A Night of Distinction Recognizing Standout Alumni

Night of Distinction 2023 Honorees

For almost a century, graduates of McMurry University have been leaders in their professions and their communities, living extraordinary lives that embody McMurry’s core values of Learning, Excellence, and Service.

McMurry University honored seven alumni who have made a significant difference in their communities and professions and presented its first Honorary Alumni Award at the annual Night of Distinction dinner this past April, as part of McMurry’s Spring Alumni Weekend.

The Distinguished Alumni Award (est. 1971) and Young Alumni Achievement Award (est. 2011), the highest honors bestowed on alumni from McMurry, were be presented to individuals who have showcased exemplary service and accomplishment in their professional careers and communities. Five additional alumni were recognized with Outstanding Alumni Awards (est. 2017) in Business, Education, Fine Arts, Math & Sciences, and Religious & Spiritual Life.

“McMurry alumni have an established standard of excellence as evidenced by their contributions to their professional careers, their communities, and their alma mater,” said McMurry President Sandra S. Harper.

It’s an honor to recognize these eight individuals as truly outstanding representatives of McMurry University:

DR. DOUG WOFFORD ’77 | Distinguished Alumni Award

Doug Wofford

Dr. Doug Wofford, who grew up in New Mexico and West Texas as the son of a United Methodist minister, committed his life and career to the value of a broad liberal arts education, working as a director of admissions at McMurry, a higher education consultant, principal investigator of a National Science Foundation grant, founder of two enrollment management software companies, Senior Vice President of the College Board’s higher education products and services, Senior Vice President for Technology at Ruffalo Noel Levitz and Senior Vice President of Operations and CFO of the Associated Colleges of the South.

CHAD HARRIS, DVM 03 | Young Alumni Achievement Award

Chad Harris

Dr. Chad Harris spent much of his career focused on companion animal and exotic animal medicine. He developed an interest in aquatic medicine and became one of four veterinarians in the state of Texas that would routinely treat fish. He has been an active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Texas Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Fish Veterinarians, and the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Harris was voted as one of “America’s Favorite Veterinarians” by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. Dr. Harris is currently the Vice President of Veterinary Leadership for VetCor in Austin. In this role, he focuses on mentorship, innovation, leadership development, and medical support.

GAYLENE TAYLOR 60 | Outstanding Alumna in Business

Gaylene Taylor '60

Gaylene Taylor graduated in 1960 from McMurry College with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting. While finding an accounting position initially proved difficult — she was told “women couldn’t be accountants” — she joined Shell Oil Company and enjoyed a 32-year career serving in various departments, including chemical, pipeline, transportation and supplies, auditing, federal controls and reporting, and the controller’s office. She was promoted several times, eventually reaching the department manager level. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991, Gaylene retired early, serving on the Shell Alumni Association Group Houston Board of Directors for several years. Now a 30+ year cancer survivor, Gaylene is an active member of the Houston Can Care Organization and has volunteered and financially supported a number of church, school, medical, civic, and charitable organizations.

DR. JOHN E. CHAPMAN III 96 | Outstanding Alumnus in Education

John E. Chapman

John E. Chapman III graduated from McMurry in 1996 with a degree in biology and natural science and obtained his Masters Degree at Wayland Baptist and Doctorate of Education at Texas Tech, both in educational leadership. John is currently the superintendent of Comal ISD, after serving as Superintendent in Chillicothe, Comfort, Ennis, and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISDs. John has won many awards for his stewardship in education, including two Superintendent of the Year titles in two different regions. He was named Citizen of the Year in 2006 and Gifted and Talented Administrator of the Year in 2009. Dr. Chapman owes his successes and honors to those outstanding educators who share his vision of student excellence not only in the classroom, but in every function of school district life.

