East Texas Baptist University invited generations of alumni from the College of Marshall (COM), East Texas Baptist College (ETBC), and East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) back to the Hill to celebrate past and present traditions during Homecoming weekend on October 13 through October 15. For more than 100 years of reunions, the Tiger Family has celebrated the tradition of Homecoming to reminisce and create new memories with current students and alumni.
“We celebrate how God works through the alumni on this Hill and praise Him for equipping ETBU students from generation to generation,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said. “The East Texas Baptist alumni legacy goes beyond their time spent on campus, as they live as God’s Christian servant leaders in their communities and workplaces. We, as Tigers, are bearers of the light of Christ and hold to our motto: May the light on the Hill never die,” Dr. Blackburn continued. “We celebrate a risen Savior. We know that this central fact is why we come together to proclaim Christ and integrate faith in all we do here at ETBU. This Homecoming, we celebrate how God has worked and continues to work through our Tiger Family.”
As a symbol of the mantel of leadership, authority, God’s blessing, and the Lord’s protection of His followers, the University presented seven individuals with ETBU’s traditional Golden Blazers for the sacrifices they have made to help their alma mater. These ambassadors have provided $10,000 of financial support to the University and countless volunteer hours. The 2017 Golden Blazers are Frances Eiland Henderson (‘46), Barry Hale (‘93), Dr. Tequecie Meek (‘73), Merrill Nelson (‘84), Jacob Richardson (‘07), Kelli Richardson (‘09), and Rev. Cecil Winn (‘61).
The Homecoming Chapel service also announced the winners of the 2017 Alumni Awards. Robert Duvall (’63) received the J. Wesley Smith Achievement Award and accepted the W.T. Tardy Service Award on behalf of the Hope Pierce Tartt Scholarship Fund. In addition, Peter Muriungi (‘98) received the Alumni Achievement Award, Chuck Kennedy (‘68) the Unsung Hero Award, Starrla Penick (‘03) the Young Alumnus Award, and Jerry Hamilton (‘83) the Blue and Gold Award.
“I am proud to be a part of an institution where Christ is the top priority,” Unsung Hero Alumni Award Winner Kennedy said. “I am eager to share my experiences because ETBU is a wonderful place to learn and grow in your faith, even long after you graduate. I encourage each and every one of you to be a hero to someone. At times, heroes can be found in the most unsuspecting places.”
Each of these ETBU supporters charged the students to reach out and serve others. They shared how ETBU shaped their lives and asked students to utilize the opportunities and guidance available at the University.
“Whether you are alumni, have donated to the University, or simply said a prayer for our campus, you have paved the way for current students to receive a Christ-centered education,” Miss ETBU Taylor Rowlands shared at the Golden Lightkeeper Luncheon following the Homecoming Chapel in honor of the class of 1967. “It is because of your service that we are able to fulfill God’s plan for our lives.”
During the luncheon, three alumni were recognized with Golden Lightkeeper Awards. Susan Bennett Livingston (‘64), Rutledge McClaran (‘61), and Carolyn Wilkinson (‘67) graduated 50 years ago or more and demonstrate continuing achievement in their vocation, church, and community. Their lives support and exemplify the mission of East Texas Baptist. Each year, alumni who have graduated 50 years ago are named Golden Lightkeepers with the presentation of a medallion. Three 1967 graduates, Carolyn Wilkinson, Lewis Davis, and Dr. John Hatch, were present for this honor.
“I hope I can continue to give back to ETBU for all of the things the University has done for me,” ETBU senior Gabe Alonzo said. “If it wasn’t for East Texas Baptist, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. It is a blessing to be a part of an institution that encourages me to live a life that is pleasing to God. I am honored to be a Tiger.”
The Christian community shared at ETBU was strengthened through the many activities planned, such as Blue Revue, Decade Reunions, and the Tiger Football game. The 2017 Homecoming Court was announced during the halftime festivities at Ornelas Stadium on Saturday. The court included Freshman Duke and Duchess, Johnny Turner and Haley Harmening; Sophomore Duke and Duchess, Bryce Hoffman and Helen Sperling; Junior Duke and Duchess, Richard Johnson and Madison Riley; and Senior Duke and Duchess, Brandon LeBlanc and Hannah McGowin. ETBU seniors Gabe Alonzo and Halee Vasquez were named 2017 ETBU Homecoming King and Queen.
“ETBU has impacted me in more ways than I can count,” Vasquez expressed. “I have been challenged to love the Lord and His people better each day. I now know what a community of believers who work to further the Kingdom of God looks like. It means the world to me that I get to represent the school that I love most. I feel extremely blessed to have been given this opportunity.”