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Alumni awards to be presented during SBU Homecoming

Homecoming festivities at Southwest Baptist University will begin with Honors Chapel at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30, in Pike Auditorium, when three alumni will be recognized for living lives of service. Additionally, SBU President Dr. C. Pat Taylor will be recognized for his 20 years of service.

Alumni Life Service Awards

Inspired by the Life Beautiful Award presented each year to one male and one female graduate, President John Dowdy suggested to the Southwest Baptist College Board of Trustees in 1955 that the Life Service Award be given annually to graduates whose lives have exemplified the principles which are upheld at Southwest. The award is the highest recognition that the University can bestow upon an alumnus or alumna. This year’s two recipients are:

dennis.owensDennis Owens ’78: Owens currently serves as the President and co-owner of Fresh Ideas Food Management. His history in the foodservice industry began when he was an SBU student manager in Mellers Dining Commons. He also serves as secretary of the Bristol Park Community Association. Previously, he served as a member of the 30th Circuit Youth Advisory Board.

“I have witnessed many outstanding faculty, staff, and administrators devote their lives and energy to growing and sustaining the spirit of the University that attracted me to her those many years ago,” he wrote after being notified about receiving the award.

Owens attends High Street Baptist Church in Springfield, with his wife, Brenda Owens ’82. They were blessed with two children, Esther and Zach ’04, and two granddaughters, Frances and Sophia.



richard.wrightRichard Wright ’81: Wright attends First Baptist Church of West Plains, where he was the lead pastor for 10 years. Since 1997, he has been chairman of the Missions Committee for the Baptist Convention of New England. Wright also served as the President of the Baptist Convention of New England from 1995-1997.

“SBU has a special place in my heart,” he wrote. “It is here I not only received my education and degree, but more importantly, where I met my wife, learned about God and myself, and where a foundation was formed for a life of service.”

He continues to live out his life of service as he works as a paraprofessional at West Plains High School for students with special needs. Wright is married to Jacklyn Wright ’79, ’14. They were blessed with three children, Nathan ’05, Angela ’07, ’08, and Jonathan ’12. They have one grandson, Jude.


Edwin Lightfoot Distinguished Alumni Award

The Alumni Association presents the Edwin Lightfoot Distinguished Alumni Award annually to an alumnus or alumna who demonstrates the ideals personified by the late Edwin Lightfoot ’40. The award criteria include alumni leadership in the University, dedication to the education and welfare of youth, and demonstrated support for SBU.

graham.williamsGraham Williams ’54: Williams serves on the Governor’s Advisory Committee and is a trustee on the Board of Advisors for Windermere Conference Center. He also volunteers at the Capital Region Medical Center, and is involved in Cantorum, the Jefferson City choral group. He was inducted to the Special Olympics of Missouri Hall of Fame in 2005, where he serves on the board.

“The matter of selling is based upon you having a good product to sell. SBU is that product, always has been, always will be,” he wrote. “It was natural for me to extol the benefits of this institution.”

Williams and his wife Geri have two children, Greg and Glenna. They were also blessed with seven grandchildren. They attend First Baptist Church in Jefferson City.


20 years of service

Dr. C. Pat Taylor: Dr. Taylor began his presidency on October 21, 1996 as the 24th president of Southwest Baptist University. Since his arrival in 1996, Dr. Taylor’s leadership has grown the university and established a commitment to truly be a university that is Christ-centered, caring and academic in all areas.

Dr.TaylorHe has been instrumental in the success of major fundraising campaigns and growing the University’s endowment from $4.6 million to about $29 million. His legacy is more than just brick and mortar. Alumni and current students of SBU often comment on the impact Dr. Taylor has made on them personally. He has always been a president who is known among the students.

“Southwest Baptist University would not be one of the top Christian universities in the nation if it were not for Pat Taylor’s leadership abilities,” said Don Farhni, chairman of the SBU Board of Trustees. “With his 20 years of dedicated service, the University continues to thrive.”

Dr. Taylor and his wife, Judy, were married for 47 years before she passed away on March 26, 2016 after courageously battling a neurological disease for several years. They have two daughters, Marijo and Charla, and two grandsons, Drew Charles Austermann and Luke Taylor Austermann.

For more information about SBU Homecoming activities, visit or contact the Office of Alumni Engagement, at (417) 328-1806.