LENWORTH MCINTOSH 09 | Outstanding Alumnus in Fine Arts

Lenworth McIntosh '09

Lenworth “Joonbug” McIntosh is a 2009 graduate of McMurry University with a degree in multimedia application/graphic design. He is a multidisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles, California. His Jamaican roots loom large throughout his work and find reflection across his creative wheelhouse, which includes illustration, design, painting and analog photography. An avid collector of images, Lenworth considers the process of curation an integral exercise in his practice. Across medium, his work is narrative-driven, seeking to capture some emotive moment in the long string of moments that make a life.

ALAN C. HOWELL, MD 95 | Outstanding Alumnus in Math & Sciences

Alan Howell '95

Dr. Alan Howell graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from McMurry and completed his undergraduate medical education at UT-Houston (now known as McGovern Medical School). After completing a residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, he continued his medical education specializing in adult infectious disease. Since then, he’s held multiple faculty appointments. One from Texas Tech Health Science Center while in private practice in Lubbock. Later, from Texas A&M while serving as the Infectious Disease Fellowship Program Director at Baylor Scott & White. Currently, he works with both pharmacy and medical students from Kansas City University while serving as an ID physician for Mercy Hospital in Joplin Missouri. He is a lifelong learner having completed training and certification with the Academy of Communication in Healthcare and currently pursuing a master’s degree in Foresight at the University of Houston.

THE REV. DR. HELEN NEINAST 75 | Outstanding Alumna in Religious & Spiritual Life

Helen Neinast '75

Helen R. Neinast has been intrigued by the intersection of spirituality and social change since she was a child, when her father was a laborer in the oilfields of West Texas. Later, New Mexico’s landscape deepened those connections. As practitioner and scholar, Helen’s academic and practical experience as a United Methodist minister is evident in her writing and in her work. Educated at McMurry University (Bachelor of Arts in English), Duke University (Master of Divinity), and the Graduate Theological Foundation (Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Direction), Helen has been a chaplain in a psychiatric hospital, counselor at women’s centers, advisor for international college student organizations, consultant for addictions treatment groups, director in the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, as well as a campus minister at Emory University and a parish minister.

DR. SANDRA S. HARPER | Honorary Alumna

Dr. Sandra S. Harper

The Alumni Board of Directors recognized Dr. Sandra S. Harper as the first and 2023 Honorary Alumna. Dr. Harper  has been a tireless champion for McMurry during her many years dating back to 1985 as a professor, dean, and as McMurry’s first female President. She famously said that although she is not a graduate of McMurry, she got back here as fast as possible. She has doubtless, done more for the University than many if not most graduates.

As an educator, she has impacted students in the classroom, so much so that she still maintains relationships with many of them. As the Dean of Arts and Sciences, she expanded her influence to even more students and faculty. And, now as McMurry’s 12th and first female President, she has lead the University to its largest enrollment in 12 years, the largest fundraising year in school history, and the largest single project in school history and the list goes on and on. She is the University’s greatest ambassador and vision caster to Abilene and the regional community. Her deep involvement in community and statewide academic affairs puts McMurry in the spotlight. And through her personal style and talent, she demonstrates McMurry’s commitment to excellence. Dr. Harper embodies the best of McMurry.

Every year, the recognition committee of the Alumni Association selects the Distinguished Alumni Award (est. 1971) and Young Alumni Achievement Award (est. 2011) recipients. Academic advisory board committees select the recipients for Outstanding Alumni Awards (est. 2017) in Business, Education, Fine Arts, Math & Sciences, and Religious & Spiritual Life. These committees choose from nominations submitted by McMurry faculty, staff, and the alumni community.

Previous distinguished alumni include Terry Wheeler, Mary Esther Bynum, C. Girvin Harkins, K.O. Long, Art Pertile, III, the Honorable Jorge Solis, Bishop Dan Solomon, Grant Teaff, Sarah Ragle Weddington, and Shirley Ann Wagley.

Nominations for the 2024 Alumni Awards are now open. 

The deadline for the 2024 Alumni Awards nomination submissions is December 31, 2023.