In his element: Temple retiring after 31 years at Wayland

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University has been touting itself as a part of helping young people seek their dreams through education for nearly a century. But the way Dr. Harold Temple sees it, Wayland has been part of his own dream story on the faculty level.

Temple may not have expected to spend the better part of his teaching career at Wayland when he came to Plainview in 1976, but he has. And as he retires marking 31 years at the university, he said it’s been a blessing.

“Wayland fit my dream of what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “I wanted to teach in a small Baptist college, and I have.”

While Temple is at retirement age at 68, he’s still young at heart and enjoys the same deadpan wit and humor he’s had for years. Though he’s enjoyed teaching students and the camaraderie of his fellow faculty members, retirement holds great things in store.

“I want to spend time chasing grandkids around,” he said, then turning on the quiet humor known to many, adds, “Besides, the annuity’s finally gotten up to where I could retire.”

When Temple and wife Audrey, a retired educator herself, came to Plainview in July 1976, they were a young couple with young children. Not too many years after completing his doctorate degree, Temple had tried the corporate world of science work and found it just didn’t fit his goals for a life teaching young minds. He was teaching high school science in Pleasanton when he saw the notice for a chemistry teacher at Wayland Baptist College.

A native of Bishop in South Texas, Temple didn’t know much about Wayland, but knew the Baptist school fit his vision for the future.

“When I got home, I showed the notice to Audrey and she said, ‘Let’s pray about it,’ so we did. Then we got out the map,” Temple recalls.

Plainview was a long drive from Pleasanton and the move was a tough one, since Temple’s parents lived nearby and would be away from their young grandchildren. But they felt sure the Lord was leading them to Wayland.

“I guess the Lord knew where he wanted us,” he said. “The Lord has led in every decision we’ve made.”

Temple interviewed in May 1976 and signed a contract with then-division chair Dr. Harold Reese, then returned home to move his young family. Since that time, he’s taught nearly every class in the chemistry curriculum, including a few he never thought he’d enjoy, like biochemistry.

“I’ve done everything I’ve dreamed of doing as far as teaching chemistry,” he said with a grin. “What I’m surprised about is that I’m teaching art.”

Temple chuckles while recalling his second passion that became part of his teaching rotation a few years back: jewelrymaking. He credits Reese with developing an interest in rock hounding – collecting gems and minerals – and teaching him to facet them into precious stones several years ago. That then evolved into making jewelry when he needed something to do with all those faceted stones.

After taking a class in wire wrapping in Georgia, Temple brought his craft home and began creating a bevy of jewelry pieces for his wife and others. That caught the eye of Dr. Candace Keller, professor of art, who asked Temple to teach the craft at WBU. That was January 2004, and he’s taught jewelry making every semester since then, attracting students of all ages and majors who want to learn the trade.

Temple said while he’s bidding adieu to the chemistry lab, he plans to keep the jewelry class going at least for a short while. But his travel plans to see grandchildren come first. With three in Colorado Springs and three in Mississippi, the Temples have a lot of ground to cover. He’d also like to travel to more arts and crafts show in the region and sell his jewelry creations.

Looking back over his 31 years here, Temple said many memories are special. Some moves were learning experiences and simply solidified his call to be in the classroom. For Temple, the biggest one was serving as the university’s first graduate dean in 1983, a position he held for five years while teaching part-time.

“That was probably the biggest mistake I made,” he laughs, adding the role of administrator was not as enjoyable. He directed the 1986 self-study in preparation for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation visit and promptly got back to the Moody Science Building.

Prompted for his favorite memories of the years, Temple remembers faces. Longtime coworkers Dr. Gerald Thompson, who with wife Marilyn has also been a longtime neighbor, Reese and Dr. J. Hoyt Bowers – whom Temple calls the best natural storyteller I know – have been good friends along the road. He also recalls great students who have gone on to do great things in the science arena and make him proud.

“The enjoyable thing is seeing students mature and go on to graduate schools or professional schools,” he said. “One of my earlier students, Dr. Gary Gray, will be coming on board to take my place here, and Dr. Joel Boyd is already teaching here. I couldn’t be more pleased to have them here.”

Temple is excited to turn the scepter over to his former students and knows the WBU chemistry department is in good hands. He said the field has changed in the 31 years he’s taught, with new technology in place at Wayland’s labs. He laughs when noting that two tools on opposite ends of the technology spectrum – the periodic table of elements and the gas chromatograph – are located within inches of each other in the chemistry lab. He’s surprised he lived long enough to see that technology at WBU.

The Temples are longtime members of College Heights Baptist Church, where he is a deacon and they previously taught college Sunday school. A scholarship was established in their name by the chemistry department and donations are welcomed to bring the scholarship to endowment level. Gifts can be sent to the Office of Advancement at Wayland.