Christlieb Scholarship Program Introduced

Full Tuition Provided to Students who Qualify

October 10, 2018 Grace Mitchell, Staff Writer

When James B. Simmons helped found what would later be called Hardin-Simmons University, he asked for the school to be called Christlieb College — the college of Christ’s love. While the name did not endure, the vision for the school did. Today, HSU is living out the love of Christ through the Christlieb Program, providing full tuition for orphan students that have either had their parents die, have been permanently abandoned by their parents, or their parents are unknown.

“My hope is that we can be these students’ forever family,” President Eric Bruntmyer said. “This is a way for us to stand in the gap. We want to be the hands and feet of Christ as we serve the fatherless.”

The inspiration for the Christlieb Program came from HSU President Eric Bruntmyer. When he was walking along the Sea of Galilee in Israel, he heard God tell him to pick up some stones.

“I picked up five stones—one for each of my kids, but then I realized I could have picked up ten stones. I could have picked up hundreds. If each of these stones represented children, God was showing me that he was calling me to help care for the fatherless.”

Bruntmyer soon learned that Abilene ISD has over 1,300 students who are classified as homeless. Many of these students are in foster care or living with a friend or relative. After these students turn 18, they are often without financial or emotional support. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, less than 3% of foster students graduate from a 4-year college.

In an effort to meet that need, Bruntmyer worked with the Board of Trustees, Admissions, and Advancement to provide full tuition to students who qualify for the program. This leaves the funds students receive from their FAFSA to go toward their housing, meal plan, and books.

“This is our way of giving back to our community,” said Vicki House, Vice President for Enrollment Management. “It is HSU’s way of saying we are committed to the success of our students, even if they are not able to pay.”

Finances are not the only support the university provides for these students. The Office of Student Engagement also works to ensure that students are aware of their access to free counseling, tutoring, mentoring, and career services. Students have multiple points of contact on campus, including their First Year Mentor, Resident Assistant, and Student Success Specialist.

One student who received similar support from Hardin-Simmons was Stephanie Ellison ’08. Stephanie grew up in an abusive home. Her father was in prison for much of her childhood, and her mother was a drug addict and a prostitute.

The family moved frequently, living in cars, tents, motels, and on the streets. When she was emancipated from their care at 16, Stephanie worked three jobs to pay her rent. She had no intention of attending college, but all that changed when she was invited into a family who showed her the love of Christ.

“I don’t know where I would be without them,” Ellison said. “They created a solid foundation of love and acceptance and paved the way for me to understand who Christ is.”

Stephanie’s foster parents encouraged her to go to a college and career night where she saw a Hardin-Simmons booth.

“I saw a table that said, ‘An Education Enlightened by Faith.’ I knew that was the only college I was going to apply to; I knew that I needed a foundation of faith,” she said.

Stephanie was accepted on academic probation, but she succeeded at HSU, earning a 4.0 her first semester. She was awarded scholarships, but more importantly, she was given more love and support.

“Hardin-Simmons became a home for me,” she said. “The people that I met there taught me to rise above my circumstances.”

After graduating from HSU with her Bachelor of Behavioral Science and Communication, Stephanie went on to earn her Master of Counseling and Human Development at HSU. Today she is a photographer, singer/songwriter, and marketing manager at Big Country CASA, working to end child abuse for children much like herself.

The Christlieb Program is completely funded by sponsors. Sponsors can support one or more students, or simply donate any amount to the program. To give toward this cause, contact Hardin-Simmons University Advancement at 325-670-1260 or When writing checks or using the online donation form, be sure to mention Christlieb in the memo.