An HSU Family Tradition
Hardin-Simmons has always nurtured heart connections between people and purposes. Usually the persons you meet at HSU are passionate about their time with the University because they felt validated in caring for their unique dreams and gained training, developed boldness, and were encouraged to pursue paths that might not have gotten a second glance somewhere else.
Melburn and Martha Sibley became very interested in getting involved with giving back to HSU when they saw their personal journey and passion was being developed at HSU, and they knew they wanted to participate in supporting the school as a natural result of their family experiences and their own life's work and legacy.
Melburn Sibley attended Hardin-Simmons from 1954 to 1955 and says, "I knew about HSU from my family." He chose it because it felt small enough for him to know many people and had a warm atmosphere that reminded him of home. His father had been the pastor of First Baptist Church in Sweetwater, Texas, for many of his childhood years before moving to Beaumont where he spent his teen years. His parents and older sisters, Annita Sibley Frazier '51 and Betty Sibley Hawley '52, all went to HSU, so Melburn says that it was almost a family tradition to attend HSU! While at HSU, Melburn was particularly impressed by Dean Walton. "Dean Walton's teaching was interesting and kind. I also had Dr. Rupert Richardson, who was a great historian of Texas and the Southwest."
After college he attended seminary in Fort Worth and met his future wife, Martha, after being introduced by a mutual friend. Martha had received her degree from Mississippi College, a sister Baptist school, and had moved to Texas with a friend where she was teaching school in Arlington. Melburn was pastoring Little River Church near Cameron while he completed his seminary degree, and during his last year of schooling they were married.
Melburn served in three basic areas of ministry: pastoral ministry, Baptist childcare work, and capital funding for churches. He pastored three churches and was interim pastor of several others while serving as Superintendent of South Texas Children's Home. Before he retired, he served with the Southern Baptist Convention Stewardship Commission, leading many churches throughout the U.S. and Canada in their efforts to inspire their members in giving toward capital improvements. In retirement, he continued to do this work on a limited basis and became involved with his local community through their church and Rotary Club. He and Martha made many friends and lasting memories while serving to support meaningful causes and to follow his calling. Their years of service connected them firsthand with building up and investing in the lives of others and seeing people develop because of the work they did.
When Melburn's position with the Stewardship Commission required that he move to the Dallas area, Martha continued her work toward certification as a dyslexia therapist at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas. She was asked to join the staff at the hospital to provide inservice training for teachers throughout Texas. This was a service provided by the hospital to help educators have a better understanding of the strategies and techniques for teaching students with dyslexia.
One of Martha's hundreds of visits over a period of 16 years of presentations and consulting was made to HSU as it began its dyslexia program! So the Sibleys have been following Hardin-Simmons' educational training programs for years, and even played a part in the very beginning of the path HSU was taking to equip teachers and families.
When the Sibleys learned that Hardin-Simmons was building a new training center for dyslexia and autism, called the Houston-Lantrip Center for Literacy and Learning, Melburn and Martha said, "We knew we would like to help. Since Martha is a dyslexia therapist, and has worked with two Baptist colleges in developing a master's degree program for training teachers to become therapists, we have a deep interest in promoting this area of education at the university level."
The Sibleys have given funds to build an office in the new Houston-Lantrip Center, continuing to encourage and support current and future dyslexia therapists, their trainers, and their students. They are supported in this endeavor by their two children and three grandchildren. Their daughter, Michele, a registered nurse, is married to Ken Riddle, a professor of computer science, and they live with their teenage daughter in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Michael, their son, and his wife, Hanna, are both computer/electrical engineers and reside with their two teens, Matilda and David, in Sollentuna, Sweden.
So with this gift, Melburn and Martha are bringing full circle the family traditions that started generations ago of supporting heart connections, like investing in a new generation of dyslexia trainers at Hardin-Simmons.