Alumni Awards


Outstanding Young Alumni Award

C. Barrett Thomas, ’01

Thomas graduated from HSU in 2001, with a Bachelor of Behavioral Science in Communication and Public Relations with a Business minor. Upon graduation, Thomas continued his education at Tarleton State University, where he earned his Master of Science in Criminal Justice with an Ethics minor. The same year, he received a Basic Peace Officer Certification and began working as an officer for the city of McGregor, TX. In 2008, Thomas furthered his career by earning a Juris Doctorate in Law from the Texas Tech University School of Law and beginning a job as an attorney for the Thomas  Law Firm two years later. He then received his Master Peace Officer Certification in 2011.

Both during his years at HSU and after, Thomas received frequent recognition for his hard work and achievement. At HSU, he was an editor for The Brand, President of his freshman class, and Vice-President of Media Relations for Students in Free Enterprise.

Following his years at Hardin-Simmons, Mr. Carl “Barrett” Thomas has achieved tremendous success as an attorney and former police officer, and former Assistant District Attorney for the 32nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Sweetwater, TX. He has received prestigious honors, such as attaining the Bob Black Bar Leaders Award from Texas Tech University School of Law in 2014, and being named to National Trial Lawyers Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 in both 2018 and 2019.

Within his community, Thomas served on the boards for many organizations, many of which focus on children’s advocacy. He has been President for the West Texas Children’s Advocacy Center, and the Texas Young Lawyers Association. He has also been Treasurer for both the Abilene Young Lawyers’ Association, and the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association, as well as acting on the Board of Directors for the West Texas Children’s Advocacy Clinic.

Melissa (Boler) Wickham ’98

Since her graduation from Hardin-Simmons, Mrs. Melissa (Boler) Wickham has excelled as an Accounting and Finance professional. Wickham participated in a variety of groups on campus that helped prepare her for her busy future. She served as the Business Manager of Student Congress, as the Secretary and President of Baptist Student Ministries, as an orientation leader, and as a student representative on the University Accreditation Review board. She also participated in Choral, the Student Foundation, and the women’s social club, Sigma Alpha. In 1998, Wickham earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance with a Leadership Studies minor and began working with Fidelity Investments as a Combined Services Representative.

Over her twenty-year career, Wickham has gained experience in several industries, including financial services, telecommunications, and manufacturing by working with corporations such as Allegiance Telecom, Thermadyne Inc., and Nokia. Currently, Wickham is the Director and Assistant Controller at Interstate Batteries, Inc., a privately held company that distributes batteries across North and Central America, who, in 2009, named her Team Member of the Year for her work as the Director of Business Process.

Wickham remains active in her community through several volunteer opportunities and performs with her church worship team. She has served on boards for the Junior League of Dallas, and Community Partners of Dallas, which aids abused and neglected children in North Texas. She has also served on the board for Dallas Life, which is the largest homeless shelter in North Texas, and Polished Ministries, which assists young female professionals in navigating their careers and faith. Wickham also served as the co-chair of the Partners Card Event in 2015, which raised over $1 million for victims of domestic violence. Wickham has continued serving with HSU, she is currently a member of the Board of Young Associates and the Board of Development.

Ash Wright ’05

Mr. Richard “Ash” Wright has led a successful career in political strategy and campaigns since his graduation from Hardin-Simmons in 2005. During his years at HSU, Wright majored in Political Science, minored in Church Ministry, and participated in a number of organizations on campus. He acted as both Secretary and President of Student Congress, Vice President of the Student Diversity Council, and as Secretary-General of Model United Nations, was a group leader at New Student Orientation, and was an active member of the men’s social club, Theta Alpha Zeta. Wright has served on the HSU Board of Young Associates since 2009.

Upon his graduation from HSU, Wright went on to pursue a master’s degree in Leadership and Management from Liberty University Online, and proceeded to work as an associate with the Patriot Group. Wright has since worked as the Political Director for the Republican Party of Texas, a Campaign Manager for the Local Republican Leadership Fund, and the Texas Director for the Jeb Bush Presidential Campaign. In 2012, he launched RAW Political Strategies, a political consulting firm that assists political candidates in planning and managing their campaign efforts, and in 2015, he merged his company into Wright, Williams and Associates. He now works as the Senior Political Advisor to George P. Bush and runs his business, which won the 2017 Reed Award for Best Paid Canvassing Program.

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.

Dr. Rosa Lee Prichard ’58

During Rosa Lee Prichard’s time at HSU, she served as president of the Young Women’s Auxiliary and a member of the Colt Club for students whose parents or relatives attended HSU. Rosa Lee was named on the Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities list and graduated magna cum laude in 1958.

