Former Faculty Member, Historian had Great Impact on the Hardin-Simmons Campus

Former Faculty Member, Historian had Great Impact on the Hardin-Simmons Campus

By Janlyn Thaxton

 

 

 

Dr. B W Aston dies after long illness “Dr. Aston’s impact on this institution is immeasurable. For almost four decades, Dr. Aston has been a part of the HSU Family. It is hard to imagine the Forty Acres without him. We have lost a tremendous treasure and a great friend of Hardin-Simmons.” –Dr. Lanny Hall, HSU President Dr. B W Aston retired from HSU in December of 2001 after a 35-year teaching career at HSU. At retirement, he was a senior professor of history, director of the Rupert Richardson Research Center, and director of the extensive Abilene Photography Collection housed at HSU. Outside of HSU, his passion for history continued as director of the West Texas Historical Association. He and his wife, Lillie, established a scholarship in 2002, the Lillie and B W Aston Endowment for Phi Alpha Theta. Its purpose is to help underwrite the cost students majoring in history incur while presenting papers at professional conferences. Aston earned his Ph.D. in history from Texas Tech in 1972 after joining the HSU faculty in 1967. Aston was president of the HSU faculty and was chosen as Faculty Member of the Year during the 1989-1990 school year. He also served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Dr. Alan Stafford, current dean of the Cynthia Ann Parker College of Liberal Arts, says of Aston, “Dr. Aston was a wonderful Christian gentleman who dearly loved HSU. “In addition to being an outstanding professor who touched the lives of thousands of our students, he was an inspiration to several generations of young HSU faculty members. He told me once that he was excited about coming to work every single day. Working with him always inspired me to do my very best, and much of my career success came from observing and learning from his positive approach to teaching, learning, and life in general. “Leaders like Dr. Aston don’t come along often, and he will certainly be missed by all of us who knew and loved him,” says Stafford. One of Aston’s favorite sayings was, “Everything is local history. If you’re in Rome and you’re studying Roman history, then you are studying local history. It’s all about perspective,” he used to say. That belief was one of the motives behind the creation of the West Texas Historical Association headed by Aston for many years on the HSU campus. When Aston announced his retirement, the museum was moved from Hardin-Simmons to Texas Tech after an extensive search for a university to take over the program. It is now known as the Southwest Collection and is housed in the library of Aston’s alma mater. Dr. Don Taylor, head of the HSU History Department says, “B W Aston was a wonderful person, and I count myself fortunate to have called him a friend, colleague, and mentor. “Over the years many knew him as the longtime chairman of the Department of History at Hardin-Simmons University, director of the West Texas Historical Association, director of the Rupert Richardson Research Center for the Southwest, and interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts at HSU. “Consequently, among many of his friends, students, fellow professors, and professional colleagues he was recognized simply and affectionately as El Jefe ; and he wore that title comfortably like a tailored coat. “He was one-of-a-kind; a gentleman traveler who visited more than 60 countries in his lifetime; respected professor, dedicated professional, giving friend, loyal colleague, and faithful Christian. To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we shall not look upon his like again.” HSU Registrar Dorothy Kiser and Dr. Aston worked in offices next door to each other and had birthdays just one day apart. She says they had a great camaraderie. “He was instrumental in getting the Western Heritage Day started that we celebrate each year. He and Lillie loved to travel and have traveled all over the world. He was a huge fan of basketball and football and attended most of the games and will be missed very much.” Commenting on Aston’s first name, B W, HSU director of alumni relations, Britt Jones, said, “He once told me that B W didn’t stand for anything. It is not spelled with periods; it’s just B space W, that’s what my parents named me.” Aston was a Fort Worth native born in 1936. A memorial service will be Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church at 10:30 a.m.