Honoring 125 Years at HSU’s Anniversary Convocation

Historic event featured historian Jay Moore and local and state dignitaries


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 the benediction. 

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 university.

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 said.

“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 Student Center. 

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 historic occasion.    

"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."


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