HCU Piper Professors

The Piper Professor Award, given by the Minnie Stevens Piper Professor Award Foundation, recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching in colleges and universities throughout Texas. Established in 1958, the foundation gives 10 awards annually to teachers who are devoted to their professions and have made a special impact on their students and their community. Each year the five colleges and schools at HCU select their Piper Professor Nominee. These individuals represent the very best in teaching and professional development in each college. A single nominee is selected each fall to represent HCU as our university nominee to the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation.

HCU Piper Professor Past Nominees

  • Piper Professor Nominees for 2018-19

    School of Business

    Timothy EwestRev. Dr. Tim Ewest, Associate Professor of Management and M.B.A. program director, has worked in higher education since 2002 teaching management, leadership, ethics, corporate social responsibility and stewardship. His research interests include issues surrounding the integration of faith at work, and prosocial leadership. He has published journal articles and books on prosocial leadership and faith at work. He has also been invited as an editor for academic journals. Besides his duties at Houston Christian University, has worked as a Visiting Research Collaborator with David Miller at Princeton University’s Faith & Work Initiative and as a member of the United Nations Think Tank on Responsible Management He also consults with organizations focusing on strategy, ethics and leadership development. His prior work experience includes 11 years in ministry, 16 years in higher education and 5 years in corporate America. Dr. Ewest holds a Master’s Degree in Theology from Wheaton College, a Master’s degree in Theology from Regent University, an M.B.A. from George Fox University, is an ordained minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and holds a DMgnt from George Fox University. He is also completing an MDiv from HCU’s school of Christian Thought.

    School of Fine Arts

    Daniel KramlichDr. Daniel Kramlich has served as full-time faculty at HCU since 1981, teaching music theory, piano, and composition. His varied professional compositional activities include chamber works for woodwind quintet, brass quintet, a major work (as well as a pair of shorter pieces) for duo pianos, three major works for chorus and orchestra, a documentary film score, song cycles, numerous commissioned sacred choral works, diverse orchestral and ensemble arrangements (including work for Theater Under the Stars productions in Houston), both sacred and secular, as well as several commissioned improvisatory works for choreographer Joan Karff, and an orchestral work commissioned and premiered by the Arkansas Symphony. Additionally, Dr. Kramlich did string arrangements for the Grammy-nominated jazz album Slide Side, which featured trombonist Thomas Hulten, as well as other recorded arrangements and improvisations. Dr. Kramlich has served on the executive board of MTNA and also as National Chairman for the MTNA Composition competition and commissioning program for four years. He is presently Music Director at Mission Bend United Methodist Church, directing a 50-member chorus there and administering the music program for over fifteen years. He also conducts The Lighthouse Choir, a vocal ensemble for the blind in Houston. Dr. Kramlich holds the Bachelor of Arts: Piano Performance from Lebanon Valley College; the Master of Music: Theory from Indiana University (with distinction); and the Doctor of Musical Arts: Composition from University of Houston.

    College of Education and Behavioral Science

    John SpoedeDr. John Travis Spoede, Jr. Dr. Spoede teaches in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences in various Doctoral and Master degree programs including classes in research methods and multivariate statistics, education, counseling and psychology. He holds credentials such as a Licensed and Ordained Minister, Licensed Professional Counselor- Supervisor, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, National Credentialed Counselor, Certified School Counselor, and Teacher Certification in Texas. He serves as the Director, Center for Research and Doctoral Studies and Assistant Professor of Education at Houston Christian University. He has over 50 publications and presentations in the areas of counseling, psychology, and education and Dr. Spoede has chaired, co-chaired or served as a committee member on more than 25 dissertations and theses. He has a wide range of experiences including, 20 years of ministry experience, more than a decade working in the PK-12 public schools and more than 15 years of experience as a counselor. Dr. John Travis Spoede has a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a minor in Chemistry, a Master’s of Education in Counseling, and Alternative Teacher certification in EC-12th Special Education, and two earned doctorates; a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Individual Difference, with a specialty in Research, Measurement and Statistics and Doctorate of Ministry.

