Standing on the enclosed second-floor balcony of the Mabee Center Monday morning, Howard Payne University’s brand new president gestured toward the large window behind him and took note of the expansive view.

Several campus buildings, HPU’s manicured green lawns and trees are visible through the glass.

“This view is just fantastic,” Dr. Cory Hines said to a small audience of community leaders including pastors, members of the business community and Brownwood and Early city officials.

“Many moons ago when I was a student here, this was not glassed in,” Hines said. “It’s kind of surreal to be back.”

A relaxed and engaged Hines used humor to put the guests at ease — although “surreal” was a word he used more than once in describing his return to the university from which he graduated in 1997.

“Whenever I think about my experience when I was a student here — you talk about surreal — my dorm room was that third floor facing this way on the far right hand side, which is surreal to think about that,” Hines said. “I wonder how much it’s changed.”

Hines said when he though about what his first day on the job would look like, he believed it was important to connect with business leaders of Brownwood and Early. ”We’ve got to work together,” Hines said.     

Hines continued, “When I was a student here I had some wonderful experiences because I had great opportunities to be involved in ministry and business, and really had a chance to have mentorships and internships that really kind of helped shape who I am even to this day.”

Hines and his wife, Melinda, have been married 22 years and have a daughter, Mackenzie, a high school senior and a son, Caleb, who is in the seventh grade.

Hines earned a bachelor of arts degree in religious education from HPU, followed by a master of arts degree in Christian education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2000. Hines earned a doctorate degree in leadership studies — higher education from Dallas Baptist University in 2012.

Before becoming HPU’s president, Hines worked as vice president of enrollment at Dallas Baptist University. Hines also has experience in ministry, having served as executive pastor at a Waxahachie church.

“What I feel like it’s important to do is to prepare students academically,” Hines said. “That’s why they come to college. But I feel like we need to go a step further and say how can we prepare them vocationally? And I think that’s where we can work together in that regard — to hear what are (the community’s) needs, from a workforce development standpoint.

“How can we plug students into supporting you and what you’re trying to do, also maybe identify some early talent for you to hire some students once they graduate? We want to give students the opportunities to have internships, and I think that’s important. We want students to have mentors outside of this context as well.”

Hines said it was important to him on his first day to spend some time with business and ministry leaders, “just to say this institution is here to be a good neighbor,” Hines said.

“All throughout scripture you see Jesus talking about how we are to love our neighbor as ourself. At Howard Payne, we can’t be an island. We can’t just be this isolated institution on the corner of Fisk Street. We’ve got to be a part of the community and that’s important to me.”

Hines said one of the draws of coming back to HPU was “to find a community that we could call home as well. I’m excited about being a part of leading this new season as we work together to help train students and figure out what it is God called them to do and prepare them academically, vocationally and spiritually. So that way they can leave this place (and) be good workforce members.”

Hines concluded by saying he wanted business leaders to hear him say “it is important for us as a university to be very involved and invested in what happens in Brownwood and Early. What’s good for Brownwood and Early is good for Howard Payne. What’s good for Howard Payne is good for Brownwood and Early.”