Extra headerJune 2020

Alumni in medical fields tackle COVID challenges

Stamped inside her forearms is the simple phrase, "Be Unstoppable." And that pretty accurately sums up Marybeth Arnold's life for the past eight weeks as she left her job as an ICU nurse in San Antonio to serve COVID patients in New York City. Marybeth Arnold shows off her "unstoppable" stamp

A 2011 graduate of Wayland, Marybeth is just one of many Wayland alumni who are on the frontlines of the medical treatment of the coronavirus, whether they serve in hospitals, clinics or with the military. And her experience drives home the seriousness of their jobs.

Marybeth has lived in San Antonio for the past four years and worked in an ICU floor which became the unit for COVID patients when the pandemic hit. Among those in her care was the second person to die in San Antonio, and she recalls the awful condition that patient endured. Soon after, she got sick and had to be tested but did not develop the virus.

"It was all really scary and I was advocating for the nurses to get hazard pay, but the hospital leadership didn't believe in that and basically told us just to do our jobs," Marybeth recalls. Frustrated at what she felt was little support, she quit her job and reached out to a travel nurse agency for other options.

Making the leap

"I felt like if I was going to be doing this scary job, I'd rather get compensated for the risk I'm taking," she said, noting that she was open to going anywhere the agency sent her but that New York had the greatest need. "I spoke with a recruiter on a Monday and by Wednesday I had a contract and flew out on Saturday for New York. A friend of mine that is also a nurse came with me."

Marybeth and fellow nurse friend SarahThe two are living in Manhattan and commuting to Long Island, where they serve in a COVID unit at New York University hospital. While most traveling nurse contracts are 13 weeks, Marybeth said these in COVID hot spots are shorter since the needs and protocols keep changing.

As she was wrapping up her New York stint, Marybeth said she was encouraged to see the numbers and severity of the illness there on the decline.

"Everything is definitely calming down, and you can feel the anxiety level is lower and it's much more stable," she said of her work at NYU. Back home in San Antonio, she said the same is happening thanks to stringent measures taken by city leadership. But that doesn't mean the threat is entirely over, and she expressed concern that some in Texas were not taking the virus as seriously as they should.

"In NYC, everyone knows someone who has died of COVID, either friends or family members. So they take it more seriously. At the stores, nobody is without a mask," she says. "They know it's real because they have seen it."

Weighing the risk

And Marybeth has seen plenty of it as well. Early on, she admits it was overwhelming to see not only how sick patients were but how rapidly changing the information and protocols were. She likened it to the stages of grief, with denial and bargaining definitely showing up. But as she saw more and more sick people arrive at the hospital, she and her fellow healthcare workers knew it was serious business.

"We are exposed to it, and the amount of the virus you are exposed to affects your symptoms. So if you have higher virus exposure it's more likely to overwhelm your body. Yes, we have the masks but it just reduces our risk, it doesn't totally take it away. So honestly I was terrified all the time," Marybeth recalls.

"It scared me at first how terrified I was to take care of these patients, and I asked myself, 'am I the kind of person who is going to check out in crisis situations or go towards them? What kind of person do I want to be?' And I decided I wanted to Marybeth (second row left) and her COVID team at NYUgo towards it; I needed to show myself what kind of person I am and want to be."

This stint in New York has taught her the importance of flexibility since new information arrives daily about the virus and how to treat it. But it has also taught her to guard her mind and thoughts.

"I think personally I am developing my character more into the person I want to be. I am also realizing how important it is to protect my energy and stay away from misinformation so I can take care of myself and my patients," she says. "I'm realizing how important it is to be optimistic, and sometimes I have to call people for a pep talk. I think that helps my work and my patients if I am calm and optimistic with them."

Marybeth said while medical care is of utmost importance, she finds herself also spending much time encouraging COVID patients and doing more personal things like washing and combing their hair. Since these patients are limited in their contact with family, the medical staff is able to help with some tasks. One thing Marybeth has enjoyed is hand-drawing birthday cards and get-well cards for her patients just to cheer them up.

