiritual leadership transformation and that requires a consistent commitment to character forming habits and behaviors over time. While we definitely want to inspire, inspiration holds limited power to change. Change requires building authentic relationships, having courageous conversations, and a lot of patience.”

Marquardt is very excited about adding more co-curricular options for students to learn important leadership competencies such as conflict resolution, time management, and ethics.  He’s also looking forward to learning about and partnering with the “many great leaders across campus who are already doing great work in leadership development.”

Along with being a great teacher and mentor, Marquardt is proving that he is a strong researcher. A research project that he was invited to be a part of a several years ago by his doctoral advisor, Dr. Wendy Casper, was recently recognized at the Academy of Management Conference. He says, “This award is really a testament to the leadership and brilliance of my co-authors. I was fortunate enough to be invited onto this project by Dr. Casper. Our first author and tireless leader on the paper was Dr. Sabrina Volpone at the University of Colorado Boulder. Also, Dr. Derek Avery from Wake Forest University, a legend in management and diversity research, was a co-author. I learned so much from each of them and it was a great privilege to be a part of this meaningful work.”

The research team accepts the award at the conference – sans Marquardt who was not able to attend.

The team’s paper received recognition at the conference on August 14th in Boston, MA. The annual conference featured over 10,000 management scholars from universities across the globe. “Our author team is deeply honored that our paper was selected to receive the International HRM Scholarly Research Award, given annually to the most significant article published in international human resource management in the prior year (2018). This is awarded by the Human Resource Division of the Academy of Management. The conference theme this year is, Understanding the Inclusive Organization, which the findings of our paper fit well with.”

We asked Dr. Marquardt to summarize the paper for our readers. “We began our research with the question: Do individuals who grow up as a minority in their home country gain unique skills and abilities that might make them more effective as expatriate workers living in a host country? By analyzing the experiences of international students studying in the United States, we found that the more varied minority experiences people had in their home country positively related to more rapid acculturation as they studied in the U.S. This more rapid acculturation then related to higher levels of psychological well-being and lower intentions to leave the United States. We found that these relationships were influenced by cultural intelligence and the perceived diversity climate of the university. Overall, the paper demonstrates that minorities bring unique strengths to organizations, specifically those working in international assignments. The paper was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and can be found by clicking here.

The topic was intriguing to Marquardt. “The richness of the minority experience has long been of interest to me. While there is a wealth of research on the challenges that minorities face, the unique strengths and abilities that minorities bring to the table because they have had to overcome those challenges are less well understood. It is my hope that our research helps shed some light in this area.”

Dennis hopes that students and those in the workplace can make applications from the team’s findings now. “Our students are entering a workplace that is more globally minded than ever. David Livermore in his book, Leading with Cultural Intelligence, indicates that ‘Ninety percent of leading executives from sixty-eight countries identified cross-cultural leadership as the top management challenge for the next century.’ Our research demonstrates three significant resources worth considering when working and leading cross-culturally. The first is an understanding that having a minority experience provides an individual with vital resources for navigating novel cultural contexts. The second is the value of developing cultural intelligence, a personal capability related to understanding other cultures and behaving appropriately in different cultural environments. The third is the importance of fostering an organizational diversity climate that values unique backgrounds and provides support for people from non-dominant groups. I think students will largely learn about the importance of these resources as they see them modeled in the way that professors engage their classrooms.”

Dr. Dennis Marquardt’s dedication inside and outside of the classroom is evidence of his own personal mission to serve and mentor students to help honor God and bless the world. Congratulations on a much-deserved summer of accolades, Dr. Marquardt!

COBA is Saying Goodbye to Three Legends in the Classroom

The end of the academic year brings about the season of awards, recognition, and change whether it occurs in elementary school, high school, or college. While we celebrate our graduates and the next chapter of their lives, the College of Business Administration is not immune to transition, either. We are  saying farewell to three inspirational professors: Dr. Rob Byrd (Associate Professor of IT and Computing), Dr. Malcolm Coco (Professor of Human Resource Management), and Dr. Terry Pope (Professor of Finance) as they retire. Students, colleagues, friends and family joined to honor them at receptions on May 6th where tributes and well wishes were shared with each of the retiring professors.

Rob Byrd with SITC students Paula Berggren and Lauren Walker

Rob Byrd came to ACU in 2009 and was known for not only helping students dive deep into the world of Information Technology and Security, but also helping them develop a deeper faith and spiritual walk. Recent SITC graduate, Lauren Walker (’19) described Byrd as a passionate teacher who wanted to maximize students’ learning and push them to be their best selves. She said, “He never missed an opportunity to show us how the knowledge and skills we were gaining can transcend all areas of life. He never settled on just letting us ‘get by’ with our education. He constantly challenged us and pushed for excellence and innovation. As a mentor, he was a person who saw the best in his students. He wasn’t afraid to say the hard things, and encouraged us to go after the things in life we never thought we could achieve. ” Dr. Byrd baptized Lauren last October and she recounted that Byrd was “just simply himself”, never afraid to be transparent, witty, cynical, and show a genuine interest in his students. She said, “If anyone of us needed help with something school related, or even personal, it wasn’t a doubt that he was just one phone call or text away.”

