Dr. Andrea Stefano
Dr. Andrea Di Stefano passed away June 6, 2022 while visiting his family in Italy. Di Stefano, an adjunct professor of history and global studies, held a Doctor of Research from the Università degli Studi di Teramo in Italy. Before moving to Abilene in 2016, Di Stefano worked in two leading museums in Italy and taught for the University of New Hampshire’s Study Abroad program.
During his time at ACU, he taught classes both in Abilene and online through ACU Dallas in turn mentoring hundreds of students while working toward receiving his Master of Divinity degree in the Graduate School of Theology.
According to Dr. Kelly Elliott, associate professor and department chair in the history and global studies department, Di Stefano was working on his thesis on Church of Christ mission work in Italy.
While in Italy during the summer, Di Stefano had planned to visit the Vatican where he had received permission to visit some recently opened archives.
“He had actually just gotten permission to visit some recently opened archives in the Vatican related to that, and that’s a really hard thing…you can’t just email the Vatican,” Elliot said.
“He was really excited that he had gotten that permission.”
Many students and colleagues would recall that Di Stefano was Catholic and spoke from that perspective and overall used his connections and skills to help broaden the worldview of students in ways other faculty may not have.
“He really just broadened the world of our students in a way that a lot of faculty maybe didn’t have the ability to do just because he was from such a different point of view,” Elliot said. “He was also very much a Catholic and really spoke from that perspective so I think it was nice for students in this more Church of Christ or broadly evangelical environment to hear that different perspective within the Christian tradition.”
However, despite all of his accolades and accomplishments, perhaps one of the most memorable things about Dr. Di Stefano was his love of all things Texas and cowboy culture.
“This small Italian man who’s very charming and very gentlemanly and traditional, who also wore, like, a large belt buckle and boots and hat and loved the music,” Elliot said. “So that was just always a really funny, quirky thing about him that he was known for and students looked for his hat and all of that.”
Before he passed, Di Stefano was looking for land in the Abilene area seemingly to live out his cowboy dream, but in the interim, his colleagues in the History and Global Studies Department took matters into their own hands.
“Dr. Amanda Biles and Professor Beth Purcell redid an office for him, and they did it in a country western theme so there was this fake cow skin rug on the floor, we had a deer skull on the wall, and that was something that we did without him being aware of it,” Elliot said. “And so he just came in one day and walked in, and it was all done. He was loved enough by students and colleagues that we wanted to redecorate his office. He was special.”
Di Stefano is survived by his parents and his brother.
Dr. Charlier H. “Doc” Marler
Dr. Charlie H “Doc” Marler (‘55), professor emeritus of journalism and mass communication and influential historian, died May 27, 2022 at the age of 89 following a short illness.
Marler held a revered career at the university, serving and mentoring students for 58 years.
Marler earned a B.A. in English in 1955 and a M.A. in history in 1968, both from ACU, and later earned his doctorate in journalism from the University of Missouri in 1974.
Marler’s 58 year career continued when he served as ACU’s first sports information director from 1958-1963, director of information and publications from 1964-1971.
Marler began teaching in what became the Journalism and Mass Communication Department in 1974 and served in various roles in the department until 2003.
Marler, whose teaching specialities including Communication Law, Opinion Writing and Publication Design, also advised The Optimist and many students remember one thing about their time working with him: the red pen.
Mary Jackson (‘89) served as the Optimist sports editor her senior year.
“My memories of being an Optimist sports editor as a non-mass comm/journalism major … so much red ink,” Jackson said. “I think I probably helped Doc keep the Bic pen company in business.”
And while the red ink was legendary amongst students, it wasn’t always what students would find on their pages.
“Freshman year, every week I would see The Optimist pinned on the wall marked up with Doc’s red pen,” said Sharla Smalling (‘90). “The first time I designed a page for The Optimist, I nervously waited for the mark up to be hung. To my surprise, the only red on my page was written at the top. ‘Nice job!’ I was so happy. It never happened again. Dr. Marler and his red pen taught me to stand back, take another look and ask: How can it be better?”
But above all of the grueling editing and meticulous standards, ‘Doc’ was helped his students grow as both communicators and people.
“Doc created an environment for learning that helped students rise to the top of their potential with his quiet confidence and careful correction,” said Allison Wood (‘90). “He allowed space for freedom of thought, questions to be asked and conclusions to be drawn… Doc helped his students grow into ethical communicators and we are all grateful for this leadership and counsel.”