Meeting veterans' needs

Miles away in Lubbock, Texas, Dr. Michael Keller and his team are also facing the challenges brought about by the COVID pandemic as they serve our nation's military veterans.

Keller, who earned his MBA with Wayland in 1987, works for the Veterans Administration as an assistant manager for home-based primary care. The special unit handles all aspects of a veteran's healthcare, doing so from the comfort of the patient's home or assisted living facility.

Dr. Michael Keller"This is a service the VA has had for about 20 years, but we're in demand more than ever before," says Dr. Keller. "We are in the home and doing face-to-face visits, but we also doing more telehealth and Zoom meetings due to COVID. Everything was face-to-face up until about two months ago."

Keller said the staff can serve up to 90 veterans within a 60-mile radius of Lubbock, and they handle everything from dietary, pharmacy, social work and even lab work. Keeping the patients at home has always been valuable to prevent falls, but in the age of COVID it also helps keep them healthier and reduces hospitalization and ER visits. It also means more steps in the visit process.

"We are all screened every day ourselves, and we call and prescreen our veterans and their households before we go in every time," he says. "We have not seen any case among our patients, but they are historically pretty socially isolated."

The VA's demand and visibility with rise with the coming addition of a superclinic being constructed currently, Dr. Keller predicts. The 127,000 square-foot facility will replace their current building and should be move-in ready in early 2021. Staff will likely need to be added as the demand increases.

Dr. Keller's role is to manage the overall process for patients, though he is able to visit patients if necessary. He said the work is highly rewarding both from a managerial standpoint and in his work with patients.

"I spent 29 years taking care of soldiers, so I wanted to find an opportunity to take care of veteran soldiers. When folks find out I am a veteran, it makes a lot of things easier," he says. "We deal a lot with people with multiple illnesses and when they know there is a veteran involved in their care, they know we understand."

Dr. Keller retired in 2016 from full-time military service at the rank of colonel and earned his Ph.D. He served a congressional internship in Washington, D.C. as part of his Ph.D. project and got to be involved in some of the more recent VA legislation. He joined the organization officially in 2017.


Spiritual dimension at Wayland taking on new emphasis

Since returning to his alma mater nearly 19 years ago, Donnie Brown has had an active hand in shaping the spiritual lives of Wayland Baptist University students. That role will be expanded in the year ahead as he assumes a new title and responsibilities.

Donnie was named Director of Spiritual Life in May, a move encouraged by the campus' spiritual life committee and blessed by President Dr. Bobby Hall as he leads the universitSpiritual y forward standing firmly on the foundation of its faith heritage. Donnie Brown in his WBU office

"We are all stronger as our collective spiritual formation grows and we collectively become better equipped to minister to those we encounter. While we have had the related components before, I really believe that God has led us to this place of forming an Office of Life, and Donnie Brown is the right man to plan and lead what I expect to be a transformational experience through prayer, witness, and spiritual growth," said Dr. Hall.

Evolution of responsibility

From 2001-16, Donnie served as Baptist Student Ministries director at Wayland, then moved into the role of Missions Center and Kaleo director in January 2017. The denominational and church relations leadership was added in 2019, and Kaleo leadership (back under the School of Christian Studies) was reassigned to Josh Bailey, who also serves in the admissions office and the football coaching staff.

"This really brings everything together under one umbrella," says Donnie. "My responsibilities are for chapel, overseeing the BSM director, denominational and church relations, FCA and the Mission Center.

"When you think spiritual life on a university campus, you are usually thinking about the spiritual life of students, and that is a big piece of the puzzle. But it's also working with faculty and staff on how to enhance the spiritual formation among them by offering different opportunities and creating space for spiritual formation to take place. And this is not just in Plainview but systemwide."

