Family Ties and Fond Memories Inspire HSU Support
By J.B. Featherston
We choose to give back to HSU because the school gave so much to us. It was there that I developed my musical career and there that I met my future wife! My ties to Hardin-Simmons go back generations, as my mother Lillie B. Reeves (BA '14) and father, Solon R. Featherston (BA '18) met there, and Dad was on the Board of Trustees for many years. I also had a number of relatives who attended the school and one cousin who served on the Board as well.
My dad was instrumental in connecting Simmons College with John G. Hardin. In fact, he wrote a series of letters to explain the culture and "romance" of Simmons College to Mr. Hardin, who was his friend and colleague in Burkburnett during the oil boom that developed around that town in the early 20th century (remember the movie Boom Town, starring Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr?). Late in life, Dad published those letters and some others in a book that he entitled The Romance of Hardin-Simmons University. This is one of the digitized history books about Hardin-Simmons that is now posted on the library website. The Hardin gift saved the school from bankruptcy during the Great Depression, so I may say that in large part, HSU exists as it does today because my father and other donors were so passionate about the character of the school.
When I was deciding where to attend college back in 1946, the decision was right there in front of me.
I haven't stayed connected with Hardin-Simmons as I should have; I wish we had stayed closer. I served as choir director for multiple Baptist churches in Texas, and then in 1963, Beryl and I wanted to help five other couples start a church in Wichita Falls. Our dream was to start a church that was Bible-centered and that would honor the Lord, depending on Him rather than on man-made promotions. We remained friends with many Baptists and had no complaint against them then, nor do we now. We just wanted to do things a little differently. Our church, which we named "Grace Church," is now large and thriving. True to our church planting roots, we are now starting a church in our retirement home here in McKinney, where we have recently settled this past year.
Thinking back to HSU memories brings up all kinds of great stories. One of my favorites is the "Silly Six." During my senior year in Ferguson Hall, I had five great suitemates. We called ourselves the "Silly Six" because we were always playing jokes on people and doing fun things together. We all got crew cuts, bleached our hair and bought maroon sport jackets and bright yellow ties. Two of them, including John Schwensen, who became one of my lifelong best friends, were cheerleaders. When HSU played University of Houston, the school didn't send the Cowboy Band, the Cowgirls drill team or even cheerleaders. Three of us borrowed Cowboy Band shirts and megaphones and joined the two who were actually cheerleaders. We comprised a vocal and energetic cheering squad for the Cowboys. As I recall, the Cowboys (with our help of course) almost won the game, losing by 25-26.
In addition, I had the privilege of singing in the university men's quartet three of my four years there. We had fun traveling to Baptist conventions and performing for service clubs and other groups. One of the members from my freshman and sophomore years became one of my best friends and we were best man for each other's weddings. That was Glenn Murray. Both John and Glenn are now with the Lord.
Euell Porter came to HSU as head of the voice department and conductor of choirs just before I started my junior year. The two years I sang in the A Cappella choir, which he later said was the best he had ever conducted, were highlights of my career at HSU. We truly had a great choir, thanks to Mr. Porter. We toured every fall and spring and those were great and fun experiences. He later moved to Baylor University and became Dr. Porter, but he remained Mr. Porter to me—my lifelong friend. He was by all means my most memorable teacher, mentor and friend. Other influential teachers included "Prof" Bond in English and Jack Dean in music theory.
I mentioned I found my wife while at HSU. That's my favorite story! Almost every girl I dated for all four years lived in Smith Hall. To the newbies, that was a co-op dorm where the girls shared in the cooking and cleaning for their room and board. These girls were always sweet and humble. I remember the fun of just "hanging" with some of those gals, like Annita Sibley (Frazier), Betty V. Morris (Todd), Betty Riek (Cox) and Kathleen Ball (Williams). And of course, the girl of my dreams whom I married, Beryl Marie Miller, was a "Smithie."
I first saw Beryl at the BSU pre-school retreat in 1949 and thought "Wow!" but I didn't get up the nerve to date her until late January. By April, we were engaged, and the following January we were married. We feel that the marriage was made in Heaven and it's been a little bit of Heaven on earth to live with her these past 68 years.
I chose HSU because my parents graduated from there and I had visited the campus dozens of times growing up. But more importantly, I had recently committed my life to serve the Lord in whatever way He chose, and I knew I needed a Christian education for that. I was interested in developing my musical talents and knew that HSU had a great music department. But the best result from choosing HSU was that I would meet my future wife there in my senior year. All my other reasons for attending Hardin-Simmons were great, but all pale in comparison. Reliving our fun college experiences reminds us of how special a place HSU is, and we are grateful for the memories.
We hope and pray that God will continue to bless HSU, its faculty and students, and make it a powerful force for good for years to come.