Alumni Awards

2020-2021 Alumni Awards

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

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.

Holly (Rampy) Baird ’02

Holly BairdHolly (Rampy) Baird ’02 doubled majored in finance and economics at Hardin-Simmons University and went on to earn her Juris Doctor degree in 2006 from Texas Tech University School of Law. She is currently a partner at the firm of Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP. Holly earned her Board Certification in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 2018. She was recently named by Thomson and Reuters as a Texas Super Lawyer for 2020, as published in Texas Monthly. She also received honors from Thomson Reuters as a Texas Rising Star for seven consecutive years, from 2014 through 2020, as well as being named as one of top Up-And-Coming 50 Women Attorneys in Texas (2017 – 2019) and top Up-And-Coming 100 Attorneys in Texas (2017, 2019). She earned a selection in 2020 and 2021 to Best Lawyers in America, a national peer review guide of top lawyers in the country. Holly was also recognized as one of the top attorneys in Dallas under 40 by D Magazine in 2018. She has served her community as a member of the State Bar of Texas, Dallas Bar Association, the Family Law Section of the Dallas Bar, the Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists, and the Annette Stewart American Inn of Court. She has also served on a fundraising committee benefiting Operation Kindness, North Texas’ leading no-kill animal shelter.

Holly is married to John Baird, and they reside in Las Colinas, Texas, along with Stella, their bull terrier. Holly was active during her time on campus at HSU with Sigma Alpha women’s social club, as a cheerleader, and as a freshman orientation leader.

Rafael Hernandez ’07

Rafael HernandezRafael Hernandez ’07, earned his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M in 2005 and then went on to graduate from HSU with a degree in sports and recreation management. He then went on to earn his Master of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Denver, a Master of Science in Real Estate Development from New York University and a Master of Science in Construction Administration from Columbia University. Through all of Rafael’s studies, he has stayed connected to Hardin-Simmons and has been an active volunteer for local and chapter events.

His career achievements include serving as an Associate at Cushman & Wakefield’s Global Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, a multifamily Analyst and Processor at Bellwether Enterprise Real Estate Capital also in Manhattan where he sized and screened over 80 commercial real estate projects with a combined lending amount over $979 million. Rafael eventually became an FHA property asset manager at Walker & Dunlop in Needham, Massachusetts where he managed a 499 HUD-insured multifamily real estate property portfolio with a total value of $9.87 billion. Today Rafael now currently serves with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as an Account Executive concentrating specifically on healthcare facilities.

Rafael has also had great success during his service in the United States Army and Army National Guard as an Armor Officer. His service includes commanding 56 Cavalry troops in Baghdad which completed over 300 convoy and reconnaissance missions in Iraq in 2009 and 2010. Rafael was recently promoted to the rank of Major and continues to serve as the Squadron Executive Officer (Battalion XO) with the 3/278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

Rafael, his wife Candace and 1-year old daughter have now settled in the Fort Worth area where they are members at St. Paul Lutheran Church. He volunteers at Texas Christian University and at the University of Texas at Arlington with DFW UrbanPlan 2020, a program by the Urban Land Institute designed to teach high school and college students the fundamentals and principals of real estate development as well as urban planning.

Sandra (Wood) Peoples ’01

Sandra PeoplesSandra (Wood) Peoples ’01, graduated from Hardin-Simmons with a BBS double majoring in English and Communication and now serves as a disability advocate and encourager to special-needs families. She is the author of three books, including her most recent release, Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family. Her writing has been featured by Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the SBC. She’s the former editor and social media manager for Key Ministry and a former teacher with Pilot Point ISD.

Sandra hosts the popular podcast, “Self-Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver” where she provides weekly encouragement to special-needs moms and other caregivers. She also speaks at the top special-needs ministry conferences around the country including keynoting at Inclusion Fusion in Cleveland, Ohio hosted by Key Ministry, Wonderfully Made in Kansas City, MO, and All Access in Houston, TX (a conference she founded and hosts).

Sandra earned her Master of Divinity degree in women’s studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2007. She currently serves her church, Heights Baptist in Alvin, TX, as special-needs ministry director, pastor’s wife, and Bible teacher. She also serves the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention as a regional consultant for women’s ministry.

Sandra and her husband Lee have two boys, David and James. James has level three autism and is the inspiration for Sandra’s advocacy work, as is Sandra’s older sister who has Down syndrome. She says, “Churches should welcome people with disabilities because the Bible teaches we are all made with a purpose and can glorify God! Special-needs families could even be considered an unreached people group because so few attend church. But like Jesus, we can break down barriers to inclusion in our faith communities because the Body of Christ is stronger when we are all able to serve with our gifts.”

John J. Keeter, Jr. Alumni Service Award

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.

