2019-2020 Alumni Awards
Outstanding Young Alumni Award
To attend any of the award ceremonies, click here.
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.
Dr. Eric Black ’97
Dr. Eric Black is the Executive Director/Publisher and Editor of the Baptist Standard. Previously, he pastored First Baptist Church in Covington and prior to that he was associate pastor for youth ministries at First Baptist Church in Galax, Virginia, and associate director of GraceLife Baptist Student Union at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He earned his bachelor’s degree from HSU, a master’s from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute.
Mr. David Krake ’04
David Krake is a Wealth Management Advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Brea, California. With a double major in finance and marketing, David has worked in the financial services industry since 2003. He was named to Forbes/SHOOK “America’s Top Next-Generation Wealth Advisors” list in 2017, 2018 and 2019. He is a Certified Financial Planner and a Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor.
Ms. Vishia Wilson ’03
Remarkably, Vishia Wilson’s first job freshly out of nursing school was in the ICU at Abilene Regional Medical Center. Since then, she has worked for the Taylor County Health Department, taught nursing classes, and been a flight nurse. She returned to Abilene Regional in 2009. Since 2011, she has served as the Director of the 20 bed ICU and 22 bed ER. Vishia is current president of the HSU Alumni Association Board of Directors.
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.
Hilton Hemphill ’63
Hemphill has created an enduring legacy at Hardin-Simmons University that will continue to impact students for years to come.
Hemphill graduated magna cum laude from HSU with a Bachelor of Arts in economics. He then earned a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University and married Carolyn Armstrong whom he met at HSU.
He served two nine-year terms as a trustee of Hardin-Simmons University, holding the offices of board chair and vice chair, as well as chair of the budget committee. He is also a former member of HSU’s Board of Development and was a charter member of the Young Associates (now known as the Board of Young Associates, or BYA).
He and his late wife, Carolyn, generously supported the university for many years, supporting myriad causes ranging from capital projects, to football, to custom HSU Bibles for new students. They established endowments for scholarships, athletic programs and the Leadership Studies program.
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.
Dr. Cathy (Fisher) Ashby ’82
Throughout her career, she served Abilene ISD as a teacher at Cooper High School, Assistant Principal at Clack Middle School, and Assistant Principal at Franklin Middle School. She then served as the Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Caldwell ISD. In 2004, she returned to Abilene as the Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.
She considers Holland Medical High School one of her greatest achievements in education. Now in its 11th year of cutting-edge instruction, this partnership with HSU was
the first collaboration of its kind in Texas between a public school district and a private university.
In 2013, Dr. Ashby became the President and CEO of United Way of Abilene. United Way leverages community partnerships to make a difference in the lives of children, families, and senior citizens.
Julie (Joiner) Hammer ’94
Julie Hammer is known by her love for the Lord and her heart for children. Julie graduated with her Bachelor of Behavioral Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from HSU in 1994. In 1997 she received her Master of Arts in Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Hammer has served as the Minister of Childhood Education at FBC Stephenville and at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco. During her time at Columbus Avenue, Hammer wrote VBS and Sunday School curriculum for the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Baptist Way Press. Additionally, she has led at the annual Childhood Ministry Summit and served as a supervisor in the Baylor Ministry Guidance Program.
Since 2014, Hammer has served as the Children’s Minister at FBC in Lewisville, Texas. She has remained active at Hardin-Simmons as an alumna and homecoming volunteer. Julie is married to Clint Hammer and has two sons: Caleb and Micah.
Brigadier General Ronald Harvell ’83
Brigadier General Ronald Harvell is the Deputy Chief of Chaplains for the U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon where he provides guidance on religious and moral welfare to 2 million personnel.
Chaplain Harvell helps direct and maintain a Chaplain Corps of approximately 2,000 chaplains and religious affairs airmen from the active duty and Air Reserve components. He advises the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on religious, ethical and quality-of-life concerns.
Harvell (and his wife Marsha) were endorsed by the North American Mission Board for ministry in the Air Force.
Over his 33 years of service, he’s had 19 assignments in places throughout the U.S., Qatar and German. He also served as command chaplain in Qatar, Louisiana, and Illinois.
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.
Sadye (Hill) Smalls- Softball
Hill is one of the most decorated softball players in HSU history, hitting .469 with 32 home runs and 161 RBIs, while starting 162 games. Hill led the Cowgirls to the ASC Championship game three times, winning two ASC titles. She was a three-time all-American, the ASC player of the year in 2007, and ASC freshman of the year in 2005.
Ashley (Allen) Huston- Women’s Basketball & Track & Field
Huston won three national titles and five all-American medals in her one year on the Women’s Track Team. She won the indoor pentathlon and outdoor heptathlon with still-standing NCAA records. She claimed the outdoor high jump NCAA Championship. Huston was the ASC Female Athlete of the Year. She led the Cowgirls to a 21-6 record in her one season on the basketball team
Josh Knox – Football
Knox was a three-year starter for the Cowboys at center and he won the Rimington Trophy as the top center in the nation after the 2006 season. He was named a first-team all-American by the National Football Coaches Association, D3football.com and Don Hansen Football Gazette. He was the 2006 ASC lineman of the year and was first-team all-ASC.
Whitney (Piendak) Stone – Women’s Soccer
Whitney Piendak was an all-American for the Cowgirls, leading them to the NCAA Elite Eight. Her 30 goals in a season are the second-most in school history, and her record stood for 11 years. She was a four-time all-ASC first-team selection, and the ASC player of the year. She was twice an NSCAA all-region selection. She led the Cowgirls to four ASC titles.