Scholarship plaque unveiled at Champions of Excellence Luncheon

PLAINVIEW — Students receiving endowed scholarships got an opportunity to personally thank their benefactors Thursday during Wayland Baptist University’s annual Champions of Excellence Luncheon.

In addition to celebrating the generosity of those who have given endowed scholarships, Wayland formally dedicated the Rory Allgood Thomas Impact Annual Scholarship. The scholarship goes to the outstanding male and female freshman each year. The first recipients, Bret Willburn and Jazmin Ortega, were present to express their thanks.

More than 70 people attended the luncheon in McClung University Center. Ortega was one of two students who spoke on behalf of endowed scholarship recipients. She was also featured in a video.

“I stand before you today as a grateful recipient of your generosity, and I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for the incredible impact you have had on my life,” Ortega said. “It’s through the scholarships, like the Dorothy McCoy, James Mayer, and now Rory Allgood Thomas, that I have been able to pursue my passions and dreams. These scholarships have not only lightened the financial burden of my education but have also given me the opportunity to immerse myself in campus life.”

“Today, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to each of you who have played a part in creating or contributing to an endowed scholarship,” she said. “Your generosity has made my story and countless others like mine possible. Your belief in the power of education and your willingness to invest in the potential of students like me is truly inspiring. The impact of your kindness extends far beyond this luncheon, as we look forward to the time when we too can pay it forward to the next generation of Pioneers.”

Ashley Ortiz, a President’s Ambassador and sophomore Christian Ministry major from Chihuahua, Mexico, offered the invocation, but not before she too expressed her thanks.

“If I am being honest with you, there was no way my parents could have paid for my education if it wasn’t for the different scholarships that I have received,” Ortiz said. “Even now, the only reason why I am able to be here speaking to you is because of the grace of God and because of all the people like you that have made education a possibility for students like me.”

Mike Hammack, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, described the establishment of the Rory Allgood Thomas Impact Annual Scholarship as an “incredible journey of love, remembrance, and generosity,” recalling that Sundee Allgood Cravey, a Wayland alumna, reached out to the university after her sister, tragically passed away in October of 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.

“Sundee and Rory, during their time at Wayland, both received the prestigious Outstanding Female Freshman award,” he said. “It was a testament to their exceptional character, dedication, and passion for this institution. Sundee felt that there could be no better way to honor her sister’s memory than by providing future students with the same opportunities they both cherished.”

Noting that Sundee set a lofty goal of raising $25,000 within five years to endow the scholarship, Hammack said the sister “set her sights high”.

“She embarked on a mission that involved reaching out to everyone who had known and loved her sister, including several businesses that Rory had worked with during her career,” he said. “To everyone's astonishment, through the incredible support of friends, family, and the community, Sundee achieved that ambitious goal of $25,000 in just one year. It’s a remarkable accomplishment, Sundee, and one for which we are deeply grateful.”

But then the vice president spoke of how Sundee couldn’t wait to see her sister’s legacy in action with student recipients.

“She generously provided additional funding,” Hammack said. “As a result, we were able to present the first-ever Rory Allgood Thomas Impact Annual Scholarship to the Outstanding Male and Female Freshman this past May.”

Hammack unveiled the scholarship plaque that will hang here in the University Center as Sundee; Jean Allgood, Rory and Sundee’s mother; and Shelby Thomas, Rory’s daughter, looked on.

“Matthew 5:16 tells us, ‘Let your Light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’  If there was a scripture that encapsulated Rory Allgood Thomas’ spirit it would be this one,” Hammack read. “It was evident in every aspect of Rory’s life. During her time at Wayland, she quickly made an impact and was awarded the Outstanding Freshman Female in 1981, then continued receiving other honors throughout her college years.”

The scholarship plaque chronicles Rory’s life as she became the Executive Director of Lubbock Impact.

“Under her leadership, the ministry expanded from a soup kitchen serving 50 people the first night to 300-350 on any given Wednesday,” Hammack read. “It continues to expand and currently has 16 other ministries, including a food pantry, dental clinic, and clothes closets. This ministry embraces the working poor community as it renews minds, transforms lives and educates families. As one Lubbockite said, ‘Rory was Lubbock’s Momma,’ which was beautifully exemplified by her ‘loving on Lubbock!’ Even after Rory’s passing in October 2020, she continues to Impact lives.”

“If you ask, they will give, and give they have. I appreciate that,” Sundee said in her response to the unveiling of the scholarship plaque. “I am thrilled with Bret and Jazmin, our first recipients. We are so proud that Rory’s legacy will continue to live on.”

In her response, Jean Allgood said, “Scholarships are wonderful. I can attest to that because when Rory and Sundee were here at Wayland, they were on academic scholarships, and that was like manna from heaven. I stand here today with a very glad heart over all of this. The atmosphere revolving around scholarships and endowments is infecting, warming and wonderful. I am so grateful we could be a part of the scholarships that are being given today. I thank you for acknowledging my daughter, Rory, in the way that you have.”