Alumnus wraps two-year term as Dole Fellow
As the caregiver for her disabled husband, Dr. Beth Durbin knows well the challenges that individuals face when caring for military veterans. So it only made sense for her to be chosen as part of a special group of individuals nationwide who are charged with bringing awareness and support of those challenges to lawmakers and others.
Dr. Durbin, a 2013 MEd graduate from the Fairbanks campus, recently wrapped up a two-year stint as one of the 51 Dole Fellows, representing the state of Alaska. The Fellows are just one part of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, created by the former senator to bring awareness and raise resources for military veteran caregivers.
“She started this soon after becoming a caregiver for her husband, Sen. Bob Dole, and seeing what other caregivers at Walter Reed Hospital were dealing with. She saw that there was a need to take care of them as well,” notes Durbin, who has worked for the Fairbanks, Alaska, campus since 2006, starting as an academic advisor and currently serving as interim executive director of the campus.
After commissioning a two-year study on caregivers, Sen. Elizabeth Dole formed the foundation with the desire to help the 5.5 million caregivers of military veterans nationwide. Durbin says she heard of the Fellows opportunity from a friend, who had served as the first Dole Fellow from Alaska and encouraged Beth to apply for the next group. After she was chosen, the training included teleconferenced sessions and regular meetings to bring the group up to speed on the lobbying side of their responsibilities and how to share the information with others.
Action in the capitol
“There are a little more than 100 Fellows both active and alumni now,” she explained. “They bring us to Washington, D.C., once a year and we meet with our congressmen about legislation coming up and awareness of the needs of military caregivers.”
Durbin missed her trip in 2017 because her son was graduating from military boot camp, but she got to join the group in November 2018 and enjoyed getting to meet the lawmakers from her area and fellowship with other caregivers who share her same experiences. The most recent legislation, the VA Mission Act passed in June 2018, makes it possible for caregivers who are unable to work due to their duties to apply for a stipend. Much of the current legislation deals with pre-Sept. 11, 2001 veterans who have faced similar challenges but were left out of post-9/11 efforts.
She says the group is diverse: while many caregivers are spouses, some are parents of the veterans, children or even siblings. Her husband Earl, who earned his BSOE degree from Wayland in 2009 and got a master’s degree in 2011, is a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who battles major depression and anxiety and is currently in remission from lymphoma. Durbin says she particularly enjoyed the fellowship with other caregivers.
Benefits of service
“Just listening to everybody’s story was very inspiring to me. I learned a lot just from them,” Durbin says. “It really hit home more for me when I met these other people. It’s a community that reminds you that you are not alone, and there is help for you. I also realized that I am lucky that I get to work; a lot of them don’t get to work.”
The Fellows enjoyed getting to tour the usual D.C. sites, such as the monuments, the Smithsonian Museums and more. The entire trip is covered by sponsorships from American Airlines, Hilton, and Bank of America, so the caregivers are not out any expense. A highlight of the trip was the Heroes and History Makers Gala, featuring Senators Elizabeth and Bob Dole and Hidden Heroes campaign chair and actor Tom Hanks. A panel discussion also included Savannah Guthrie of the Today Show, who is the Hidden Heroes ambassador, and the event raised $1.5 million for the Foundation’s work. The Hidden Heroes community provides an online support group and resource network for caregivers.
Now back home in Alaska, Durbin says she plans to continue her work as a Dole Fellow alumnus, sharing information about resources to spouses at the military bases she regularly visits for her work at Wayland.
The Durbins have two grown children, including daughter Dianna, who is finishing her second master’s degree with Wayland and works in government contracting at Eielson Air Force Base. Son Jonathan serves in the Army, stationed in Fort Hood in Texas. He is married and has a nine-month-old daughter Sophia.
Besides her WBU degree, Dr. Durbin has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work from Florida State University and earned her doctorate in higher education leadership from North Central University. She is currently pursuing the master’s degree in criminal justice and is helping the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences design a new master’s degree in human services.
Devotional: Let it go and experience real rest
Recently we may have quoted Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God” (KJV, NIV, NLT). Maybe, we have said the verse from the NASB that says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” A more vivid picture from the Hebrew verb form (Hiphil) for be still or cease striving is, “Let it go!” or “Drop it!” In the context of “Let it go and know,” the Hebrew carries the concept of “get to know me intimately,” “perceive,” and “learn of Me.”
