McMurry University Bestows Honorary Doctorates to Two of Its Own

Morris Baker, Ph.D., ‘63
Sara Hernandez Hudman Graham ’63

McMurry University will honor two of its alumni with honorary doctorate degrees at its spring commencement. Morris Baker, Ph.D., ’63 and Sara Hernandez Hudman Graham ’63 are two iconic alumni that distinguished themselves through their lifetimes of service and their steadfast support of the university.

Morris Baker, Ph.D.
A native of Ranger, Texas, Morris Baker earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology at McMurry in 1963. In 1970 he earned a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and in 1976 a Doctor of Philosophy in clinical psychology at The Ohio State University.

A former member of the McMurry faculty, he served as professor of psychology for more than a decade. Prior to that experience, Baker worked for the U.S. Department of Health, in public school systems, and fulfilled several domestic and international roles of responsibility totaling more than 10 years with Peace Corps. He now serves on the Board of Visitors.

“When I think about my educational/professional career and McMurry, I think of all the people qualified to enroll, who were denied higher education opportunities before 1959,” said Baker.

The Board of Trustees took the bold step into the future with its decision to open McMurry’s enrollment to African Americans. His enrollment in 1959 made Baker the first Black undergraduate student at McMurry. He reports that he found McMurry a welcoming community of scholars.

“They [McMurry Leaders] did it with the idea of preparing for a new world, accepting the institution’s role and responsibility in creating the future of America. No longer would qualified students be denied educational opportunities available at McMurry because of their ethnicity or cultural identity,” continued Baker.
As a transfer student from Cisco Junior College, Baker enrolled as a third-year student declaring a pre-medicine major. During his first year on campus, he attempted to carry an academic load of 18 semester hours with labs while working off campus 40 hours a week. Attempting such a strenuously heavy load, he landed on academic probation. President Gordon Bennett and Academic Dean Joe Humphrey prepared a plan for Baker to return, but with a limit of 12 hours per semester.

“I recognized McMurry had taken an institutional risk. Their intentionality, their investment made toward ensuring my success was evident and has served me well throughout life,” said Baker. In many ways, the institution has also benefitted.

“Receiving an honorary doctorate confirms for me that sometimes we have an impact of which we are not fully aware. We never know who’s looking, who’s listening, what ideas/dreams are constructed from words of encouragement we share,” reflected Baker.

McMurry cultivates leaders, he noted. “When students arrive here and develop big dreams, don’t be surprised. Hershel Kimbrell ’50, former head men’s basketball coach who recently passed away, often said, ‘I want to bring men to McMurry to play basketball and teach them to play beyond their potential.’ We must encourage students to exceed the potential they hold for themselves,” advised Baker. McMurry University President Dr. Sandra S. Harper concurs. She and Dr. Baker were faculty colleagues in the 1980s and 1990s. Harper remembered, “Students would always be inspired by Dr. Baker’s classes and his unique way of presenting material and asking thought-provoking questions.”

Sara Hernandez Hudman Graham
Sara Hernandez Hudman Graham graduated from McMurry in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in Spanish. She earned a master’s degree in English from Southern Methodist University. As an English teacher, she knows the power of a strong education.

Graham’s contributions to McMurry University are diverse, including serving on the Board of Trustees, Alumni Board of Directors, and Board of Visitors. A fixture on McMurry’s campus, she regularly is seen at numerous events and activities. President Sandra Harper has known Sara Graham for over 30 years. Harper noted, “Sara is the ideal alumna and trustee. She is very supportive, generous, and wise. Sara was on the Board of Trustees when the Board set its strategic goal to become a Hispanic Serving Institution. With leaders like Sara, we have achieved and surpassed that threshold with 42% of our student population identifying as Hispanic in Fall 2023.”

“I try to be an example as an alumna and do everything I can for my university. We started contributing to the university when I graduated, and I tried to stay involved in a variety of ways,” said Graham.

When Graham, the daughter of a Methodist minister from San Antonio, Texas, transferred to McMurry as a junior, she was one of three Hispanic women on campus. The other two were sophomores. Proud of her Hispanic heritage, she insisted that her Hispanic name “Hernandez” be included on the donor plaque for The Nest, a campus student gathering place.

She also endowed two scholarships for Hispanic women. “I want to encourage other Hispanic women who may not have the same opportunity I had,” said Graham. “It’s important for Hispanic women to see that they can achieve big things.”

Graham’s favorite college memory is a front-page photo in the Abilene Reporter News. The treasured image depicts her role in the opening ceremony for Homecoming.

Her close McMurry ties also equal family ties. Her son, Dr. Victor Hudman II, is a 1992 McMurry graduate and local physician. Two grandsons graduated from McMurry, Vic Hudman III in 2018 and Ben Hudman in 2020, and grandson Sam Hudman, enters McMurry this fall.

“I’m excited to receive this honorary doctorate,” said Graham. “It’s a true honor to be recognized by my university.”

Baker and Graham will receive their honorary doctorates on May 11, 2024.

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