John and Ruth Stevens to Receive ACU Christian Service Award
for immediate release Feb. 16, 1998ABILENE - The lives of Dr. John C. and Mrs. Ruth Stevens have been intertwined with the history of Abilene Christian University and the Abilene community for half a century.
1998 marks Dr. Stevens' 50th year at ACU, and he and Ruth also will celebrate 50 years of marriage on Dec. 16 of this year.
To honor their lives of service, leadership and commitment, the couple will receive the Christian Service Award during a luncheon in their honor Monday, Feb. 23, at noon in the Abilene Civic Center Conference Center.
The honor is rarely awarded to current employees of the university.
"Because of John and Ruth's extraordinary service to ACU and to this community, we felt that the time was right to recognize them," said Dr. Royce Money, ACU president. "They have touched thousands of lives and served as friends and mentors to generations of students."
Dr. Stevens is ACU's chancellor emeritus. The former Abilene City Councilman and active community leader served as ACU president for 12 years. Ruth is an active volunteer for the Christian Service Center, having organized women's and children's shoes for more than 25 years. She received the Dorcas Award from the center in 1983 for her faithful volunteer service.
"She really puts her heart into this ministry," said Paul Garrett, who's served as coordinator of the center for 25 years. "She's very faithful, coming in every Monday afternoon unless she's out of town."
The Stevens have a long history of service to ACU, to the Abilene community and to churches. Ruth's Abilene Christian heritage dates back to her mother, Inez Rambo, who was employed by the college before her marriage in 1921.
Both John and Ruth graduated from Abilene Christian, but he finished his degree in Bible before she graduated from Huntsville High School.
By the time Ruth was a sophomore at what was then Abilene Christian College, John was serving as a U.S. chaplain in Europe during World War II. He is front and center in the famous picture of the American troops marching into a liberated Paris in 1944.
After John left the service and completed his master's degree in history at the University of Arkansas, he planned to accept a fellowship to study amid the great Rocky Mountains at the University of Colorado. Ironically, that summer of 1948, Ruth was doing graduate studies at the University of Colorado after teaching two years at ACC.
The college's president, Don H. Morris, had big plans for John. He sent him a contract to sign on as an assistant professor of history. John sent the contract back unsigned.
Morris then called him and said, "John, I don't want any trouble with you now. I'm sending you back that contract, and I want you to sign it."
At that moment, John's vision shifted from the snowy mountains of Colorado to the West Texas plains. His vision also focused on Ruth.
Although John had met Ruth briefly when she was 16, he thought of her then as a "nuisance." The next time John saw Ruth was at ACC's first fall faculty meeting in 1948, and "she had grown up powerfully," he recalls. After three months of dating, the two were married.
Their marriage has remained so strong through the years that several organizations have presented them with special honors. They were the first couple awarded The Gospel Advocate Christian Couple of the Year Award. And the Stevens were named the Honor Couple at the 1994 National Family Conference. In 1994, they were awarded the John L. and June Estes Award by Abilene Christian Schools.
"My parents love life, they love each other, they love their fellow man and I love them," wrote their son, J. Clark Stevens of Farmington, N.M., in a letter about the Stevens.
At Abilene Christian, John became dean of men in 1950, dean of students in 1952, assistant president in 1956, president in 1969, chancellor in 1981 and chancellor emeritus in 1991. It was during Dr. Stevens' tenure as president that Abilene Christian College became a university.
He is one of the rare - if not only - people to have met all 10 presidents in ACU's 92-year history. Appropriately, he is currently finishing a book on the history of ACU.
"Abilene Christian University is truly blessed to have had Dr. John C. Stevens as a teacher and administrator for 50 years," said Dr. Dwain Hart, ACU provost emeritus. "After 50 years, he continues to be an outstanding teacher. What a blessing it has been to me personally to have known and worked for Dr. John for 42 years."
The Stevens' list of community and state service projects and boards is lengthy, including John's work on the City Council, president of Key City Kiwanis Club, board chairman for the Abilene Boys Ranch, director of the Abilene United Fund, board member for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, member of Citizens for Better Government, multiple statewide boards related to higher education, and many more.
In addition to Ruth's faithful work with the Christian Service Center, she has been involved in Women for ACU, the Harmony Club, and served as a board member for the Abilene Opera Association and the Philharmonic Association.
John has served as a church elder, and both have taught Bible classes through the years. He preached at Brownwood and at Jasper before beginning his career at Abilene Christian. The Stevens now worship at Hillcrest Church of Christ.
Dr. William J. Teague, ACU chancellor, said of Dr. Stevens, "He makes a new contribution to an improved ACU every day."
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