Four WT Nursing, Health Science Faculty Members Named to Professorships

Chip Chandler Apr 19, 2023
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Four WT Nursing, Health Science Faculty Members Named to Professorships

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — Four faculty members in West Texas A&M University’s acclaimed College of Nursing and Health Sciences have been elevated to named professorships through the continuing ramifications of a historic gift.

As part of High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation’s $3 million gift to WT in 2021, the largest in the foundation’s history, four new professorships have been established and filled:

  • the Baptist Community Services Professorship in Health Sciences, held by Dr. Gene Farren;
  • the High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation Professorship in Nursing Leadership, held by Dr. Holly Jeffreys, also head of WT’s Department of Nursing;
  • the High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation Professorship in Psychiatric Mental Health, held by Shaina Neely; and
  • the Baptist Community Services Professorship in Rural Health, held by Laura Reyher.

“Supporting talented faculty members is vital to creating a robust academic environment that attracts the brightest students,” said Dr. Neil Terry, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Endowed professorships enrich high-performing faculty by enabling them to obtain the necessary resources to promote research and teaching innovation in their field.”

This brings the total of endowed professorships in the College to 10, seven of which having been established since 2021.

The College is “most grateful to the High Plains Christian Ministries and Baptist Community Services for their support,” said Dr. J. Dirk Nelson, dean.

“This generous gift will help educate, for generations to come, exemplary practitioners in health, fitness and wellness and do so through education, research, outreach, service and partnerships,” Nelson said. “I am confident their support will help improve the health and quality of life for all of our communities, including rural and the medically underserved.”

Farren, like his colleagues, also thanked HPCMF for its generosity and its commitment to nursing health sciences at WT.

“I look forward to using this honor to not only expand the breadth of my research but to enhance student research and learning opportunities in the exercise sciences,” Farren said.

Farren joined the Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences in 2017. He earned a bachelor’s in psychology from Sam Houston State University, a master’s in kinesiology from University of North Texas and a Ph.D. in educational psychology with concentration in sport pedagogy from the University of North Texas.

His research interests include the understanding the interrelations among attributes of physical literacy, examining the impact of sedentary behaviors on physical and psychological well-being, and testing measurement in factors related to physical education/activity, sport participation and exercise science.

“Nurses have been ranked the most trusted professional of all professions for the last two decades,” Jeffreys said. “I am passionate about leading the nursing profession to even greater heights by sharing the values that help us make the greatest difference in the lives of those we serve.”

Jeffreys was named head of WT’s Department of Nursing in 2020.

She is a nationally certified rural health clinic professional and is licensed and nationally certified as both a family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

As a small business owner and health care provider / educator, her professional focus has been on improving access to healthcare and education in rural and underserved communities. She leads multidisciplinary healthcare teams utilizing current evidence-based research along with effective communication in patient teaching and engagement to improve quality outcomes for patients and students alike. 

In 2014 Jeffreys was appointed to serve on the Health Care Advisory Board for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick where she continues to serve today. Jeffreys also serves as president of the Bushland Independent School District school board, president-elect for the Texas Deans & Directors for Professional Nursing Programs, and legislative ambassador for the Texas Nurse Practitioner Policy Council.

She serves on the board of directors for the Texas Association of Rural Health Clinics and the Harrington Cancer Health Foundation as well as on the advisory board for the Texas Board of Nursing and the Northwest Texas Small Business Development Centers. Jeffreys has been named a University of Texas distinguished nursing alumni, Texas Nurse Practitioner of the Year, and Texas State Excellence Award Winner from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Most recently, she was honored as one of the Great 25 Nurses of the Texas Panhandle. 

“This wonderful gift provides additional resources needed for further educational opportunities through conferences, continuing education programs and a doctorate program in order to meet the mental health needs of the Texas Panhandle,” Neely said.

Neely joined WT in 2018. She earned her bachelor of science in nursing from WT, then her master’s from Texas Tech University Health Science Center and a post-master’s certificate as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner from Midwestern State University.

She teaches in the family nurse practitioner program and is director of the Post-Master's Certificate Psychiatric Mental Health Practitioner Association. She treats patients with mental health disorders with BSA Behavioral Health and operates a 24-hour first responder emergency clinic for the Panhandle and volunteers with the Amarillo Fire Department’s Critical Incident Stress Management team.

Her research includes family nurse practitioner students’ responses to completing clinicals during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the use of escape rooms in family nurse practitioner programs.

Reyher said her professorship will help continue the department’s work to improve access to healthcare in rural Texas.

“As a farmer’s daughter from the Texas Panhandle, I spent almost 25 years traveling the Farm-to-Market roads bringing healthcare to hard-working individuals and families who provide food, fiber and fuel to the nation and the world,” Reyher said. “As a WT nursing faculty member, this generous gift will be used to expand our understanding of the health needs in rural areas so we can better prepare our nursing students in service to them.”

Reyher earned her bachelor of science in nursing and her master’s in comprehensive nursing from WT. She joined the faculty of WT’s Department of Nursing in 2016.

She is a frequent speaker and expert panelist for issues related to healthy living and aging, health literacy for caregivers, community health, and end-of-life care.

The 2021 HPCMF gift, one of the largest single gifts in the University’s history, also resulted in the naming of the Baptist Community Services Nursing Education Floor at Harrington Academic Hall WTAMU Amarillo Center.

High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation is a part of the Baptist Community Services organizational family. The Foundation supports the senior adult services and community wellness programs of BCS, including Park Central and the Snack Pak 4 Kids weekend food insecurity program.

The Amarillo Center now houses 250 undergraduate bachelor of nursing students and about 20 nursing faculty and staff. In its 25,000 square feet, the BCS Nursing Education Floor includes state-of-the-art simulation labs and other innovative educational spaces.

Established in 1972 and graduating its first students in 1974, WT’s Department of Nursing in its College of Nursing and Health Sciences currently provides about 70 percent of nurses employed throughout the Texas Panhandle.

WT nursing graduates, over the past five years, have averaged a 97 percent score on the National Council Licensure Examination, required by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to test the competency of nursing school graduates in the United States and Canada. Nationally, the average is 85 percent; in Texas, it’s 87 percent.

In WT’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the latter encompasses programs in health sciences, communication disorders, and sports and exercise sciences.

The undergraduate program in Health Sciences focuses on the healthcare field/industry, health sciences, and clinical science; as well as elective courses in business, humanities, and social sciences. Health Sciences is offered in a traditional format on the WT campus in Canyon, at the Texas A&M University RELLIS Campus in Bryan and online.

The Communication Disorders program, which offers undergraduate and graduate programs, has been nationally recognized a top speech-language pathology program.

Sports and Exercise Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in athletic training, exercise science, applied sport and physical education teaching, as well as a graduate degree in sports and exercise medicine.

Meeting regional needs, particularly in healthcare, is a vital component of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $120 million.


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. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including 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.





Photo: Dr. Holly Jeffreys, from left, Dr. Gene Farren, Laura Reyher and Shaina Neely in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences have been appointed to endowed professorships as a result of High Plains Christian Ministries Foundations historic $3 million gift to West Texas A&M University.