Armes thankful for his time at Wayland

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Paul Armes sits comfortably at the small conference table in the corner of his third-floor office in Gates Hall. The Kenneth Wyatt original “House Call” hangs above the table.

The grandfather clock, donated to the university in memory of his mother, sings its hourly song.

Dr. Armes is leaving, but not for a few more weeks. There is still work to be done. Plenty of paperwork is piled on his desk and his day planner is open and full. The bookshelf is packed with books and crawling with frogs – a favorite collectible.
The 12th President of Wayland Baptist University, looks around his office.

“It’s time,” he says.

Not one to talk about himself or his accomplishments, it’s difficult for Dr. Armes when he reflects on his time at Wayland, but he knows that time has come to an end and he is comfortable and secure in that decision.

“Nothing here is in any way pushing us away. No one has ever encouraged us to do this. Everyone has been extraordinarily gracious and kind in their response to us,” he said. “But it’s time.”

Dr. Armes will retire effective June 30, leaving behind the university he has served for the last 15 years. His last official duty as president will be to conduct graduation ceremonies on May 7, but he will continue to work through June to accomplish a few personal goals and fulfill some commitments to which he feels obligated.

Wayland has grown under Armes’ leadership. Since being named president in 2001, Wayland’s budget has grown from $25 million to $65 million. Enrollment reached a record high of 6,834 students in 2012. Davis Hall, Jimmy Dean Hall and the Laney Student Activities Center all opened. Wayland developed a Mission Center and began offering courses and a religion degree in the African nation of Kenya. The School of Music reached All-Steinway School status. Numerous academic programs have been added to the curriculum, including the Doctor of Management degree that Wayland will begin teaching later this year.

Knowing, however, that it took a lot of work from a lot of people, Armes is slow to take credit for any of it.

“The thing I would say that I will always remember about my 15 years at Wayland is that I was surrounded by wonderful folks who worked really hard,” he said. “And together as a team, as a family, including the entire university family, we took some really positive steps in really positive directions.”

When looking back, Armes said it is the people that will always be his fondest memories. Not just the ones he worked with, but the ones he came in contact with throughout the last 15 years.
“I remember early in my tenure, going to Sierra Vista to participate in commencement,” he said. “I was the speaker that day.”

After the ceremony, Dr. Armes was approached by a new graduate named Paula who asked about the medallion he wore. The question sparked a conversation that resulted in Paula telling him her story. As a non-traditional student, she didn’t want to attend Wayland because she would be required to take six hours of Biblical history in order to graduate. Wayland’s price and schedule, however, were the best fit for her so she reluctantly registered to attend. Little did she expect the effect those two Bible courses would have on her life.

“She really came to the point of understanding that what she considered to be faith in her life wasn’t,” Armes said. “At the end of the New Testament class, [campus dean Jeff Barnes] prayed with her, and she prayed to receive Christ.”
As a result of her decision, she witnessed to her family and both of her children made commitments to Christ and her husband made a recommitment of his life to Christ. After telling her story, Paula told Dr. Armes to never stop requiring those six hours of Biblical history.

“That’s really who and what we are,” Armes said. “That is the unique element of Wayland that you can’t always find at other locations and in other schools.”

Those types of stories are what have fueled the man who never expected to work in higher education. He surrendered to the ministry as a teenager and never saw his career taking him out of the pastorate – especially not into a role in higher education.
“I was not a stellar student in college,” he said. “I did OK, but not exceptional.”

That changed when he entered seminary. Seeing the proverbial writing on the wall, Armes understood that to be a better pastor he should be a teaching pastor. To that end, he sought a Ph.D. at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth.

The pastorate eventually led him to First Baptist Church in Corpus Christi. While there, he served on the board for San Marcos Baptist Academy, a preparatory boarding school affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and accredited by the Southern Associate of Colleges and Schools, the same agency that accredits Wayland.

As the president of San Marcos Academy prepared to retire, several members of the board approached Dr. Armes, asking him to resign so they could consider him for the president’s position.

“I did resign,” Armes said. “I wanted to give them a fair opportunity to consider me and I wanted a fair opportunity to consider the possibility.”

Dr. Armes said he and his wife, Duanea, loved the church in Corpus, where they had served for eight and a half years, and they were not looking to leave. As they prayed about the decision, they did not feel led to pursue the position at San Marcos. But the board was persistent, returning two more times to talk to him.

“We decided we hadn’t prayed quite enough about it,” he said. “As we prayed and thought and reflected it became clear to use that it was exactly what God wanted us to do.”

Dr. Armes accepted the position and five years later, he was approached by the Wayland Board of Trustees and asked to interview for the president’s position at the Wayland campus. At that time, Dr. Wallace Davis was moving into a chancellor’s position to oversee the Wayland system. The president’s position would oversee the operations of the Plainview campus.

Dr. Armes accepted the position in 2001. A year later, Davis retired and the Board of Trustees opted to return to a system in which the president oversees the entire Wayland system. It was in 2002 when Dr. Armes moved to his corner office on the third floor.
“In a way, all of this has kind of been a surprise to me,” he said. “I never sought to be an educator. I’m still a pastor at heart.”

Dr. Armes’ leadership style was similar to how he would lead a large congregation, giving some clear direction when needed, but trying always to care about the people who are part of the family.

Looking back on the last 15 years, there are some things Armes wishes he could have done differently. He wishes he could have raised another $50 million for the university and seen the completion of a new Flores Bible Building. He also wishes he would have done more to celebrate the successes of the university family throughout the years.

“I’m not sure I’ve always celebrated the good things that we have done as a university  -- not me, but the university – maybe as dramatically or as significantly as we needed to,” he said. “I’m just aware of the fact that everything I have done has been dynamically linked to very special people who have walked beside. Who have given so much of their lives to this university. Who have done superb work that I am proud of. But there are times as a university that you ought to celebrated. When good things happen, you need to acknowledge those.”

As retirement grows closer, Dr. and Mrs. Armes have already begun making plans … and most of those plans revolve around their five grandchildren.

“I would just like to be a part of their lives. I would like to be able to interact with them, and Duanea would, too,” he said. “Duanea is such a wonderful grandmother. She is better at her job than I am at mine.”

Dr. Armes credits much of his success to his wife, and he gets emotional talking about how their relationship has grown over the past 15 years.

“The delight of the love that we have for each other and the dependence that we have on each other and on the Lord in this journey, particularly at Wayland, has been something that we have learned and experienced together,” he said. “We are closer now than we have ever been. If you had asked if that would have been possible 25 years ago I would have said absolutely not. But we have grown together.”

Dr. Armes said they plan to travel in retirement, visit the Grand Canyon and all the national parks in Utah. But the first planned trip may be to Germany to visit their granddaughter … and her parents, of course. The Armes’ daughter, Ashley, works with the military and is currently at a military base in Germany. Their other daughter, Sarah, is a nurse in Lubbock.

Along with traveling and grandkids, Dr. Armes hopes to have the opportunity to preach more in retirement. He says it is still a very important part of his calling to ministry and it is a part that he hasn’t been able to exercise quite as much as he would have liked.
As for Wayland, he feels that the university is on the verge of a prosperous period. New programs targeting Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees and Dr. Clinton Lowin’s Kaleo project in religion are just a few of the areas where Dr. Armes feels the university has real opportunity to grow. He also expects Wayland to remain a beacon for Christian higher education.

“This is a place where life-changing conversations happen,” he said. “Not just about knowledge, but about the spiritual dynamic of life. About a person’s relationship with Christ. About what God’s plan is for life.

“Those conversations happen every day in classrooms, the cafeteria and other locations. I’m proud of that fact.”
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