Guy & Jo Anne (Yarbrough) Keeter ’55

Guy & Joanne KeeterWith over 20 family members attending HSU over a span of 100+ years, it should be no surprise that Hardin-Simmons is in the Keeters’ blood. John Keeter, Sr., a rancher and farmer who graduated from HSU in 1917, established this service award honoring his son, John, Jr., who died in World War II in 1942. Since 1943, the John J. Keeter, Jr., Alumni Service Award, our highest alumni honor, has been bestowed upon an HSU alumnus or alumna annually. While the Keeter family has been proud of HSU since 1943, Hardin-Simmons would like to express how proud we are of the Keeter family and how they have served the University.

Guy’s roommate, Chick Tiger ’54, set him and Jo Anne, President of the Cowgirls, up on a blind date. They dated their junior and senior years and married three months after graduating.

They moved to Dallas where Jo Anne taught school while Guy attended Baylor College of Dentistry and then graduated in 1959. He said HSU provided a solid educational foundation for him, and he was ready for dental school, as much as – if not more than – classmates who graduated from large state universities. The Keeters felt HSU professors cared about them, not just as students, but as individuals. Jo Anne was a P.E. major, and one of her favorite teachers was Billie (Shirley) Martin. Amazingly, more than 60 years after graduating, Jo Anne and Mrs. Martin still talk on a routine basis.

Guy practiced dentistry for 46 years and truly loved his patients and staff. He was very active in the Dallas County Dental Society, holding many positions and served as president in 1974. In 1970, the Keeters moved to Rockwall where they were active at First Baptist Church Rockwall and later at Lakepointe Church.

Guy served on the inaugural Board of Young Associates and Board of Development at Hardin-Simmons. They have both been active volunteers and members of the Presidents Club and have also supported the Keeter (John J.) Endowed Memorial Scholarship and Keeter Award Endowment. Guy passed away in November of 2018, but his legacy of instilling a love for HSU and servant leadership lives on through several who have followed in their footsteps to HSU.

Distinguished Alumni Award

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.

Jay Lester ‘94/’95

Jay Lester

Jay Lester is Executive Director of Fine Arts for Abilene ISD, a position he has held since 2012. He also serves as the UIL Music Region 6 Executive Secretary, a Conn-Selmer VIP, and as a consultant for

Jay is from Abilene and graduated from Cooper High School with honors. He completed his bachelor’s degree in music business at HSU in 1994. He also did coursework in music education, music theory and composition, and earned many hours toward a degree in finance. At HSU, Jay twice travelled to France with the World Famous Cowboy Band, played in the 1993 TMEA concert featuring the HSU choir and orchestra, served as principal trumpet in the band and orchestra, sang in the HSU chorale, and was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. He was recipient of the Spear’s Gold Medal as outstanding band graduate.

While working on his Master of Music in Conducting at HSU, Jay studied with choral director Dr. Loyd Hawthorne and band director Don Hanna, while also working as assistant band director and earning his teaching certificate.

Jay had two world class pedagogues from the University of Michigan as trumpet professors, John Daniel and Scott Mather, who prepared him for a side career as a professional musician. Jay played for 14 seasons with various orchestras including the Abilene Philharmonic and the Midland-Odessa Symphony, and he still plays actively in brass ensembles and church services and has played or conducted in 28 musical theater pit orchestras. He helped charter the Lone Star State affiliate chapter of the International Trumpet Guild (ITG) which has performed at several conventions and conferences, including the 2018 International Conference of the ITG when the famed Doc Severinsen set a Guinness Book World Record conducting the largest trumpet ensemble made up of over 800 people.

While Jay has had many fulfilling performance experiences, he cherishes his time in the Cowboy Band. As an alumnus, he continues to perform annually with the band at various events including the Texas Cowboy Reunion in Stamford. Who else can claim they’ve performed at over 100 rodeos and not been on the back of a bull!

In 2003 Jay began work toward a degree in educational administration at the University of North Texas. He was also working three jobs, all music-related, so his wife Lisa could stay home with their two young sons. After completing his master’s at UNT in 2007, Jay embarked on a career in arts administration, serving as the Director of Fine Arts for Victoria ISD and as the conductor/founder of the Crossroads Community Band. At VISD, Jay restarted the orchestra program after a 20-year absence.

Jay’s accomplishments are vast, and there is not time to share all of them, but highlights include: presenting workshops for numerous conferences, statewide and otherwise, and working in more than 20 school districts and several universities as a music adjudicator. He is the only active music adjudicator in Texas who judges concert band, marching band and orchestra at UIL.

Jay has worked on new construction or renovations of over 20 different projects including a 50,000 square foot performing arts center complex, auditorium lighting, sound, rigging, and technology, and fine arts teaching spaces. Recently, the Abilene ISD passed a bond which included new or renovated fine arts facilities at Abilene High, Cooper High, Madison Middle School, and Mann Middle School. At HSU, he served on the building committee for the new Houston-Lantrip Center for Literacy and Learning on Pine Street.

Jay has served on the board of directors for the United Way, Abilene Teachers Federal Credit Union, the Grace Museum, the Paramount Theatre (past chairman), and three boards at HSU: Cowboy Band Foundation (past chairman), Board of Development, and Board of Young Associates (past VP). He is also involved in numerous other community organizations that would make you wonder when he sleeps.

