Growing up five miles away from the Houston Baptist University campus, Dalton Schafer didn’t consider going to HBU until the school reentered Division 1 athletics. He transferred to the school his sophomore year in 2009, where he was a starting pitcher for the Husky baseball team.
“My whole life I played baseball; when I got the opportunity to come to HBU and build a program, that seemed really special to me,” he said.
For Dalton, the university experience was much more than he was expecting.
“Entering into HBU, I was not a Christian,” he said. “Looking back, I like the intentional focus of pointing people to Jesus at HBU.”
Through classes on Christian thought, attending convocation, and especially through the example of Christian peers, he soon felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the love of God, and gave his life to Jesus Christ.
He became involved with FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). At the same time, Jolie (Graf) Schafer, an Austin native and a middle blocker on the volleyball team, was also involved in FCA.
“I loved playing volleyball at HBU; it was the reason why I came,” Jolie said. “I wanted to go to a Christian school and I wanted to play Division 1 volleyball. HBU fit that.”
The two crossed paths and realized during their years together that they had found their match. Jolie and Dalton married the winter after graduation in 2012.
Now, several years removed from their undergraduate experience, they reflect on their time at HBU. Athletics participation was a valuable training ground for life after college, they said.
“Being in sports is a great way to learn to excel in a very high-stress environment,” Dalton said. “You learn to compete individually and to function as a team.”
Jolie said, “Practicing for three-plus hours and going to class, you really had to prioritize what you needed to get done. You also had to learn to work well with others and to set goals.”
During her time at HBU, Jolie majored in biochemistry and molecular biology. The year after graduation, she worked as a research assistant for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, then enrolled in the MD Anderson Cancer Center UT Health Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences PhD in Immunology program. For her doctoral defense and graduation in August of 2017, Jolie invited former HBU professors.
“Without a doubt, I think many of the HBU science professors really helped me get ready for graduate school,” she said. “That’s when I fell in love with immunology and knew I wanted to do that. I think the purpose and wonder of science was there with a Christian perspective. The classes also prepared me for researching and writing papers.”
After HBU, Dalton earned his master’s in marketing from Texas A&M University. He currently works as a business director for Chick-Fil-A.
“We did a lot in marketing classes in my undergraduate time that prepped me for what I did in graduate school,” he said. “I still remember professors praying in class. It instilled in me the desire to not only be successful, but to be successful in order to show off my creator. At HBU, the emphasis was on living with higher character, and being a thoughtful and stewardship-minded business leader who cares about and loves people.”
In addition to their relationship with one another, Dalton and Jolie cherish the other connections they made.
“The friendships you make in college are typically those that hold a little bit more firm than those in high school,” Dalton said. “And, when you can share the Holy Spirit with someone, it’s a really great relationship.”
The couple carries on the Gospel focus they experienced at HBU. For the past four years, they’ve served as apartment missionaries. They will continue to share their faith as they relocate to Ohio, where Jolie will use her expertise for Teva Pharmaceuticals.
“I don’t think I would be who I am today if I hadn’t gone to a Christian university,” Jolie said. “I had many professors mentor me. Those years really formed and solidified my faith.”
Dalton added, “We’re proud of the identity of the school. Whenever we’re out and HBU comes up, we throw up the ‘Dawgs’ sign.”
Want to learn more about the athletics programs that helped shape the Schafers? Visit HBUhuskies.com!