New WT Nursing Professors Named, Thanks to Historic Donation

Chip Chandler Aug 27, 2021
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New WT Nursing Professors Named, Thanks to Historic Donation

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — A generous donation to West Texas A&M University’s Department of Nursing has established two new named professorships as the department continues to expand its footprint in the Panhandle.

Kristin Westbrook has been named the Dr. Wesley L. Langham Professor of Nursing, and Austin Wiseman has been named the Mary Wendler Professor of Nursing Practice.

In addition, their colleague Alee Friemel has been named the Northwest Texas Healthcare System/Eunice King Professor in Nursing, filling a position first established in 2011.

The Langham and Wendler professorships were established as part of High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation’s historic $3 million gift to WT, which also resulted in the naming of the Baptist Community Services Nursing Education Floor at the Harrington Academic Hall WTAMU Amarillo Center.

The Langham professorship is named for an esteemed Panhandle-area hospital administrator, who was a leader at Highland General Hospital in Pampa, and High Plains Baptist / Baptist St. Anthony’s Hospital, Texas Tech School of Medicine and Baptist Community Services in Amarillo. Langham, a McLean native, died in 2019.

The Wendler professorship is named in honor of the wife of WT President Walter V. Wendler. Mary Wendler graduated high school as a licensed vocational nurse, then earned her associate’s degree as a registered nurse. She worked as an RN in New York, California and Louisiana.

“I am honored and humbled that Baptist Community Services and High Plains Christian Ministries have made this bold commitment to the nursing profession, to WT and to the entire Texas Panhandle region,” Mary Wendler said. “The foundation of all nursing is a desire to help people in trying times. The work requires a combination of skill, knowledge, insight and compassion that places patient well-being before the personal and professional well-being of the caregiver.”

“Throughout one’s career, a faculty member will influence hundreds of lives through courses taught, students being mentored, as well as through research,” said Dr. Holly Jeffreys, head of WT’s Department of Nursing. “Endowed professorships at WT play a significant role in recruiting, retaining and recognizing outstanding faculty. Professorships in the WT Department of Nursing help us deliver the best possible nursing education as well as improve the health and wellbeing of citizens in the Panhandle.”

Wiseman, who joined the WT faculty in 20118 after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from WT, said she is grateful for the professorship because her work at WT has offered her the opportunity to “meet an array of people, to learn their stories and care for them on any level to whatever extent God is guiding me to.”

“Giving of yourself is part of our purpose and God’s purpose for us,” Wiseman said. “This is also true for the nursing discipline.”

Westbrook, who joined WT in 2020 after earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University, called the appointment “a true blessing.”

“I’m grateful that this investment from such an honorable donor can help me further invest in our students that mean so much to us,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the research, resources and service activities that will develop from this honor.”

King began attending Northwest Texas Hospital School of Nursing in 1939 and, many years later, became its dean, who grew the school’s enrollment from 55 to 348 students during her tenure. She was instrumental in launching the baccalaureate and master’s programs in nursing at WT and served as WT’s dean of the Department of Nursing for four years.

Friemel, who earned three degrees from WT, joined the faculty in 2020 and said she is “beyond grateful” for her appointment.

“I am proud to represent WT nursing and the efforts we are making to overcome health disparities in the Texas Panhandle,” Friemel said. “I’m thankful to Northwest Texas Healthcare System for this opportunity, and I am looking forward to the positive impact this will have for the nursing professionals in our area.”

Gifts to WT may be used to endow professorships, offering opportunities for exceptional faculty members by providing additional resources for teaching, research and professional activities and development. Faculty members benefit from the coveted title, and students glean from the professor’s academic insight and leadership. This helps enrich the life of the University and strengthen the foundation of academic excellence.

“As WT prepares to go public in the fall with a comprehensive fundraising campaign, the highest priority will be investment in people — students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Todd Rasberry, vice president for philanthropy and external relations. “Establishing faculty endowments are essential for WT to become a regional research university as envisioned in WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.”


Photo: Alee Friemel, from left, Kristin Westbrook and Austin Wiseman are newly named professors in West Texas A&M University's Department of Nursing.


About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. With enrollment of more than 10,000, WT offers 60 undergraduate degree programs, 40 master’s degrees and two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.