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ACU awards honorary degree to longtime supporter Kay Onstead


Kay Onstead with her son, Charlie Onstead (far left), daughter, Ann Hill (far right), and ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert.

Abilene Christian University recently presented Kay Onstead with an honorary Doctor of Science at a private ceremony in Houston. 

The degree was awarded for her contributions to the university and society, said Dr. Phil Schubert, ACU president.

“Kay’s extraordinary contributions to ACU continue to inspire the generosity of our community,” Schubert said. “I’m thankful for this opportunity to recognize her remarkable legacy and good works. She has exemplified the convergence of faith and excellence and caused all of us to think more courageously about how God is calling us to be world-changers. Kay lives out the mission and vision of ACU and brings honor to us all.”

Over the last 53 years, the generosity of Kay and her late husband, Robert, has touched nearly every corner of ACU’s campus in both tangible and intangible ways. 

Kay was the lead donor in ACU’s Vision in Action initiative, which resulted in a science center named in Robert’s honor. This commitment started the ball rolling on capital projects totaling $95 million that radically changed the face of campus. Most recently, Kay’s transformational gift of $25 million in July 2023 created ACU’s first named college – the Robert and Kay Onstead College of Science and Engineering.

In addition, she has invested heavily in scholarships and endowments that will benefit students for generations to come. In 1989, she and Robert established an endowment dedicated to the children of ministers, a scholarship that funded a portion of Schubert’s own education at ACU. And in 2018, Kay established the Onstead Opportunity Scholarship to support students with both high achievement and high need. The Onstead Opportunity Scholarship has since grown into the largest endowed scholarship at ACU. 

The Onsteads’ love for ACU did not arise from their own attendance at the university, but from their interaction with a group of Abilene Christian alumni who attended church with the Onsteads and ignited their desire to support the university and send their own children there. Three of the Onsteads’ children attended ACU, and five grandchildren have graduated from ACU so far.

“Awarding this degree to Kay, in recognition of her commitment and generosity, signifies her integral role in our community by making her an alumnus of ACU,” Schubert said.

Wendy Kilmer

May 20, 2024

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