Dr. Byrd

While some students might have been intimidated by a professor like Byrd, Walker said, “The last thing I guess I want to say is that like all of the SITC professors, Dr. Byrd is so special. Dr. Byrd is such a softy, but of course he would never say it. He has such a servant heart, and has touched so many students’ lives over the years, and of course I just happen to be one of them. He’s one of those professors I will end up telling my children stories about!”

Byrd is transitioning into a new career as Staff Technical Project Engineer with Collins Aerospace at their headquarters location in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He said, “This position will be a challenging adventure for me-just what I was hoping for. Working at this level will allow me to be involved and responsible for both the design/development and the budgetary/systems aspects of the assigned projects and programs. The nature of the work will be classified, but will be in support of national defense and will draw from my education, experience and certifications. I thank my colleagues for their support.”

Coco with students Grace Smith and Dayle Hayes

Malcolm Coco arrived at ACU in 1989. Coco was well known for helping students find jobs through his internship class, mentoring students through Human Resource classes and the Student Chapter of the Human Resource Management organization, his love for the outdoors, and playing the Beach Boys loudly during office hours.

Coco said that when he came to ACU, he only intended to teach for 2 or 3 years and then planned to pursue a career as a pilot for an airlines. Thirty years later, he says, “I’m still teaching and enjoying every minute. Associating with great Christian faculty and staff and having the opportunity to shape young lives has been a blessing to me. I’m wondering where the 30 years went to!”

Dr. Coco with his family

When asked what the best advice he would offer to students would be, he encouraged students to be the best you that you can be. Always strive to be your bosses “go to” person, meaning when there is an important project with a short turn around and it needs to be done correctly, you want your boss to always think of  you as the person he or she trusts to get the job done. He said, “Winners make it happen and losers let it happen.”

To his colleagues, Coco said, “It has been a blessing to me to have the fortune of knowing so many God fearing, Christian faculty. Your example and support for me and my family for these past 30 years has been tremendous. Thanks for the memories.”

Retirement for Coco will be a mixed bag. He will continue to teach as an adjunct faculty member and will continue to manage the COBA internship program. Coco has no plans to slow down. He said, “My children and grandchildren all live in Abilene, so I’m planning for some serious grandchild time. Hobbies of hunting and fishing will continue. I have already joined several civic organizations and intend to do volunteer work for several non-profits.”

Pope with daughter Abby Pimentel and wife Gayla

When he wasn’t teaching a finance class like STAR (Student Trading and Research), you could find Terry Pope on the golf course, working on his new baseball podcast with Tim Johnston, or in his shop working on his next furniture project.

Terry Pope answered the call by Jack Griggs to come and teach at ACU in 1992. Pope said that teaching at ACU has been a great experience, “When I came to Abilene, having already worked for twenty-three years in industry and academics, I was thinking that I would teach for about fifteen years. However, teaching at ACU was so rewarding that I just kept showing up, year after year. ACU is a special place to our family, since Gayla and I, all three of our children, and three of our grandchildren have attended.  Our other six grandchildren will likely follow in these steps.” Pope went on to say that it’s been great to be a part of the ACU community.  He said, “I felt that everyone on campus strove for excellence in what they did and sought to be pleasing to God.  Being a part of that environment made me a better person.”

Terry, Gayla, Beth, and Don Pope

When asked if there was anything he’d like students to know, he said, without question that the favorite part of teaching at ACU was getting to know so many students.  Pope estimates that he has taught about four thousand students and tried to get to know each one of them saying, “I have many great friendships today with former students.  Every student was different – different backgrounds, different interests, and different personalities.  That diversity made our community better. I hope that I communicated to my students that being a Jesus follower comes before all else.  While I taught Finance, I said ‘the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing’.  Brilliance in Finance is not the main thing, but only a compliment to following Jesus.”

Pope said that his colleagues at ACU were great and continue to be his close friends.  He recounted, “I remember telling someone early in my career at ACU that I had underestimated the joy of being able to work daily in a Christian environment.  I felt a closeness and shared purpose with colleagues all over campus, even though we might not have been well acquainted. To all of these colleagues, I say ‘keep it going’.  Investment managers must communicate to their clients that ‘Past performance is no guarantee of future results.’  Every day is a new day that requires our best efforts and a continuing renewal of our minds.”

Pope plans on staying in Abilene and continuing to be closely connected to ACU while spending time playing more golf and tennis, doing more woodworking, taking piano, traveling, studying, and volunteering. “There are many more things that I will want to do that time will allow.”

Combined, the three educators have almost 75 years of experience teaching ACU students. Their dedication to students and peers as well as their example of excellence in the classroom and in their faith walks will truly be missed. The words “thank you” seem inadequate for what they have meant to the lives of thousands of students.

Click on the highlighted links below to view pictures and video messages in tribute to each of the retiring professors.

Pics from the retirement reception

Rob Byrd video

Malcolm Coco video

Terry Pope video