Dr. Marler is preceded in death by his parents, William Owen Marler and Velma Valentine Marler McCabe. He is survived by his wife Peggy, sons and daughters-in-law and his grandchildren, including three great grandchildren.
Stephen Ornelas passed away Jul. 21, 2022. Ornelas, a student at the university, was the son of Monica Garcia, an instructor in the Department of Communication Science Disorders. Ornelas passed away on his 21st birthday.
Ornelas graduated from Cooper High School and was initially pursuing an education major, but had recently decided to explore other options of study. Ornelas was an active member and incoming officer of Voice, the student education and support group on campus.
His mother said Ornelas found different places to fit in in the community being his authentic self and made friends across the board.
“I think within the Voice community he was encouraged to feel like he could still make a difference here at ACU and really just be courageous in that,” Garcia said. “ I think as a mom, I know what he meant to us as a family and where he fit in in our family and all the attributes that we loved about him. But I think what’s been really good is that everybody else said the same things, courage, authenticity, kindness, his faith, all of those things that we appreciated about him. That was what everybody else saw about him as well.”
Ornelas was a part of a larger family with siblings ranging in age from 23 to three-years-old. Garcia said his element was from a family standpoint and that if you ask any of her kids who their favorite sibling was, they would all say Stephen. To Garcia and Ornelas’ siblings, it seemed like Stephen always had something going on.
“I think my favorite thing about him is his energy,” Garcia said. “It’s just that’s what we were saying, that we missed so much. It’s his laughter and his infectious energy, he always had something going on. It was like, he would throw open the door because he lived in our backyard in a little house that he had built, and come into our garage, and have a plan.”
This birthday was no exception as Ornelas, who was passionate about music, fashion and photography, was planning a photoshoot.
“He was always wanting, especially around his birthday, to do photo shoots,” Garcia said. “He had a theme every year that he was going to do. He was always just like that. He just always had a lot of energy and a lot of plans.”
Ornelas grew up actively participating in the church, specifically the Catholic Church, where he served as an altar server and attended youth groups and young adult groups.
“I feel like even all of the young adults that were in his group felt the same as far as he would just check in on them and create those lasting friendships. He was finding how his personal relationship with God fit into things,” Garcia said. “ I think that he was doing a good job of trying to figure that out.”
To Ornelas himself, the most important piece of advice was this: be yourself.
“Be you,” Ornelas said in a writing his mother read at his funeral. “Only two opinions matter in this world. That is what you and God think of yourself. Never give someone power over you, diminish your light for no one, change for no one but yourself.”
Ornelas is survived by mother, Monica Garcia, and his siblings.
Dr. Paul Faulkner
Dr. Paul B. Faulkner (‘52) died July 5, 2022 at the age of 92.
Faulkner, depending on the era, may be remembered as a minister, teacher, colleague or one half of the Marriage Enrichment Seminar he started with Dr. Carl Brecheen (‘52).
Faulkner earned a masters degree from ACU in 1961 and both masters and doctoral degrees majoring in psychology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1966 and 1968.
Faulkner founded the Marriage and Family Institute at ACU in 1979 and was a licensed marriage and family therapist and a clinical and supervisory member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.
In 1974, Brecheen and Faulkner conducted the first seminar as a part of their series of Marriage Enrichment Seminars. Five years later, another seminar drew upwards of 1,000 attendees and was videotaped and distributed, in total being seen by more than 2 million people worldwide.
Dr. Heidi Morris, associate professor in the department of marriage and family studies said that Faulkner’s legacy extends far beyond his seminars.
“He has the best visionary skill and also the ability to put things into practice,” Morris said. “I think at the heart of what I know of him and his family, he had a passion for his own family and his own marriage and his life of faith. I think that influenced his desire to want to help other people have healthy and rewarding marriages and family.”
Faulkner’s passion for service and teaching left a mark on the department and a new center is being named the Paul and Gladys Faulkner Center for Marriage and Family which will run educational efforts for the department.
Faulkner retired from the university in 1992 and continued to teach adjunct while founding his company Resources for Living, a counseling service for major American businesses including McLance Trucking, Walmart and others.
“It’s pretty revolutionary,” Morris said. “His founding of Resources for a Living was very successful and really tapped into some of corporate America in making connections for employees for mental health services.”
Faulkner is preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Consuelo Faulkner, Gladys, his wife of 64 years and sisters Dartha Fay Starr and Jean Faulkner. He is survived by two daughters, two sons and their spouses as well as eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.