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 Convalescent Center.

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 years.

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 week.

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 servant's heart.

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 Hall.

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 others.

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 1970.

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 preparation.

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, 1978.

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 nephews.

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 Proud.


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Last update: Dec. 28, 1999
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