Houston Families Announce $2 Million in Major Gifts to Baylor Law SchoolJuly 22, 1999
by Alan Hunt
Major gifts totaling $2 million to Baylor Law School have been made in memory of the late Jim Kronzer of Houston, and in honor of his widow, Dorothy Barfield Kronzer.
Mrs. Kronzer has made a gift of $1 million to Baylor Law School's current $35 million Building & Endowment Campaign. Houston lawyer Don Riddle also has made a $1 million gift in Jim Kronzer's memory, and in honor of Dorothy Kronzer. Riddle, who practiced with Kronzer after graduating from law school in 1966, described Kronzer as his mentor and a "giant" in the legal profession.
Mrs. Kronzer, Riddle and members of their families will be the guests of honor at a noon luncheon at the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center on the Baylor campus on Tuesday, July 27, hosted by Baylor President Robert B. Sloan, Jr. and by Brad Toben, the Dean of Baylor Law School.
Mr. Kronzer, a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, developed a legendary reputation in appellate practice, and was a mentor and friend to many lawyers who themselves have gone on to gain prominence in the profession. The gifts will underwrite the appellate advocacy courtroom in Baylor's planned new Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center. The courtroom will be known as the "W. James and Dorothy Kronzer Appellate Advocacy Courtroom." A portion of Riddle's gift also will be devoted to the establishment of the "Don R. Riddle Endowed Scholarship Program" at Baylor Law School.
Scheduled for completion in Fall, 2001, the planned $28 million law center will provide Baylor with one of the nation's finest law school facilities. The building, which will be located adjacent to Fort Fisher on the banks of the Brazos River, will include classrooms, courtrooms,
the law library, computer labs, seminar and meeting rooms, faculty and administrative offices, and common areas.
Riddle, a 1960 Baylor undergraduate, said he is making the gift for two reasons: "A great affinity for Baylor University where I got my start, and a great affinity and admiration for Jim and Dorothy Kronzer, in whose honor the donation is made." He said "Jim Kronzer was a great help to me as a young lawyer, when I needed all the help I could get."
Toben described Mrs. Kronzer, a 1944 Baylor graduate, as a loyal and generous friend of Baylor Law School. "The Law School counts itself extremely fortunate to have, and to have had, the friendship and support of Dorothy Kronzer and her late husband, Jim, who was truly a legend in the legal profession and in appellate advocacy in particular," he said.
Baylor's most distinguished award, the Founders Medal, was presented to Mrs. Kronzer during the annual Founders Day ceremony in 1998. Baylor has awarded the Founders Medal since 1969 to recognize individuals who make significant contributions to the life of Baylor.
Mrs. Kronzer served as a Baylor trustee from 1978-87 and was elected as a Baylor Regent Emerita in 1995. She also served on the executive board of the Baylor Alumni Association for 17 years and was the first woman ever elected as president of the association.
A founding board member of the Baylor Women's Association in Houston, Mrs. Kronzer co-founded the Herbert H. Reynolds Summer School for Retired Persons at Baylor and also participates in the Baylor Heritage Club and Baylor Fling. In her hometown, Mrs. Kronzer is active in volunteer work and has served on the board of the Greater Houston Council of Camp Fire Girls. In addition to having been a charter member and director of volunteers for Baptist Haven Auxiliary for 15 years, she has been a member of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Women's Auxiliary to the Houston Bar. She also has served on numerous committees at South Main Baptist Church and was director of the cradle roll department for 10 years.
Toben said Mrs. Kronzer's exceptional dedication to Baylor and Baylor Law School, her community and church serves as an "inspiration to all." Mrs. Kronzer has two children. Wally Kronzer, a lawyer, resides in Houston with his wife, Kathy, and their three children. Kim Kronzer O'Brien resides in Austin with her husband, John, and their two children.
Riddle played baseball for Baylor from 1956-59 and captained the team in his senior year. After graduating from Baylor with a journalism degree in 1960, he worked as a news and sports reporter for the Big Spring Daily Herald and then joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
In 1966, he graduated cum laude with a law degree from the University of Houston and went to work for the Houston law firm of Brown, Kronzer, Abraham, Watkins, and Steely. "I
started trying civil cases and have done the same thing for 33 years," he said. "I took my oath in Austin on a Wednesday and I started the trial of a district court case the following Monday."
Riddle has represented plaintiffs in a number of high profile cases during his distinguished career, including, in 1970, the first case in Texas involving the birth control pill. It was only the sixth case of its kind to go to trial in America. He has also achieved a number of major settlements representing corporate clients as plaintiffs, including a settlement of $301 million in a case involving the explosion and destruction of an offshore refining facility. He also secured a $290 million settlement for a corporate client in another case involving the explosion and destruction of a Louisiana chemical plant.
Toben said "the ability to look back in gratitude to those who have been one's mentors is the mark of a person of great perspective and genuine humility. Don Riddle exemplifies those traits."
Riddle and his wife, Jenny, have a daughter, Stacy, who graduated from Baylor in 1989, and a son, Todd, a lawyer. Todd practices with his father and his brother-in-law, Greg Baumgartner, at the family's law firm, Riddle & Baumgartner, L.L.P. in Houston.