On a practical level, Donnie says that can include chaplaincy programs with Wayland athletic teams and other major groups like band or International Choir, working alongside the housing office to plan activities in the dormitories and holding employee Bible studies. He has already instituted a system-wide prayer team of employees that meets twice weekly via Zoom to pray for the university and specific needs submitted through an online form, and an online Bible study is also underway.

"Our model will focus on three areas: being, knowing and doing. Everything that we do - whether a Bible study, prayer time, worship service, chapel or special emphasis - will be geared toward all of those things," Donnie said. "We have a working definition of spiritual formation as 'process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the working of the holy spirit for the transformation of the world.' We know it doesn't just happen; it has to be intentional. It's also an ongoing thing. We're just trying to offer these opportunities for formation to take place for transformation."

Living our identity

Bringing all these activities under one leadership will help in coordinating and in resources those across the WBU system who are making these opportunities happen. Donnie feels the time is right for truly honing the university's focus on faith.

"When you look at our mission statement, it says we are here to educate in a distinctively Christian environment, but at the end it says 'for service to God and humankind.' Spiritual formation goes right along with our mission: it IS who we are," he said. "This move is saying that we integrate our faith into everything we do, in the classroom, on the sports field, in the residence halls, in our offices. You can go to school anywhere, but there is a place for Christian higher education. This has to be what we are about."

Dr. Hall wholeheartedly agrees.

"A Christian university's spiritual life is its essence. It is Wayland's heartbeat and should be at the core of everything we do, every interaction we have, and every decision we make," he said. "At Wayland, we are called to be that city on the hill, shining forth before our students, communities, and colleagues."

Donnie is a 1993 graduate who studied religion then earned a seminary degree before going into church youth ministry. He was pastoring a church in China Spring when one of his former WBU professors, Dr. Fred Meeks, called him about the opening for a BSM leader.

"I'd always thought about working with college students, and the opportunity hadn't presented itself until then. When it did present itself, it seemed perfect. It felt like God was calling us to student work," he said. "There was excitement about coming back to Plainview and working at Wayland. I knew what Wayland had meant to me as a student, so it was great to come back and join that team."

Donnie and wife Lori, who serves as university and special needs pastor at First Baptist Church in Plainview, have two children. Josh is a 2019 WBU graduate and Hannah is a junior at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.


Devotional: Today could be the day of salvation

Scripture Readings:

  • Acts 2:14, 22-33 Jesus the Son of David gave his life and conquered death, never to die again.
  • Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11 The Lord leads us to life if we follow him.
  • 1 Peter 1:17-21 We should be reverent in how we live because God is the judge.
  • Luke 24:13-35 Jesus is known in the breaking of the bread.

Turning sign Peter in Acts and 1 Peter teaches us that we ought to live reverently because Jesus, the Son of David, is our brother and judge. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us and sends the Holy Spirit so we can live reverencing God in our hearts and lives. If we have accepted Jesus, we already have the Spirit of God within us.

In confession, we receive forgiveness of sin. This helps us return to God to try to serve him better. It releases us from the dominion of the devil. God starts healing the wounds sin inflicts on you using his Spirit and one another.

In communion, we remember Jesus' body and blood, soul and divinity through partaking in this holy sacrifice. Yet this might have greater meaning for us now considering the church has not been able to meet corporately for a time. I know for me this time has highlighted how important the Eucharist is for my life to be balanced. When we receive, as much as we are ready for it, we are transformed by his grace to be the presence of Christ for others.

Will we follow Jesus and be filled with the life of God in us? Let us live in such a way that we do not grieve the Holy Spirit, but please God in everything we do.

If you are struggling, return to him now, for now is the day of salvation, today is the time of redemption. Return to receive forgiveness of your sins so the Lord can heal you. Receive the Eucharist with a heart desiring God. Let us love one another and help each other come close to God. Let the flame of His love consume you so that you will be the light in a very dark world. Amen.

