September 6, 2019
East Texas Baptist University faculty, staff, and trustees met together on Friday, August 30 at the future site of the Chapel on the Hill and Kenny Ponder Park, as President J. Blair Blackburn and the Ponder family officially broke ground for the new construction. Located adjacent to the pond on ETBU’s campus, this facility will be a dedicated house of worship to focus on the power of prayer, the sanctity of biblical marriage, and the celebration of loved ones.
“This is possible because of the sacrificial commitment of the Ponder family,” Dr. Blackburn said. “It is amazing how sovereign our God is to have created this vision for a chapel dedicated to Him and then fulfilled it through this faithful and generous contribution of this loving and caring family, who have dedicated themselves to serving their employees and others in our community through their cabinetry business. We give praise to the Lord for His continued faithfulness and provision for the Christ-centered calling of ETBU and for the benevolence of Gene and Patsy Ponder and their children and grandchildren.”
A cornerstone of the Marshall community as founders of Master WoodCraft Cabinetry and devoted members of First United Methodist Church of Marshall, Gene and Patsy Ponder, along with their children and grandchildren, initially donated funds to create a park area with gardens, a walking path, an arbor, and benches. The Ponder family contributed additional funds to construct the Chapel on the Hill. The park is named in the memory of Kenneth Ponder, son of Gene and Patsy, who passed away in 2017.
“Kenny was a very special young man who knew how to bring out the best in people,” Mr. Ponder said. “He had such a love for his family, his parents, and everyone he knew. The concept for this park is simply to create a place of hope, peace, and quiet contemplation. Our goal is to make a sacred space that will last. As people walk through the park and up towards the chapel, we want them to find places to stop, think, and feel closer to God. He has been more than gracious to our family, and we want to pass it along. We hope this park means as much to everyone who walks through it as it does to us.”
Several members of the Ponder family, along with Dr. Blackburn, participated in breaking the first ground for this building endeavor. Kenny Ponder Park, located next to the newly named Kenny Ponder Pond on the campus of ETBU, will serve as a place of meditation for students, faculty and staff, alumni, and the Marshall community. Construction on the Chapel on the Hill, which overlooks the park, will commence this month, and is scheduled to be complete in summer 2020.