The back patio of the Money house is crowded with black plastic chairs, tables covered with purple tablecloths and about 50 Presidential Scholars. Students are snaking their way to a buffet table covered with the makings of fajitas.
And there’s a rapidly widening gap in the line.
Peering around the freshmen men anxious about being separated from all those grilled bell peppers, everyone can clearly see the culprit: Pam Money, the president’s wife and the official hostess of the university.
She doesn’t seem to mind that she flew back in hours before from Houston after several busy days of recruiting and fundraising events with her husband; or, that she still has a talk to give after dinner tonight to the women of Morris and Sikes halls. She is fully engaged with every student that stops to talk with her.
“I’m really good at reading a room,” she says. “[Royce] goes in and works a whole room in the time I spend with two or three people – not that I can’t work a room. It’s just not my nature.”
That is hard to believe, watching her interact with the students around her. She commands attention, because, as she says, she can be assertive. But being the first lady of ACU hasn’t made her this way. In her 18th year as the wife of the president, she is the same as she was in the first. She has strong opinions, but she is willing to give up control for the benefit of others. Her partnership with her husband, Dr. Royce Money, is paramount.
“We’ve always done ministry as a couple,” she says. “That’s just the way we operate.”
A Lifetime Commitment
Pam packed up and moved from San Antonio to Abilene in the summer of 1961. Those few extra weeks before school started gave her time to adjust and make friends, she says. One of her new friends was also her resident assistant, Ginger, who knew everyone, Pam says.
Ginger introduced Pam to as many people as she could during the first week of school, including Pam’s future husband, Royce, in front of the mailboxes in the McGlothlin Campus Center.
Pam says he called her later to ask her to the football game, but she couldn’t remember who he was. Surrounded by giggling women waiting to hear if she would accept the proposal, she stood by the phone in the hallway – and stalled.
“I was whispering to Ginger, ‘Who is Royce Money?'” Pam says. “I think he figured out what was going on, because he very wisely said, ‘Why don’t we go get a Coke in about 30 minutes?'”
The first date led to another, and eventually, the two were married. But, Pam says it wasn’t always a sure thing; in fact, the couple had many “enthusiastic discussions” about it.
“He was going to be a preacher, and I didn’t want to marry a preacher.”
Although Pam says they were best friends, they stopped dating several times over the course of the next three years, usually when she felt things were getting too serious. He finally convinced her, though, probably in part because she realized she couldn’t talk him out of what he saw as his calling.
“Preaching is not an option,” he told her. “It’s between me and God, and you don’t have a say about that. But I want you to come along.”
From the way she talks, it seems she was just as passionate then about healthy, Godly relationships as she is now.
“Marriage is a lifetime commitment,” she says, almost solemnly. “It’s like being baptized. You don’t do it until you know and until you know you know.”
Changing the campus dating culture has been one of Pam’s most visible efforts during her time as First Lady.
Pam is a counselor by training; she chose to close her private practice soon after her husband was named president when it became clear the travel schedule would not allow her to continue full-time counseling.
Couples living such hectic lives often drift apart without realizing it, although one would think two card-carrying members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy like the Moneys would be immune to such problems. They are fully aware of the risks and make every effort to keep their marriage healthy.
Pam says they have a date every week and have almost since the day they were married.
“He literally drug me out of the house crying after the birth of our first child,” she says. “She was three weeks old. It was pretty traumatic. But he said, ‘We have to spend some time together.'”
Sometimes the time is spent in laughter and sometimes in tears, she says, recalling the first few years of the presidency as particularly difficult. Their two daughters, Alison (’91) and Jennifer (’93), had weddings within seven months of each other; she moved her mother to a nursing home because she had Alzheimer’s disease; Royce’s father passed away; and they moved his mentally disabled brother, Lee Money, to Abilene.
“I would say normal things that happen to families happened to us, but God gets you ready for those,” she said.
Through it all, Pam said she and Royce stuck together.
But even as partners all those years, the two have maintained distinct, though complementary, strengths. Pam says Royce is patient, confident and analytical. She, on the other hand, says she is more empathetic and emotional in her relationships; she also says she needs more encouragement.
Her daughter, Jennifer Crisp, says her mother has always been an idea person, which is what makes her a good teacher and a good president’s wife.
“She’s always been one to want to have conversations,” Crisp says. “She’d throw out conversation starters at breakfast when were all hiding under the newspapers.”
In almost all of her leadership roles, Pam is the one to get things rolling. But, as soon as it gets off the ground, it seems she’s quick to hand it off to someone else. She started a women’s Bible study with about 10 women four years ago. It has grown to about 60 women and has become the small group women’s Chapel that meets Thursdays.
Pam teaches occasionally, but mostly, she says the students have taken ownership and make most of the decisions.
“You’re kind of like a spark plug when you teach,” she said. “You get things started. You have to get other people excited.”
This responsibility is sometimes frustrating, because, she says, she has very little power. She describes a conversation she had with Dr. Charles Trevathan, former vice president for campus life.
She asked him, “Charles, do you understand what I say when I talk?”
He laughed and said, “Yes, why?”
“Well, sometimes I say things to people around here and nothing happens.”
“Well, Pam,” he said. “You’re the person on campus with the most perceived power and the least actual power.”
Call it what you will, Pam wields an incredible amount of influence on campus. As she and Royce near the end of this chapter in their lives, it is clear they will have to carve out a new niche for themselves. But it is also clear Pam has formed will only grow and multiply.
Pam said her job is a great job and a fun job, but she made a point to say she will not miss the budget balancing or the constant meetings. She said she is looking forward to the relative peace and quiet of being a chancellor’s wife.
Speaking with students at the Presidential Scholars dinner about future plans, the Moneys said they plan to spend even more time with students, current and prospective. They will be teaching a course for the Study Abroad Program in Oxford next fall, and will continue to attend recruiting and fundraising events. Many responsibilities will remain the same, but Pam said she will have more time to focus on the one thing she has always held on to: relationships.
“We’re giving up the urgent for the important.”