Abilene, TX -- Hardin-Simmons University
honored its past and looked toward its next 125 years at a special Quasquicentennial
Convocation held Thursday morning at Behrens Auditorium.
The Feb. 18th event
coincided with the date in 1891 when the university’s charter was adopted under
its original name, Abilene Baptist College.
The only living HSU presidents were present at
the convocation. HSU President Dr. Lanny Hall presided.
Dr. Jesse Fletcher, the university’s 12th president,
offered a thoughtful invocation offering thanks for the many who kept the dream
of Hardin-Simmons alive throughout the years. Dr. W. Craig Turner, the
university’s 14th president, delivered
Hall gave special recognition to many HSU supporters
and organizations for their vital role in assisting the university throughout its history.
One organization he singled out for praise was the First Baptist Church of
Abilene, which had a large contingency of supporters in the auditorium.
Dr. Thomas Brisco, Provost and Chief Academic
Officer, introduced special guests including First Lady of Hardin-Simmons Carol
Hall, State Rep. Susan King, and Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald as well as other education,
business, and community representatives including Dr. Cathy Ashby, president
and CEO of United Way; Dr. Royce Money, Chancellor of Abilene Christian
University; and Marelyn Shedd, President of First Financial Bank
Alexa-Rae Gist, president of HSU’s Student Government Association, spoke about
the importance of the event and the “very bright” future ahead for the
Dr. Travis Frampton, Professor of Biblical studies and Associate Provost, delivered
a talk titled, “Remembering Dr. James B. Simmons.”
Frampton discussed Simmons’ book during the time
of the Civil War “The Cause and the Cure of the Rebellion,” which outlined a vision of Christianity that did not turn a blind eye to oppression
and human suffering.
Simmons invested in the university because of
his belief that the spirit of Christianity and the goal of higher education
both served common ends and that “the two together could do so in the most
excellent way, right here in Abilene, Texas,” Frampton said.
“Hardin-Simmons University, may God grant us a
strong heart, a clear mind, and a voice of conviction for the next 125 years as
we fulfill our mission,” he said.
Hall introduced Convocation Address Speaker Jay
Moore, a local high school social studies teacher, historian and documentarian,
and HSU alumnus. He called Moore one of “HSU’s finest products” who continues
to make his mark on the community and bring recognition to Hardin-Simmons.
Moore delivered an entertaining and informative Convocation
Address, punctuated with photographs and old newspaper clippings to illustrate many
tales about the early days of the University.
“Today we all enjoy the beauty from some very long
ago decisions,” he said. Moore talked about Mrs. Lucile Sandefer, wife of the
president, who was devoted to beautifying campus. It was her idea to plant the
pecan trees by the founders’ graves.
He spoke of the “life-breathing,
school-saving” monetary gift from Dr. Simmons and his family that
prompted the trustees to rename the school.
Moore related how the Simmons, who lived in New
York City, must have discussed the “tiny dream” of a school in Abilene, Texas,
that was not even opened yet.
“They decided to excavate and help grow an
institution that has echoed to the point that we still recall them even today,”
he said. Simmons also arranged to have himself and his wife laid to rest here
at the heart of the school.
Their decision, and those of all of the families
who invested in the university, profoundly affected all of those at HSU, Moore
“Today we mark 125 years of legal incorporation and the chartering of an idea
and the idea founded a course, which, of course, has helped to define each one of
us,” he said.
The event also featured a video montage titled,
“Reflections on our First 125 Years.” The full video is available for viewing
on the Hardin-Simmons Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/hardin.simmons.university/).
The Hardin-Simmons University Concert Band, led by Dr. Wayne Dorothy, provided
music for the event which included “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” "God
of Our Fathers,” and the University Anthem. A reception followed in the Moody
Dr. Turner said it was a tremendous honor to be at the event with Drs. Hall and
Fletcher and expressed excitement over the university's progress. He quoted a favorite Robert Browing poem, “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"
Students who attended the event reflected on the
"I like that we get to celebrate the birth
of Hardin-Simmons and that we get to recognize all the people involved in
making our school great," said Emily Hardin, freshman
Elementary Education major from Boerne, Texas.
Another student, Hannah Lueck, freshman
Education major from Ft. Worth, Texas, said, "It's very cool to see how
God has shown himself all over our campus and all throughout HSU's history."