Fighting at FilmFest

Received a recent heads-up here at Weird ACU about a wave of conflict this spring at ACU’s annual FilmFest. Apparently, for all the appearance of glamor at the black tie affair, tension ruled the screening of the award winners as violence was never far away. (Please be aware that some films may not be rated for young children.) 

Here are a few of the best genre pieces: Rootless Tree (Eastwood in Eastland), The Hunger (a reality show Fight Club), and Fantasy Fight (aspiring local Lucas). 

Rootless Tree from ACU FilmFest on Vimeo.

The Hunger from ACU FilmFest on Vimeo.

Fantasy Fight from ACU FilmFest on Vimeo.

As a part of the research into this sudden interest in cinematic violence, our intrepid staff also unearthed a controversial entry from 2007 that never appeared at the Paramount awards ceremony. Students on campus were able to weigh-in on the controversy in a video story reported that fall if the film, titled The Legend of Stormin’ Mormon, was satire or sacrilege.


In Your Words on YouTube.

Legend of Stormin’ Mormon on YouTube.

May 24, 2009 at 5:26 am

30th anniversary, Willy Wildcat remembered fondly

Since 1980, Willy the Wildcat has entertained crowds and traumatized children at ACU events. The university has a history of attracting curious visitors who frequent campus for years without making any progress toward a degree, so Weird ACU sent researchers to Abilene to investigate the weird wildcat with just one name.

Willy arrived on campus in 1980, apparently under some kind of indenture purchased from a family in Cleveland for $1,200. The Prickly Pear that year welcomed him to Moody Coliseum where he “wanders leisurely on the ACU sidelines, as if he didn’t have a care in the world.” Or so it appeared to the thoughtless crowds, but to friends Willy was an introspective soul, who didn’t talk much, and simply shrugged when others engaged him in questions of politics or religion. 
In these early years, Willy worked through bouts of depression in his new surroundings, rarely seen during the daytime and suffering extreme spurts of weight gain and loss. Friends approached the Dean of Students about their concerns for the cat late in 1983 after Willy’s arrest by campus security at a Harlem Globetrotters game, not as many thought for public exposure but for the far more serious Abilene crime of public lewdness through choreography. 
That same year Willy was seen regularly with one Wilma Wildcat, though acquaintances from the period were unclear whether she was a girlfriend, spouse or family member, but by the following fall, she was forgotten and Willy was a lone cat once again. 
The loneliness was apparently too much to bear and in the 90s Willy’s health began to decline, his facial features became more drawn and lean until the fatal accident of 1990. Friends found Willy’s lifeless head in the newly opened College of Biblical Studies where undergraduates had apparently been taking callous pictures with it. Fierce to the last, the wildcat had apparently been drawn into a graduate lecture on the fate of cats in the afterlife (“Shall Felines Find Eternal Felicity?”) where he was slain by a professor in a fit of rhetorical violence. 
Over the last few years the sons and daughters of Willy (and Wilma?) have returned to the campus their father loved. Sadly, Abilene has been no more welcoming to the wildkittens than to their sire, and in April Physical Resources announced plans to set out traps to try to thin their numbers. 
As the 30th anniversary of Willy’s arrival to campus nears, the staff here at Weird ACU just wanted to come out in support of brave Willy Wildcat and his feral family. He lived life on his own terms, remote and brooding, wild and untamed, but loyal, fiercely loyal to the university that gave him a home. Willy, you will be missed. 

May 17, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Finals Week Finale

There are really now words, but for those concerned that a week of exams would cloud the campus in seriousness and anxiety, rest assured that undergraduates will always find a way to balance the gravitas of final grades with (in)appropriate doses of levitas.

May 9, 2009 at 12:27 am

Prickly Pear update

The Abilene Reporter News clearly keeps on eye on Weird ACU for breaking news on campus. Three days after our story on the Prickly Pear‘s passing, they ran the following. Some useful perspective from professors in journalism. While we’ve suggested in past reports that a Tradition in Abilene is defined as “how we did it last year,” it is hard to see the end of a truly venerable campus symbol. 


1st ACU Seniors Graduate without Yearbook, ARN, May 4

May 7, 2009 at 12:15 am

The Passing of the Prickly Pear

For students of campus history, 2008 was the end of an era. An article in the Optimist today reports that 2008 was the last edition of the Prickly Pear. The recent digitization of the PP has clearly been a treasure-trove for ACU antiquarians wanting to peer into the archive of its ancient history. Going forward, students will only have yellowed class notes, dried corsages, and dusty disks full of Facebook chatter to look back on. 

