Founder's Day brings "visit" from Dr. Wayland, tribute to founding family
Release Date: April 20, 2009
PLAINVIEW – While the centennial year at Wayland Baptist University has brought many opportunities to relive historical events and recall historical people, perhaps none was so moving as the chance to “revive” the university’s founder Monday as part of the Founder’s Day event.
Held just two days before founder Dr. James H. Wayland’s birthday – April 22 – Founder’s Day featured a Monday chapel service to lead off the time, followed by an afternoon wreath-laying ceremony at the Plainview Cemetery and an evening concert by the Wayland Symphonic Winds and Jazz Ensembles on the lawn east of Harral Auditorium, capped off with birthday cake honoring the founding father.
Chapel featured a “visit” from Dr. Wayland in the person of Dr. David Howle, associate professor of religion at Wayland, who has also spent time on the Wayland theatre stage in several productions. Howle’s dramatic monologue took students on a trip back in time, recalling Dr. Wayland’s move to Plainview in 1891, his experiences as a doctor on the plains of Texas and his involvement in civic matters.
Pulling from his trusty medicine bag, Dr. Wayland grabbed items related to his experiences in detail for students. A compass reminded him of finding his way to patients, while a mortarboard brought back memories of the early days of Wayland College and how many students had passed through her halls.
“Dr. Wayland” also told of helping bring the Santa Fe Railroad to Plainview, a day celebrated on Jan. 1, 1907, and of working with the Staked Plains Baptist Association to raise funds for a Baptist college, started with his seed money of $10,000 and 25 acres of land for the institution to call home. He spoke of international students, of Wayland’s involvement with military students and of the Christian influence and faith that was such a strong part of the school’s foundation.
“When I first came here, I was an outsider and I am sure that some of the locals thought of me as an intruder. But I had resolved to grow where the Lord planted me. Many of you are outsiders too. I hope that you will decide to grow wherever God takes you,” he said in conclusion.
Following his performance, Howle said the experience of portraying Dr. Wayland – which he has done this centennial year for numerous civic clubs and organization meetings – has been insightful into the character and courage of the man who not only founded the university but was quite a pioneer thinker.
“Here was a guy who said, ‘We’re going to move forward no matter what,’” Howle said. “It wasn’t a selfish vision, but one for the good of everyone. I have been impressed with the fact that he came here and saw it as beautiful… because he saw it as a place of opportunity.”
Howle, who dug through interviews with Dr. Wayland and some familiar memoirs to write his monologue, said the research process made him even more appreciative of the man into whose shoes he has stepped this year.
“He was bold in his dreams and committed to seeing them through,” he said. “He was committed to this community and planted himself here. And he really appreciated the pioneer spirit.”
During the afternoon wreath-laying, a group of students presented the yellow-flowered grapevine wreath at the base of the family headstone, while two laid single yellow roses at the graves of Dr. and Mrs. Wayland as WBU senior trumpeter Edgar Rollins played a verse of the Alma Mater for the small group gathered in Plainview Cemetery. Afterward, student Alayna Siebman, president of Student Foundation, admissions director Debbie Stennett and alumni development director Danny Andrews spoke brief words of thanks to the Wayland family for their gift and vision.
“I really want to thank the Wayland family for having the vision for this school and also for being able to carry it out,” said Siebman, a junior from Childress. “(The university) has unquestionably impacted my life in ways that I probably don’t even know yet and will continue to do so.”
Stennett spoke from the perspective of university faculty and staff, blessed to be able to share encounters with students and impact their lives, thanks to the initial gift of the founders.
“Sometimes we get these exquisite blocks of time with students to hear their plans, laugh with them and cry with them and listen to them,” she said. “It’s in those moments that we truly see our roles in Dr. Wayland’s story. His dream of turning out noble students was fulfilled in me and in all of us.”
Andrews offered the alumni perspective, having graduated from WBU in 1972 and returning in 2006 to work with former students.
“If we could capture the heart-warming stories of all of our alumni… hear the impact they have made on this world, it would make for some great reading,” Andrews said. “Our lives have been changed forever to the glory of God.”
After the ceremony, students also placed yellow roses at the graves of former presidents Dr. R.E.L. Farmer and Dr. George McDonald and Reid Rogers, a Plainview native who died in 2004 while a freshman at WBU.
Founder’s Day wrapped up with the evening’s outdoor band concert, with special performances by the Plainview High School jazz ensemble. A special postal cancellation marking the day was available at the downtown post office, and interested persons may obtain the cancellation for 30 days. The mark is free with a stamped envelope, or one may be purchased at the post office.