Donor Dinner Highlights Wayland’s Circle of Friends

POE Stokes MurdockPLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University held its Pioneers of Excellence dinner Saturday evening, focusing on the Circle of Friends that supports the university in its many endeavors. The evening was an opportunity for Wayland to recognize some of its many benefactors, dedicating two endowed scholarships, bestowing Keeper of the Flame status on donors, and recognizing individuals with the President’s Award for their advocacy of Wayland and its programs.

A scholarship benefitting students from Clovis, N.M., was dedicated in the name of Dr. Gary D. and Judy Mitchell. The late Dr. Mitchell served as executive director of Wayland’s Clovis campus for 15 years, retiring in December 2020. Dr. Mitchell died in October of 2021. Both Dr. and Mrs. Mitchell taught at the university for years. WBU alum Dr. Michael Davis, who developed a friendship with the Mitchells through his work with Wayland, endowed the scholarship in memory of Dr. Mitchell.

“I’m glad that I can continue his legacy of service to the Clovis community by helping students from Clovis over time,” Davis said.

Wayland President Dr. Bobby Hall then dedicated the Ken and Mary Sharpe Scholarship benefitting criminal justice administration students. Mary Sharpe graduated from Wayland in 1969. Following graduation, she married Ken and moved to Oklahoma City where she served as a pastor’s secretary at Village Baptist Church for 40 years, retiring in 2019. Ken served four years in the Air Force, enrolling in Southwest Business College in Plainview when he was discharged. He pursued a career as a court reporter in Oklahoma City for 44 years. Mary Sharpe was the sister of Wayland Emeritus Professor of History and University Historian Dr. Estelle Owens.

“Their posthumous gifts endowed this scholarship to benefit students seeking careers in law enforcement, court administration or corrections, to protect and serve others to achieve a more equitable society and to echo the profit Amos with their lives, ‘to let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,’” Hall said.  

Dr. Davis and Dr. Owens were then recognized individually as Wayland’s newest members of the Founder’s Society for including Wayland in their estate planning.

“Remembering Wayland with my estate gives me the opportunity to pay it forward,” Owens said. “You have no idea how difficult that is for a historian, because our view is really in the other direction. But if I do what I can and you do what you can, we can ensure that the flame that is Wayland Baptist University never goes out.”

Dr. Hall then recognized several individual and organizations as Keepers of the Flame. The special recognition is reserved for those whose lifetime donations to the university have surpassed $100,000. Those receiving honor were:

  • The CH Foundation
  • Ken and Mary Owens Sharpe Estate
  • The United Supermarkets Family
  • Barry and Vikki Arnwine
  • The City of Plainview
  • First Baptist Church in Floydada

The evening concluded with the presentation of the 2022 Presidents Award to Dr. Vernon and Belva Stokes, and Mark and Linda Murdock. Vernon and Belva Stokes are Wayland alumni who have served the university with their time and resources throughout the years. Belva, a 1960 graduate, was a member of the Flying Queens basketball program and played on the teams that won 131 consecutive games. Vernon graduated in 1959. The couple has dedicated two endowed scholarships. Vernon served on the Board of Trustees from 1998-2017 and Belva is a founding member of the Sally Society philanthropy group.

Mark and Linda Murdock, both Baylor graduates, have supported Christian higher education throughout their lives, specifically at Wayland. Mark served on the Board of Trustees for 28 years and they have supported many specific projects and dedicated two endowed scholarships. Their personal experience of how a Christian education transforms people is the reason they desire to assist students.

Dr. Hall thanked all the donors and friends for their support of the university, saying Wayland thrives through the generosity of others.

“The gifts that you have made could touch hundreds if not thousands of students, many of whom you would never have had the opportunity to know,” he said. “We thank you for funding the next generation of pioneers at Wayland Baptist University.”



Top Photo: Table setting for the Pioneers of Excellence dinner.

Inset Photo Top: Dr. Vernon (from left) and Belva Stokes received the 2022 President’s Award from Wayland Baptist University President Dr. Bobby Hall. The award recognizes those who are true advocates for the university.

Inset Photo Bottom: Mark (from left) and Linda Murdock were presented with the 2022 President’s Award by Wayland Baptist University President Dr. Bobby Hall at Saturday’s Pioneers of Excellence dinner on the Wayland campus.