The verse suggests that we cannot know the Lord as much as He desires if we are continuing to wrestle and writhe over what we should drop. First, we cannot get close to Him. If we have ever held a restless, writhing child, we cannot snuggle that little one until the child settles down. Second, we cannot perceive what the Lord is telling us about our situation. When our minds are on other things, we are too full of how “we” are going to solve the problem. Third, we cannot know Him. We need His comfort, love and will. An intimate freeing relationship comes within His rest.
The Lord wants to free us from striving. Galatians 5:1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ came— to set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the bondage of slavery.” The Lord said in John 8:32, 36, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free . . . And if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” So, what keeps us striving? What keeps us from being free?
Maybe, it is because we do not feel free to be free.
What are the things of our distant or recent past that have us bound with guilt or thrashing for solutions? What are we afraid to learn from our Lord? Do we still fear punishment instead of believing grace? How are we to perceive all that God wants to do and to give us if we do not know that He has forgiven us, will fight our battles, and wants to give us peace?
What can we lay at His feet right now; climb in His lap, let Him wrap His Great, Big, Everlasting, Loving arms around us; and give us a personal, intimate, knowledge of Himself and His peace? Are we ready to “Let it Go and Know”?
Dr. Sharon Gresham is founder and director of Ashes to Crowns Ministries, based in
Burleson, Texas, where she speaks, leads retreats and writes. She earned a bachelor's
degree at Wayland in 1970 and her doctorate in biblical theology from B.H. Carroll
Theological Institute. She and husband Benny, also a 1970 graduate, have ministered
overseas and in the U.S.
Mentoring program impacting Lubbock youth
The story of Lubbock Impact has Wayland graduates woven all through it. Founded by WBU graduates Dan and Barbie Reynolds in 2007 as part of a new church plant, the ministry now thrives as it serves central Lubbock's working poor through a variety of efforts: a medical clinic, an optometry clinic, a dental clinic, a food kitchen, emergency food pantry and clothing closet, among others. One of the many successes is the mentoring program for more than 40 children, led by Wayland grad Joy Urlaub for the past two years.
A 2007 graduate, Joy got involved at the invitation of board president Jerry Ramirez, taking over the Wednesday night program for children. At the time, about 15 children were involved, and adult helpers were hard to come by on a night typically busy with other church programs.
“We prayed about how we could reach more kids, grow the program and involve more mentors,” says Joy, noting that she completed training on working with children in poverty to shore up her own skills. “We switched the mentoring program to a Big Brothers, Big Sisters model, and it began to grow. They choose a day of the week that best fits their schedule, and I plan activities for the pairs to do each week while they have a comfortable place to talk. Once mentors get to know the kids better, they personalize it more.”
That approach has changed how Impact treats Christmas as well. Parents are able to be part of the gift selection process and wrapping for their children, helping empower them and allow them to be the hero for their children, notes Joy. She relies on community partnerships with restaurants, gyms like Premier Sportsplex and others that provide free or discounted products for the mentoring group activities. She loves that the program helps build relationships with families and is a natural outlet for the children.
“It gives them an opportunity to be a kid, since many of them help raise siblings,” she says. “A lot of them just need to be exposed to possibilities of what they can be when they grow up.”
For a more detailed look at the founding and current success of Lubbock Impact, see the Winter 2019 issue of We Are Wayland magazine, hitting mailboxes later in January.
From the History Files
Talk to any of Wayland's graduates from many decades ago -- particularly the 1950s, '60s and '70s, and they have many memories of campus life in the dining hall. Without fail, they'll usually throw in a snicker as they recall the name of the building: Slaughter Hall. So what's the history behind that ironic name for a place for students to grab a meal?
The structure once known as C.C. Slaughter Memorial Hall was named for a real person, a longtime Texas rancher who also was a colonel in the Civil War, serving in the Confederate States Army. The son of a Baptist minister, Col. Slaughter himself served with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention and helped established Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.
Col. Slaughter died a century ago in January 1919. His oldest daughter, Minnie Slaughter Veal, continued her father's legacy of philanthropy and was one of the biggest donors to Baylor Medical Center, who renamed the first building on its large campus after her in 1959.
But a few years before that, in 1950, Minnie presented a $90,000 gift to Wayland to build a dining hall and kitchen facility for students in memory of her father, replacing the small cafeteria that was housed in Gates Hall administration building. The building was completed in 1951 and served Wayland students well until the new McClung University Center was dedicated in 1982 to house a new cafeteria, student lounge, bookstore and banquet room as well as several student services offices. A plaque in McClung Center still memorializes Col. Slaughter and the gift from his daughter.