Former presidents speak at Wayland chapel

Release Date: January 21, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Wallace Davis took the podium and in has familiar voice and style immediately began his story.

“It was a spring morning and I was sitting down at breakfast when the phone rang,” Davis said. “It was Dr. Paul Armes, and he told me he had just recommended me for the presidency of Wayland Baptist University.

“I wish you hadn’t, I said.”

“Don’t worry, he said. They won’t choose you.”

Davis’ recollection was of a conversation that took place in 1991. At the time, Armes, now president of Wayland, was Davis’ pastor in Corpus Christi. Davis had been a member of the search committee that recommended Armes as pastor of his church. Little did the two know that their journeys would be even more intertwined.

Davis and Dr. Lanny Hall attended Wayland’s heritage chapel service Wednesday morning as part of the school’s ongoing centennial celebration. Each former president still living was invited to speak at chapel. Hall and Davis were the only former presidents who could attend. Dr. David Jester, president from 1981-87, and Dr. Roy McClung, president from 1963-80, are also still living.

Hall spoke first, recounting his nearly 2 ½ years as president from 1989-91.

“It was a transition period as we tried to go from red ink to black,” Hall said, noting the school was still trying to recover from serious financial difficulties. He explained, however, that by working together in a true Christian spirit, the people of Wayland were able to find a way to survive the financial problems.

Hall, who left Wayland to become president at Hardin Simmons and is now president of Howard Payne University, said that while he loved his time at Wayland and has many fond memories of the school and its people, there was one thing that disappointed him.

“We were unable to secure funds to complete the library,” he said.

Hall recalled the story of some of the senior class who wanted to start a t-shirt campaign. The shirt would feature an outline of the LRC with the words “some assembly required.” To their surprise, Hall approved their request.

Yet while the failure to complete the LRC was a disappointment, Hall said he owes a great deal to the school and the Board of Trustees at the time.

“The trustees took a chance with a rookie president,” he said, “and gave me a wonderful blessing.”

Davis, who served as Wayland president from 1991-2001 and as chancellor from 2001-03, picked up where Hall left off, talking about the “miracles” that took place while he was president.

“The years I was here were years of miracles,” he said. “The completion of the LRC may be remembered as the greatest miracle. Words can never express the joy on the occasion of its dedication as we stood as a family united to watch the lighting of the Kaltwasser flame.”

While Davis admitted that the completion of the library was indeed a miracle he said the greatest miracle was in the “external manifestation of the true miracle written in the lives of students,” and the education they received from a faculty that truly focused on the students’ lives, not just their education.

“My prayer is that when graduates from other schools are talking about the size and magnificence of their universities, Wayland students will remember to ask, ‘What of your teachers?’” Davis said.

“The faculty serving at Wayland became the greatest miracle of all.”