April 27, 2007
When Al Highers (BBA '39) first arrived at Baylor in the mid-1930s, the sounds of Baylor football - the crowd's cheers, the quarterback's shouts and the coaches' whistles - permeated the campus from Carroll Field. Within a few years, Baylor football journeyed off-campus to a larger space, Waco Stadium, taking the cheering crowds with it. Now Highers' gift, in conjunction with a gift from Baylor alum Bob Simpson, is bringing the sounds of football back to the Baylor campus.
Al and Dorothy Highers
"Al Highers had three great passions in his life: Dorothy, Dr Pepper and Baylor University," says David Boothe, assistant pastor at Highers' church, Calvary Baptist in Alexandria, La.
In addition to his managerial duties with Dr Pepper, Highers never shied away from the "hands-on" tasks involved with running a bottling company, such as repairing delivery trucks, and Dorothy often worked in the office alongside him. Though she did not attend Baylor, she enjoyed supporting Al's Baylor Bears at various athletic events.
"They're wonderful people who loved this University and athletics," notes Grant Teaff, whose friendship with Al and Dorothy Highers developed during his Baylor coaching tenure. "They were caring Baylor people who had a dream to do something good for the University."
The couple expressed their support of Baylor athletics, particularly football, through financial support and regular attendance at home games, until declining health prevented their trips from Louisiana.
"Ninety percent of our conversations centered around Al's time as a student at Baylor and Baylor football," says Charlie Jones (BBA '71), a family friend. Highers, an accounting major originally from Breckenridge, Texas, worked his way through Baylor at a Waco bottling plant, thus paving the way for his future career. Remembering the challenges of balancing work with school, Highers supported higher education at both Baylor and Louisiana College.
"The Higherses are the kind of folks who never asked for anything but always gave. I think both of them will be very proud of this everlasting legacy - a wonderful facility for the football program," Teaff says. "Their love for the University and their generosity to the football program will pay big dividends in enhancing the University that they loved so much."
Simpson, who grew up on a ranch in Cisco, Texas, and now lives in Fort Worth, has several things in common with Highers. Both of them grew up in small Texas towns just an hour apart. Simpson also worked his way through Baylor, in a position with Merrill Lynch. Both men were accounting students, and both men love Baylor football.
"I think of university football programs as the front porch of the house. It's not all-serving, but a good one gets people to go inside," observes Simpson. "As a tool for the University to stay vibrant, growing and attractive to the highest caliber students, I think the football practice facility is a needed feature."
Simpson (BS '70, MBA '71), has exhibited his commitment to Baylor over the years through service on Baylor Foundation, regular attendance at sporting events and gifts to athletics and endowed scholarships. He credits Baylor professors such as Roderick Holmes, James Parsons and Emerson Henke with providing him the foundation for building and running a successful business.
"I view my Baylor education as the launching pad for my career. As I got into the real world, I found that my Baylor experience was such that I could compete with any graduates in the world," Simpson says. "Supporting Baylor is a way to keep your contact with the university and to feel like you're still active with Baylor." Simpson hopes that sharing Baylor activities such as football with his children, one of whom is named Baylor, will encourage them to attend the University one day.
Though the sounds of football are not returning to their old home at Carroll Field, they will once again be part of campus life, thanks to the faithful support of Baylor fans. As athletes gather at the Alwin O. and Dorothy Highers Athletics Complex and the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center, the sounds of football, integrated with the sounds of learning, will once again spread across the Baylor campus.