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Servant First

Servant Leadership Spans Across Generations at McMurry

Laney Abbott '15Servant leadership is more than just a concept—or even the name of a program—for McMurry students. It’s palpable. It’s felt all over campus. Laney Abbott ’15, a junior sociology major from El Paso, Texas, couldn’t help but notice.

“It seems to me,” she said, “that a lot of places I go on campus, they have the servant leadership kind of heart.”

Abbott definitely has it. So does Gordon Storey ’14. The two McMurry students are far apart in age and experience, but they both are examples of the emphasis that McMurry puts on service as a way of life.

Abbott is a preceptor, or teaching assistant, in the Servant program at McMurry, which is led by Mark Waters, associate professor of Servant Leadership and director of The Center for Global Studies. Storey, 46, is on track to graduate in May 2014 with a degree in multimedia graphic arts and design.

Storey wants to use the skills associated with that degree to promote nonprofits, including the Dyess We Care Team that he founded while stationed at the air base in 2000.

That kind of dedication to service is typical of McMurry students while they’re on campus and long after they leave. Currently, McMurry offers a number of ways for students to serve, both on campus and in the community.

The Servant Leadership program has students working with A Habitat for Learning, Bowie Elementary School, Windcrest Alzheimer’s Care Center, Habitat for Humanity, and the Legacy Complex.

Gordon Storey '14Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity is well known for projects such as campus recycling, highway trash pickup, the Disability Resources Inc. pumpkin patch, Boy Scouts events, Friends for Life, Habitat for Humanity, the city animal shelter, and Hope Haven living center.

Abbott is a good example of the dedication that McMurry students have toward service. She spends an hour a day, Monday through Thursday, tutoring children at the Cornerstone Addition built by Habitat for Humanity.

As a preceptor, she also is responsible for organizing Servant Leadership students to work on the landscaping at the addition.

An hour a day might not sound like a long time, but just try tutoring six children ranging from second through fifth grades. Abbott creates worksheets to help the children in specific subjects. “It’s really tiring,” she said, “but it’s been rewarding to do at the same time.”

Abbott grew up with the concept of servant leadership all around her. The daughter of a United Methodist minister, she watched the concept come to life in her home and it rubbed off on her. She found the perfect place to continue her interest in service. Her mother and an aunt both graduated from McMurry, and Abbott soon discovered that she fit in nicely, too.

Everywhere she looks, she sees servant leadership at work. “Every time you turn around,” she said, “you see some kind of active service.”

And when she leaves campus, she just might see one of the service projects headed by Storey and his We Care Team. She might even see McMurry students working alongside the Dyess airmen on the team.

The We Care Team is well known around Abilene for assisting with minor home repairs and helping nonprofit organizations with their fundraising events. Over the years, McMurry has been a big supporter of the We Care Team.

That willingness to help the team didn’t go unnoticed by Storey after he retired from the air force and decided to return to college in 2010.

 “I’m a huge believer in, ‘If people are supporting your cause, you support them,’” Storey said.

Storey founded the Dyess We Care Team while working in the equal opportunity office at Dyess. He worked with people of all ranks in every phase of base operations.

In his daily work, Storey noticed that the art of mentoring was dying and that people seemed to be “too busy” to help mentor younger people around them. That’s when the We Care Team idea popped into his head.

“I was just looking for a tool to develop leadership,” he said, “and community service was that tool.”

People get assistance from the We Care Team at no cost to them. The team gets a grant from the military, and Abilene businesses help with costs.

No one on the team, including Storey, gets paid. Storey’s paying job is a counselor with Friends for Life, an agency that works through the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

All of Storey’s activities—volunteering with the We Care Team, finishing a college degree, and working as a counselor—might sound like a lot for a man with “retired” by his name. Don’t expect him to suddenly slow down once he gets his McMurry diploma.

 “I do keep very busy,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”