Pranking and praying: Brotherly love keeps three 1973 freshmen close

PLAINVIEW – Almost 50 years after Kent Snodgrass and Jimmy Thomas stole the clothes of the kid from Indiana, one might think they are doing penance — inflicting voluntary self-punishment for having done wrong. But that’s not what motivated them to help put the Tim and Janice Powers Endowed Scholarship at Wayland Baptist University above the $100,000 mark in less than three years.

The real reason is the brotherly love these three college friends have shared through years of picking, poking, and pranking each other.

“The fact that Tim Powers speaks to me today is an absolute miracle because we absolutely played more tricks and pranks on him than anyone in the history of our lives,” Snodgrass said.

“It is a wonderment that Tim would even consider us to be his friends as much mess as we put on him,” Thomas said.

Partners in “classroom crime” since they had met in third grade in Abernathy, Snodgrass and Thomas were freshmen in the fall of 1973 when they met Powers, the kid from Muncie, Indiana who came to play basketball at Wayland.

“Tim was on a full scholarship, and he had no idea about Wayland Baptist University.” Thomas explained. “He had never been to Plainview before accepting the scholarship. It was kind of a crazy deal.”

“It certainly was a God thing,” Powers said of his decision to play for the Pioneers. “I was getting one of my ankles taped, and the assistant coach said, ‘There’s a school down in Texas that’s interested in you.’ I said, ‘Well, send them the worst tapes that you have on me because Texas is the last place I want to go.’”

After almost 50 years in the Lone Star State, Powers said, “God had a different plan, for which I am grateful.”

“I had another offer, which I had committed to, but I ended up dropping that offer and coming to Wayland,” he explained. “Eventually, I fell in love with the place.”

But it wasn’t love at first sight. Powers landed in Lubbock with one piece of luggage “stuffed with everything I could think of.” Snodgrass’s brother, a graduate assistant for the basketball team, picked him at the airport.

“Kent’s older brother, Don, greeted me and put me in his car, which didn’t have an air conditioner, and we started driving toward Plainview,” Powers recalled. “The wind was blowing, and it was hot. The first question I asked him was why all the trees were growing sideways. I saw what I thought was a tornado, and he laughed and said it was a dust devil. It was all the same — flat, and I grew up in a place where there were hills and trees, rain and humidity. It was just dry and dusty. When we got to Hale Center, I asked if it was Plainview. He said, ‘Oh no, this is Hale Center,’ and I said, ‘I believe you.’”

The assistant coach dropped Powers at McDonald Hall; one of three men’s residence halls open at that time.

“I found my room and was introduced to my roommate,” he recalled. “Shortly after that, Kent and Jimmy came down and we went over and played some basketball. That started the friendship that has lasted for almost 50 years.”

“In Plainview there was not much to do, so we rolled up the sidewalks together, and spent a lot of time in each other’s room,” Snodgrass said. “We became fast friends.”

It wasn’t long before the pranksters were messing with the kid from Indiana. They really did steal his clothes and a whole lot more.

 “We basically stole all of his clothes except the ones he had on,” Snodgrass said. “He had one set of clothes and had to wear those four or five days in a row. It was good clean fun for the most part. It was fun for us, but there were times when he wasn’t laughing really hard.”

Or was he?

“You could pull a joke on Tim, and he would act like he didn’t even know it happened,” Thomas said. “He would play dumb. We walked into his room that day and he didn’t have anything, not even a razor or comb or a toothbrush — nothing. We stole everything, and he just walked in the room and laid down on his bed without a mattress. He was like nothing had happened. He didn’t say a word about it. He was so funny.”

Snodgrass and Thomas admit Powers was much more intentional about his studies than they were.

“That is what he has always been — intentional,” Thomas said. “He’s been intentional since he was 18 years old. He came to Wayland and worked hard. While we were being stupid and acting crazy and waiting until the last night to do an assignment, he would get the syllabus for the class and start on it the minute he got it. He’d go to the library the first night and be half finished with it.”

