ACU honors grad prosthumously


By LORETTA FULTON
Senior Staff Writer,
Abilene Reporter-News
Feb. 22, 2000

Lynette Rowland looks at strangers differently since her husband was shot to death on the streets of a peaceful New England community.

She eyes closely those who look angry or odd. People who appear agitated beyond reason grab her attention.

Oddly, it's not fear or suspicion that drives Lynnette to look into desperate eyes. It's compassion.

"Boy, I wonder what tragedy they've had in their life" is her immediate reaction to strangers who could easily be viewed with indifference or trepidation.

Her remarkable response to the death of her 36-year-old husband, Mark, is something she can't completely explain, but gladly accepts. She believes the attitude comes from her husband's legacy of never complaining.

"Enjoy the day" was his motto, she said. "It's all you have."

Mark Rowland's legacy was honored Monday night at Abilene Christian University during the 82nd annual Bible Lectureship. Each year, ACU awards a Distinguished Alumni Citation to a former student, but Mark's honor was believed to be the first ever presented during the annual lectureship.

"We are making an exception tonight to recognize the life of an exceptional young man," ACU President Royce Money said in presenting the citation.

Even though Lynette has tried to "enjoy the day" since her husband's murder on Aug. 20, 1999, that's not always possible.

"Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly" blaring from a department store speaker brought tears and bad memories at Christmastime. But as soon as she felt the self-pity coming on, she shook free from it.

"If I'm having a bad day, maybe others are, too," was her reasoning.

Lynette was attracted to that same attitude in Mark when they met at South 11th and Willis Church of Christ in 1990.

Lynette, who had never been to Abilene before, was encouraged to settle here after doing mission work in Venezuela. Friends told her of the mission community at ACU and thought she would enjoy the fellowship of fellow missionaries.

Mark , who was serving as a youth minister at the Church of Christ in Manchester, N.H., was working on a master's degree at ACU in marriage and family therapy. A year and a half after meeting, Lynette and Mark were married and moved to Manchester.

Their life was good. Mark worked as a family counselor at Nashua Children's Home in Manchester, and Lynette operated a day care center in their home. Their only child, Emily, was born in August 1997.

Two years later, on the morning of Aug. 20, Mark left for work to meet with a man who believed his 5-year-old son was going to be snatched from him. According to witnesses, the angry man had one last statement for Mark.

"My problem is with you and everybody else who is trying to mess up my life," he said, and then shot Mark in the head.

Four hours later, Mark died in the emergency room with his wife and friends from their church at his side. In the days that followed, Lynette and Mark's mother, Grace Rowland of Syracuse, N.Y., were surrounded with friends from the couple's church.

"It was so clear to me that God was using his people to help me," Lynette said.

Mark's loss will be felt for a lifetime, and his wife knows she still has hurdles to face. One will come in July when she will give a victim's impact statement at the trial of the man accused of murdering her husband. She will tell him that when he shot Mark Rowland, he killed a man who had a family, hopes, dreams and friends.

"I want people to know that when someone makes a decision to kill somebody what the consequences are," she said.

Lynette has lost much since Aug. 20, but she retains her faith. In an article in ACU Today magazine, she said she has had to take a couple of steps back to gain perspective.

"There's no reason for me to say bad things about God," she said. "He had everything set up. He is still there. He has given me the faith to look at him and not blame him."

Loretta Fulton can be reached at 676-6778 or fultonl@abinews.com.

Copyright ©2000, Abilene Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps Publications

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Last update: Feb. 22, 2000
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