In 2016, Jay was named Volunteer of the Year for the Abilene Education Foundation at the Hearts for the Arts Annual Luncheon. Jay has served on the Budget Committee and as a Deacon at First Baptist Church of Abilene where he and his family worship. The family has played in the church orchestra for the past nine years and has appeared on television over 250 hours.

In 2019, Jay began working as the UIL Music Executive Secretary for Region 6, an area that encompasses 77 school districts with more than 350 schools competing in 26 unique UIL contests and evaluations.

Jay’s wife Lisa is an Instructional Coordinator at Bowie Elementary School in Abilene ISD. They have two sons who are following in their parent’s footsteps as music education majors in college. Jay wishes to thank his family, mentors, and friends for supporting him throughout the years. The friendships he made while at Cooper High School and Hardin Simmons have lasted a lifetime.

Dr. George Loutherback ‘64

George LoutherbackGeorge earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and Religion from Hardin Simmons in 1964.  He went on to receive his Master of Divinity Degree in 1968 from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and later he earned a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Golden Gate Theological Seminary in 1994.

He worked for the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) for 27 years as Baptist Student Union Director serving the campuses of El Centro Junior College, Southwestern Medical School, TWU School of Nursing, San Jacinto College, Wharton County Junior College, Stephen F. Austin University, and Baylor University. George oversaw campus evangelism efforts with the BGCT for several years and then served for 16 years as the Chaplain for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. He has also ministered in the local church as Interim College Minister at First Baptist Church of Bryan and Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco.

After 52 years devoted to collegiate ministry, his wife Cindy told him he had to graduate sometime! So in 2018 he retired, but he didn’t go far as he currently teaches New Testament in an adjunct capacity at Dallas Baptist University.

George is married to the former Cindy Ballew, HSU Class of 1967.  Their family includes three daughters and six grandchildren. They live in Waco, Texas.

George has great memories from his days at HSU. During his time at HSU, he says he learned self-confidence, leadership skills, spiritual truths, disciplined study skills, and made strong friendships.

He continues those friendships from his time in Tau Alpha Phi to this day.  Each year several former members of Tau meet for lunch in Temple, Texas, and share old stories and catch up with each other.

Dr. Robert Wiley ‘87

Robert WileyRob, a west Texas boy, grew up in Odessa and graduated from Permian High School in 1983. He headed east on I-20 to Abilene to attend Hardin-Simmons where he earned a BBS in Biology in 1987. Prepared with an HSU degree in hand, Rob continued to medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio where he graduated with honors as a member of Alpha Omega Alpha honor society in 1991. He completed his pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital of Oklahoma University (OU) in Oklahoma City and served as chief resident before graduating residency in 1995. Upon returning to Abilene after residency, Rob began practicing pediatrics with the Professional Association for Pediatrics, where he has been for 25 years.

While at Hardin-Simmons Rob embraced involvement. He participated in Student Congress, Student Foundation, Baptist Student Ministries, Alpha Phi Omega, and was a member of Alpha Chi National College Honor Society. He met and started dating Angie (Jones) Wiley ‘86 his freshman year, and they married the summer before his senior year. While living in married student housing on Anderson Street, he served as president of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, and worked the night shift as a med tech at Henrick Hospital Professional Pharmacy. He graduated summa cum laude that spring as the George Skiles Anderson Award recipient.

Rob and Angie are parents to daughter Kristen Martinez who is a CV surgical PA at Hendrick and her husband, P.J., who is Director of First Year Experience and Student Engagement at HSU. Rob and Angie’s son Marcus is a legislative associate at Thorn Run Partners in Portland, Oregon, and their daughter Elizabeth is a medical student at TCOM in Ft. Worth. The sweetest and bossiest member of the family is Wiley Camille, their one-year old granddaughter.

As an Abilenian and HSU alum, Rob has served as Chief of Staff of Hendrick Medical Health System and has recently been named System Vice President and Chief Medical Officer after serving as interim.  In this role he has been a trusted community health leader through the mitigation of COVID-19 in Abilene.  Rob is a co-founder of the Legends Dove Hunt that has raised more than $250,000 a year for the last decade for the Children’s Medical Network at Hendrick Children’s Hospital. He has been a member of the Hardin-Simmons Board of Trustees and stays connected by partnering with the HSU Physician’s Assistant program by providing pediatric rotations. He has served as the chairman of the Hendrick Medical Center Foundation Board and has repeatedly been named Pediatrician of the Year in Abilene Reporter News’ Reader’s Choice Awards. Rob and his family served with the Zambia Medical Mission team for two summers in Zambia, Africa, and are long-time supporters of Young Life.  Rob and Angie serve and worship at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church.

Rob’s love and commitment to children’s health in the Big Country and the Christ-centered mission of Hendrick Medical Health System runs deep, as does his love for Hardin-Simmons and the Abilene community.

HSU Athletics Hall of Fame Inductees

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.