Wayland honors Lubbock alumnus with distinguished award at graduation

LUBBOCK – Wayland Baptist University honored one of its alumni at Friday’s graduation ceremony in Lubbock. Amid a backdrop of degrees and addresses, area grower Val Stephens was named the Distinguished Alumni Award winner for the campus for 2022.

Stephens was just a few classes away from his degree when he was recalled to the family farm in rural Dawson County, near Patricia. It was another 20-plus years before he decided to follow through with his college diploma simply to fulfill a personal goal.

Stephens said he found Wayland Baptist in Lubbock to be the best fit and he began attending without telling anyone but his wife until he was close to completion. He finished course requirements in late 2007 and crossed the stage at graduation in January 2008 at age 55.

He continues to grow both dryland and irrigated cotton on the family farm in Patricia and also serves on local agricultural committees with Dawson County Cotton Growers, working alongside youth organizations like 4H. He has been a local director for Farm Bureau for 46 years and served six years at the state level. He is a longtime member of Friendship Baptist Church in Lamesa and has stayed involved with Wayland – Lubbock, sponsoring and participating in their annual golf tournament fundraiser every year since graduating.

Stephens and wife Patricia have three children and five grandchildren. As parents of a special needs son, they have also been longtime advocates for children with disabilities. All of this makes Stephens a good choice to represent his campus.

“As a university rooted in the Texas Plains where agriculture is prevalent, we’re proud to have an alumnus who is not only a committed grower but is giving back through local and area service to advance the field,” said Jeffrey Vera, director of alumni relations at Wayland. “Val has stayed connected to Wayland as a supporter and that also makes him a great choice to be Distinguished Alumnus.”

Stephens competes with other campus winners from 2022 for the Alumnus of the Year award to be presented at Homecoming in February 2023. Wayland has selected a winner for each of its campuses since 2018.