The Olympics

After postponement, the Summer Olympics are finally here! I don’t know about you, but I love watching the Olympics. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent glued to a TV over the years, keeping track of each country’s medal count and stuffing my face with snacks, (I have no regrets).

In the spirit of the upcoming Games, let’s see how HSU has been connected to the Olympics over the years.


This summer, HSU graduate assistant, Tanner Wright, was named to the 2020 (21) USA Paralympic Team for track and field. You can see his official Team USA profile here.

While a student at HSU, Wright competed nationally as a part of a 4×400-meter team in 2019.

The 2021 Olympics will take place in Tokyo. Wright has qualified for the 100, 400, and the long jump. At the time this blog was posted, his designated event was not yet determined.


From 1999-2004, HSU graduate Denise Daffron served as the Senior Manager of Corporate Development for the Special Olympics.

According to a 2001 Range Rider (see below), Daffron was responsible for creating the branding “Inspire Greatness.” This message was incorporated into all Special Olympics’ marketing and advertising over four-years.


HSU has a history of partnering with the Special Olympics in various ways.

Beginning in 2012, as a part of Division III Week, the HSU Athletics Department hosted a field day with the Special Olympics of West Texas. HSU athletes and Special Olympic athletes spent the day participating in various track and field events, like the long jump, shot put, relay events, and more.

Beginning in 2019, University Recreation (UREC) built upon the tradition. Through a unified league, athletes from Special Olympics Texas were paired with HSU students to compete in flag-football games every other week.

UREC continues to support Special Olympics Texas through its Polar Plunge Fundraiser.


Not connected to the official Olympics organization, but sharing the “Olympic” name, HSU participated in the Border Olympics from the 1950’s through the 1980’s.

The Border Olympics is an ongoing, international event dating back to 1932. Highschool and college teams throughout Texas and Mexico would (and still) compete in Laredo, TX.

HSU’s track, golf, and tennis teams participated in the Border Olympics throughout the years.


Have you ever been connected to the Olympic Games?

Cowboy Songs

National Day of the Cowboy is celebrated the fourth Saturday in July. The day is meant to commemorate the imagery of the American West: sweeping landscapes, pioneers, romantic adventure, and the rugged cowboy traversing dangerous prairies with his cattle.

The day also recognizes the present-day cowboy. While these people aren’t driving cattle across the country like years past, they still spend much of their lives in tune with the land, caring for their animals, and herding cattle across large swaths of land.

National Day of the Cowboy was first recognized in 2005. Currently, there have not been any events where HSU has officially celebrated the day. BUT every day the campus links back to its western roots, so essentially we celebrate National Day of the Cowboy every day.

Hardin-Simmons University’s history is steeped in western heritage. Our founders were frontiers-people and ranchers; our mascot is a Cowboy; we have an active horse barn and riding program; our school song cries, “Fair daughter of the WEST, we love and honor thee. Hardin-Simmons’ fighting cowboys! Yeee-haw!”


It’s only fitting with National Day of the Cowboy around the corner, we dive in to another form of western heritage: Cowboy Songs.

The Richardson Library is always working to make its diverse resources accessible. One ongoing project is the digitization of an oral history collection. We are in the final steps of uploading the interviews (both video and sound) to the Portal to Texas History, along with our other collections. They aren’t available, yet, but below you’ll get a sneak peek.

In this lecture, former HSU faculty, Dr. Clayton speaks on the history of traditional cowboy folksongs, and later on about the history behind the songs themselves.  Dr. Clayton focuses on 7 songs: Whoopie Tie Yie Yo, The Old Chisholm Trail, The Dying Cowboy, When the Work’s All Done This Fall, Little Joe the Wrangler, The Ballad of Jesse James, and The Streets of Laredo.

Enjoy the tunes and the lecture!


About Dr. Clayton:

Dr. Clayton was a Professor of English at Hardin-Simmons University, and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.  His primary interest was in cowboy folklore and history. He published, edited, and authored many books and articles on the subjects.  He earned his bachelors’ degree from Stephen F. Austin University in 1960, and his M.Ed. in 1964, he earned his M.A. in 1967 from the University of North Texas, and his Ph.D. in 1974 in English from Texas Tech University.  He was named faculty member of the year for 1987-88. 