With its passing, how can middle-age coeds be expected to remember the names of their classmates the night before returning to their reunion? 
Where have you gone Joe Dimagio? Bye bye, miss American pie. Paul is dead. To all the melancholic lyrics of youth now is added Where are the prickly pears of yesteryear? A sad day in deed. 
picture-7              picture-6              picture-10 
‘Prickly Pear’ bids campus farewell
Heather Leiphart
Students who want to purchase a book filled with photos and stories about classmates, teachers and significant events from the year 2008-09 are out of luck.
Because of a steady decline in interest, the Prickly Pear, ACU’s yearbook since 1916, will no longer be printed. Sales dove from 1,400 books in 2001 to a meager 443 in 2008, the last edition.
“When we made the decision, I thought to myself, ‘I wonder if anyone will ask where the yearbook went?'” said Cade White, instructor of journalism and mass communication. “I think, sadly, and not surprisingly, at this point I’ve only had two inquiries. None were from students.”
White, who served as adviser of the Prickly Pear for eight years, said the decline in sales is a national trend in university yearbooks, and ACU was another inevitable victim. He said a lack of group identity among students within a particular class presents the biggest challenge. Today, it is not abnormal for students to spend more than four years in school or delay attending, so not all students in a college class will be the same age or from the same region. Another reason students do not feel the need for a yearbook is the rise in social networking Web sites, such as Facebook, which can achieve some of the same effects in students’ eyes, White said.
 . . .
The yearbook staff invented a “long and creative list” of solutions to try and keep the Prickly Pear alive for a few more years. White said these solutions were “made necessary by financial realities.”
 . . .
“Sadly, to use the same words that I’ve heard other administrators use, the yearbook is a dinosaur that has outlived its purpose to the students,” White said. “The big schools that have the big yearbooks are typically the product of another department on campus that is an extension of recruiting or alumni relations. The yearbook is seen as a cost of doing business. It’s not meant to be self-supporting or profit-making.” 

May 1, 2009 at 10:58 pm 1 comment

The School East North of Abilene

Most students of ACC arcana know that the first site for the campus was downtown on the city block between North 1st and 2nd, Victoria and Graham. What fewer know is the story of the move in the late 20s to the lush campus just outside of Abilene proper.


Lost in the fanfare of the Centennial is a nice site detailing the story of the move to what became known as the Greater A.C.C. campus. Hemmed in by residential housing and the railroad, “When [a train] came through, classes virtually came to a stop because of the noise, especially when the weather was warm and the windows of the classrooms were open” (Why Move?). The school of just over 500 was going nowhere. 

In 1927 the college board began soliciting interest in alternate sites, with proposals coming in from San Angelo, Wichita Falls, Buffalo Gap, and even Dallas. Though several locations were proposed within Abilene, the board chose to send their fledgling into the wilderness of wide open farmland stretching eastnorth of the city toward Albany. A report in the Optimist that same year began,   

More firmly entrenching Abilene as “the Center of Culture and the Athens of the Southwest,” and with a vision likened unto that of pioneer builders and statesmen, the Board of Trustees of Abilene Christian College has selected and secured an 801 acre track just East of the city limits of the City of Abilene and there they are to build a greater A. C. C. and help build a greater Abilene.



Clearly hopes for the new college were high and a school that began as a small classical schoolroom certainly now had room to dream, concluding the same article with favorable comparisons to its academic neighbors: 

The selection of the site suggests the action of founders of T. C. U., S. M. U., and other flourishing institutions elsewhere which when they were built were constructed after clearing away growing crops of cotton and corn.  Now the cities in which they are located have gone out to surround them, immensely increasing property values.  The difference is that in this case, A. C. C. has a larger body to start with than either of these mentioned and provides one of the largest campus sites in the southwest.

The building boom didn’t last long with the economic downturn of 1929. Wherever your own real estate investments sit at present, there’s little question that the move to the Hill must have been one of the most significant  decisions in the college’s first hundred years. 

For a nice retelling of the story and glimpses of the first buildings on campus, faithful weird readers will enjoy  the Centennial site.

A City Set on a Hill 

April 26, 2009 at 3:20 am

In memoriam, Dr. Stevens

Nearing the two-year anniversary of Dr. John Stevens’ passing, many alumni will have fond memories of his leadership or teaching. Beginning in 1998, the Prickly Pear has spotlighted our eighth president several times, concluding with a touching profile at the end of the Centennial year. Overseeing the transition from ACC to ACU along with significant growth of both the campus and student body, Dr. Stevens set the university on its present foundations and continues to be missed.


Stevens retires after 50 years of service (1998)

Leading, Serving: Stevens demonstrates passions for history, love for ACU (2004)

In Memory of Dr. John C. Stevens (2007)




Details worth remembering: 

– married Ruth three months after first date. His opening line: “Why don’t you show me all the church buildings in town?”

– president of the Student Association in 1937.

– first job out of college as preacher in East Texas.

– after serving as Army Chaplain in Europe, returned on the GI Bill to graduate work at the University of Arkansas.

– had a pilot’s license and flew small aircraft. 

– retired from presidency in 1981 to return to teaching history.

– after retiring from teaching, wrote  No Ordinary University: The History of a City Set on a Hill. 

April 21, 2009 at 6:33 am

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