Brandon ’13 and Kayla (Willis) ’14/’16 Dillman
Brandon ’13 and Kayla (Willis) ’14/’16 Dillman met their very first day at Hardin-Simmons in 2010, and instantly struck up a friendship. Kayla rode with the HSU Six White Horses, double majored in ministry and psychology, and went on to receive her master’s degree in Clinical Counseling. Brandon majored in psychology and double minored in ministry and Leadership Studies. After four years of friendship, Brandon and Kayla were engaged on the Leggett Bridge and married in Logsdon Chapel in 2015.
Brandon currently works as a financial advisor for Edward Jones and uses his business as an expression of his calling to minister to others through helping them steward their resources. Kayla works in a private practice counseling setting, and also does equine-connected mental health counseling. They are both active in their local church and stay connected to HSU through their leadership and giving opportunities.
Why did you choose HSU?
Brandon: When I first started looking into schools, I knew I wanted to go to a Christian school. My older sister, Brittany Dillman ’11, first found HSU for the athletic training program. During trips to visit her, I fell in love with the school and knew it was where I wanted to go. Once I discovered the self-serve Blue Bell in the caf, it was just the cherry on top!
Kayla: I knew I wanted to attend a Christian University and felt like God was drawing me to a smaller school where I could be more than just a number. “An education enlightened by faith” was exactly what HSU was for me, and it didn’t take long to feel certain that I had made the right choice choosing HSU.
Who were your most memorable teachers and mentors?
Brandon: I had so many great professors at HSU, and each were so influential. Something I love about HSU is much of what I learned wasn’t taught just in the classroom. In the Leadership Studies program, we didn’t just learn theories of leadership, but Dr. Coleman Patterson taught us to apply what we learned by practicing the theories through activities like “Outdoor Leadership” campouts and the “Bike Ride Across Texas.” I also had a minor in ministry; however, I always said I minored in Dr. Kelvin Kelley. His teaching often went into extra-innings, walking across campus after class and talking more about what ministry looks like in our everyday lives.
Kayla: I had so many amazing professors while attending HSU; too many to count! I was quickly drawn into the world of psychology because of Dr. Sue Lucas, as her lectures brought so much purpose, passion, and authenticity. I chose to complete my graduate work at HSU because I couldn’t imagine taking classes from any other professors anywhere else. Debbie Jones, Director of the Six White Horses Program, was a strong mentor to me, and displayed leadership and poise as she led our team.
Favorite story or memory?
Brandon: Besides meeting, dating, proposing to, and marrying my wife at HSU, one of my favorite memories was participating in the inaugural “Bike Ride Across Texas.” I never thought planning a bike ride would be so formational in my education. I have so many memories, funny stories, and lessons from random events that happened about how God works even in the small and insignificant details.
Kayla: Many of my favorite memories happened while riding with the Six White Horses team. My favorite memory while on the team is when we were in south Texas riding in a rodeo, we talked Debbie Jones into driving us to the ocean so we could ride the horses bareback down the beach.
How do you stay involved or connected?
We both serve on the Board of Young Associates for the university, and Kayla currently serves as the President Elect for the board. We love that we get to visit campus often and stay connected to many of our former professors. We love speaking about HSU any opportunity we get, and often encourage high school graduates to check into HSU. Both of us have so many friends from our time at HSU that have truly become lifelong friends.
How and why do you choose to give back to HSU?
We currently give to the “Tomorrow’s Leaders Today” endowment fund started by BYA, and we also support the future equine therapy program building fund. These giving opportunities are both special to us as they represent what is important to us. The “Tomorrow’s Leaders Today” fund goes directly to help students, and the Board of Young Associates gets to take part in the selection process for the recipients of this award each year. We are also very excited to give to the future equine therapy program and believe that this will be a great resource that HSU will have to offer to give graduate students the ability to partner with horses in therapy programs that serve the Abilene community and beyond.
What do you think others should know about giving to HSU?
We want people to know that your gift goes a long way! We both received scholarship money from HSU donors and would likely not have been able to attend HSU if it weren’t for donors who loved the university so much and believed in the mission. Hardin-Simmons offers so many great giving opportunities that you can really choose the right fit for you. I remember writing thank-you notes to donors after being selected to receive a financial gift and consider it an honor that we get to be on the other side of the story now.