HSU Cartoonists

You may have seen the Abilene Reporter-News article that featured HSU graduate David Reynaud the other week. If not, check out a digital copy here. Or view images below:

David Reynaud graduated from HSU in 2020, with focuses in design and drawing. His passion is in book illustrations. Currently, Reynaud has written and illustrated a book of his own, Oliver’s World, and is working towards publishing it.

Seeing Reynaud’s artwork reminded me of another HSU cartoonist, Roy Crane.

Even with over 100 years between them, both Reynaud and Crane stepped in Marston Gym at some point in their academic career and they both have a passion for drawing. (Marston Gym was in full use when Crane was a student. Marston is still on campus and used today. It isn’t a standalone building anymore, but bricked over and fused into Fletcher Fitness Center.)

When Crane enrolled in Simmons College in 1918, the Student Army Training Corps. was in full swing, the High School Academy was still in progress, and WWI was coming to an end.

As a freshman, Crane was active on campus. He was a member of the Brand Staff, Bronco Staff, Press Club, and Philo Club. He was also a member of the Sweet H20 Club, since he graduated from Sweetwater High School.

Crane was enrolled at Simmons College for only one academic year, 1918-1919. In that short time, he made his mark on the campus, literally and figuratively.

Crane was a cartoonist. He provided illustrations for The Brand, The Corral, and The Bronco. Crane also wrote comics detailing campus life. These comics were featured in various student publications, and also used as marketing materials, like this ad for 1919 Homecoming.

Here is a sampling of his work from the 1919 Bronco.

The library has digitized more of his content. Check it out here.

After leaving Simmons College, Crane worked for various publications, attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the University of Texas, and had a peppered career path where various jobs took him in and out of the country.

While working and living in New York City, Crane was able to publish his first comic strip in 1924. His work was then syndicated, and continued to be published after his death in 1977.

Notable comic strips are Wash Tubbs, Captain Easy, and Buz Sawyer.

Did any of you keep up with the adventures Crane wrote and illustrated? Tell us in the comments below!

Decade Box Series: 1911-1919

Decade Box Series: 1911-1919

About the Decade Box Series: The Research Center (on the 2nd floor of the library) is home to many different collections and materials. (See a sampling of these items here.) One of the most utilized collections is the Decade Box.

Decade Boxes contain any paper material, we’ve been able to get our hands on, produced by the school/faculty/board over the years. Items start in 1891 with original land deeds securing property for the new school and continue through the present.

This collection is titled Decade Boxes because the boxes were once organized by decade. Over the past few years, however, we’ve procured much more content, and the amount of boxes have expanded. Boxes are still organized chronologically; however they are no longer organized in 10-year increments.

The Decade Box Series highlights randomly selected items from these boxes for viewers to catch a glimpse into HSU history.

With eyes closed, Box 1911-1919 was chosen.


The Girls Industrial Home was a residence hall on campus for female students that opened in 1910. Residents paid a more affordable rate (when compared to the other dorms) that was subsidized by physical labor. Students were responsible for the upkeep and cleaning of the building, along with their regular school work.

In 1911, girls paid $5/month, or $25 per semester, to call the Girls Industrial Home their home. By 1913, they paid $7/month.

The goals of the Industrial Home were two-fold:

  1. To give the opportunity of more affordable on-campus living to young women, who otherwise would not have be able to live on campus/attend Simmons College.
  2. Those who lived in the Girls Industrial Home received hands-on experience in home economics and would leave better prepared to manage their future homes, making them more marketable in the workforce and husband-finding.

The first recorded Homecoming took place May 30 and 31, 1917, coinciding with graduation. Highlights included a large BBQ and gala. Homecoming in 1919 (shown below) followed a similar timeline, with commencement ceremonies responsible for setting the date.

