Former title-holders gather to dedicate new display

February 26, 2011

PLAINVIEW – Ten ladies who share the rare honor of being Miss Wayland Baptist University returned to the campus during homecoming for the dedication of a new display on the east hallway of Harral Memorial Auditorium.

A project of the Office of Alumni Services, the display includes new portraits of each of the 40 winners, each in matching frames and with engraved plates bearing their names and year of reign. In between the portraits is a display case with historic photographs from the 40 years of the Miss Wayland pageant, along with a short history and some quotes from previous winners. A crown belonging to Miss Wayland 1996 Christie Melton Soder, now a teacher in Hale Center, is included in the display, along with other memorabilia relating to the pageant world.

Danny Andrews, director of alumni development, welcomed the small gathering to the dedication, then handed the podium to Joe Provence, emeritus director of alumni services and longtime pageant sponsor and chaperone with wife Freda, who shared some history about how the event started at the university. Provence also shared some of his favorite memories about those early pageant contestants before opening the floor to returning winners to share.

He related stories of broken down vehicles and trailers with marimbas packed with old dorm mattresses for the trip to Fort Worth and the Miss Texas pageant, to which Wayland’s pageant served as a preliminary for several years. He also related a favorite experience in Fort Worth with Miss Wayland 1980, Bessie Fulton, who died suddenly in the summer of 2010 and is the only former title-holder not living. A trip to the makeup counter at Neiman-Marcus with Provence caused some raised eyebrows by the salesman, and Fulton wanted to go back to the store and set him straight.

“She said, ‘He wasn’t sure if you were my husband or my sugar daddy, so I wanted to go back and tell him these are my parents,’” Provence recalled with great laughter.

Lenna Lowrance Summy of Southlake, the 1986 Miss Wayland, shared how important that role was to her staying in school and persevering through losing her father to cancer, diagnosed just a few weeks after she was crowned.

The first young lady to hold the title of Miss Wayland and represent the university in Miss Texas was Melissa Driskell Wilson of Santa Fe, who made the trip back to see the display and recall her own memories of that time as a freshman in 1972 diving into the unknown pageant world. Current Miss Wayland, Plainview’s Jovanna Barrera, was also on hand.

The display will remain in Harral Auditorium, with the portraits of successive winners added to the wall each year.