McMurry Honors 2011 Cross & Flame Award Recipients
Brenda Breeden ’00
St. James United Methodist Church
Brenda Breeden has served as a dedicated ambassador to both McMurry and the United Methodist Church for over 40 years. She is being recognized for her many years of service with the McMurry University Cross and Flame Award for 2011 for the Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Brenda began her relationship with McMurry as a student in the 1960s where she worked as a student worker in the business office. After marrying, she left McMurry for a few years but soon returned as a fulltime business office employee. She has now served as the smiling face at the McMurry business office window for over 30 years, currently as Director of Student Accounts. As students deal with the difficulty of understanding their financial statements, Brenda serves as a compassionate, understanding and knowledgeable resource. She is well-respected by her coworkers, being selected to serve on the Staff Council, SACS Advisory Committee, and in 1997-1998, she was honored as the Staff Member of the Year. She also received the Cabinet’s Exemplary Service Award in 2007. Brenda returned to the classroom earning an Associate Degree in 1996 and her Bachelors in Christian Education in 2000.
Brenda comes from a large "McMurry family," including a brother, husband, two daughters, a son, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, and a niece—all who attended McMurry, several by her influence. Additionally, she regularly supports McMurry financially as a yearly contributor to the McMurry Fund. She serves as the McMurry representative for her home church and is a member of the McMurry Women’s Club, where she is currently serving a second term as President, following her first presidency in 2003-2004. She participates in the club’s activities, including baking cakes for students on their birthday and joining the members as they design and assemble their annual quilt, both used as fundraisers to benefit student scholarships.
Her service to the United Methodist Church is one of longevity, diversity and passion. "Active" cannot begin to describe her involvement with St. James UMC, and specifically the United Methodist Women. In her home church of St. James UMC in Abilene, she is a "jane-of-all-trades"—an endless vessel of diversified talents. On any given Sunday morning, you can find Brenda in one of the following roles: photographing for the church scrapbook, operating the sound booth, putting on a puppet show, teaching second grade Sunday School, or cataloging books as the church’s librarian. When she’s not at church, she has been known to repaint nativity scene characters, work on the church’s yearly scrapbook, support the church’s fair booth, or put together costumes for the Living Last Supper. On top of all of this, Brenda also serves on the District Committee of Ministry.
She has served on numerous church committees including Lay Leadership, SPRC, History & Archives, and chair of the Worship Committee. Currently, she serves on the committee organizing an event celebrating St. James’ 50th Birthday. With each St. James event, she takes the initiative to promote the event to family, friends and coworkers, encouraging them to attend.
She has served as not only the President for the local United Methodist Women (UMW) chapter, but as President for the district for five years—a role that typically only serves for two or four years. Other past roles in the UMW include four years as Communications Director for the Abilene District, five years as Vice President in the local chapter, four years as District Vice President, and she currently serves as the chair of local arrangments for the UMW’s South Central Jurisdiction. In addition, she currently serves as Treasurer of the local chapter. Brenda regularly attends UMW conferences representing her district, including the yearly legislative event in Austin. She has served for one year as Assistant Dean and one year as the Dean of the UMW’s School of Christian Mission, and was an integral influence in bringing the school to the McMurry campus in 2009 as an annual event.
Gene & Karen Young
First United Methodist Church
For their many years of service to McMurry University and the United Methodist Church, Karen ’61 and Gene ’60 Young, from Albuquerque, NM, have been named the 2011 recipients of the McMurry University Cross and Flame Award for the New Mexico Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Gene graduated in the class of 1960 with a BS in music, and Karen graduated in 1961 with a BBA. Gene’s father, Dr. B. E. Young, was in one of the earliest graduating classes in 1929. Gene and Karen’s daughter, Gena Young Wilimitis, graduated in 1990 and worked in the advancement office after graduation.
Gene was the band director for five years in Plains, Texas. In 1961, he became the first choir director at the new sanctuary at Plains Methodist Church.
Karen worked at the bank for a year in Plains while finishing her degree, and then taught school for two years. She then became a stay-at-home mom to Gena and Ginger. For the five years that the Youngs lived in Plains, they were instrumental in encouraging several students to attend McMurry College.
Gene entered the insurance industry in 1965 and Karen joined him after their girls started school. They have worked together since then.
They lived in Lubbock, San Antonio, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Moriarty, NM and Albuquerque. At each location they have been involved in their United Methodist Church in many capacities. Gene has been a Sunday school teacher, substitute choir director and a member of numerous committees. Karen has been a treasurer of the United Methodist Women and a church office volunteer. Both were active in the Lubbock Area McMurry Alumni Association (Gene served as president), both have been active members of their church choirs, active members of Sunday school classes, MYF helpers, McMurry Ambassadors for Central United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, and as McMurry Ambassadors for the Albuquerque District.
They moved their membership to First United Methodist in Albuquerque in 1989. They are presently active in the Chancel Choir, Sunday school and many other committees and activities.
While at McMurry, Gene played the cornet in the band, Karen was a maidenette and flutist as well as Prof. Bynum’s secretary. Their commitment to McMurry’s band continued in Plains, where they were hosts to the band. In Albuquerque, they have helped the McMurry Band and Chanters secure locations to perform at various churches and high schools in the Albuquerque area.
At McMurry they were also active in KIVA, Gamma Sigma, Circle K, Wah WahTaysee and Sigma Tau Delta. The KIVA Exes Association was formed in 1989 at the 50th anniversary of KIVA. Gene is active in KEA and has served as president.
Karen and Gene were involved in Tipi Village while on campus. Gene’s interest and background in Indian lore has continued to keep them both active in McMurry’s homecoming traditions. Upon seeing a lack of quality and confusion about tipi judging rules, Gene and Karen created the McMurry Tipi Handbook in 1990. It became the official handbook of Tipi Village in 1994 with approval of McM Student Government. The handbook was most recently revised in 2005 and is in use today. Gene has been a judge at Tipi Village since that time. He has participated in workshops on campus for the last two years in an effort to stimulate continued interest in Indian culture.