As Homecoming solidified into a yearly tradition, the campus would host the event around a sporting event. You’ll see from the 1919 program, baseball and basketball games were played. Similar to today’s homecoming festivities, in 1919 there was a carnival for attendees to enjoy.

Read more about Homecoming history and traditions here.


The campus produced a publication called The Bulletin for many years. The Bulletin morphed from a pseudo-supplemental yearbook (which is shown below), to an alumni mailer (check out an example here), and most recently, a course catalog (check out an example here).

Below is a volume from 1915, with various pages on display. Notes written by current students, staff, and faculty were published alongside photos to highlight semesters’ work and memories.


Student clubs and events were in full swing at Simmons College during this time. This Decade Box housed many flyers and programs advertising concerts, theater performances, club debates, and more.

Check out a sampling of those events:


Lastly, have you ever wondered what was served at an Alumni Breakfast in 1918? Look no further!


Stay tuned for future installments of The Decade Box Series

World UFO Day

Did you know July 2 is World UFO Day? While Abilene isn’t known for UFO-sightings or other extraterrestrial occurrences, that hasn’t stopped students from writing about other-worldly encounters.

In celebration of Friday’s upcoming UFO Day, let’s take a look at various HSU publications over the years that discuss alien matters.


In September 1967 an unexplained event in Colorado swept headlines and imaginations. A horse, named Snippy, was found dead. Cause of death: perplexing and unknown, with public opinion believing UFO involvement. Since the details are a bit graphic, the reader can decide whether or not to continue on to the Denver Public Library’s account of the event, complete with images and newspaper clippings.

This story reached Abilene, and was covered in the October 13, 1967 edition of The Brand, with an article titled Hungry UFOs.


In the 1970’s, Sid Richardson was home to the Planetary Quarantine Research Laboratory, a NASA-granted program, headed by HSU professor of microbiology, Dr. John Brewer. In conjunction with other labs across the globe, their goal was to understand whether or not bacteria from Earth could survive a trip on a probe and accidentally grow on Mars.

Why does this matter? Even though every item launched into space is thoroughly cleaned to prevent any dust, bacteria, or microbe from possibly affecting extraterrestrial ecosystems, nothing is 100% guaranteed.

For this particular mission, if a germ unintentionally hitched a ride into space and survived the trek, then as probes scanned and collected samples of Mars, scientists would have received false positives that Mars supported life.


During Founders Day in 1983, E.T. made a special appearance.

E.T. premiered the previous summer in 1982. 1982/1983 alumni, answer this: was there a campus-wide obsession with this movie???


In 2008, The Brand ran an Aliens in Pop Culture segment across two months, along with other UFO-inspired pieces.


Go celebrate World UFO Day by watching an out-of-this-world movie or searching the skies.

With our country’s birthday this weekend, it only seems appropriate to suggest watching Independence Day to commemorate both holidays at once.

West Texas Baptist Sanitarium

The West Texas Baptist Sanitarium, now Hendrick Health System, opened to receive patients September 15, 1924.

From the very beginning, the story of Hardin-Simmons and Hendrick Health was woven together through an early vision to coordinate “ministering to the needs of humanity” by “training young men in the field of medicine.”

The vision and development of the hospital are linked to President J.D. Sandefer, Judge C.M. Caldwell, and Pastor Millard Jenkins. These men saw the need for a medical center due do the growing population of Abilene and West Texas; they also saw the potential to develop medical training programs and certifications for Simmons College students.

As early as June 1919, mentions of a Baptist Sanitarium are found in Simmons College Board minutes.

In November 1919, President Sandefer began to solicit funds for a new hospital.

Simmons College and the Sanitarium were even further entwined, according to February 1923 Simmons College Board minutes when the Building Committee of the West Texas Baptist Sanitarium asked the Simmons College Board to select the hospital’s board. One month later, land was donated by Judge Caldwell and construction soon began.

The West Texas Baptist Sanitarium opened in 1925. Below is the first brochure produced by the hospital.

