Presenting the 2020-21 Baylor Alumni Award winners
Baylor graduates make an impact in virtually any field you can think of; this year’s Baylor Alumni Award winners are no different, with recipients leading the charge in everything from medicine and the arts to community and public service.
Congratulations to this year’s honorees (click on each name to learn more):
Alumnus of the Year: Dr. Gary J. Sheppard (BA ’87), an internal medicine physician in Southwest Houston. A strong advocate for the healthcare needs of underserved populations, Sheppard has served on boards for the National Medical Association, MD Anderson Cancer Center for Research on Minority Health, and the Memorial Hermann Hospital System. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been a trusted medical voice in Houston media outlets.
Young Alumna of the Year: Jessica Cope (BFA ’15), president, co-founder and resident director of The Hopeful Theatre Project in Dallas-Fort Worth. Unlike most theatre companies, The Hopeful Theatre Project gives 100% of ticket proceeds to charity. In the program’s first year, three full-production shows raised more than $12,000 for Ronald McDonald House, Make-a-Wish, Salvation Army and Operation Christmas Child.
Pro Ecclesia Medal of Service: Daniel Roby (BA ’04), CEO of Austin Street Center, the largest low-barrier homeless shelter in Dallas. Beyond the basics of a safe place to sleep, showers, clothing and meals, the center also offers employment and education resources, mental health services and more. In Roby’s first year, the Center helped 80 people transition out of homelessness; the expectation is to eclipse 400 successful endeavors this year.
Pro Texana Medal of Service: Timothy Head (BA ’98, MSW ’04, JD ’08), executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, an Atlanta-based group committed to equipping and mobilizing people of faith to influence public policy at all levels of government. In this role, Head has played an integral part in multiple pieces of legislation related to human trafficking and prison reform.
Contributions to the Professions in Media & Arts: Brett James (BS ’91), an award-winning songwriter, singer and producer. After more than two decades and 500 recorded songs across multiple musical genres to his credit — including such hits as “Jesus, Take the Wheel” (Carrie Underwood), “Blessed” (Martina McBride), and “Who I Am” (Jessica Andrews) — James was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2020.
Alumni by Choice of the Year: Merrie Beckham (ABC ’86), Baylor’s first Alumni by Choice recipient and a regular speaker at Baylor ABC celebrations. A Berkeley graduate, Beckham’s love for BU was sparked by her husband, Baylor graduate Sparkey Beckham (BBA ’49), leading to her becoming Baylor’s first ABC in 1986. Her life of service has been well-documented; most recently, a gift from the Beckhams created an endowed fund to support Baylor’s Institute for Oral History as it records and preserves the history of the Alumni by Choice program and its members.
Sic ’em, Bears!