Marylou Habecker to receive honorary doctorate - The Echo News
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Marylou Habecker to receive honorary doctorate

Former first lady of Taylor will be honored at commencement

Former first lady and ’68 Taylor alumnus Marylou Habecker visited Taylor campus last Wednesday, and she will be back on campus again for Commencement.

Former first lady and ’68 Taylor alumnus Marylou Habecker visited Taylor campus last Wednesday, and she will be back on campus again for Commencement.

By Marian Douglas | Echo

When Marylou Habecker received an email from Taylor University announcing the recipient of an honorary degree, she had no idea that she was the one Taylor planned to honor.

“I saw the subject and thought, ‘How nice of you to let me know who is getting a degree,’” she said. “We were in Ecuador at the time. I was in our living room reflecting on the delightful time we had just experienced with the U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, his wife and our amazing (Taylor) students, while Gene was taking a ‘siesta. I casually opened my email to read what might be there.”

At the top of her inbox was a message titled Honorary Degree.

She clicked on the email. Her eyes scanned through the text, only pausing upon recognizing her own last name.

“Yes—Oh, Gene is getting a degree,” she thought. Her husband, Eugene Habecker, who was president of Taylor for 11 years, has received honorary degrees from nine different colleges. It made perfect sense to her that Taylor would honor him—or it would have made sense, if he hadn’t already received an honorary degree from Taylor.

Marylou Habecker looked back down at the email and read on in complete disbelief: The degree was for her!

“I continued reading through tears in my eyes, ran into the bedroom, woke up Gene and just sobbed. ‘There is no way . . . They don’t have to do this . . . I just did what I loved . . . ,” she said.

Marylou Habecker will receive her honorary doctorate during Taylor’s Commencement Ceremony. Taylor awards around three honorary doctorates a year, according to current president Lowell Haines. This year, Taylor has awarded two. The other honorary degree was presented to author Os Guinness earlier this year.

“(An honorary doctorate) is meant for people who have either made a huge contribution to Taylor or to the world,” Haines said. “It says something about the person, but it also says something about the school. Marylou had a large effect on a lot of people.”
During her time as Taylor’s first lady, Marylou Habecker worked to make the president’s house an open and welcoming place. She organized faculty and staff dinners, opened the Great Room for student events and started weekly women’s prayer

During her visit, Habecker shared what she called her refrigerator verse with senior Jessica Wise to help ease Wise’s nerves about her post-graduation plans: “But these things I plan won’t happen right away . . . Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” (Habakkuk 2:3, TLB)

During her visit, Habecker shared what she called her refrigerator verse with senior Jessica Wise to help ease Wise’s nerves about her post-graduation plans: “But these things I plan won’t happen right away . . . Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” (Habakkuk 2:3, TLB)

meetings inside the house.

Students remember her best for the warm way she speaks to everyone. Marylou and Gene Habecker would occasionally sit in

front of junior Brecken Mumford’s wing during chapel. Mumford remembers how Marylou Habecker would turn around to speak to her and the other girls. “She was always kind and interested,” Mumford said. “She always made an effort to make you feel heard.”

When senior Jessica Wise worked as catering manager, she often met with the former first lady. “Marylou . . . speaks to everyone no matter who they are as if they are the most important person in the world,” Wise said.

“Our purpose is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind,” she said. “Our vocation is where we are called to fulfill that purpose.”

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