You’ll see an overlapping of Simmons Board Members with Hospital Board Members:

A few years later, during a trip to Odessa, Dr. Sandefer struck up a friendship with rancher, oil man, and philanthropist Thomas Hendrick and his wife, and eventually persuaded them to move to Abilene. 

Once in Abilene, the Hendricks became fast benefactors to Simmons University and the West Texas Baptist Sanitarium.

During the Depression years, Sandefer spoke with T. Hendrick about the financial hardships the school faced and the sacrifices he and his staff had made to stay afloat. Hendrick, moved by the dedication of Sandefer and his staff, wrote a check for $100,000. This money helped keep the school afloat during those hard years.

In 1931, Simmons University and the hospital collaborated, again, to train nurses to help provide patient care. This relationship continues today with the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing.

West Texas Baptist Sanitarium was renamed Hendrick Memorial in 1936 due to the Hendrick’s generosity and interest in the hospital over the years.

The long-time partnership between Hardin-Simmons and Hendrick Health continues today through curriculum enrichment, hands-on training, and career development.  And most recently, through the Day Nursery of Abilene childcare project and COVID-19 response initiatives.

The Cannon

Before finding its way to Abilene, TX, the cannon on campus was at the Battle of Santiago during the Spanish-American War in 1898, and later used for artillery training at Fort Bliss during World War I. It has seen bloodshed, sacrifice, and now rests, with its barrel pointing outward, to symbolically protect the campus from any invasion.

The cannon joined the campus ~1920 after T. N. Carswell, then Bursar of the school, secured the decommissioned firearm as a war memorial for the campus. The Great War reached the campus of Simmons College from across the ocean and pulled men and women to service. By the end of the war, 13 students gave their lives.

In her early years, the cannon experienced pranks, theft, and was often the place for romantic rendezvous. The 1933 Brand below contains a piece written from the cannon’s perspective and all of the overheard conversations from the years.

She was officially named Arizona Bill and her foundation named Fort Babe Shaw in March 1921. The naming took place during a solemn and spur of the moment ceremony, after a distasteful prank.  (We’ll get to the naming significance in a bit.)

Pranking was common across the campus; no person, building, or monument was immune to skullduggery. The cannon was targeted one night, and under cover darkness, students disassembled and scattered pieces across the campus.

The cannon was targeted due to the rivalry and bitterness the various classes (seniors, freshmen, sophomore, juniors) felt towards the Special Class.

The Special Class was made of students who returned from the war. These students did not fit a typical class designation due to their age, world experience, credits accumulated pre-war, and more. As such, they bypassed the hazing reserved for underclassmen and ascended into positions of authority reserved for upperclassmen. This angered the other students because proper pecking order was not followed.

“The Special Class was organized during the Fall term of the present school year. Its composed of students who are classed as irregular and are not eligible for membership in any of the other classes. A gradual resentment has been growing against this class by the four regular classes, because the older classes feel that the new class which in its “freshmen year” has been too vigorous in presenting its claims upon the institution.”

From the March 1921 Brand

The cannon’s placement on campus was due largely to Carswell, however the Special Class was involved too. They built the mound upon which the cannon rest. They also felt attachment to it due to their military service. The regular classes could not tolerate the Special Class’s “smugness,” so they targeted the cannon.

After an emergency campus meeting, the cannon’s pieces were returned, and the Special Class lovingly reassembled her. While joined together, the students of Simmons College wanted the cannon to have a significant presence on campus. To honor those friends lost to war, the students voted to name the cannon “Arizona Bill,” a nickname of fallen student, Kenneth Burns. Kenneth Burns, of the Signal Corps, was the school’s first causality to war in July 1918.

The stone base constructed by the Special Class was named “Fort Babe Shaw,” in honor of Simmons student Clyde “Babe” Shaw, who lost his life clearing barbed wire in the Argonne Forest so his company could continue forward.

The inscription of the 13 students who lost their lives due to service in WWI was added in 1958. The dedication of the plaque included a speech by Rupert Richardson, which you can read below.