    College of Science and Mathematics

    Barbara BenitezDr. Barbara Benitez, Associate Professor of Mathematics, has been teaching undergraduate mathematics since 2008. She obtained all three degrees, including her doctorate in mathematics, at the University of Houston. Prior to teaching, she spent four years doing actuarial consulting work in Houston. Currently, her research interests include exploring changes in metabolism and disease using dynamical system models. She is also exploring the incidence of Tourette’s Syndrome in children as related to compression of the trigeminal nerve. At present, she is focused on leading students to think about mathematics critically and to motivate them to find the beauty in the subject matter before them.

    School of Christian Thought

    Benjamin BlackwellDr. Ben C. Blackwell, Associate Professor of Early Christianity, has been with Houston Christian University since August 2011. He teaches and publishes in the areas of the New Testament, the first few centuries of Christian theology, Systematic Theology, and Christian Ethics. Dr Blackwell is known for investing in students through personal relationships and research, and even through retirement guidance. He is Chair of the Department of Theology, and he has previously served as the interim Dean of the School of Christian Thought and the Director for Graduate Theological Programs. Besides various articles and essays, Dr. Blackwell has published four books, and two more will be published in 2019. Before coming to HCU, he studied and taught in Durham, England. During that time, he had the wonderful opportunity to work with two eminent New Testament scholars—N. T. Wright and John Barclay. Dr. Blackwell continues to lecture annually in England. He received his PhD in New Testament and Historical Theology from Durham University, a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, an MBA from Henderson State University, and a BA from Ouachita Baptist University. He also worked as an actuarial consultant for seven years with Willis Towers Watson.

  • Piper Professor Nominees for 2017-18

    Joshua FarrisDr. Joshua Farris is an assistant professor of Theology. Dr. Farris’s teaching exposes students to the great texts and ideas of the western world through the lens of the Christian church. By equipping students with a basic facility with the great texts, thinkers, and ideas of the western world, Dr. Farris ably leads students to see and know the God of the Christian Bible. As the Director of the Academy and an instructor in the Honors College, Dr. Farris organizes and facilitates learning that prepares high school students for college level writing, thinking, and engagement. In addition to his academic contributions to theology, philosophy, and ethics, Dr. Farris organizes public discussions and 5-6 public lectures a year, which promotes classical learning with an emphasis on Christian thinking.

    Jesse GrothOlsonDr. Jesse GrothOlson is an assistant professor of Cinema and New Media Arts. Professor GrothOlson teaches primarily in the areas of production for film, TV, and theatre, including acting, production, and production design. With more than a decade of professional work as an actor and producer for the stage and screen, Mr. GrothOlson brings extensive real world experience to the classroom. His career has taken him from improv and Kabuki in Chicago to feature-length musical comedies. Jesse GrothOlson has an MFA in Performance from Roosevelt University in Chicago and has taught acting and directing at multiple universities, as well as private coaching for actors in Hollywood. He is also well-versed in technical production for film and theater, serving as a director, production designer, stage manager, sound designer, construction coordinator, or lighting designer for more than 50 plays, musicals, films, television shows, commercials, and music videos.

    Steven JonesDr. Steven Jones is an associate professor of Classics. Dr. Jones’s teaching focuses on exposing students to the classical world and equipping them with the ability to read languages for themselves so that they can have first-hand access to the foundational texts of Western Civilization. His research focuses on the literature and archaeology of Rome’s Augustan Age. His other areas of interest include the classical context of early Christianity, the philosophical and religious functions of Classical Mythology, and the classical roots of medical language. He has previously taught at Baylor University, The University of Texas at Austin, and Trinity University.

    Elizabeth TrevinoDr. Elizabeth “Polly” Trevino is an assistant professor of Education. In Dr. Trevino’s courses on second language teaching and sheltered (ESL) content instruction, educators learn how to meet the cognitive, linguistic, and affective needs of English language learners and how to infuse language instruction throughout the curriculum.  Dr. Trevino also teaches a course in educational research, which helps teachers and administrators understand and apply educational research in their instructional settings. Dr. Trevino’s research interests include second language acquisition, literacy development, preparing teachers to instruct English language learners, and online teaching and learning.  She has presented research and professional development at state, national, and international conferences.  She is a member of the Texas and National Associations for Bilingual Education, American Educational Research Association, and the International Reading Association.

    Saul TrevinoDr. Saul Trevino is an associate professor of Chemistry. Dr. Trevino has a passion for helping undergraduates develop independent, life-long learning skills that will prepare them for success in their post-undergraduate endeavors. In his courses, students develop their understanding and appreciation for chemistry and for the great minds of the past who have made important chemical discoveries. His area of specialization is protein chemistry. He teaches courses in Introductory Chemistry, General Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Bioanalytical Methods.

