Baylor Mourns Loss of Longtime Friend and Alumna

March 15, 2013
Jack and Martha WhetselJack and Martha Whetsel met in a World History class at Baylor and have maintained a close relationship with their alma mater since those days.

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Martha and Jack Whetsel supported scholarships for children of police, firefighters and schoolteachers, provided naming gift for Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility

WACO, Texas (March 15, 2013) -- Baylor University is grieved at the loss of benefactor, friend and alumna Nevie Martha Webb Whetsel of Austin, formerly of McAllen, who passed away March 13, 2013. She is survived by her husband of 71 years, Jack Whetsel; daughter, Nevie (Cissy) Smucker, and her husband, Ralph Smucker; and granddaughter Nevie Michelle Owens.

Martha Whetsel earned her bachelor of arts degree from Baylor University in 1940, and her husband, Jack, earned his bachelor of business administration degree from Baylor in 1942. The couple met in a World History class after transferring to Baylor from other universities and has maintained a close relationship with their alma mater since those days.

"I think if you went to Baylor, you will always love it. And you will always have sweet and fond memories of your time there," Martha once said.

Enthusiastic fans of Baylor Athletics, the Whetsels provided the naming gift for the Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility at the Ferrell Center, which is named for their late son.

Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. attended Baylor briefly before enlisting in the military, but always planned to return and complete his degree. He quickly rose through the ranks in the military, graduating in the top 10 from officer training school and receiving many awards as company commander, despite lacking a college degree. He was stationed at Fort Hood, where he eventually received orders for Vietnam. Tragically, 22-year-old Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. lost his life in Vietnam and never returned to the university he loved.

The gift and naming of the facility in their son's honor was the Whetsels' special way to "take him back to Baylor." During a dedication ceremony on Sept. 8, 2006, Director of Athletics Ian McCaw called the facility a "spectacular culmination of the vision to enhance our basketball program."

"I am so sorry to hear of Martha's passing," Head Women's Basketball Coach Kim Mulkey said. "She was such a sweet, unselfish lady. She and her family have been so giving, and they expect nothing in return. We were so fortunate to have gotten to know her. She was a special woman. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family."

In addition to support for Baylor Basketball, Track and Field and other sports, the Whetsels believe deeply in the value of a Baylor education. In 1999, they established the Jack and Martha Whetsel Endowed Scholarship Fund, providing financial assistance to students whose parents or guardians are police officers, firefighters or schoolteachers.

"We felt a strong need to provide scholarship support to our alma mater for those who serve in their communities and make a difference in the lives of so many," they said.

"Martha and Jack have been devoted alums of Baylor and great friends to generations of our students," Bill Dube, director of Baylor's Endowed Scholarship Program, said. "Through their scholarship, many students have received the financial assistance needed to fully experience all aspects of the great Baylor education that the Whetsels enjoyed."

For their many years of service and philanthropic support, the Whetsels are recognized in Baylor's Endowed Scholarship Society, Old Main Society and 1845 Society. They also are members of the Baylor University Medallion Fellowship at the James Huckins level, and they are longtime members of the Baylor Bear Foundation.

"Jack and Martha Whetsel were a team from the moment they met on the campus of Baylor University," Susan Wommack, Baylor's gift planning legal counsel and Whetsel family friend, said. "Martha made everyone feel welcome and loved.

"To be around Martha, was to observe grace, laughter, sincerity and beauty. She was a giver with her time, attention, possessions and love. We will miss a dear friend."

Upon graduating from Baylor, Jack Whetsel joined the navy and was stationed in Newport, R.I. He convinced Martha to visit him on his only day off, and they were married on the first day of spring.

He spent three years on a naval battleship, serving his country in such places as Pearl Harbor, Guam and Iwo Jima and was awarded a Bronze Star. Eventually, Jack and Martha settled in McAllen, Texas, where he founded Broadway Hardware, which was nationally recognized as one of the most outstanding hardware stores in the country. Jack also served as mayor of McAllen from 1969-1977.

Throughout all this time, Martha faithfully supported Jack, while raising their two children and participating in her own civic activities by serving through various memberships and associations in her community.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at Kreidler Funeral Home, 314 N. 10th St. in McAllen. A service in her memory will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at First Presbyterian Church, 104 S. 12th St. in McAllen.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

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