Texas Wesleyan University professor Alice Wonders made a lasting impact on her students.
One lesson she taught continues to resonate with Ted Karpf, a Texas Wesleyan alumnus and former student of Wonders.
Born: Nov. 19, 1910
Died: July 31, 1980
Education: Earned her license to practice as a lay minister in the Methodist Church at 18. Bachelor’s degree from Ohio Northern University in 1934. Master’s degree from Texas Christian University in 1950. Education doctorate from North Texas State University in 1961.
Work: Started career as a director of Christian education in Grand Isle, Vermont, and as a religious education worker in Warren, Ohio, where she served as minister in several churches. In 1942, she started teaching at Polytechnic High School. A year later, she was hired as an Bible instructor at Texas Wesleyan University in 1943. After a stint as director of education at the First Methodist Church in Ohio, Wonders returned to Texas Wesleyan in 1947 to become an instructor and eventually became the chair of the division of philosophy and religion until her retirement in 1976.
Family: Two daughters from her marriage with Paul Wonders. Four grandchildren. Six great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.
“You must invest your life in others,” he said.
Although she died more than 40 years ago, Wonders’ lessons persist to this day. Wonders took her lessons to heart and led by example. She broke barriers for women at Texas Wesleyan. Her students say her legacy, above all, is focused on one message: Give back to your community.
Texas Wesleyan President Fred Slabach did not know Wonders. However, he can feel her impact throughout the university.
Wonders was one of the first women in the United States to chair a school’s division of philosophy and religion, according to Texas Wesleyan. She was first appointed to the position as the acting chair in 1956. In 1961 she was then appointed permanently in her position until her retirement in 1976.
Continuing her legacy
Frank Johnson founded The Stars of Wonders, an alumni group sharing the legacy of Wonders and her impact on her students’ lives. The group was formed about a year and a half ago, and offers scholarships to students.
Johnson’s idea for the group goes back to a lesson Wonders taught: How would he give back to his community? The Stars of Wonders was born.
“I decided that she was the person that helped make me the person I became,” Johnson said.
Wonders made her students think beyond the textbook and apply what they learned to real-life situations, Johnson said.
Inside the Eunice and James L. West Library, a book section honors Wonders. Her family donated the books, which include some she wrote and Bibles.
‘My grand-moo was a rockstar’
Ruth Bangert is Wonders’ granddaughter. She didn’t know the academic side of her grandmother. Their family would go camping in Lake Louise in Canada whenever Wonders came to visit.
She learned about her grandmother’s professional career through the Stars of Wonders. Bangert said Wonders encouraged her and her sister, Karen, to prioritize their education – and to give back.
“That’s probably where we got our drive and our abilities to do the things that we do,” she said.
Bangert donated her grandmother’s books to Texas Wesleyan.
“I’m grateful and honored to know that my grand-moo was a rockstar,” she said.
‘Impact is still being felt’
Wonders’ influence stretches far beyond the grounds of Texas Wesleyan, said Louis Sherwood, an archivist at the university.
Throughout her career, she trained a large percentage of ministers in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, which offices at the university, Sherwood said.
Alice Wonders’ biography
Interested in learning more about Alice Wonders? Read the most recent version of Louis Sherwood’s biography from August 2022 here.
“If you consider the impact that her instruction had on the quality of ministry, the impact is still being felt,” Sherwood said.
Sherwood is writing a biography about Wonders so her impact on Texas Wesleyan continues for future generations.
“It’s important not to forget there are people who help build the legacy of a college,” Sherwood said. “It’s important to remember that because they made it possible for us to be where we are now.”
Community Engagement Journalist Cristian ArguetaSoto contributed to this story.
Taylor Coit is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.