Retiring VP of Finance at Hardin-Simmons University Saluted for Integrity and Benevolence

Retiring VP of Finance at Hardin-Simmons University Saluted for Integrity and Benevolence

By Janlyn Thaxton, HSU Media Relations Coordinator

 

 

 

“How many times have I shared a heart-wrenching story of a student in dire need, and with absolutely no fanfare, no intent to draw attention to his benevolence, Harold Preston has reached down into the coffers and somehow, somewhere, found what is needed,” said Dr. Pam Williford, dean of the Irvin School of Education, as she addressed faculty, staff, and friends of Harold Preston during a retirement luncheon May 1, 2014.Preston, senior vice president of finance and operations at Hardin-Simmons University, will be retiring after almost 23 years. Close to 300 people attended the farewell luncheon in Van Ellis Theatre, many of them sharing remembrances of his generosity tempered with good-humored jabs at his renowned tightfistedness.“As you can see, we have too much time on our hands,” remarked Preston as he examined the high attendance from the podium. Referring to comment cards laid on the tables for well-wishers, he asked everyone to fill them out. “That’s a pledge card for our new campaign,” he jested and then quickly threatened to pass out financial statements for review.{{more}}Preston came to HSU as a student, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1969 and a Master of Business Administration degree in 1972 after his military service. While a student, he served in the ROTC and was on the HSU golf team.HSU President Dr. Lanny Hall worked as a fellow vice president with Preston at Howard Payne University. When Hall was named 13th president of Hardin-Simmons University, he convinced Preston to turn his talents to his alma mater.“I knew he had the tenacity, the temperament, and the ability to do this job. I also knew that he had two degrees from HSU and that he loved this institution. When I presented the opportunity to return to The Forty Acres, he answered affirmatively and I knew he would do an excellent job,” said Hall.In attendance at the luncheon were members of the Board of Trustees, financial officers from universities across Texas, representatives of financial institutions with whom Preston has worked, HSU faculty and staff, and members of Preston’s family.HSU president emeritus Dr. Jesse Fletcher offered the benediction. Former HSU president Dr. Craig Turner and former Abilene Christian University president Dr. Royce Money sent letters of well-wishes, which were read aloud by HSU trustee Dr. Jud Powell. President emeritus and chancellor of HPU Dr. Don Newbury gave congratulatory remarks.“Show of hands, how many here think of Harold Preston as a penny pincher,” asked Newbury, also a humorist, columnist, and former journalism professor. “I think he’s more of a farthing fondler than a penny pincher,” he joked, explaining that a farthing is even less than a British “penny.”On a serious note, Newbury said it was a sad day for him when Preston broke the news that he was going to Hardin-Simmons.“HPU was in the black and he was one of the reasons for that. Thank God for people like Harold Preston, he redefines integrity and caring with a zeal for his work,” said Newbury.Hall cites Preston’s most significant contribution to HSU as his hard-working and diligent effort to improve the financial condition of the university.“He has worked hard to focus on efficiency in university operations, with great attention to the bottom line. Under his financial leadership, the university’s debt is at its lowest level in 22 years. Given the growth in programming over this time, that is remarkable,” said Hall prior to the event.Dean Williford believes Preston’s greatest legacy has been his help of those in great need, including many students of the university.“A single mom, a student teacher in the Irvin School of Education, would have had to drop out of student teaching for lack of funds to care of her child’s essentials,” said Williford, addressing Preston and the theatre full of supporters