Andy Weiss is a 1992 graduate of Wayland's Hawaii campus. He is a Catholic Deacon, an IT Manager for the Air Force and is director and webmaster of SEAM (http://shroudnm.com).

From the History Files

For this month's column, we're printing the second half of a speech given in August 2008 by Dr. Estelle Owens, emeritus professor of history and university historian. Owens taught history at WBU from 1974-2016, when she retired to work full-time on the comprehensive Wayland history book.

Our train of giants includes Robert E. Lee Farmer, our third president, who resigned that position so he could spend full time raising money for Wayland. He was so exhausted by his quest to pay off our debts that, when he became ill with influenza in 1918, he sickened and died in four hours-literally having given his life for this school.

Another of those giants is First Baptist Church of Matador whose members raised almost $4,000 to brick our first dormitory. At the time, that was the largest gift any Baptist church in Texas had made to an institution outside its own town. John Leland Atwood (right)

Over the course of our first 100 years, dozens of widows sent $2.00 every month because they believed in Christian education but $2.00 was all they could afford to give. We're grateful for the Jimmy Deans, Shelby Flores, Billie Harrals, and Gertrude Van Howelings of the world who have given Wayland way more than $2.00 or a row of pennies. But the bottom line is that all contributions to the Kingdom matter; and at the end of the day, it's Kingdom work we're doing here. Regardless of what your job at Wayland entails, there is no insignificant service. There is no insignificant gift to the Kingdom as we follow along in the footsteps of the giants who have gone before.

The cliché is true that we have made a significant difference for good in the lives of thousands of people. Many of those people have been Wayland employees, now numbering more than 1,200 over the course of our existence. Many of those people have been students who have taken what we imparted to them here and gone on to make a difference in their world.

When she came to Wayland in 1939, Leola McDonald hailed from a farm family in which women did not fly airplanes. Nevertheless, she loved her country and wanted to serve. She took her ground school pilot's training at Wayland in the spring of 1941 and moved on to Avenger Field in Sweetwater as one of 1100 Women Air Service Pilots-the WASPS. She was one of 38 WASPS killed in the line of duty in WWII. A country girl who wanted to fly learned part of what she needed to know at Wayland.

A long, tall Texan with a great comedic sense, he was a student at Wayland for one year, during which time he said, "Wayland was 40 miles from the nearest sin." Called to the ministry, he finished his education at other Baptist schools and continued to make people laugh in the name of the Lord. His career took him to twelve appearances on the nationally-syndicated "Mike Douglas Show," to a feature in People magazine, and to regular appearances on "Hee Haw." His name was Grady Nutt, and he got his intellectual start at Wayland.

Jesse Unruh was the son of a sharecropper who came to Wayland in 1939, staying only three semesters before being expelled. He wanted a career in politics and ended up making quite a name for himself in California as Speaker of the State Assembly. Known as "Big Daddy," he was a master politician who had enormous skill, tenacity, and commitment to go with equally massive flaws in behavior and methods. He wrote civil rights and education laws that put California at least five years ahead of any other state in the nation. The campaign manager for both Governor Pat Brown and for Senator Robert Kennedy's 1968 run for the Presidency in California, Unruh began his meteoric career as an 18-year-old at Wayland.

Finally, John Leland Atwood was the son of our fourth president. He graduated from Wayland in 1924 and became an aeronautical engineer. In 1934, he joined North American Aviation about the time it began building airplanes. By 1962, he was chairman of the board of the company that has since become Rockwell International. His company built more planes than any other company in the United States and earned numerous awards for its work on rocket propulsion, ICBM's, the Apollo lunar landing project, and the space shuttle. Not bad for a preacher's kid from Walton, Kentucky with an associate's degree from Wayland.

And there are thousands of other Wayland alums who have taken their candle and gone out to light their world. They're teachers, pastors, civic leaders, doctors, nurses, coaches, military officers, law enforcement officers, missionaries, and parents.

Wayland's history abounds with people who have made an enormous difference in the world in which they lived.

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