First Lady appreciates her role as WBU ambassador, supporter

PLAINVIEW – Life doesn't always work out the way we plan it, and sometimes God has a path that is not what we imagined. Despite this change of course, a blessed life is still possible.

Duanea Armes knows this firsthand. As a young girl, she never planned to be a teacher. She certainly never imagined she'd be a pastor's wife. But her current role is perhaps the most surprising, though in hindsight God was preparing her for it all along.

As the wife of Wayland Baptist University president Dr. Paul Armes, Duanea leads a life few have experienced and likely even fewer envy. It's a life of great blessings and rewards, but one of many challenges as well.

"In a sense, you're an ambassador of goodwill for the university," she says of the role of first lady. Whether that role involves relating to Wayland students at various campus functions or entertaining the wives of members of the Board of Trustees, Mrs. Armes is equally at home in a place she had never before visited before moving to Plainview in 2001.

Her husband took office as president in February of that year, and while she is not a formal advisor on university affairs, she very much sees the importance of her role as helper to her spouse of 33 years.

"My first responsibility is to be supportive of my husband, and it's important that I make him feel like we're a team. It's a fulfilling job, but it works better when you feel like you're in this together and one in spirit," she said. "I wholeheartedly embrace what he's doing and his vision for the school. We feel like God's brought us to this place to do good things for Him."

The journey to this place has taken the Armeses through a winding road, stopping at various churches and schools along the way. But Duanea's experience in trusting God through the journey began years ago.

Born in Miami, Fla., Duanea Ramsey and her mother moved in with her grandparents in north Georgia at the age of four. She attended schools in Dalton and Rossville, graduating from Lakeview High School. It was during her high school years that Duanea began attending First Baptist Church in Ft. Oglethorpe and was active in the youth ministry, an experience she said was one of the most important in shaping who she would one day become.

Shortly after making her profession of faith, Duanea felt a call to full-time Christian service, not knowing what the Lord had in store. She attended the University of Chattanooga (Tenn.) for two years, before following the encouragement of a camp pastor to transfer to Baylor University. But it took a lot of faith.

"I had never been to Texas and didn't have the money to go to Baylor, but I kept praying and knew God would provide. I packed my bags in June and waited all summer, expecting to get to go," she recalled. "A scholarship came through and I was able to go to Baylor. The Lord provided for me the whole time I was there, first with a job as a dorm assistant and my senior year at the library."

Another experience would prove God's provision and affirmation that she was in the right place. That same camp pastor received a check from a woman after preaching a revival in Mississippi, urging him to give the money to a student in need at Baylor. He chose Duanea, and the gift helped pay for a semester of tuition.

Baylor proved to be an important experience for Duanea academically, and it was also the first time she met the man who would one day become her husband. It was also not the outcome she might have expected at first.

While at lunch at the home of her Waco pastor, Peter McLeod, who had baptized her in his first pastorate, Duanea was first introduced to Paul Armes, a tall blond boy from the metroplex.

"I didn't like him at all," she giggles at the memory. "I thought he was cute, but he was in his intellectual stage and engaged in a  lot of theological gymnastics at lunch."

Duanea graduated from Baylor in December 1970 and returned to Georgia, taking the reins of an elementary classroom to fill out the year for a teacher who left. That fall, she enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, where she pursued a Master of Religion Education degree in early childhood education. She would encounter Paul Armes once more.

"My former pastor, Peter McLeod, came to preach in chapel at seminary and I went up to speak to him afterward," she recalls. "I look at the students waiting to talk with him and here's this tall blond guy I had already met. I waited awhile, and soon the pastor was reintroducing us. We sort of hit it off that time."

Their first date, in March 1972, was to feed the cows at Armes' father's farm in Stephenville, and Duanea recalls borrowing blue jeans from a friend since she didn't own a pair. She also recalls dinner and a three-hour conversation that "made a vivid impression on me."

She graduated in 1973 and returned home for a year to teach fifth grade and save money so the two could marry once Armes finished his Master of Divinity degree in 1974. They tied the knot later that year and he began work on his doctorate while pastoring in the area and in Kansas City. Duanea worked as a teaching assistant in public schools, graduating to the role of homemaker once the couple started a family.

When their daughters, Sarah and Ashley, were older, she returned to school to earn teacher certification in history, aiming to pursue a teaching career after all. But the family soon moved north, where Armes took the helm as president of San Marcos Baptist Academy. Five years later, they came to Plainview.

The road has had its challenges, but God has prepared her for those.

"I can't think of any time I haven't felt like I was living in a glass house," she said of the years as both pastor's wife and president's wife. "It's just something you get used to. It's important that you be yourself, and people are more comfortable when you are."

Still, Mrs. Armes said she's aware there are parts of her personality that may go against the grain of a first lady. She admits to having strong political opinions and is an avid sports fan.

"I could get carried away at games if my husband didn't keep me in check," she laughs, adding, "and I gave up dancing when I married Paul."

Looking back, Mrs. Armes said the road her life has taken has been a good one, even if not how she might have envisioned it years ago.

"I thought if you 'surrender' to the Lord, you're going to Africa – there has to be a huge sacrifice for you," she said. "I look back at it now that we're all called to full-time service, and I was called to be a pastor's wife and to be involved in Christian education.

"Your life unfolds in interesting ways, 'His ways are not our ways,' you know, and He prepares you along the way for everything, but at the time, you may not realize it."

Mrs. Armes said she is grateful for the opportunities to work with students and does not take her role, or her husband's, lightly.

"We consider it a privilege to be here. We love the kids, and we are proud that Wayland provides an opportunity for a lot of students to go to college that might not have been able to without financial assistance," she said.

"Someone invested in me – people discipled me, gave me scholarships – and I am indebted to those people who helped me. I want to try to influence our students to be good stewards of what they have been given as well."