Special to the Journal

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) held commencement services for the Spring 2024 semester today at the Cadence Bank Center. During the ceremony, Dr. Wallace E. Davis was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree for his many contributions to the university. Upon receiving this award, Davis delivered the commencement address to the graduating class of 2024.

He advised the students, “When the commencement stage once again lies silent, and the look and feel of the campus begins to slip away bit by bit, only the memories like recurring notes from a favorite tune will linger on.”

Dr. Davis is a native of Olney, Texas. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Baylor University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Texas. After serving in the U.S. Army in Korea, he moved to Corpus Christi to teach elementary school. He went on to serve as a school principal, the director of elementary education, and the assistant superintendent for instruction for Corpus Christi ISD. In 1973, he became one of the first four educators employed by the newly founded Corpus Christi State University (now Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi). He served as dean of the College of Education, academic vice president, and interim president there. In 1993, he was named the university’s academic vice president emeritus.

In 1991, Dr. Davis became the president of Wayland Baptist University, where he served for more than nine years before being named the university’s first chancellor. In 1998, he was named “Man of the Year” for the city of Plainview and, upon his retirement in 2002, was named chancellor emeritus of the Wayland Baptist University System.

Throughout his professional career, Dr. Davis has consulted with K-12 schools, universities, and churches in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, and teacher effectiveness. Since his retirement, he has continued to serve as a consultant in these areas.

After moving to Salado, Dr. Davis and his wife, the late Patsy Lewis Mayfield, became involved with First Baptist Belton and connected with UMHB. Dr. Davis’ passion for Christian higher education led to a friendship with the university, and he served as a consultant on several strategic planning initiatives.

Dr. Davis is incredibly generous and has been a faithful donor to UMHB for the past 17 years. In 2011, Wallace and Patsy established the Dr. Wallace and Patsy Davis Endowed Scholarship at UMHB. As graduates of Baptist universities, lifelong educators, and supporters of Christian education, Wallace and Patsy wanted to support students attending a university where Christ serves as the cornerstone, truth is honored, teaching is valued, and our Christian faith is proclaimed. Additionally, they wanted to show their deep admiration for those who have contributed to making the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor a star in the crown of Christian higher education.

“The highest award we can bestow upon those who have faithfully supported and served UMHB is an honorary degree,” said University President Dr. Randy O’Rear. “Dr. Davis is a tremendous champion for UMHB and Christian higher education. He is a great friend of our university, and we are proud to recognize him with this distinguished honor and officially make him a member of the UMHB family.”

This was the university’s 168th graduating class, and an estimated 485 students were awarded degrees, including 366 baccalaureate degrees, 107 master’s degrees, and 12 doctoral degrees. Five commissioning officers also participated in the graduation ceremony: Ray Feliciano of Belton, Eldridge Gilbert of Temple, Shane Goodwin of Killeen, Gabriella Martinez of Belton, and Jose Vazquez of Killeen. Aynslee Barber of Lake Jackson was the scripture reader.

Student recognitions during the ceremony included the Provost Medal for highest overall GPA, which was awarded to 31 students who each graduated with perfect 4.0-grade point averages: Luke Ayotte of Dallas, Makayla Banton of Marble Falls, Aynslee Barber of Lake Jackson, Jessica Black of Wortham, Hunter Coleman of Harker Heights, McKenna Cowsert of Johnson City, Kalyn Dujka of College Station, Ryan Farmer of Manvel, Ashley Faux of Frisco, Maren Fields of Keller, Justin Gilliland of Spring, Kylie Green of Frisco, Paige Hawkins of Cypress, Madison Holmes of Austin, David Isenhower of Cypress, Sarah Kmiecik of Houston, Margaret Linz of Temple, David Martinez of East Bernard, Dora Martinez of Burkburnett, Gabriella Martinez of Belton, Kayla McErlain of Troy, Jordan Newman of Spring, Donald Oakes of The Villages, FL, Kaitlin Powers of McGregor, Anastasia Rakovalis of Cibolo, Makayla Rohmfield of Christoval, Caroline Rowe of Belton, Molly Shuffield of Cedar Park, Samantha Sommerfeld of Longview, Christopher Spence of Belton, and Laura Szopenske of Spring.

The university also recognized eight students who have successfully completed all the Honors Program requirements, including a senior research project: Catherine Buley of San Antonio, McKenzie Cano of Mason, Ashley Faux of Frisco, Peyton Forbes of Tomball, Grace Hodgdon of Leander, Justin Johnson of Taylor, Kathryn Melton of Katy, and Andres Peralta of Fort Worth.

The President’s Award, presented to the graduating senior who has provided meritorious service to the university, particularly the senior class, was awarded to Nicholas McDaniel of Cleveland. McDaniel is a true example for the university and his peers and strives to represent Christ and UMHB in all he does. He was involved in Stunt Night, Crusader Knights, intramural sports, was a resident assistant, and portrayed Christ in the 84th annual Easter Pageant. The Loyalty Cup, awarded to the student most representative of the university’s ideals, traditions, and spirit, was given to two students this year. Caleb Guenther of Belton loves UMHB, and that love is evident to all. He was actively involved in campus life, Stunt Night, Miss MHB, Cru Knights, Revival, Student Foundation, and was the leader of the chapel worship band. Ella Stockton of Tomball also loves UMHB and has served her alma mater in various capacities. She participated in Psalms, Easter Pageant, Miss MHB, First Year Collective, was the assistant director for Revival and the Cru Leader committee director, and teaches yoga and goat yoga at UMHB.