Throughout the years, the cannon was shot off for various ceremonious and mischievous reasons: to rouse students from their sleep, to pep up the campus on the eve of a rivalry-game, and just to cause trouble. This tradition, however, no longer takes place.

Today, the cannon sits as still and quiet as the men it honors.

What stories can you share about the cannon?

Decade Box Series: 1957-1960

Decade Box Series: 1957-1960

About the Decade Box Series: The Research Center (on the 2nd floor of the library) is home to many different collections and materials. (See a sampling of these items here.) One of the most utilized collections is the Decade Box.

Decade Boxes contain any paper material, we’ve been able to get our hands on, produced by the school/faculty/board over the years. Items start in 1891 with original land deeds securing property for the new school and continue through the present.

This collection is titled Decade Boxes because the boxes were once organized by decade. Over the past few years, however, we’ve procured much more content, and the amount of boxes have expanded. Boxes are still organized chronologically; however they are no longer organized in 10-year increments.

The Decade Box Series highlights randomly selected items from these boxes for viewers to catch a glimpse into HSU history.

With eyes closed, Box 1957-1960 was chosen.


The Greater Hardin-Simmons University Expansion Program launched in the Fall of 1958. As with most capital campaigns, this campaign’s focus was to fundraise for new construction, update existing buildings, and to grow the endowment.

Behrens Chapel and the Student Union Center (Moody Center) were the main ticket items of this campaign.

Check out a few pages of the campaign’s booklet below.

And excerpts from another campaign brochure:


ROTC was in full swing on the campus during this time. Below is a glimpse of an ROTC booklet available to prospective students and high schoolers.

You’ll see HSU listed as a participating campus on the last page.

The following year, HSU’s ROTC program was placed on probation for not commissioning enough officers. The letter below was sent to all faculty, encouraging faculty to counsel students to join the ROTC program.

(The letter’s pages that listed the names of all the HSU students who passed/failed the PT list was omitted from this post.)


If you’ve read the other posts from the Decade Box Series, then it will be no surprise that various athletic brochures were in this box. What was refreshing, though, was the representation of sports teams other than football.


The pamphlet below was created to recruit veterans. The pamphlet is full of information on how to use education benefits post military and why HSU is the ideal place for military men and women.

To this day, HSU is a designated G.I. Jobs Military Friendly campus.


Stay tuned for future installments of The Decade Box Series!

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let’s that a look at some iconic members of the HSU community.


Wing Yung Choy Emery

Wing Yung Choy Emery graduated in 1947 and was the first Chinese graduate of HSU. Her bother, Choy Wai Chuen, was largely responsible for her opportunity to travel to HSU.

Wing Yung Choy Emery and her brother, Choy Wai Chuen

Choy Wai Chuen was a Wimbledon tennis player and represented China in the Davis Cup Tournament in India. While there, he met Gib Sandefer (owner of Dam-It, son of J.D. and Lucile Sandefer, manager of the Cowboy Band; that Gib Sandefer).

Gib was the Red Cross Director in India in 1944, and asked Choy Wai Chuen to play some exhibition matches as a way to raise funds for the Red Cross. After the match, Gib asked if there was anything he could do for Wai Chuen as a thank you. It was then Wai Chuen thought of his sister, and asked if Gib could arrange for Wing Yung to finish her schooling in the U.S.

Wing Yung was given a scholarship to attend HSU. After graduation, she stayed in touch with the school as a consistent donor and advocate from afar, later settling in Hawaii.


Jennifer Cheung-Navejas

A 2011 graduate and HSU tennis player, Jennifer Cheung-Navejas was named one of Abilene’s 20 under 40 in 2020. She majored in Finance and Accounting while at HSU. That combined with her determination and her family’s history of successful food ventures, her story has been a recipe for success.

Jennifer opened her first restaurant, Hashi Teppan Grill, in 2014, with a second location opening just 2 years later. (If you haven’t been to Hashi, yet, I highly recommend it–yum!)

Not only is she a business owner, Jennifer is an active member of the Abilene community where she is currently part of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, Abilene Tennis Association, HSU Tennis Alumni, and more.


