Photo: Virtue Award recipient Martha Lacewell (center) with family and friends after luncheon, (L-R) Gary and Dian Gerber; in background, Ann Strawn (Martha’s niece)
“If we are what we say we are, we should be at rest and full of joy,” said singer, songwriter, and author Gloria Gaither regarding the virtues she believes should mark all Christians. Gaither also praised a liberal arts education and the value of teaching children how to think, not what to think.
Tables marked with tall purple irises on multi-levels of the Hardin-Simmons University’s Van Ellis Theatre welcomed about 350 guests to enjoy the life story of the prolific songwriter. Gaither has written lyrics for more than 700 songs, many considered gospel music classics, including Because He Lives, He Touched Me, and The King Is Coming.
Today’s event marked the fourth year for the luncheon, which comes 104 years after the organization was founded by HSU First Lady Lucile Sandefer, wife of long-time university president Jefferson Davis Sandefer.
Over the years, members of the Round Table have been responsible for numerous campus improvements such as bringing the first electric lights to the campus, planting more than 100 pecan trees, and funding the education of deserving students. That tradition is carried on with the awarding of the Lucille Sandefer Memorial Round Table Scholarship.
The scholarship recipient is selected by a committee of the Round Table based on commitment to studies, a commitment to the university, and involvement in the community. This year’s recipient, Andrea Beard of Dallas, Texas, is a public relations and advertising major with a minor in Leadership Studies. She is active in Student Congress, the HSU Department of Theatre, a member of Gamma Beta Phi honors service fraternity, and is currently in London with HSU’s International Studies program.
In addition to the scholarship is the surprise announcement of the HSU Round Table Virtue Award, presented this year to Martha Lacewell, an HSU alumnae and an Abilene native. Over the years, she has taught many elementary school children across west Texas and, while teaching in Borger, earned a master’s degree from West Texas State University in Canyon.
Upon retirement in 1990, she moved back to Abilene. Martha attends First Baptist Church where she served as a Sunday school teacher for many years. A faithful volunteer at many university events, she has also served as music foundation secretary and as chaplain for the Alumni Association.
Martha and her husband, Robert, were awarded the Keeter Service Award, HSU’s highest honor, in 2003.
Gaither’s appearance ranks among other popular Round Table entertainers, including Grammy Award winner Cynthia Clawson; author and humorist Jeanne Robertson; and popular speaker Linda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson.
Gaither has served on the Council for Christian Colleges for 25 years. “I have been to a lot of campuses and there is just something special about a Christian college,” said Gaither during the interview-style program with HSU associate professor of English Dr. Laura Pogue.
“I believe in a liberal arts education. It is necessary to understand psychology, sociology, and history to understand the people and the world around us,” said Gaither. “The principals of life cannot be abandoned to learn a technology that may not last as long as it takes to graduate,” she said.
An exciting moment came at the end of the show with the announcement of next year’s Round Table entertainer. HSU’s first lady Carol Hall, who served as chair of the event for its first three years, said she was hoping to get final confirmation of next year’s featured guest in time to announce at the luncheon. Her wish was granted with word that Christian music singer Sandy Patty has confirmed next year’s date.