“He was very dedicated to what he was doing,” Thomas continued. “And he has been intentional later in life as far as his jobs, his family, and his faith. He’s been very intentional in everything he’s done. He’s probably the hardest working person I have known in my life.”

“That’s a fair description of me,” Powers said of the “intentional” label. “I am one of those people, and sometimes it can be to the detriment, that if you see an issue, you solve it. If you see a problem, you solve it. If you see a need, you try to solve it. If you have an issue with someone, you go to them and try to take care of it. Being intentional means developing relationships. I believe God gives shoulder taps. When he provides you with one of those messages, to ignore it is to ignore God.”

The most important relationship Powers made at Wayland, however, was not with his two closest friends.

“I was grateful that God had led me there,” Powers said. “That is where I realized I could have a relationship with Christ. I eventually invited Him into my life to be my Lord and Savior. It definitely was an eternity-changing decision for me to come to Wayland.”

As the trio graduated with education degrees, they remained best friends.

“We just continued to stay in touch,” Snodgrass said. “Jimmy and Tim stayed out in the Panhandle, and I moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I wasn’t around as much as those guys. I started on my Master’s in Education and then I changed professions.”

While Snodgrass enjoyed a successful career in the investment business, Powers and Thomas became successful school administrators, all three rising to the highest levels of their professions. Yet, the pranks never stopped.

“We took our Masters comps the very same day, and at the end of the day, we were just kind of dizzy,” Thomas said. “Tim looked at me and died laughing. He said, ‘I will never set my foot back in a college class for the rest of my life.’ I didn’t know that I would either, but I ended up going back and almost completing my doctorate.”

A prank on Thomas backfired on Powers, but it played a role in him earning his doctorate.

“I received this huge box,” Thomas recalled. “It was taped up and had a sock in it, and old coat and an old sweatshirt and a tennis shoe – just a bunch of random stuff in it, like a glove and a jockey strap. I had no idea who it had come from. I looked on the box and saw that it came from Pampa. That was my clue. I knew exactly who had sent it to me.”

“At the end of the year we would ask parents and students to come by the office to see if there was any clothing or items that were unclaimed,” Powers explained. “Normally, we had taken the leftovers to Goodwill, but I instructed the secretary to pack everything in a big box and send it to Jimmy Thomas.”

Thomas sent back a thank you note for the “nice gifts” and signed it “Dr. T” — Thomas’ nickname while at Wayland.

“Five or six years later, I found out Tim was going to get his doctorate,” Thomas recalled. “I called him and said, ‘Tim, I’m going to take you out to lunch.’ I told him how proud I was of him. He said, ‘Do you have any idea what my motivation was? Whenever I found out you had completed your doctorate, I was determined that I was going to complete my doctorate.’”

“Janice had asked me one day if I was interested in getting my doctorate,” Powers recalled. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ She said, ‘Do you think you can do it?’ I said, “If Jimmy Thomas can get his doctorate, I can get my doctorate.’ I spent two and half years pursuing that degree. I said to Jimmy, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know that I will soon be Dr. Tim Powers like you are Dr. Jimmy Thomas.’ There was this big pause and then he said, ‘You do know that I don’t have my doctorate?’ That’s what had kept me going those two and a half years. Then, I find out he was just telling me he was Dr. Jimmy Thomas. I was completely befuddled because I was not expecting him to say that. I truly thought he had his degree because I knew he had been working on it years before. I just made the assumption.”

“He looked at me like he had been slapped with a wet noodle,” Thomas said. “He was in shock.”

So many other stories could be told.

“We have lots of funny memories, but the bottom line is what a giant of a person he is as far as being a man of faith. He’s a hard worker and professional. The whole nine yards, he’s that guy,” Thomas said.

“These are two of the finest men in the world,” Snodgrass said. “It doesn’t get any better than to have close wonderful friends like that.”

“It’s just been a brotherhood,” Thomas said. “I can honestly say that I am closer to Tim than I am my own siblings. He is a brother — a dear friend.”

