September 2023

Alaska grad in leadership for state troopers

Raised in inner-city Miami where there was a natural distrust of law enforcement and racial tension, one could presume that Tony April would choose a career furthest from that field. Instead, he is the Deputy Director for the Alaska State Troopers, promoted in February 2023, and the first African American promoted to the rank of Major in the department.

Tony said memories of a white officer who bridged those gaps with respect and relationship-building

April promotion
Major Tony April with wife Lisa at his promotion.

not only overshadowed more negative memories but also led him to seek work in the field.

“Most of the cops we grew up with were racist, and we didn’t have that type of positive police interaction. He was truly doing community policing back then,” said Tony, who earned an associate’s degree from Wayland’s Anchorage campus in 2016. “I wanted to take that experience and change the mindset of those who may not have had positive interaction with law enforcement, and I’ve been doing that since 1990. A lot of that goes unnoticed, but those are the proudest moments I cherish because you never know what young man or woman you may affect.”

Moving into leadership

Tony’s role now looks very different from his days as a patrol officer and then tactical commander after joining the State Troopers in 1997. He was attracted to the department’s discipline, a familiar aspect for a military veteran. He also loved the uniqueness of the agency that covers a state with 586,000 square miles.

“We are three agencies in one: there is the highway patrol, then the investigative division and we have our wildlife division, which is like game wardens. We investigate homicides and major crimes, and we’re able to make decisions on our own many times due to the different logistical circumstances,” says Tony, noting that he recalls a situation of flying to a scene in blinding snow, having to wait three days for back-up officers to arrive and working in sub-zero temperatures for days on end.

April safety days
Tony at Anchorage Fire Department Safety Days

His role is greatly administrative, ensuring resources are in place for those in the operational side of the agency and handling personnel issues, and he also works with community outreach, a true passion project. Since he rose through the operational ranks, he loves giving back to the officers and civilians who make the department run.

“It was an easy transition because I never left the street. I am still out there engaging with the troopers riding along, and I haven’t lost that connection. I am in tune with the day-to-day operation still,” says Tony. “I may wear a uniform, I may be a major with the Alaska State Troopers, but I’m your neighbor, I’m your friend, and I’m your coworker.”

Unique opportunities

The State Troopers only employ 450 individuals and are always recruiting, notes Tony, but it is a unique department that takes special individuals. Not only is there a distinct urban versus rural divide in the state, there is also the uniqueness of policing in villages where the native tribal councils have special jurisdiction, and it takes respect and tact to bridge the cultures.

“You have the opportunity to offend someone if you don’t understand the cultural norms; you can destroy any relationship you had or think you had,” he notes.

Tony’s military experiences, which took him all over the nation and overseas a few times, helped him navigate those challenges and set him up to easily transition into law enforcement. He joined the Army after high school and was scheduled to ship out to Panama following his basic training. Instead, he learned his first duty station would be Anchorage. He headed north in 1985 and soon met Lisa, a fellow Army private who would become his wife in 1987.

After the Aprils married, they spent time in Virginia, California, Arizona and a few overseas stints before being sent back to Alaska. Tony retired from active duty and transitioned to the National Guard for a few more years, working in the Counterdrug Support Program (also known as  drug eradication and interdiction unit). He worked with the state Department of Corrections for a short time, then joined the State Troopers in 1997. He finally retired completely from the Guard in 2009, but his wife stayed in active duty a while longer, serving as a Russian linguist and interrogator. She is now retired and working from home in human resources, serving as Talent and HR Relations Manager.

Preparing for the future

The Aprils plan to migrate to the warmer climates of Texas in a few years when retirement comes calling. Both their daughters live in the Lone Star State, along with two grandchildren, and they’d naturally like more time with them. He’s hoping to find something that would allow him to continue the community service he loves.

“I’m community minded and want to stay in that area. When I got promoted, part of my duties – in

April at cleanup day
Tony helps at citywide cleanup day.

addition to the administrative things – was to be a leader of the community outreach effort, and we had never had that happen,” he said. “That told me it was priority at the highest level to engage in our community.”

