Friday, December 19, 2014 8:33 AM
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McMurry Professor Rev. Bill Libby Donates Property to University
Rev. Bill Libby, adjunct professor of religion and history at McMurry University, has donated his 140-acre ranch southeast of Abilene to McMurry as a field research station for use by biology science students and faculty.
Nicknamed Firebase Libby in honor of Rev. Libby’s service as a United Methodist chaplain with the 101st Airborne during the Vietnam War, the ranch will provide a venue where ecological and physical monitoring can occur, resulting in longitudinal datasets that may reveal noteworthy patterns.
“Patterns only reveal themselves when data is regularly collected. In many instances, this data collection is monotonous and uncharismatic. Yet without this data, the bigger picture fails to come into focus,” said Dr. Joel Brant, associate professor of biology at McMurry. “McMurry students will benefit from the real world, hands-on experience of collecting this essential data, better equipping them for post-graduate opportunities.”
The property in Callahan County was purchased in the early 1990s as a country home while Rev. Libby was serving as associate pastor at Abilene’s St. Paul United Methodist Church.
“What a great place – 140 acres of open pasture and deep woods with many kinds of wild life,” said Rev. Libby. “In 1992 a Viet Nam vets Sunday School class began at St. Paul, eventually referred to as the Pathfinders Class; that class still exists with that name though the membership also includes other church members. A wounded veteran who later died made a sign calling the property Firebase Libby after several visits there; the sign is on the front gate.”
“Since coming to the McMurry faculty, I have invited numerous individuals and groups to use the property. For example, Dr. Joel Brant (Biology) has used the area for research with cameras and traps to document various forms of wildlife. Dr. Brant and I cosponsored the KIVA Men’s Social Club which has been out numerous times for cook outs and overnight camp outs along with other student groups,” said Rev. Libby.
“As my children do not plan to settle in Texas, I began to talk several years ago with various Science faculty about their possible use of the property as an off campus class room space. Wow! What a response! With the permission of my children/heirs, I agreed to donate the property to McMurry University. Before the legal sign over, other faculty, including Astronomy and Biology, walked the property to create a vision as to its use. For example, in Spring Semester 2015 several faculty will conduct classes and research projects there. A designated outdoor space is important for science classes,” Rev. Libby said.
Firebase Libby already has provided 14 students with a study site for their research projects, including three projects that were presented at regional scientific meetings. Firebase Libby will join a network of institutional field stations, state parks and wildlife management areas, and NGO conservation areas dedicated to studying the flora and fauna of the Cross Timbers and Rolling Plains regions specifically as well as of Texas, United States, North America, and the world.
“Rev. Libby’s generous donation will allow students to comprehensively monitor this small portion of the Texas prairie and apply the resulting recommendations across the Rolling Plains and Cross Timbers,” said Dr. Brant. “It is my hope that future researchers and students will be familiar with the trees, birds, insects, and mammals on the property.”
“Bill cares deeply about the McMurry student experience and it is important to him to support as much as he can, from baseball to theatre, Model UN to cross country, or serving as Athletic Director to leading students on an academic trip to Israel to experience the West Bank,” said Debra Hulse, vice president for advancement at McMurry.
Rev. Libby has been at McMurry University since 1996. He began and coached the cross-country teams (1996-2003) and currently co-hosts the KWKC Talk Radio program “The Professors.” When he’s not in the classroom or on the radio, he’s involved in ongoing summer archaeological work in Jordan.
He teaches Old Testament and is especially interested in its relevance and application in the modern world. After graduation from Texas A&M University and Drew Theological School, Rev. Libby was ordained in the United Methodist Church and served as a chaplain in the US Army. His service included assignments in Europe, Asia, and the United States. During those years he also completed a degree in American Diplomatic History (Kansas State) and was admitted to the doctoral program in American Studies at the University of Maryland. Later he completed the US Army’s program in Organizational Behavior and the Executive Program in Human Resources Management at Columbia University. He concluded his military service by serving on the faculty of the National Defense University.
“I am grateful to Rev. Libby for his permission to conduct research on his property. I am humbled by his generous donation of this property to McMurry so that our research may continue in perpetuity,” said Dr. Brant. “I am proud to know and call this man of God a friend. I am eager to share this property with my students, colleagues, and friends at McMurry.”
Rev. Bill Libby admires a collage of photographs taken at Firebase Libby.
Rev. Bill Libby visits with McMurry University President Dr. Sandra Harper during the signing ceremony for transferring Firebase Libby to the university.
A framed map showing the location of Firebase Libby in Callahan County southeast of Abilene, Texas.