LUBBOCK, Texas — Val Stephens, a graduate of Wayland Baptist University, was named on Friday as the Distinguished Alumni Award winner for the Lubbock campus for 2022.

According to a press release from WBU, Stephens was just a few classes away from his degree when he was recalled to the family farm in rural Dawson County, near Patricia.

WBU said it was another 20-plus years before he decided to follow through with his college diploma simply to fulfill a personal goal.

He finished course requirements in late 2007 and crossed the stage at graduation in January 2008 at age 55.

“As a university rooted in the Texas Plains where agriculture is prevalent, we’re proud to have an alumnus who is not only a committed grower but is giving back through local and area service to advance the field,” said Jeffrey Vera, director of alumni relations in the press release. “Val has stayed connected to Wayland as a supporter and that also makes him a great choice to be Distinguished Alumnus.”

Stephens grows both dryland and irrigated cotton on the family farm in Patricia and also serves on local agricultural committees with Dawson County Cotton Growers. He’s been a local director for Farm Bureau for 46 years and served six years at the state level.

Stephens now competes with other campus winners from 2022 for the Alumnus of the Year award to be presented at Homecoming in February 2023, the press release said.

The university said it has selected a winner for each of its campuses since 2018