Earning his degree from Wayland – he’ll officially finish the bachelor’s degree this fall – was part of the future planning as well. Tony had taken classes from various places along his journey and earned credit from the specialized courses he ensured for his roles in the Army. But he still didn’t have that diploma.

“I figured that I needed to go ahead and finish if I choose to go to another state and work once I retire. I need to have some education behind me to compete for jobs,” he said. “Wayland up here has been truly tremendous.”

Tony said that understanding and flexibility made it easier to enroll and know he could persevere with the university’s support. He also benefited from Wayland’s law enforcement scholarship that helped offset the cost of education.

“Wayland has catered to law enforcement members up here in Alaska and to military, and they understand that sometimes circumstances outside of our control dictate what we do. That’s what attracted me to Wayland,” he said.


Devotional: Life with blurry vision is dangerous

Every once in a while, fuzzy vision signals something that’s more serious, so vision is important. Crisp and clear vision. It’s a great blessing, but if your vision is blurred or bad, you’ll probably feel-disheartened. But do you know there’s something in this topic of ‘a blurred vision’, and that is that all of us have spiritual nearsightedness to one degree or another. Life with blurry vision, is dangerous. The way we see God directly affects our behavior towards Him and towards His Words. Have you ever stopped to think about this ma

The Apostle Paul had a special prayer for his friends and emphasis that we read in the New Testament and Ephesians 1:18 and a newer version says, ‘I asked God to make your eyes focused and clear so you can see exactly what it is that he is calling you to do'. How unfortunate would it be to go through life missing out on God’s special plan because your inner eyes or your spiritual eyes were blurred or are blurred. Vision leads us to believe that life is about us, and if we want to go a different way. Well, that’s my business. Jesus is out there somewhere. Not really a helpful way of thinking. Jesus wants to be our friend and companion 24 hours a day.

Man Cannot See

Why would we want to go through life without him?

In the Old Testament, we read the wonderful prayer from Psalm 119- "open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions"(verse 18). So how do we become spiritually blind? The gospels make clear that it’s a misdirection of our vision.

Here’s what Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23 – “the eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of life. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness?”

Spiritual blindness is an internal condition. It occurs when we focus our attention upon our own pride or our limited understanding. And as long as we think we’ve got a clear grasp on reality, we are blind to what it is that is spiritual. We can’t believe until we accept that we don’t know everything. Until we accept that some real things are invisible. Now you can’t see the wind, but you can feel the effects of a strong wind. We breathe air, even though we can’t see it. And I’m convinced we must change our ways of thinking and understanding as well as our perspectives in order to truly live the lives that God has called us to.

We need to understand that the way this world thinks goes against God the majority of the time. But we’ve been raised in this world. We’ve got minds that are shaped by this world. So, let’s allow God to transform our minds so that we think differently than the world. To think like God, to live for God completely, we’ve really got to have his point of view and understanding of things, and until then, our vision is blurred. So how is your spiritual vision today? Do you have a connection with Jesus Christ that allows you to see what’s wrong? What is really important in life rather than what is superficial? How’s your vision?

God’s word – The Bible – gives us clarity as to who we are, and who we can become.

(Jeffrey Vera is Director of WBU Alumni Relations and Career Services, BCM '17)


In the Mix

Most of life is filled with uncertainty. This is especially true of the future. But if you can hold onto a vision of what’s yet to come, you can boost your chances at achieving your dreams and being successful. What is vision exactly? How does it help, and what does it mean to have a vision? According to Merriam-Webster, vision is defined as, “the act of power of imagination.”  When you apply vision to the future, you can create a mental picture that can be used to direct your actions. Vision serves as a guide and can be used to provide a sense of purpose.

Why is vision important?

For both people and higher education establishments/businesses, having a vision proves to be extremely important. Given the trials and tribulations that may come your way, when you have a clear vision of what you want to happen, you can make better decisions. As an alumnus, you have the opportunity to cast a vision on how you choose to remember your time at WBU and passing that onto the students that enroll in the future. Challenges are inevitable. When you run into a wall or a hurdle, you need to know which way to go. Vision provides you with something to look forward to and always work towards. It provides you with a reason to keep going, even when the times get tough.

