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Tiger Family is “Together Again” on the Hill for Homecoming 2021

October 30, 2021

Like a scene from a movie, generations of ETBU Tigers, family members, and the Marshall community gathered at East Texas Baptist University for a weekend celebration like never before. Children, dressed in their favorite costumes, patiently waited for Charlie Brown and Snoopy to take the stage. The crisp October breeze carried the smell of delicious food and the sound of the Tiger Band across crowds of people playing yard games, getting face paintings, and enjoying the outdoors. At East Texas Baptist University, an aura of joy and celebration filled the air as alumni from East Texas Baptist College (ETBC) and East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) celebrated being “Together Again” on the Hill during Homecoming weekend, Friday, October 29 through Saturday, October 30.

“What a great day this is in the life of East Texas Baptist University to see all of our Tigers together again on the Hill,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said during the 2021 Homecoming chapel service that kicked off the Homecoming festivities on Friday with special recognition of alumni and friends of the University. “Today, we honor the 1970 and 1971 alumni classes that have come back to celebrate their years as East Texas Baptist Tigers. Our students have the opportunity to pursue an incredible educational experience rooted in Christ, thanks in part to those alumni before us who walked this Hill, and who continue to generously give what God has blessed them with. We are so grateful for them.”

Since the program’s inception in 2010, a total of 95 members have been presented with ETBU’s traditional Golden Blazers as a symbol of leadership, spiritual authority, and God’s blessing. These ambassadors have provided $10,000 of financial support and countless volunteer hours to ETBU. The 2021 Golden Blazers and Honorary Golden Blazers are Natalie Hale (’91), Kim Hooper (’88), Gerald Stockton (’79), Sharon Stockton (’79), Larry Tidwell (’78), Jody Justus Anthis, Winky Stark Foote, and Petty Futch. During the Homecoming chapel service, the winners of the 2021 Alumni Awards were also announced. Dr. Aubrey Sharpe (’67) received the J. Wesley Smith Achievement Award, First Baptist Church Longview was honored with the W.T. Tardy Service Award, Sherry Bustin (‘93) was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award, David Mohn (‘72) was honored with the Unsung Hero Award, and Oteka Jackson-Cenales (’07) accepted the Young Alumnus Award.

“I am honored and so proud to receive this award,” Bustin said. “Over 27 years ago, I was sitting in this room as a student, and I never thought that I would be standing here today. As a student, you don’t always know what your path is going to be. But students at ETBU are in an amazing place with some of the best professors. They really invest in you, and when I moved on to my master’s program, I was so prepared because of the education that I received here.”

Alumnus Dr. Allen Reed (‘66) received the Golden Lightkeeper Award. The award is bestowed upon alumni who graduated 50 years ago or more and demonstrate continuing achievement in their vocation, church, and community. Dr. Reed was presented with a commemorative award to honor his support and exemplification of the mission of ETBU. In addition, nine members of Class of 1970 and 16 members of the Class of 1971 were recognized at the Golden Lightkeeper Luncheon following chapel.

“In 1961, I decided to follow the Lord's leadership in becoming a pastor and a preacher,” Dr. Reed said. “I knew I would need training, but I had no idea where I would be going to school. I felt the Lord’s leadership bringing me here to East Texas Baptist College. I'm grateful all the time for the learning, the training, and the friendships that I was able to develop while here. I am reminded of Matthew 5:16, ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’ So, if anything and everything that I've ever been to do, or be, or say, as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, may He receive all the honor and the glory.”

ETBU hosted its fourth annual Thank-a-Giver (TAG) Day on Wednesday, October 27, in conjunction with Homecoming week. "TAGs" marked campus landmarks and buildings to serve as a visual reminder to students, faculty, and staff of donors’ generosity throughout the life of East Texas Baptist. Throughout the day, students found their favorite spot on campus with a TAG and posted the photo on social media using the hashtag #ETBUTAGDAY with a few words of gratitude.

“Thanks to our donors, I am able to spread the glory of the Lord and play basketball,” ETBU university studies major and women’s basketball player Bridget Upton said.

Tigers enjoyed activities such as a performance of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown by ETBU’s School of Communication and Performing Arts, Tiger Pep Rally and Fireworks, Tiger Family Carnival and Tailgating, Decade Reunions, and the Tiger Football game.

“It is really cool to have a place like this in Marshall where a family can come sit outside and enjoy a good show,” ETBU alumnus and Marshall community member Aeisha Sanders said. “I grew up in Marshall, and I’ve never experienced an event like this. It’s really cool to see the college students interact with my child because they are all so nice and friendly, and to see him excited makes me so happy, especially after the last couple of years. It’s great for everyone to be together again.”

The 2021 Homecoming Court was announced during the halftime of the football game against Texas Lutheran University. The court included Freshman Duke and Duchess, Jeb Spinney and Amelia Dineen; Sophomore Duke and Duchess, Izac Olguin and Hailey Maloy; Junior Duke and Duchess, Colton Berryhill and Haleigh Akin; and Senior Duke and Duchess, Terrance Allen and Bri Mickshaw. ETBU seniors Jake Miller and Abigail Bath were named 2021 ETBU Homecoming King and Queen.

“For Jake and I to be named Homecoming King and Queen together is like a throwback to our sophomore year when we were voted as Sophomore Duke and Duchess together,” Bath said. “But Jake has always been a person that everyone always looked up to, so I was not surprised to see him win. I was completely in shock when they called my name, but it really means a lot to me that people on campus nominated and voted for me. ETBU has really changed me as a person. I have learned a lot of life lessons and really grown during my time here. It will be bittersweet to leave.”

The King and Queen were nominated for their representations of a Christian leader, scholar, and servant. Bath is an elementary education major from Lake Charles, Louisiana. She was on the Tiger Women’s Soccer team for two years, and has been a member of Tiger Cheer since her sophomore year. Bath made the Dean’s List her sophomore year and was named to the President’s list her junior and senior years. Miller is a business administration major from North Richland Hills, Texas. He has been a member of the Tiger Baseball team for four years. Miller was named to the Dean’s List his sophomore year, and was named to the President’s list his junior and senior years.

“I was shocked to be voted Homecoming King,” Miller said. “I'm just very thankful for all the people here at ETBU. It is crazy to think about how four years of life fly by so fast. It’s been so much fun.”