And brothers stick together during difficult times, like when Powers learned six and a half years ago that he had Stage 4 prostate cancer.

“I found out in June of 2016,” Powers said. “We went to an oncologist here and he was saying two to three years at the most. My daughter called MD Anderson and got all the files and records together. We went to MD Anderson, and they confirmed the diagnosis. I asked if it was treatable and she said, ‘It’s not curable, but we can treat it and prolong quality of life for you.’”

The physician in Houston told Powers he probably had four to six years.

“It has been six and a half years, so I think I’m on God’s time,” Powers said. “I truly believe it is because I have had so many people praying that God would intervene with this cancer. I don’t know if He is going to cure it. That is up to Him. But I know that if it hadn’t been for people praying for me on a regular basis, I would not be here now.”

“The whole process was a blow to both Janice and me, but we realized we could get bitter, or we could get better. We both chose to do this and get better, to be a reflection of God’s love,” Powers said. “It’s just incredible the blessings that Janice and my kids and I have received over the last few years as a result of this. I’ve grown so much closer to the Lord. I would not say I was far away from Him, but I’ve grown more deeply in understanding what he wants from me. I want to take every opportunity to share that as best as I can with others. But it all starts with the idea that God led me to Wayland.”

Powers said his wife is his No. 1 encourager, but Thomas and Snodgrass have been there for him.

“Jimmy and Kent pray for me constantly and call and check on me,” he said. “Kent comes quite often to Lubbock from Fort Worth. He always stops by to see me. They and others support me. I am truly blessed. I have been able to see God’s love working in real life.”

Snodgrass took a lead role in getting the Tim and Janice Powers Endowed Scholarship started.

“They were going to establish the scholarship fund and Tim called and asked me,” Snodgrass recalled. “He wanted me to come to the gala in Lubbock. I inquired about it and decided to become the core sponsor of the event.”

But that was just the beginning.

“I’ve just continued to try to support that on an annual basis or more often than that,” Snodgrass said. “It’s basically for the love of Tim that I have done that. I just know how much joy it gives him, so I’ve been blessed and able to do that. It is just a great way to say how much I appreciate him and Janice.”

Thomas also has contributed to helping get the endowment over $100,000.

“I can’t say enough about Tim Powers. I am glad to be a part of this,” Thomas said of the endowment.

Even while undergoing regular treatments that often result in hospitalization, Powers continues to serve as a professor at Wayland’s Lubbock campus.

“With the challenges he has had over the last few years, you never hear him complain,” Snodgrass said. “He is an absolute warrior and an incredibly intentional person. You are not going to find a harder worker and a more intentional great Christian man than Tim Powers. The things he is involved in are substantial and real.”

Powers described Snodgrass and Thomas as “those two yahoos” before quoting Proverbs 18:24 — “…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

“That’s really what this has turned into,” he said. “It’s a friendship that is more than just acquaintances. Just knowing that you have someone in your life like that and knowing Wayland was the central focus for having the opportunity to develop that relationship is invaluable.”

“One of the many blessings of being diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer is the fact that we have grown stronger,” Powers said. “We have grown more closely together through God’s Word and just kind of reinforcing each other and reminding each other of God’s promises. It’s reminders that this is not the end, it is just the stuff you go through this side of Heaven. There are better things to come than this.”

Powers said one of the greatest honors of his life came last fall when the university recognized him with Trustee Emeritus status. Snodgrass and Thomas were with him as he was honored.

“As an 18-year-old, I would never have imagined that Wayland would have such an impact on my life as well as these lifelong friendships,” he said. “I truly believe that if I had not come to Wayland, I would still be a lost soul. I know I will be in Heaven and greeted by the Lord when that time comes.”

“I cannot believe how blessed I am to have such friends as Kent and Jimmy in my life,” Powers said. “I know that friendship will last for eternity. I know there will be a time when we are rejoicing and praising the Lord in Heaven, and I can’t think of anything sweeter than that.”

Snodgrass and Thomas continue to encourage financial support for the Tim and Janice Powers Endowed Scholarship at Wayland.