05/01/2024 Alumni Campus Events McMurry News

(Abilene, Texas – May 1, 2024) – McMurry University will hold Commencement on May 11, 2024, at 10 a.m. in Kimbrell Arena. One student will receive a master’s degree, 117 students will receive bachelor’s degrees, and our first graduates from McMurry Dual Credit Academy will receive associate degrees.

“McMurry has had an impressive year with the conclusion of our Centennial celebration, the opening of our reimagined campus center and new apartments, and record-high fall and spring enrollment,” University President Dr. Sandra S. Harper said. “Our graduates have worked hard this year, and we are excited to celebrate their achievements with them and their families as they begin a new chapter in their lives.”

In 2023, McMurry launched the McMurry Dual Credit Academy offering high school seniors the opportunity to earn college credit. Eight of these dual credit students will graduate with their associate degree, including five students from Van Houston Academy in Houston, Texas, who are attending to walk the stage.

“We’ve seen the success that establishing the Dual Credit Academy had in engaging more high school students,” Vice President for Enrollment Management Dr. Grant Greenwood said. “Now we get to see those same initial students receive their associate degrees. We hope to continue to inspire these students to follow their dreams of higher education.”

The featured Commencement speaker will be Chris Nash Montoya ’00, Executive Vice President and Chief Equities Manager at First Financial Trust. Montoya graduated summa cum laude from McMurry University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing. In 2011, he was recognized by The Abilene Reporter News and the Abilene Chamber of Commerce with its “20 Under 40” award for up-and-coming business leaders. In 2016, he was presented with the “Spirit of McMurry” award given to a distinguished young alumnus. Montoya has held numerous leadership positions in the community. He currently serves on the Board of Directors and Investment Committee of the Community Foundation of Abilene, along with the Board of Directors at Grover Nelson Zoological Society. He was a former treasurer and chairman of the Food Bank of West Central Texas from 2003-2013. He served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors at McMurry University from 2004-2011 and he was a member of the McMurry University Board of Trustees from 2009-2011.

Chris Nash Montoya ’00

McMurry will also bestow two honorary doctorates. Sara Hernandez Hudman Graham ‘63 will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters and Dr. Morris Baker ‘63 will receive a Doctor of Education.

Long-serving McMurry Board of Trustees member, from 1998-2007 and 2012-2019, and honored as trustee emerita in 2021, Graham was the lead donor for the Walter F. and Virginia Johnson School of Business. In 2016, she received the John Wesley Award, McMurry’s highest philanthropic award. A loyal fan, supporter, and donor to athletics, Graham was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Honor in 2017 as the recipient of the Bob and Clara Brown Award. To support Hispanic students attending McMurry, she established the Sara Hernandez Hudman Graham Endowed Scholarship and the Reverend Richard and Sarah Herrera Hernandez Endowed Scholarship in honor of her parents. Graham was also a major donor to the reimagined Garrison United Methodist Campus Center, which opened in 2024, and is an ongoing supporter of the Women’s Leadership Luncheon. She was honored as a member of the McMurry 100 during its centennial year and was recently inducted into The S.M. and Inez Jay Society, honoring McMurry’s top donors.

Baker was born in 1939 in Ranger, Texas, the son of a mechanic and a domestic worker. He graduated from Cisco College (A.A. 1959), McMurry University (B.A. in Biology 1963), Harvard University (M.Ed. 1970), The Ohio State University (Ph.D. in clinical psychology 1976). Baker has worked for the Peace Corps, public schools in Los Angeles, California, and other cities, and taught at McMurry University as a professor of psychology from 1983-1994. He was the first African American to graduate with an undergraduate degree from McMurry. Baker was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1987. He currently serves on the McMurry Board of Visitors. Baker joined the Community Action Program in 2006 and served as executive director for six years. He is a consistent and generous supporter of the University.

Sarah Graham Sara Hernandez Hudman Graham ‘63Morris Baker Dr. Morris Baker ‘63

Baccalaureate will be held Friday, May 10 at 5:30 p.m. in Radford Auditorium with featured speaker Rev. Felicia Hopkins, Superintendent of the Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and McMurry Board of Trustees Member. At Baccalaureate, students graduating with University Honors will receive their honor’s hood, and four graduating senior awards will be presented by Dr. Matt Draud, Vice President of Academic Affairs. Awards presented include the Harry Soladay Memorial Award for an outstanding graduating senior, the W. Anthony Hunt Memorial Award for an outstanding senior man, the Ginny Carlson Memorial Award for an outstanding senior woman, and the Don Allen Memorial Award for an outstanding nontraditional graduating senior.

After 20 years of combined service, Dr. Sandra S. Harper will preside over her last May Commencement before her retirement in January 2025.


Nicholas Ocheltree, Director of Integrated Communications