It is understandable that a majority of you have busy lives. Whether it is with your career, handling family everyday duties, or enjoying your moment of silence.  We cannot ignore that time is of the essence and all of us select to utilize according to where our vision is focused in that moment or stage in life. 

Alumni goals for the future

Having a vision places a purpose upon your goal-setting activities. Without an end goal or destination in mind, then you won’t have a clear or defined path. Vision provides this. To achieve your vision or goal, you can start by setting small, attainable goals as stepping stones. Each relatively little bit of success will help to continue propelling you forward on your bigger journey. This relates to being a passionate alumnus.  We hope that your time at WBU provided you with opportunities that you are now experiencing in life.  Now that you are in your next stage, by setting small attainable goals to “give back”, you are helping with the vision for the future of the Wayland Alumni Association.  By making time to attend a Blue and Gold Social, give a monetary donation, or follow/participate in social media posts, YOU are placing your vision on the future of WBU.

Setting goals comes along with defining measurements of success. If you set a goal, how do you know when you’ve reached it if you don’t have a way to define success? An overall life vision helps to set expectations accordingly. Even though we are a small university on the south plains of Texas, we provide opportunities for success in our students, to thrive in wherever they end up as a career.

Focus, meaning, and purpose

Having a vision ensures that your life or business goals can remain focused. When you are faced with a decision or distraction, you can ask yourself if it will help or hurt you in attaining your vision. This can offer you the means to move forward with intention and alignment. A vision is a way to answer your own “why” of life. It gives you the reason for your actions, choices, hopes, and desires. This fills your daily activities with meaning and purpose. Our “why” for the Wayland Alumni Association is very simple, to keep the connections alive within all facets of life and allow the Blue and Gold to continue to thrive. When there is no focus, meaning, and purpose…the “body” deteriorates and the body has no purpose. The vision becomes blurry and the "spirit" withers away.

Working Towards A Vision

Vision Creates Your Habits

Vision does a lot of things for us once we realize what we want. Not only does vision decide our friends, how we spend our time, but it also creates our habits. Your to-do list is created by your vision and it tells you exactly what you will do, which will over time create your habits. Anyone who has a vision of becoming his own boss will eventually create habits that will prepare him or her, for that vision.

To prepare for this you might take time to read business books for 30 minutes, first thing every morning, to give you a better understanding on what it means to run a business, once you get in the office, you might listen to business interviews from other entrepreneurs on Forbes and Bloomberg, to learn common threads on what made them successful and you might even attend monthly seminars in the Network and learn from other entrepreneurs in the field first hand for a better understanding.

I would like for you as a WBU alumnus to assess your vision for the future of WBU and the WBU Alumni Association.  I would like to encourage you to create new habits to engage when you can.  Create and follow habits that bring you closer to the vision and purpose of Wayland Baptist University. It’s important to know that the way we spend our time, energy and resources can contribute and bring us one step closer than we were yesterday.

Finding and realizing your purpose is not easy. With everyone telling us what we’re good at, and how we should live our life and what careers we should explore, it can be pretty confusing and chaotic at times. But once you realize your purpose for yourself and write down your vision, life becomes simple and less complex. Society has made us believe, the busier we are, the more successful and important we are, which, most times is far from the truth. Once we understand our purpose our life becomes narrower, more focused and much clearer because, we know what we want. Discover your purpose and create your vision and watch where life takes you. Just make sure you buckle up and enjoy the ride.

My challenge to you as an alumnus: Can I count on you to be a part of the WBU Alumni Association vision and “give back” in attending a Blue and Gold Social, engaging with our university, being a voice to recruit prospective students, and bring back the school spirit that was once a part of you, during your time at WBU?

Let’s unite as one and help serve as a guide, while developing our vision to provide a sense of purpose for future alumni.

(Jeffrey Vera is Director of WBU Alumni Relations and Career Services, BCM '17)