Cory Hines: Serving where he was transformed

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Cory Hines has served as president of Howard Payne University in Brownwood since Apr. 1, 2019—no joke. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on leading that BGCT school. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated leader to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.


Where else have you worked, and what were your positions?

I served 10 years at Dallas Baptist University in various roles, including as vice president in the areas of enrollment, advancement, graduate affairs and external affairs.

Prior to my time at DBU, I served 13 years at The Avenue Church in Waxahachie, first as minister to students and then as executive pastor.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Gainesville, a small town north of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

How did you come to faith in Christ?

I was saved when I was 8 years old during Vacation Bible School at the First Baptist Church in Gainesville. I was blessed to grow up in a home with two godly parents who talked about faith regularly. So, it was natural for me to realize Christ loved me and sacrificed himself to pay my debt of sin and usher me into a relationship with my Creator.

Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?

I graduated from Howard Payne University in May 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts in Christian education, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2000 with a Master of Arts in Christian education, and Dallas Baptist University in 2012 with a Doctor of Philosophy in leadership.

About academic leadership

Why do you feel called to academic leadership?

I feel called to serve as president of Howard Payne University due to the transformational experience I had as a student here 25 years ago. I feel strongly the Lord called me here so I could be used by him to guide HPU to be a place where students can understand who they are in Christ, what he has called them to do, and how they can use their vocational calling to make a kingdom impact.

Tell us about Howard Payne University—its work, mission, measures of scope, etc.

On June 29, 1889, delegates from the Pecan Valley Baptist Association decided to establish the college that would become Howard Payne University. Classes began on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 1890.

Since that time, we have been dedicated to preparing graduates who will leave our campus and make a positive impact on society, producing over 17,000 of those graduates over the last 130 years. We have more than 100 majors, minors and pre-professional programs.

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The Guy D. Newman Honors Academy is a unique program here at HPU, exploring the nature and meaning of both citizenship and leadership from a variety of perspectives, including and in light of our Christian faith and the greatest traditions of the American system.

What do you like best about leading Howard Payne? Why?

It is hard to say what I like best, but working with our board of trustees to reimagine HPU to become what it needs to be is thrilling. I love meeting new students and their families on move-in day, and celebrating with them.

Also, nothing beats a graduation ceremony and the opportunity to dream with our graduates how the Lord will use them in the days ahead for his glory.

What aspect(s) of HPU and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?

I wish more people could see the deep commitment of our employees to do all they can to provide a transformational type of student experience.

How do you expect HPU and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?

HPU’s mission must not change, as the world needs more graduates like those we are aspiring to produce. We are committed to developing students who have the critical thinking skills, rooted in their faith, they need to face the world with discernment. Upon graduation, we hope they have the values, relationship skills and personal confidence to navigate and lead in a complex world where diverse points of view are a constant.

About Cory

Tell us about your family.

My wife Melinda and I have been married 24 years. We have two children: Mackenzie (19) and Caleb (16).

Why are you Baptist?

I am Baptist due to our core beliefs. I hold high the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church. In addition, I like how our cooperative nature as Baptists allows us to do more together than we could individually.

Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?

Two of my mentors are Gary Cook and Brent Gentzel. I’ve known Dr. Gentzel for almost 30 years, and over that time, he has pushed me by investing in me intentionally, by asking good questions and by modeling strong Christian leadership.

Dr. Cook has modeled what an active prayer life can look like, and how consistent servant leadership over the long haul can shape an institution to be more than anyone could hope or imagine.

Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.

I love reading Donald Miller’s books on marketing. Chip and Dan Heath’s writing on organizational change, leadership and culture always is challenging.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Jim Huling and Sean Covey helps to focus on the things necessary to execute on strategy. The New Gold Standard by Joseph Michelli is a great book, as is Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?

I love Ephesians 2:10 because of its alignment with the calling God has placed on my life. I dream of HPU becoming a place known to help students understand they are God’s workmanship, created in him to do good works he has prepared for them.

Who is your favorite person in the Bible, other than Jesus? Why?

I think Noah is probably my favorite right now. I love his faithful obedience to do what God called him to do, and to faithfully follow the plan God gave him. I imagine there were days he did not want to work on the ark, or days he might have questioned if he heard God correctly, but he was diligent and faithful, and God did what only God could do.

Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.

I was on ESPN’s SportsCenter in fall 1997.

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