Each year, Hardin-Simmons honors our alumni and former students. Awards are given for outstanding achievements in either their careers, their community, or their dedication to HSU. If you know of an alum who meets the criteria for one of our awards, please click here to nominate them. Our award categories are:
The Alumni Service Award is the highest alumni honor HSU can bestow. It has been presented since 1943 to former student(s) who has contributed the most in his or her field of endeavor toward the betterment of HSU, or who has rendered the greatest service to the University. Awards are selected by a committee whose members are established by a campus leadership role.
This award, given since 1970, is presented to alumni whose personal and professional accomplishments are exemplary of the ideals and aims of the University and thus bring honor to HSU. Awards are selected by a committee whose members are established by a campus leadership role.
Recipients of the Outstanding Young Alumni Award have achieved a significant level of distinction within their chosen field or have brought extraordinary benefit to the world. They reflect the quality and caliber of today’s HSU students and alumni. At the time of their selection, recipients have graduated from Hardin-Simmons not more than 20 years prior and are not over the age of 45.
The Athletics Hall of Fame honors former athletes and coaches who made a significant contribution to HSU and the athletics program. They are selected at least 10 years after completing their HSU playing career (after five years for coaches), by a committee including current and former HSU athletes from various sports.
2023 Outstanding Young Alumni Award
|James Jesse ’04
James Jesse received a B.A. in English and Philosophy from HSU in 2004. As a person whose family was challenged by generational poverty, Jesse found freedom and opportunity through education and the support of others, including his HSU professors. Since graduation, James has devoted his life to helping others in the same way.
In 2010, after working for seven years in student support services for Tarrant County College, James cofounded an educational nonprofit organization, Opportunity Resources Services. ORS has flourished, now assisting thousands each year through partnerships with school districts, nonprofits, and businesses. James remained with ORS for almost a decade, building a team of employees, establishing programs, and raising millions in federal grant funds.
Now a master’s candidate, James will graduate in August with an M.A. in Nonprofit Leadership from Louisiana State University.
|Allison (Causey) Kendrick ’14
Allison Kendrick graduated from HSU in 2014 with a B.A. in Communications. In the few short years since, she has established a career working with community and state entities to promote tourism and economic growth in Texas.
Allison currently serves as executive director of the Texas Plains Trail Region, an award-winning Texas Historical Commission program. Headquartered in Lubbock, she is responsible for promoting heritage tourism and economic development throughout 52 counties of West Texas.
While still a student, Allison worked for the Abilene-based Texas Forts Trail Region as head of communications. After graduation she served the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau as Technology Marketing Manager until 2019.
When at HSU, Allison was a member of HSU Sweethearts and worked for Dr. Tim Chandler in the Communications Department. She served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2019-2021.
|Jenny (Bell) Van Dorf ’07
Jenny Van Dorf studied Public Relations and Advertising at HSU, graduating with a Bachelor of Behavioral Science in 2007. She currently is director of marketing and communication for Del Sol Food Company, the manufacturer of BRIANNAS Fine Salad Dressing, the number one premium salad dressing distributed around the world.
Jenny previously served as public relations manager for Blue Bell Creameries, one of North America’s largest ice cream companies. She guided Blue Bell’s marketing and PR during a period of rapid expansion, as well as a widely reported consumer crisis which was followed by the company’s return to success.
While at HSU Jenny was student congress junior and senior class president, co-chair for Relay for Life, HSU leadership host director and a member of Students in Free Enterprise. She is a past board member of the HSU Board of Young Associates.
2022 Alumni Award Recipients
John J. Keeter, Jr. Alumni Service Award
|Frances (Kesner) Renfroe ’60
Frances (Kesner) Renfroe graduated from HSU in 1960 with her BA in Mathematics. After graduation, Ms. Renfroe taught in the public school system for 32 years, in both Rochelle, TX, and San Angelo, TX.
In 1992, Frances returned to Hardin-Simmons as a math professor and served in that capacity until 2005, investing in the lives of many students along the way. She was named Faculty Member of the Year in 2005.
As a student at HSU, Frances was very involved in campus life, as a class officer, as a member of the Cowgirls (president her senior year), as the associate editor of the 1959 Bronco, as a member of Alpha Chi, and as a participant in intramural sports.
Frances has continued to invest in HSU after retirement. She has served as a student teacher supervisor, Academic Foundation board member, HSU Fellowship officer, Alumni Association Board of Directors, and Ex-Cowgirls officer. She gives back to HSU through her service on the Board of Development and as a member of the John G. Hardin Society. In 2022, Frances was recognized as the Retired Faculty Member of the Year.
Distinguished Alumni Award
|Dr. Melvin Blackaby ’88
Melvin Blackaby graduated from Hardin-Simmons University with his Bachelor of Arts in History in 1988. He went on to complete his MDiv in 1991 and PhD in 1997, both from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Blackaby has been pastoring churches in Texas, Canada, and Georgia since 1992. Currently, he is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church Jonesboro in Jonesboro, GA; a position he has held since 2008.
In addition to pastoring, Blackaby has co-authored several books including Experiencing God Together: God’s Plan to Touch Your World, Your Church Experiencing God Together, and What’s So Spiritual about Your Gifts. Even though Blackaby has had the opportunity to write books and speak internationally, his first love is the local church.
|Cara (Cagle) Naizer ’92/’94
Cara Naizer graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Education and Vocal Performance in 1992 and a Master of Music in conducting in 1994, both from Hardin-Simmons University.
In the spring of 2022, Cara retired from full-time teaching as the Director of Choral Activities and Fine Arts Department Chair at Cooper High School in Abilene. During her 28 years of teaching, she also served Madison Middle School and Clyde ISD choral departments.
Cara frequently serves as clinician and UIL adjudicator across the state and mentor to young choral musicians. She maintains memberships in several professional organizations, including the Texas Music Educators Association, the Texas Choral Directors Association, the Texas Music Adjudicators Association and Sigma Alpha Iota.
Naizer has been named a teacher of the year four times. Most recently, the Fine Arts Teacher of the Year in 2022 by the Abilene Education Foundation.
|Louis Revor ’94
Louis Revor has worked at Raytheon Intelligence and Space for over 25 years, currently serving as Director for Digital Technologies Engineering Solutions. A highlight of Revor’s career was serving as Associate Architect for the National System for Geospatial Intelligence Consolidated Library.
Revor graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in 1994 with his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science. He went on to complete a Master of Science in Mathematics from the University of North Texas in 1996.
Louis has remained connected to HSU through service on various boards including Cowboy Band Foundation, Board of Young Associates, Board of Development, and currently as a member of the Board of Trustees.
While at Raytheon, Louis has received numerous awards, including the 2022 Director Talent Pool, Engineer of the Quarter, and technical Honors in 2005 and 2009.
HSU Athletics Hall of Fame Inductees
Click through to see the most recent Hall of Fame inductees.