Longtime ACU dean, national "Point of Light" Walter H.
Adams dies early Thursday
For Immediate Release
Dec. 27, 1999
ABILENE - President Bush's 816th "Point of Light" and the
city's first Pride of Abilene recipient Dr. Walter H. Adams
died early Thursday morning at age 96 at Radford Hills
He was fondly called "Dean Adams" for his long-time role
as dean of students at Abilene Christian University. He
earned his bachelor's degree at ACU and became an instructor
of mathematics in 1925. He became dean of the college in
1932 at age 29 - making him one of the youngest senior deans
in the United States - and he served in that role for 37
President George Bush honored Adams at age 88 for his
"seemingly tireless efforts" to clean up Abilene. He became
a familiar site as people drove along Judge Ely Boulevard as
he mowed weeds, raked, and retrieved litter several hours a
Born Nov. 29, 1903, to Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Adams, Adams
first came to ACU as a freshman in the fall of 1921, the
valedictorian of his class at Chickasha High School. After
his formidable years spent in rural Opal, Springtown and
Chickasha, Oklahoma, as one of 11 children, Adams decided to
go to Oklahoma A&M. His older sister, Alma Morlan,
persuaded Adams and his brother to transfer to ACU after
only a week at Oklahoma A&M. This began a lifelong
allegiance between a Christian school and a man with a
As a student, Adams was a tremendous asset to the student
body through service in various offices on campus as well as
lettering in basketball and baseball for four years. He was
a college debater, a member of the men's social club Sub
T-16, and a member of the drama club. He also was voted
best all-around man. Following his graduation, he taught
classes each semester, served as director of the
correspondence school and was assistant manager of McDonald
He began his graduate work at Stanford University, and in
1929, when ACU moved to the new campus on the Hill, took a
leave of absence to work on his doctorate at Columbia
University. He became dean in 1932 at the age of 29.
Adams had two major goals: for ACU to be admitted into the
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and to improve
the library. He achieved both goals and countless
Upon completion of his dissertation, he became the first
teacher at ACU to hold a doctorate degree. He wrote
hundreds of letters to members of the Churches of Christ in
an effort to upgrade the university with additional teachers
who held doctorate degrees. Aware of the importance of a
library to higher education, he also focused on bringing the
library up to standard. The greatest achievement of Adam's
lifetime was recognized when accreditation for ACU was
finally announced in 1951 at the Southern Association
national meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla.
He married Louise Brown Harsh from Gallatin, Tenn., on
Sept. 7, 1927. He served as deacon at University Church of
Christ for 15 years and as an elder from 1952-1988.
He served as president of Abilene Rotary Club in 1942,
president of the Association of Texas Colleges and
Universities in 1945, president of the Association of Texas
Graduate Schools in 1946, and was a member of the State
Board of Examiners for Teacher Education (1950-58) and
chairman in 1956. He served on many examining teams for
National Association for Professional Standards for Teacher
Education and as chairman of several teams.
Among the awards he received that brought recognition to
ACU were being listed in Who's Who in America (1947),
Educators of the Southwest, Who's Who in American Education
(1963-64), and Outstanding Educators of America (1971).
Adams retired from the dean's office in 1969, but
continued his work in Christian education. He earned a
lifetime title, "Dean Adams", because of his emphatic
devotion to the university. He received the honorary
Doctorate of Laws Degree from Pepperdine University in
In addition to his dedication to ACU, Adams also was
selected by the White House as a national "Point of Light".
His endless commitment to polish and beautify the City of
Abilene and his leadership in recycling efforts singled him
out as then-President George Bush's 816th daily "Point of
Light" in 1992. He was awarded the "Keep America Beautiful
Award" by the State of Texas, and he was Abilene's first
recipient of the Pride of Abilene Award in 1991.
In 1992, the Walter H. Adams Center for Teaching
Excellence was established to pay tribute to Adams and
secure endowment funds for faculty development and student
scholarships with an emphasis placed on teacher
Adams was preceded in death by his wife, Louise, on Sept.
17, 1987; his daughter, Nancy Adams Boone, on May 1, 1991;
and his son-in-law, Phillip Ray Boone Sr., on Jan. 21,
He is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Dewby and
Amos Ray of Abilene; his son, Wally Adams of Abilene; five
grandchildren, Becky Boone Porche, Phil Boone Jr., Nathan
Ray, Nancy Ray and Kathryn Lopez; 12 great grandchildren;
three great-great grandchildren; and several nieces and
Funeral services were today at 10:30 a.m. at University
Church of Christ with Dr. John Stevens, George Bailey, Wally
Adams, Dr. Bob Hunter, Dr. Carl Brecheen, Dr. Eddie Sharp
and Dr. C.G. Gray officiating.
The family requests memorials be made to the Walter H.
Adams Center for Teaching Excellence at ACU, the Nathan J.
and Louise Harsh Vocal Scholarship in ACU's Department of
Music, Christian Homes of Abilene or Abilene Clean and
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