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HPU announces 2020 alumni honorees

Special to the Bulletin
Brownwood Bulletin

Howard Payne University will recognize six individuals for their achievements and service at the Fall Family Reunion on Oct. 10.

This year’s honorees are Dr. Ronnie W. Floyd ’78, Distinguished Alumnus; Edward E. Cody ’10, Outstanding Young Graduate; Dr. Richard A. Jackson ’60, Medal of Service; Ramona Tennison Akins ’52, Coming Home Queen; Dr. Elizabeth Wallace ’71, Grand Marshal; and Griselda Rivas Stearns ’67, Dr. José Rivas Distinguished Service Award.

Honorees will be celebrated at an invitation-only luncheon on Oct. 10.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd ’78, Distinguished Alumnus

Floyd, of Brentwood, Tennessee, says his time at HPU prepared him to think and study, and also equipped him for life and the challenges that it would present.

Floyd received his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology (counseling) from HPU in 1978. While at HPU, he was active in many aspects of campus life, including intramurals.

After graduating from HPU, he studied at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees.

During the course of his career, Floyd has served in numerous ministry and leadership roles. He is currently the President – CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. He previously served as the president of the SBC from 2014-2016. He also served as senior pastor at Cross Church, with four campuses in northwest Arkansas, from 1986 to 2019 and earlier in his ministry pastored Texas churches in Nederland, Palacios, Milford and Cherokee.

Additionally, he served as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, chairman of the Family Research Council Board of Directors, and as the Pastors’ Conference president for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. He has authored more than 20 books and was the founder of and spoke regularly at The Business Persons Summit luncheon of northwest Arkansas, equipping more than 300 business leaders each week.

He and his wife, Jeana ’76, have been married 42 years. The couple have two sons, Josh and Nick, and seven grandchildren.

Edward E. Cody ’10, Outstanding Young Graduate

Edward E. Cody ’10 of Killeen says that while at HPU, he was prepared for future success through opportunities to grow mentally, spiritually and physically. His life was profoundly impacted by professors and coaches who consistently challenged him to be a leader, supported him in pursuing his dreams, knew him by name and saw his potential.

Cody received his Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice from HPU in 2010. While at HPU, he was a member of the Yellow Jacket football team and served as team captain. He was also involved in campus life through Fellowship of Christian Athletes and intramurals.

Following his time at HPU, Cody earned his Master of Science in criminal justice degree from Texas A&M University – Central Texas.

He currently works for the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. He previously was the unit director and director of school-based intramurals at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Texas in Killeen from 2010 to 2015. He also played professional football with the Osnabrück Tigers and Ingolstadt Dukes in Germany in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

He is married to Victoria.

Dr. Richard A. Jackson ’60, Medal of Service

According to Jackson, of Brownwood, the professors he had in his time at HPU shaped his life spiritually and intellectually in an encouraging and uplifting environment.

He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from HPU in 1960. While at HPU, he was involved in Jackets for Jesus and academic honors society Alpha Chi. He was also class president during his first year.

He went on to earn his Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also holds honorary doctoral degrees from HPU and Grand Canyon University.

Jackson was ordained at the age of nineteen and has pastored churches in Bangs, May, Bluff Dale, Cleburne and Sulphur Springs. Most recently, he served for 25 years as pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona, during which time the congregation grew from 500 to 22,000. Though he is now retired from the active pastorate, he continues to serve in local churches as an interim pastor and through the Jackson Center for Evangelism and Encouragement.

The Jackson Center has distributed more than 1.5 million copies of the The Covenant of God’s Love, an edition of the New Testament containing notes and outlines written by Dr. Jackson. Annually at several training sessions, he teaches thousands of people how to effectively use the text in their personal lives.

He and his wife, Wanda, have been married 63 years. They have three children, Don, Doug and Tena, and six adult grandchildren.

Ramona (Tennison) Akins ’52, Coming Home Queen

Akins, of Ballinger says her future as a school teacher, pastor’s wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother was blessed because of her time at Howard Payne through the education she received, the friends made and the joyful experiences she had. Best of all, she met her husband Ferris Akins, Sr., ’52 at Howard Payne. Together, they celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary last May 24.

Akins received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and secondary education from HPU in 1952. At HPU, she was active in campus life, participating in dorm activities in Howard Payne Hall. She was also a member of the Life Service Band and Howard Payne Marching and Stage Band, also serving as editor of the Lasso yearbook as a student.

While her husband was attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, she took courses there, and, while teaching in Ballinger, she took graduate courses at Angelo State University. She taught junior high and high school English for 32 years in Odessa, Star, Cleburne, Covington and Ballinger, where she spent 25 years teaching.

Throughout her career, she was active in teachers’ organizations. She also served in churches alongside her husband, Ferris, a Baptist pastor. She and her husband have four children, each of whom have graduated from HPU – Ferris, Jr. ’75, Andrea ’79, Martin ’84 and Ferrisa ’86. Their family also includes their children’s spouses, 11 grandchildren and nine spouses, and 18 great-grandchildren.

Dr. Elizabeth (Ellis) Wallace ’71, Grand Marshal

Wallace knew she wanted to attend HPU by the time she was a teenager and only became more convinced as she learned more about the institution’s Christ-centered focus and excellent academic programs.

She received her Bachelor of Music Education degree from HPU in 1971. At HPU, she was a member of the A Capella choir, where she met her husband, Alan ’73. She was also a member of Delta Chi Rho and a member of the BSU revival team. She served as piano instructor at HPU from 1971-1973.

Following her undergraduate studies, she earned her Master of Music in piano performance degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and her Doctor of Philosophy degree in fine arts/music in piano performance from Texas Tech University. She also served with her husband in churches in Brady, Aledo, Houston, Lubbock, Brownwood and Gouldbusk.

She was a professor at HPU for more than 29 years, until her recent retirement from her full-time position in May 2020. She continues to teach as an adjunct faculty member at HPU. During her time at the university, she has completed three terms as Faculty Assembly president and was chair of the Department of Music for the past five years. She also accompanied the HPU Concert Choir for many years, travelling with the choir to England, Italy, Austria and Taiwan.

In addition to her time at HPU, Wallace taught at Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University while earning her Ph.D. She also established and maintained private piano studios until she joined the faculty at HPU.

The Wallaces were married in 1970 and have two children and four grandchildren. Their daughter Elisa also graduated from HPU.

Griselda (Grace) Rivas Stearns ’67, Dr. José Rivas Distinguished Service Award

Stearns, of Hurst, received her Bachelor of Science degree in sociology and psychology from HPU in 1967. At HPU, Stearns was active in theatre activities.

After completing her undergraduate degree, she became a social worker. She says this began a journey in which she was able to work with people who are weary, who need a helping hand, and who need someone to listen to and help guide them.

She currently works as a bilingual social worker teaching women’s health classes as part of the University of North Texas’ Healthy Start Program which serves women before, during and after pregnancy.

She has served in numerous capacities related to social work in the course of her career, including as a medical social worker at Dallas Methodist Hospital, a community worker with the Dallas Community Action Program and director of “El Centro de Informaciòn” for the Community Council of Greater Dallas.

She also worked as an associate planner with the Fort Worth Community Action Program, a coordinator of four community centers for City of Fort Worth Parks and Community Services, a Spanish language interpreter and translator for the City of Fort Worth and a bilingual parent educator with Catholic Charities.

Stearns has a son and three grandchildren.

Ronnie Floyd