An HSU Legacy: Four Generations of HSU Graduates

August 12, 2019 Grace Sosa, Staff Writer

(ABILENE, Texas)–With four generations of Hardin-Simmons graduates in her family, Mandy Cunningham has many HSU stories to share. From dorm shenanigans to love stories, HSU holds many memories for her and her family.

Cunningham’s great-grandmother, grandparents, and parents attended HSU, but that was not the reason she made her way to the 40 acres. “I didn’t want to be that kid,” she said. “But I came to campus and fell in love with it.”

Cunningham earned her Bachelor of Behavioral Sciences in Interdisciplinary Strategies in 1998. Today, she is the merchandise and booking coordinator and social media manager for Super Summer, a Christian discipleship camp directed by Texas Baptists, HSU’s denominational partner since 1941.

Prepared for Life

Mandy Cunningham with her husband, children, and parents.
Mandy Cunningham with her husband, children, and parents.

“Hardin-Simmons prepared me really well,” she said. “Even though I took classes to become a teacher, I learned to communicate with people no matter what the age. I’ve used things that I’ve learned in class in my job as a coordinator of an event. My professors did a good job of teaching us things we would use throughout our life, not just creating busywork.”

During her time at HSU, Cunningham attended and worked at University Baptist Church, which was located across the street from campus. She was the children’s minister at UBC and worked with youth for two years. At HSU, Cunningham did Freshman SING and worked in the Spanish lab. She remembers the tradition where freshmen students stood in the reflection pond to sing the freshman song.

“I loved being at Hardin-Simmons and connecting with people,” she said. “I made friends the first day that I’m still friends with today. It was almost like going to church camp for four and a half years.”

Cunningham fondly remembers one cafeteria worker named Linda. “She would always say hello and ask how we are,” Cunningham said. “The staff knew who you were and took the time to learn your name. Even though my parents lived far away, I felt like I was somewhere where people cared about me.”

Because HSU hosts Super Summer camps, Cunningham has the opportunity to return to campus often. “I love seeing the new changes on campus and how it’s growing,” she said. “Regardless of how much time has passed, there is always someone welcoming you back to campus. It’s a sweet feeling that makes me want to keep coming back.”

Dorm Memories

Mandy Cunningham with her parents, Jack and Jeanne Meeker
Mandy Cunningham with her parents, Jack and Jeanne Meeker

Cunningham’s mother, Teresa Jean (Vinson) Meeker, who goes by Jeanne, graduated from HSU in 1974. She met her husband, Jack Meeker during her sophomore year. The two were one of the first married couples to serve as Residence Directors for a dorm. Meeker remembers pranks the boys would pull on her and her husband. Once they heated a bowling ball on a hot plate and rolled it down the stairs. Another time they brought a car into the dorm lobby. They even bricked in the couple’s doorway.

The pranks were all in good fun, however. The Meeker’s residents often came to their door when they were feeling homesick. “We would counsel and encourage them and pray for them,” Meeker said. “We would ask, ‘What does God have for you here?’ ‘Why did you come in the first place?’” The couple would also invite international students to their home to share in holiday festivities.

The Meekers both worked on campus: Teresa in the Business Office and Jack as the night manager for the student center. They were involved with the rodeo team, the Six White Horses, the drama department, intramural sports, and choir.

When Meeker was considering her options for college, a hurricane damaged her hometown of Harlingen, Texas. Students from HSU came to help with clean-up and restoration during Spring Break. “I got close to the students,” she said. “That tipped the scales for me in choosing HSU. It was all meant to be.”

Meeker also went on mission trips with HSU. She traveled to El Paso to do mission work across the border and went on trips with a revival team to Indiana. “It was great to go somewhere out of your comfort zone,” she said. “We continued that in our lives serving in ministries in children’s homes and boys ranches.”

A Family Legacy

Lester Vinson
Lester Vinson

Meeker’s parents (Cunningham’s grandparents) attended HSU as well. Peggy Vinson ‘51 was going on a date to the Paramount with someone when she saw Lester Vinson ’51 walking. She asked her date to pick up Lester, and the two sat together in the back of the car and at the movies. The two were later married.

Cunningham’s great-grandmother, Dorothy Thomas Warren, attended HSU when it was still called Simmons College. She received a signed certificate from then-President Dr. Lanny Hall when she turned 100.

Cunningham’s aunt, Wanda Lynette Meeker also graduated from HSU, and her uncles Edward Vinson and Daniel Meeker attended.