As one reflects on a long and fortunate career in higher education, it is easy to depend on the patterns that define the ebb and flow of an academic year to gauge progress, success, and to forge plans for improvement and growth. The 2020-2021 academic year changed all of that. This was the academic year that we were introduced to a term that none of us had uttered just 18 months ago: COVID-19.
One of the things that I am comforted by, and something I now know we can depend on, is the resilience of the human spirit to adapt, overcome, and support during a crisis. I have seen phenomenal positivity and courage across the campus community over the past year: administrators who strived to make the best possible choices for our future; faculty who arose to the challenge to provide the best possible learning experience despite uncertainty; and, staff who “kept the fires burning” in ways that were both seen and unseen. Above all, I have witnessed faith and hope among our students. While the challenges of the last year have no doubt taken their toll on us all in a variety of ways, the net outcome appears to both positive, and a source of strength, as we move forward.
On Saturday, May 8, the University held an outdoor graduation ceremony in Buffalo Stadium.
To mark the end of a challenging academic year, the opportunity to participate in the sacred occasion of honoring students who have completed the requirements of their educational programs. We conclude this rite of passage by conferring upon these students a degree that they have justly earned.
As we all explore what it means to “go back to normal,” the opportunity to honor our graduates with a ceremony celebrating their graduation was a notable step in this direction. The sights and sounds of the joy that graduation brings to students, families, and faculty are uniquely compelling and not soon forgotten.
On Wednesday, April 28, the college hosted a hybrid student symposium and community recognition ceremony in Legacy Hall. The opportunity to return to this college tradition of honoring student excellence and accomplishments was was a welcome breath of fresh air relished by all who attended. We also used this occasion to honor leaders in our community in acknowledgement of the integral role the community serves in sustaining the college. Traditions such as these are foundational for the renewal and vigor that are fundamental to our collective well-being.
The value of the university and the college can also be appreciated in the legacy of impact we have on families. In the case of Stanley Schaeffer, and his son David Schaeffer, both have earned bachelor’s degrees in Accounting here at WT. Both father and son went on achieve success in business and positively impact the Texas Panhandle community. As such, Stanley and David acknowledge the value and blessing of their education. On Saturday, May 8, an honorary doctorate was conferred upon Stanley Schaeffer to recognize a lifetime of accomplishments in philanthropy. Also, on this day, the David Schaeffer Legacy Scholarship Endowment was announced. This scholarship entails a matching gift of $250,000 from the Paul Engler Foundation and amounts to a $500,000 scholarship endowment for students in the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business. In light of what was a difficult academic year, the investment that these accomplished leaders have made in our students’ futures will last in ways both measurable and immeasurable.
We have started the year off with a variety of positive outcomes to share with you in this issue.
To start, for our Legacy spotlight, we are happy to share an enlightening discussion with Don Williams, who is also a generous supporter of the college. Our alumni spotlight focuses on Brett and Grant McDivitt, who represent a legacy of their own in their work at the FDIC. We are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the WT Enterprise Center, a business incubator project that has been a resource for the Panhandle business community.
In the progress of time, we sometimes say goodbye to dear colleagues as they make the significant decision to retire from academic life. In the accounting department, Drs. Darlene Pulliam, Karyn Friske, and Sharon Burnett, along with Ms. Alice Upshaw, have retired at the end of the academic year, and we celebrate their accomplishments.
As an old saying goes, you don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it. In this case, the precious commodity for us all would be “normalcy.”
The prospects for a healthy return to post-COVID-19 campus life is improving, and the plan is to resume normal campus activities in June and a return to full on-campus instruction in the Fall 2021 semester. This fills each of us with hope as the campus community undoubtedly benefits the engagement, fellowship, and community that presence on campus facilitates.
In this regard, the college enjoys bright prospects with plans to open up new academic programs, facilitate professional enrichment within the business community, and initiatives to achieve equitable access to our college as a life-transforming resource. Community support, exceptional faculty, and high-achieving students, each contribute to what makes our college unique and outstanding.
We look forward to sharing the accomplishments of the college as we spring back into action. Please visit or contact us if you would like to become more involved with the college or have any questions. Most of all, thank you for your support and interest in the college in what has been a difficult time.
Dr. Amjad Abdullat
Dean and CIS Professor
Paul and Virginal Engler College of Business
If you have a story that you would like to be considered for future newsletters, contact Lynsee Bjork.