Baylor Remembers Alumnus and Former McAllen Mayor Jack Whetsel as ‘Best of Who We Are’

  • "Jack Whetsel (shown here with his wife Martha) lived his life as a true representative of the mission of Baylor University," said Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr.
  • On Sept. 8, 2006, Jack and Martha Whetsel attended the dedication of Baylor's Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility in memory of their son. Jack and Martha Whetsel both graduated from Baylor and share a deep love for their alma mater. Their son, Jack Jr., attended Baylor briefly. (Robert Rogers/Baylor Marketing & Communications)
July 31, 2014

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Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275

WACO, Texas (July 31, 2013) – Baylor University is grieved at the loss of alumnus and former McAllen mayor Jack Allen Whetsel of Austin, formerly of McAllen, who passed away July 29, 2014.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at First Presbyterian Church, 104 S. 12th Street, in McAllen. Whetsel is survived by his daughter, Nevie (Cissy) Smucker, and her husband, Ralph Smucker; and granddaughter Nevie Michelle Owens.

Jack Whetsel earned his bachelor of business administration degree from Baylor in 1941. It was at Baylor where Jack also met Nevie Martha Webb in a World History class after both transferred to Baylor from other universities. The couple remained inseparable for 71 years until Martha Whetsel’s death on March 13, 2013.

“Jack Whetsel lived his life as a true representative of the mission of Baylor University,” said Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr. “Jack was a caring and godly man who became a leader in his community, as a mayor and small business owner. Out of the success with which he was blessed, he blessed others. Jack and Martha’s generous support of Baylor University students gave way to a powerful inheritance of care and encouragement that will inspire Baylor men and women for generations to come. Our prayers are with his family, as we honor and celebrate the impact and the lasting legacy of his life and friendship on Baylor University.”

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.

Martha faithfully supported Jack during these years, while raising their two children and participating in her own civic activities by serving through various memberships and associations in her community.

“Jack and Martha have left a touching legacy at Baylor University and in their community through their dedicated leadership and lives of service,” said Ken Hall, senior vice president of development and strategic initiatives at Baylor. “The Whetsels represent the best of who we are at Baylor University, and our thoughts and prayers are with their family at this time.”

Throughout their marriage, Jack and Martha fostered close ties with the University that brought them together. Throughout their lives, the Whetsels looked for opportunities to strengthen their alma mater, inspiring excellence in students throughout campus.

“Jack was a gracious and devoted friend to Baylor University and the athletics program,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Ian McCaw. “Jack and Martha’s generous gift to name the Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility to honor their son has been instrumental in the success of Baylor’s basketball programs. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jack’s family.”

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."

Beyond their vision and investment in the University’s basketball programs, Jack and Martha provided significant support for Baylor’s Track and Field program. Their investment was motivated by a desire to support the program’s student-athletes and head coach Todd Harbour, whom the Whetsels knew as a young boy. Harbour remembers selling his first box of Christmas cards to Martha and buying his first deer rifle from Jack.

“Both Jack and Martha were like grandparents to me. They were two of the most special people I have ever known,” Harbour said. “I grew up on South Padre next to their condo. We became very close and remained so over the years. Both will be greatly missed by many. They are two Baylor legends.”

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.

“The Jack and Martha Whetsel Endowed Scholarship demonstrates Jack and Martha’s heart for Baylor’s students,” said Bill Dube, senior director of stewardship and director of the Retired Professors and Administrators Program. “Through their scholarship, they have opened doors for generations of our students, helping them to experience and enjoy the same wonderful experiences as they did in their time as students.”

For their many years of service and philanthropic support, the Whetsels have been 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 were longtime members of the Baylor Bear Foundation.

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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