Since 1985, the Soules name has been synonymous with making dinner time simple with their popular pre-cooked chicken and beef products. But for many organizations across East Texas, the Soules name has another association: generosity. From the Soules College of Business at UT Tyler to gifts to the Bethesda Health Clinic, the Soules family has a history of giving back to their community through mission-oriented organizations. The Brook Hill School is proud to be a recipient of their latest gift to Boldly Brook Hill: A Campaign for The Brook Hill School. This lead gift will help build Brook Hill’s new fine arts center and chapel. Construction is set to break ground on the Soules Fine Arts Center this Monday, Aug. 15, 2022
When we sat down with John Soules, Jr., his wife, Sherri, and their two daughters, Mary Payton and Laila, we asked them what drives the family’s generosity. John answered simply, “It’s about giving back.” He went on to explain that the Soules family has been blessed by the Lord, even confidently stating, “I’ve been more blessed than I am good at my job.”
He recalled a conversation with his father, John Soules, Sr., in 1994 when the John Soules Food Plant experienced a devastating fire. The business was on the verge of bankruptcy, and John Jr. was doing due diligence – looking through invoices and seeing where costs could be cut. He came across a recurring expense in the form of a donation to a local Christian ministry. He brought up the donation to his father as something that could possibly be reduced or cut from the budget, to which his father passionately replied, “We can’t afford not to do it.” This is a belief that has stuck with John Jr. ever since and helped form his own passion to give back to the community through philanthropic giving.
When considering giving back, one considers both worthwhile causes and personal values. For the Soules family, Christian education is where the two meet. When John and Sherri started looking at education options for their daughters, they were told some schools will jump out at them. Sherri was quick to say, “This doesn’t mean other schools are bad, but you will connect with one school over the others.” When the Soules toured Brook Hill’s campus for the first time, they thought, “This is it!”
For the past eight years, Mary Payton and Laila Soules have attended The Brook Hill School. Mary Payton is entering the seventh grade and Laila is beginning her first year at the Middle School as a sixth grader. Witnessing the academic and spiritual growth of Mary Payton and Laila, the Soules have become active proponents of Christian education.
John explained that with only a few hours with his daughters in the evenings, there’s not enough time to do all you want to do as a parent. He finds comfort in knowing Mary Payton and Laila are surrounded by Christian influences each day from beginning to end. “Even if we fall short as parents on a given day, it is comforting to know that our children are in an environment of people that love them and encourage them to follow Christ,” shared John.
“Even if we fall short as parents on a given day, it is comforting to know that our children are in an environment that loves them and encourages them to follow Christ.” – John Soules, Jr.
The Soules have seen the value of Christian education, and Brook Hill specifically, in their daughter’s lives from speaking on stage at a young age, to articulating the gospel and readily sharing it. Sherri added, “We want to personally make sure these things continue to happen for the students who follow our girls.” Their gift to Boldly Brook Hill: A Campaign for The Brook Hill School does just that.
While John and Sherri believe the campaign will bring Brook Hill to the “next level,” whether through security, sports, or fine arts, it was important to their family to be a part of completing the original vision God gave Founder Steve Dement so many years ago. “It is a fulfilling accomplishment, after hearing about the Brook Hill vision over the past eight years, to leave an imprint on something that you cherish,” said John.
The Soules’ gift is transformational to Brook Hill and instrumental to the success of the campaign, but for John and Sherri, their gift is about so much more. They want to ensure the school’s mission continues to thrive, not only for the Brook Hill students of today but for many generations to come. “It’s not what we take with us, but what we leave behind,” said Sherri.
The multi-million dollar campaign is the largest campaign in the school’s 25-year history and will certainly leave behind something significant. Boldly Brook Hill includes many campus-wide enhancements from a new learning enrichment and dyslexia center for grades six through twelve to campus-wide security enhancements. A new lower school playground will be constructed along with renovations to the lower school library, new tennis courts, a new turf field, upgrades to the upper school science labs, enhancements to the residential life facilities, and growing the endowment. Most notably is the last major, missing piece to the Brook Hill puzzle: a fine arts center and chapel. The Soules Fine Arts Center will include specialized classrooms designed for vocal, instrumental, dramatic, and visual arts instruction, including an orchestra room with space for students and their instruments; a visual arts classroom with the space and materials for students to paint, draw, sculpt, and create; a drama room with a black box theater for rehearsals and smaller performances, and a choir room with excellent acoustics.
Last, but certainly not least, the center boasts an auditorium and stage complete with wings, proper lighting, and sound equipment to showcase students’ talents and bring the community together for performances, assemblies, and lectures. The auditorium will also serve as a sacred space for fellowship and worship through weekly chapel services. A new auditorium will also improve the audience experience for the existing loyal patrons and help grow new audiences. Moreover, it will help Brook Hill attract, recruit, and retain the best fine-arts faculty and students for years to come.
“More spaces, more families, more people knowing Christ.”
-mARY pAYTON SOULES
Mary Payton and Laila Soules will have many years to enjoy the fine arts center after its intended completion in late 2023. When asked their thoughts on the campaign, Laila shared, “I’m most excited about the chapel and the drama program. For chapel, we will learn more by being in the right environment. It will lead people closer to Christ!” Her older sister, Mary Payton, simplified it further, “More spaces, more families, more people knowing Christ.”
Head of School, Rod Fletcher, shared the sentiment. “As we celebrate 25 years of Brook Hill, we celebrate God’s provision and expectantly look forward to what He has for our school over the next 25 years and beyond,” said Fletcher. “We are grateful for the Soules family and many others who have paved the way throughout the years by generously and sacrificially giving back to help secure the mission of The Brook Hill School.”
The mission of The Brook Hill School is to provide excellence in college preparatory education, affirm the gifts and challenge the potential of each student, and encourage students to honor God through Christ-like character. “John and Sherri are dedicated and proud Brook Hill parents who have quietly and steadfastly supported Brook Hill’s mission for many years,” Fletcher continued. “Their ongoing commitment to supporting Brook Hill will have a significant and lasting impact on our students and their families. We are truly grateful and humbled by their decision to play such a major role in the Boldly Brook Hill Campaign and are excited by the opportunities their generosity will provide.”
As John reflected on God’s generous blessings to his own family, he concluded, “Leaving this behind is something that praises God. It’s a reminder we didn’t squander our blessing. We did something good with it.”