'A great day in the history of our school'

Newbury Family Welcome Center grand opening at HPU draws large turnout

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Howard Payne University president Dr. Cory Hines holds scissors aloft after cutting a ribbon at the grand opening of the Newbury Family Welcome Center Thursday afternoon. Dr. Don Newbury, accompanied by members of his family, stands to the left of Hines.

Howard Payne University unveiled the Newbury Family Welcome Center Thursday in a grand opening that brought a large crowd of civic and business leaders along with HPU representatives to the nearly 8,000-square-foot facility.

Prayers, speeches and scripture were part of the grand opening, which included self-guided tours through the building, which will house offices for admissions personnel and provide spaces for meetings and events. The welcome center — which HPU describes as its "front door" — is named for the family of Dr. Don Newbury, a 1961 graduate of HPU, president of the university from 1985 to 1997 and current chancellor. 

The welcome center was built near the intersection of Austin and Center Avenues on the historic former site of Old Main, the university’s original building, which was destroyed by fire in 1984. Large windows in the building give expansive outdoor views.

 The grand opening, which included a ribbon cutting, was held less than two years after the June 2020 groundbreaking. The welcome center is the first new facility to be built at HPU in more than 20 years.

Guests at the Newbury Family Welcome Center laugh as they listen to a speaker at the welcome center's grand opening Thursday.

In addition to Newbury, former HPU presidents Dr. Lanny Hall and Dr. Bill Ellis were among the guests.

HPU president Dr. Cory Hines described the grand opening as "a great day in the history of our school."

Addressing Newbury, Hines said,  "there is no one that I know who better captures the heart of Howard Payne University more than you do. How very fitting that a number of individuals gave gifts in your honor to name this building after you and your wonderful family."

Dale Meinecke, HPU's vice president of development, thanked donors and described the grand opening as a fantastic time for the campus. "Many have put in a lot of time and effort to make today happen," Meinecke said.

Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes congratulated HPU for the new welcome center.

“We’re so proud of Howard Payne first for achieving this accomplishment," Haynes said. "We’re so excited to see how God will use this building to bless this university and our community for so many years to come.

“I love the idea that the windows behind me are glass and light and attractive to the students that want to come to this university. I love the shared vision that we want to grow our community and grow our university.”

Haynes referred to the Old Testament account of Israelite King David's desire to build a temple, but it was David's son Solomon who accomplished the goal.

“Like David, God laid on the heart of this administration a plan for this building," Haynes said. "It was a desire that came about a long time ago and there were people who had this dream that didn’t get to build it. So I’m going to say to my friend, to Dr. Hines, what a blessing. What an honor that God chose you to fulfill to this promise, this  destiny and this plan.

“You did your part and now God will do his. He’s going to dwell in this place, he’s going to bless the faculty, he’s going to bless the students and it’s my prayer that everyone who walks through these doors will fell the presence of God. Congratulations. God did good through you.”

Ronnie Andrews, who is in his first year as chairman of the HPU board, also referred to scripture.

“In any significant life event, we do well to stop and put the event into the context of God’s word,” Andrews said. Andrews cited a New Testament scripture: "Labor not for the things that perish but for that which endures to eternal life."

"What is it that endures to eternal life? It’s only the soul," Andrews said. "Here at the school, even though we have nice structures and nice buildings, our whole mission is to invest and to promote the spiritual, emotional welfare, intellectual welfare of our students who come through here.

“The beautiful thing about this building is how God used a tiny bit of his resources and an abundance of the intrinsic gifts many of you possess and contributed to bring it into existence. Each of you have contributed to us being in this place today, some planting, some watering and Dr. Hines being in the chair to reap the harvest.” 

Andrews referred to other HPU projects including the ongoing renovation of the Newbury Place Apartments, the only upper level housing on campus. Eighty-five percent of the funds needed for the renovation of the Academy of Freedom building have been raised, and the tennis center has been upgraded so it can sponsor collegiate tournaments, Andrews said.

Work is ongoing on a master plan, and the Brownwood Coliseum, which is leased to HPU, is being renovated, Andrews said.

"While these are indeed significant accomplishments, the good news is that these are just the beginning stages of a grander vision of the HPU campus being an oasis wherever one who passes through our village can enjoy life giving, soul-nurturing experiences," Andrews said.

Hines noted that the first classes began at HPU on a Tuesday, Sept. 16, 1890, and the cornerstone for Old Main was laid the afternoon of the same day.  Hines described the welcome center — on the site of the what had been Old Main — as "a beautiful, functional, versatile, flexible state of the art facility that will house our admissions team. The mixture of open spaces and floor-to-ceiling glass gives the facility a modern look while at the same time the rock base and red brick combination tie this facility into the rest of campus."

Hines said while the welcome center is a beautiful facility and unique to the campus and city, "it’s something more than that. The goal of this facility is that it will be used by the Lord to draw students to our campus so their lives can be transformed, so they can understand their purpose from a biblical world view."

Hines said welcome center project didn't happen overnight or within a small group.

"This has been a project that has been the dream of Howard Payne leadership since Leonard Underwood made the very first commitment and very first gift to the project over 21 years ago," Hines said. "How very fitting that the executive conference room that you see on the back end of this building is the Leonard Underwood Conference Room.”

Referring to previous HPU presidents Hall and Ellis, Hines said, “you guys laid the groundwork, you plowed the soil and we now get to enjoy the bounty.

"May this building be the first step for students and their families to see that their lives are not their own.  Instead that this campus is a place where they can begin to understand how their life is not about them and they can serve and love their fellow man in a way that makes an impact. I’m a little biased but what happens here on this campus has the ability to change the world.”