Dr. Joseph (Joe) Arden '60
I was born in Abilene and attended public school there and was a gym rat at the old Rose Field House gym since being 12-13 years old. The HSU basketball players of the early/mid-1950s were my heroes.
Because of a knee injury, I missed basically my entire senior year of basketball at Abilene High School, and so upon graduation in 1956, was greatly pleased when, nonetheless, the then basketball coach at HSU, Bill Scott, offered me a tuition/books/fees scholarship. Coach Scott had seen me in pickup games at Rose gym since I had been in junior high, and generously decided to take a chance on me. I had been raised by grandparents, with my grandfather having died when I was 14, and money was very tight. So, the scholarship really made a difference.
In those days, HSU was in the now long-defunct Border Conference along with large state schools such as the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, New Mexico State University, then Texas Western, and Texas Tech. The long practices, road trips, games, and time with the other players...remain my most fond memories of my years at HSU.
Academically, I was fortunate to take classes, from among other faculty, Dr. Rupert Richardson, Dr. Zane Mason, and Dean W.A. Stephenson. All influenced me in a positive manner. The one faculty member, who, however, stands out most in my memory was Dr. Robert Collmer, my freshman composition/literature teacher. Dr. Collmer had a truly first-class intellect and challenged me in remarkably stimulating manners. Years later, he served as Dean of Graduate Studies at Baylor.
I graduated in 1960 with a B.A., Magna Cum Laude, and then attended the University of Oklahoma, taking the Ph.D. there in 1964 in International Relations. In 1962, I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Rotary International Fellowship that allowed me to spend an academic year at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.
Not only was New Zealand an entirely different world than West Texas, but upon completing the academic year, I travelled by ship to Sidney, across Australia by train and then again by ship to Singapore, and Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka). Disembarking in Colombo, I flew to Madras in southern India, and proceeded overland by bus/train across India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Turkey, the Balkans and into Western Europe, ending in London. "Culture Shock" would not do justice to my feelings, and certainly the combination of the time in New Zealand and this trip changed my life forever.
I returned to the U.S. knowing that I wanted to be involved in "Things International" for the rest of my life. And, that has been the case.
I last lived in the U.S. in 1965, when I was dispatched to Viet Nam as an Army Intelligence Officer—my commission having stemmed from ROTC at HSU. After completing my service in Vietnam and being discharged, I was a researcher with a "Think Tank" in Thailand before joining the University of Maryland Overseas Program in 1967 as a teacher.
During the next 40 years, I worked overseas with the University of Maryland. For 30+ of these years, I served as Director of Maryland's Overseas Programs in Asia and/or Europe, while also being a University Vice President. Maryland offered classes in about 50 countries on all the continents and in my administrative capacity, I travelled a great deal.
Since leaving the University of Maryland in 2007, I have based myself in Bangkok, Thailand, while continuing to travel three to four months every year. In 2001, I was inducted into the International Continuing Education Hall of Fame, and in 2014, was inducted into the HSU Athletic Hall of Fame.
In 2008, I attended my first HSU Homecoming since having graduated in 1960. I was greatly pleased to see many changes in my alma mater that made me feel proud, especially a more racially diverse student population and a strong study abroad program. While always having been aware of how much I owed HSU for the scholarship and opportunity afforded me, these positive developments directly prompted me to want to "give back" in a financial manner.
If feasible, financially and logistically, I am quite certain that a semester or academic year in another country would be extremely beneficial to every university student. Few things are as broadening as seeing/experiencing how things work—for better or worse—in other countries and cultures.
For international students desiring an education in the U.S., Hardin-Simmons is a gem. The opportunity to study in the religious and evangelical setting that HSU provides is quite unique compared to most institutions of higher learning throughout the world. Being in a small city such as Abilene allows international students to gain a better sense of how Americans in the heartland live their lives and what their world is all about. While large universities in major urban areas draw many international students, those students have a totally different experience than the ones afforded at Hardin-Simmons.
Thanks directly to the basketball scholarship given to me—through monies contributed to HSU by persons who did not know me at all—Hardin-Simmons gave me wonderful opportunities and helped prepare me for my professional career in higher education and my personal international life. I am very pleased to be able to give back and by so doing hopefully help future HSU students have those same opportunities.