After graduation, Rosa Lee served as the financial secretary of South Side Baptist Church in Abilene. She also volunteered in various other roles. Rosa Lee served as the financial secretary for First Baptist Church in Odessa where she served with children and youth.

Rosa Lee is currently serving on HSU’s Board of Development. She has served on the Board of Trustees for nine years. She has also served on the Board of Young Associates and on the Alumni Board. She is a lifetime member of the Presidents Club, a member of the Cowboy Club, and a patroness of Sigma Alpha Iota.

Rosa Lee contributed to the new video board, turf, and lights at Shelton Stadium. She also contributed to the HSU Fitness Center which was completed in August.

An avid supporter of the arts, Rosa Lee has contributed to the updates of Woodward Dellis Music Building, the Cowboy Band Hall, and the Caldwell Music Building. She also contributed to the Lee Hemphill Music Building which was named for her father. Rosa Lee joined with her family in contributing to Nix Hall which was named for her grandfather and uncle, E.C. Nix Sr. and E.C. Nix Jr.

Because HSU made such an impact on her life, Rosa Lee provides student scholarships. She contributes to the annual scholarship fund, and she and her husband, the late Milford L. Prichard, Jr., established an endowed scholarship in the School of Education.

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.

Judy Hix Abercrombie ’71

During Judy Abercrombie’s time at Hardin-Simmons, she was a member of the debate team, student congress, Alpha Chi, and Pi Kappa Delta. She was also named Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. She graduated with her BA in History and Political Science in 1971.

Judy holds teacher certificates for EC-12 special education, 1st-8th grade generalist, and mid management administration. She holds two master’s degrees from Dallas Baptist University—a Master of Education and a Master of Liberal Arts. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership.

Before she became Assistant Professor of Education at DBU, Judy was the Interim Coordinator for the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction program. She was also a teacher and principal at DBU’s Laboratory School. She has also served as a curriculum writer for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Woman’s Missionary Union.

Judy is a member of the Consortium of State Organizations for Texas Teacher Education and the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. She is also a member of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the Higher Education Collaborative on Language Arts and Reading, and the Association of Supervisors of Curriculum Development.

Judy has served her community as a Federal Medical Center Bible study teacher and tutor. She is an officer for the Dallas Baptist Association WMU and a volunteer in the summer reading program at the Irving Parks and Recreation Department. Judy is active in her church, FBC Grand Prairie. She has also worked with DBU education students on a mission trip to Santiago, Chile.

Judy has been given multiple awards, including the Texas Association of Baptist Schools Teacher of the Year and Federal Medical Center Volunteer of the Year.

James E. (Jim) Birdwell ’65

The years students spend in college are never just about a diploma, and James E. (Jim) Birdwell is a shining example of that. For Jim, HSU was where he began his career, met his wife, and made lifelong friendships.

“Hardin-Simmons served not only for education but was where I found my wife of fifty-three years, Betty,” Jim said. “Returning for the MBA served as the source of my introduction to the apparel industry that turned out to be my career.”

Jim graduated with his BA from HSU in 1965. He came to campus on an athletic scholarship where he earned two letters as a member of the tennis team. During his time on the Forty Acres, he served in the Marine Corps Reserve and Circle K. Sports and organizations were more than a pastime for Jim. The people he met at HSU have remained his friends for over fifty years. Circle K and Friends have met annually for last twenty-nine years to be together for a long weekend in Dallas.

“The making of lifelong friends is a major outcome from my years at H-SU,” Jim said.

Jim enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served from 1960-1965 while attending HSU.  After receiving his bachelor’s from HSU, Jim returned to active duty in the Marine Corps Reserve as an officer, earning his wings as a Naval Aviator. During his service, he completed 211 combat missions in Vietnam and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and 16 combat air medals. He left active duty in 1970 as a Marine Captain. Later in life, Jim joined the Marine Corps League serving in various activities and was given three Meritorious Commendations, the Distinguished Service Award, and a Certificate of Appreciation from the League.

In 1970, Jim joined Aileen, Inc., a ladies and girls knit sportswear corporation, as a management trainee and returned to his alma mater to pursue his MBA. He completed the MBA in 1972 while serving in a number of jobs with Aileen including Multi-Plant Manager. In 1976, Jim became plant manager and later manufacturing manager with Garan, Inc., a men’s knit shirts and action wear plant. In 1980, he served as Plant Manager of Santone Industries, a Levi Strauss & Company facility, later moving to the International Sourcing with responsibilities in Latin America and later Asia as well. In 1996, he served as the vice president of global sourcing for the VF Corporation until retiring.