Jesper Jiang

Jesper Jiang graduated from HSU in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Born in the US to Taiwanese parents, Jesper is a first-generation American and a first-generation college student.

Prior to coming back to the US and settling in Texas for his high school career, Jesper had lived in China while his parents worked in the Christian ministry in Beijing. While living in China, he saw the desperate need for medical care in rural areas. That was where his dream of becoming a physician began.

Currently, Jesper is enrolled at Texas A&M University Health Science Center College of Medicine with the goal of becoming a pediatrician. 


Grace and Jesse Watanabe

Two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. This resulted in the relocation of approximately 120,000 people to internment camps located across the country.

Knowing his family was to be forced from their home in Los Angeles, CA to a camp in Arizona, Paul Watanabe, a 1919 graduate of Simmons College, wrote to HSU, asking if his daughters could attend on scholarship.

Grace and Jesse Watanabe were invited to attend HSU after completing high school.

The two teenagers left their mother and younger sister (Paul has passed away) in the camp, and traveled by train to Abilene, TX.

“We were frightened of the unknown but we went out in faith,” said Grace, who was 17 years old at the time, and her sister, 16.

The sisters focused on their studies while at HSU. Grace was awarded the Julius Olsen Medal for making the highest grade point average during her four years, and also the Minter Medal for making the highest G.P.A. of the senior class.

While a student, Grace wrote an essay on Race Relations. Even with her tragic story, her faith in God and emphasis on loving one’s neighbor allowed her to persevere.

Grace and Jessie donated a portion of their reparation funds to HSU with the note, “to express our undying gratitude to HSU for welcoming us with open arms during a difficult period in the life of our family and for helping us to receive a strong Christian education.”

Listen to Grace Watanabe’s experiences here.


By no means is this list anywhere near complete.

Vivian Saio was a music major from Penang, Malaysia who graduated from HSU in 1970, and then joined the HSU faculty in 1976.

Gilbert Gima, from Wahiawa, Oahu, graduated in 1950 and later served on HSU’s Board of Development.

Tung Ho “Tony” Koo graduated in 1970 and was a pilot for Pan Am shortly after.

What stories can you share?

Don Bridges Courtyard

The campus of Hardin-Simmons University spans 130 years of development. We started with a single building, then eventually added a fence to keep the wildlife (and their droppings) out from underfoot. Affectionately once called the 40 Acres, the campus now boasts over 65 structures, with more in development, and a growing 220 acres.

Adding to the school’s footprint is a delicate balance of maintaining our past while embracing the possibilities and growth of the future.

There are active conversations about the campus footprint: what of our past to enhance, and what new initiative to develop. We typically hear about any decisions from our Administration and Board of Trustees. However, there is another group of people, the ghost-writers if you may, who provide the logistics and real-life effects of any major physical campus changes.

These people are our Facilities Team. Charged with the daily upkeep and expansion of our campus, these are trained carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, modern day Renaissance men who keep the physical plant (aka, the entire campus) running.

1962 Bronco, Don Bridges Row 2

Because Facilities Workers are in and under every building on campus, a unique institutional memory comes from this group of people. They know the hidden treasures of HSU better than most. They know the history of the buildings, including remodels; the location of that one ripe pear tree for a quick snack; which building has the best AC on hot days; where the hidden passages are; they know stories no one else does.

This week is the dedication of a new space on campus: the Don Bridges Courtyard. Located outside the Richardson Library, this new courtyard will provide outdoor seating for our students and community.

Don Bridges worked with Facilities for over 30 years, and spent the majority of that time as Director of Physical Properties at HSU. He was one of those Facilities members who knew the ins and outs of campus.

Students today don’t know Don Bridges, but they see his work, his legacy, daily. The cohesive red brick pattern on the buildings and the reflection pond are just a small example of his lasting impact on campus.

It’s fitting to have the courtyard named for him. It is not only a beautification project, which Don did regularly with the planting of trees across the campus, the courtyard will also enrich the student experience and enhance the school’s mission, something Don did and our current Facilities Team do regularly.