  • Piper Professor Nominees for 2016-17

    Houston Christian University has chosen from among its faculty members Dr. Rhonda Furr as the University Piper Professor Nominee. Dr. Furr will represent HCU to the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation for consideration as a Texas Piper Professor award recipient. Three outstanding faculty members were nominated from their schools and colleges: Dr. Taiya Fabre, Dr. Dianne Reed, and Dr. Rhonda Furr.

    Dr. Furr is a professor of Music in the School of Fine Arts. She teaches all of the courses in musicology and organ. She has also taught courses in Church Music and led cultural arts tours in Europe. She was the university consultant for the Smith Organ in Belin Chapel, which made her responsible for the oversight of a $1.5 million gift. She worked closely with Letourneau’s Artist Director, Andrew Forrest, and external consultant John Gearhart to design the Smith Organ for wide-ranging use in performance, worship, and instruction. Dr. Furr recently served as the Convention Coordinator for the 2016 American Guild of Organist’s National Convention attended by more than 1,200 organists, music ministers, and organ enthusiasts from around the globe.

    Dr. Taiya Fabre is a professor of Chemistry in the College of Science and Math. She enjoys introducing undergraduates to the field of chemistry and strives to give them the tools that will help them succeed in the future. Her area of specialization is the field of organic chemistry. Dr. Fabre has mentored undergraduate students by performing research supported by the Robert A. Welch Foundation Departmental Grant.


    Dr. Dianne Reed is a professor of Education in the College of Education and Behavioral Science. She has invested her energies in creating educational leadership programs designed to assist school districts in the development, enhancement, and expansion of innovative programs to recruit, train, and mentor principals and assistant principals. She has helped launch the university’s first doctoral program in educational leadership and currently serves as its director.


    HCU strives to select faculty members who best represent the values and practices of exceptional teaching, mentoring, and scholarship. We celebrate these role models and look to them as we aspire to become a great university. Previous state winners have been Dr. Linda Brupbacher, professor of Education and Dr. Doris Warren, professor of Chemistry and dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

     Dr. Doris Warren

    Dr. Linda Brupbacher

  • Piper Nominees for 2015-2016

    College of Education and Behavioral Sciences
    Dr. Kaye Busiek, EdD

    • Assistant Professor of Education
    • Program Coordinator, All Levels Education and Secondary Education


    College of Science and Mathematics
    Dr. Evelyn Potter

    • Chair, Department of Mathematics and Physics
    • Program Coordinator, Mathematics, Physics, Pre-Engineering, Mathematical Studies
    • Associate Professor of Mathematics


    School of Fine Arts
    Dr. Matthew Boyleston

    • Program Coordinator, Writing
    • Associate Professor of English and Writing
  • Piper Professor Nominees for 2014-15

    The School of Fine Arts
    Michael R. Collins, MFA

    • Associate Professor of Art
      Chair, Department of Visual Arts;
    • Artist-in-Residence;
    • Director, Master of Fine Arts.

    This is Professor Collins third time to be honored as a Piper Professor Nominee.


    The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences
    Cynthia Simpson, PhD

    • Professor of Education
    • Dean, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

    This is Dr. Simpson’s second time to be honored as a Piper Professor Nominee.

    She has been selected as the 2014-15 University Piper Professor Nominee and will be HCU’s candidate to the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation.


    The College of Science and Mathematics
    Hannah Wingate,PhD

    • Assistant Professor of Biology


  • Piper Professor Nominees for 2013-14

    The College of Science and Mathematics
    Gardo Blado, PhD

    • Professor in Physics


    Center for Law and Liberty
    School of Humanities

    Chris Hammons,PhD

    • Director, Center for Law & Liberty
    • Program Coordinator, Government
    • Professor of Government


    Dr. Richard J. Martinez:

    • Chair of Management, Marketing, and Business Associate,
    • Professor in Management, The School of Business


    The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences
    Cynthia Simpson, PhD

    • Professor of Education
    • Dean, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

    Jeffrey Wilkinson, PhD

    • Program Coordinator, JMC
    • Professor in Journalism and Mass Communications,The School of Fine Arts