During his career in business, Jim was given many honors and awards. He was named Levi Menswear Plant Manager of the year in 1987 and given the Centro del Barrio James E. Birdwell Service Award in 1988. The Guilford County Department of Social Services awarded him a Certificate of Appreciation in 2014. As a member of the Lions Club, Jim was named a Melvin Jones Fellow, William Woolard Fellow, and Jack Stickley Fellow. He was given the District 31-D Certificate of Appreciation from 2012-2013 to 2015 and the International President’s Award just last year.

Jim sees service to his community as a vital part of his life. He served as the plant chairman for the United Way Fund Drive and chairman of the board for Centro del Barrio. He has built homes through Habitat for Humanity and cleaned up after tornadoes in North Carolina and floods in Texas with North Carolina Baptist Men. Jim serves on the Red Cross Heroes Committee in Greensboro and has served as a Lions Club president, zone chairman, and eye care coordinator. Through the Lions Club, Jim works at Camp Dogwood, a summer camp for the blind; sorts the food pantry Urban Ministry; and operates a vision van machine.

Jim is active in his church as a deacon, men’s Bible study leader, and brotherhood activities leader. He has also been on international mission trips to Cuba, Thailand, Romania, and Ukraine.

Jim has two daughters: Kristin Birdwell Peimann and Julie Birdwell Schiefffer, and five grandchildren:  Hallie, Ashlynn, Zachary, Alyssa, and Alaina.

For his outstanding contributions in the field of business and in the United States Marine Corps, Hardin-Simmons is proud to present the Distinguished Alumni Award to James E. Birdwell.

Mike McMaude ’90

Mike McMaude has founded and grown three hospice businesses serving over one million patients. Each company has grown at a tremendous rate while maintaining the highest patient and employee satisfaction in the business. His secret? The golden rule.

“If there’s anything in my career that I’m known for, it’s doing the right thing for patients,” Mike said.

“All three companies that I’ve founded and run are based on the golden rule: treating our patients the way we want to be treated and doing the right thing no matter how tough it can be.”

Before Mike became a successful entrepreneur and businessman, he attended Hardin-Simmons, graduating with his Bachelor of Business Administration in 1990.

After graduating from HSU, Mike moved to Dallas and started working in home health and hospice. In 2000, Mike founded AccuMed, a Home Health and Hospice subsidiary of Amedisys Inc. Under his leadership, AccuMed grew to 45 locations in seven states. Later in his career, Mike became the founder and CEO of Voyager HospiceCare which grew to 100 locations in ten states.

Mike joined Frazier Healthcare in 2012 as an Operating Partner, working with the firm’s Growth Equity team to identify investment opportunities in hospice and home health. He then founded Abode Healthcare and currently serves as its CEO and president, serving 44 locations in ten states.

Each of Mike’s fast-growing companies have been recognized as a leader in each category of the home health and hospice industry. Mike works to provide customers with the highest quality of care at the lowest cost.

Mike serves on the Board of several home health organizations including the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, Overland International, and Community Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP). He also speaks around the country at industry conventions on Hospice Care.

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.


As a freshman, Stacy Shanks made an immediate impact on women’s tennis, playing in the #1 position with a spring singles record of 15-5. She claimed the District 8 singles and doubles titles, repeating as champion her sophomore season. She qualified for the NAIA National Tournament in singles and doubles and advanced to the third round in both events.

In her junior season, she finished ranked 40th in the nation, going 15-5 to win the District 8 singles title. In her final season, Shanks had a singles record of 18-2 and finished the year ranked 25th in the Volvo Tennis/Collegiate Rankings for NAIA schools and was named 2nd Team All-American. Since graduating from HSU, she has been a coach at several high schools in the area, including Wylie High School, and has been head coach at Abilene High School since 2005.


Porter was among Coach Marcus Wood’s first recruiting class. During her four years at HSU, their combined team record was 68-11-6. Porter was a part of three ASC Championship teams and was named to the first team all-ASC three times. She was also the ASC Defensive Player of the Year for three consecutive years. Porter was a three-time all-South Region pick, and a three-time COSIDA Academic all-District selection.

Porter was also a two-time NSCAA Academic Scholar and a third-team NSCAA all-American. Porter served the Midland Police Department for 10 years as a patrol officer, K9 handler, and detective.


David Salas was the most dominant player in the non-scholarship era of men’s soccer at Hardin-Simmons, ranking first all-time in goals scored (46), assists (23), points scored (115), game-winning goals (17), shots (285), and shots on goal (140). He often fought through double and triple teams, always at his best when his team needed him most. He scored the game-winning goal in the ASC final as both a junior and senior. His goal from near midfield against Trinity in the NCAA Tournament is still one of the most talked about goals in school history.

He was the Freshman of the Year in the conference, a four-time first-team all-conference selection, and MVP of the ASC as a senior. He was MVP of the ASC Tournament in 2005 and 2006, leading the Cowboys to ASC titles, and was a three-time all-region selection.