Pioneers of Excellence Banquet recognizes ‘truly inspiring' Wayland supporters

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Michael Davis and Mike Melcher were recipients of the prestigious President’s Award during Wayland Baptist University’s annual Pioneers of Excellence Banquet.

More than 100 people gathered Thursday, April 6, at McClung Student Center to recognize those who preserve and enhance the university through giving their time, monetary assistance, or other support.

“Your contributions have helped create an environment where students can learn and grow and make a positive impact in the world, and for that, we are beyond grateful,” said Dr. Claude Lusk, Senior Vice President of Operations and Student Life.

“Dr. Michael Davis’ dedication to education and his commitment to supporting his alma mater, Wayland Baptist University, is truly exceptional,” Lusk said. “He has made it a priority to speak at every external campus during their commencement ceremonies, recognizing students' achievements at each location.”

Since 2006, Melcher has held various position at the university, including serving as Director of Corporate Development and Executive Director of University Advancement. He currently serves as the Major Gifts Officer and plans to retire at the end of this month.

“Mike has been instrumental in raising millions for Wayland, including securing one of the university's largest cash gifts of $5 million for the Jimmy Dean Museum,” Lusk said. “His passion for assisting donors in making a meaningful difference in the lives of others is truly inspiring.”

The President’s Award recognizes individuals considered an “ultimate advocate for Wayland.”

“This award is given to those who support us with their financial resources, but more importantly, give of their time, talent and efforts to make sure that the university’s mission of providing an excellent Christian higher education is accomplished,” Lusk said.

In addition to honoring President’s Award recipients, Wayland recognized Keeper of the Flame recipients and inducted 11 families into the Founder’s Society for their gifts of support.

“Tonight, we recognize donors who have reached a milestone in their support of Wayland,” alumnus Mark Murdock said in recognizing seven Keeper of the Flame recipients.

Mike Hammack, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, recognized those being inducted into the Founder’s Society, a group for those who have designated Wayland in their estate plans.

“Planned gifts exhibit extraordinary foresight by alumni and friends who want to enrich the educational experiences of Wayland students in countless ways,” Hammack said. “These gifts can cover a wide range of support like endowed scholarships, Core Mission Fund support, professorships, and other initiatives that have the power to change lives and create opportunities that might not otherwise be possible. Estate gifts are a tangible way for donors to leave a lasting legacy and ensure that their values and passions continue to be reflected in the lives of the next generation long after they are gone.”

Lusk welcomed guests and called on junior Choral Education major Cooper Trolinger of Pampa to give the invocation. Following the meal, the program began with a video featuring three Wayland alums who identified themselves as “Proud Pioneers.” Then, third year student Dawson Mailey stepped to the microphone and announced, “I am a proud Pioneer, but I almost wasn't.” The third-generation Wayland student from Idalou, who is enrolled in the Accelerated Bachelor of Christian Ministry to MDiv and MBA program, spoke of how encouragement from university personnel and supporters have made it possible for her to forge her path.

“Through donors like you, God has provided me with the assistance I need,” she said. “At Wayland, I'm continuing to forge my own path as a pioneer — lower case P — led by God, as well as a Pioneer — upper case P — and for that I will always be grateful to those of you who support this university.”

“Thank you for sharing your heart, for sharing your life and for sharing your gifts, as well as for sharing your encouragement for us through your support,” Mailey said. “Thank you for being prayer warriors for us. Thank you for coming alongside us as we forge our own paths as directed by God.”

Before sophomore English major Madison Casanova offered the benediction, Lusk concluded the banquet by saying, “Your investment in our institution and our students changes people. You are creating possibilities for our students.”