Elta Joyce McAfee
Philanthropist – Community Leader
Elta Joyce Murphey was born in the Concho Valley of Texas into a ranching family southwest of San Angelo in Mertzon and Barnhart. Her parents were Thomas Jarrett and Elta Teola Windham Murphey. Joyce attended public schools and was actively involved in the First Baptist Church of San Angelo, attending Sunday School, Training Union and the Wednesday night prayer meetings. She graduated from San Angelo Central High School in 1952. She began her college years at Lindenwood College for Women in St. Charles, Missouri. Later, she began study at Hardin-Simmons University. During her sophomore year at HSU, she met Robert Arlen Nickel. They transferred to the University of Texas in Austin, married and had a child, Jarrott Lynn.
While her husband served the army for sixteen months in Korea, Joyce transferred back to HSU. She has fond memories of her HSU history classes, Dr. Katherine Boyd’s drama class and Miss Billie Lacy’s art appreciation classes. She graduated from HSU with a degree in elementary education in 1957. This outstanding individual would go on to make her mark upon the history of San Angelo and demonstrate her significant appreciation for the fine arts in special, tangible ways.
Upon Bob’s return from Korea, the couple’s second child, Elisa Michelle was born in 1960. Except for her time in Austin, Joyce has lived all of her life in the Concho Valley. She enjoyed teaching elementary school, pursuing stage acting and being heavily involved in clubs and organizations.
In 1980, Joyce married Millard Francis McAfee and they enjoyed many years together until his death in May of 2016.
Joyce is blessed with two adult children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The family enjoys traveling and spending time on the ranches.
Joyce is best known for her generosity to the community and as a steadfast supporter of education, especially in the performing arts. Among her numerous civic and charitable endeavors is her endowment of the nationally recognized San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts En Plein Air Texas annual juried art competition where artists throughout the US and internationally participate. She is also a founding member of the Museum, and has served as president of the San Angelo Civic Theater.
McAfee joined the San Angelo Symphony Board in 1964 and the San Angelo Symphony Guild in 1967, of which she was president in 1973-74 and again in 1992-93. In 1996, she was named a member of the Symphony’s Circle of Honor, and continues to serve as a board member for the symphony, sponsoring one Symphony concert each year.
In 1983, she chaired the fundraising effort to introduce ballet to San Angelo. The first production of the Nutcracker was introduced in San Angelo. She played a critical role in birthing what is known today as Ballet San Angelo. In 2017, Joyce was honored by the Texas Senate with the passage of Senate Resolution 161 recognizing her for her $3 million donation toward the restoration of the San Angelo City Auditorium facility and the renaming of the renovated auditorium as the Elta Joyce Murphey Performance Hall and Stage. Further, the resolution stated that other beneficiaries of her generosity include Angelo State University, the Angelo Civic Theater, the San Angelo Junior League, The House of Faith and the Baptist Memorial Hospital.
She was honored by the Girl Scouts of Texas as one of five “Women of Distinction” of 2015. She was named Honorary Chairman of the Texas Association of Symphony Orchestras, and was Grand Marshal of the San Angelo Christmas Parade in 2017. For three years, Joyce was gratified to sponsor a hunting weekend and golf weekend for Wounded Warriors, at which times she presented the veterans with a hunting rifle and a set of golf clubs. San Angelo’s business leaders honored McAfee naming her the 2017 San Angelo Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.
Joyce has contributed to a widely attended concert entitled “Christians United for Israel” which featured Holocaust Survivors and was held in Lakeview High School Auditorium. To demonstrate further support for Israel, Joyce and her sister donated funds to plant trees in Israel, following the words of Leviticus 19:23, “When you shall come to the land you shall plant trees.”
In December of 2016, she was our honored guest for the HSU annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, flipping the switch that turned on the lights. Her smile shined as brightly as the glimmering lights. The HSU students fell in love with her, and she left a lasting impression on our campus.
In recognition of her significant philanthropic initiatives and her leadership in her community and beyond, it is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to induct Elta Joyce McAfee into the HSU Hall of Leaders.