Gift Funds New Umphrey Law Center

Oct. 26, 1998

by Larry D. Brumley

Baylor law graduates Walter Umphrey of Beaumont, Harold Nix of Daingerfield, and John Eddie Williams of Houston have made a collective gift of $20 million to Baylor Law School, President Robert B. Sloan Jr. and Dean Brad Toben announced today at a campus news conference. It not only represents the largest financial commitment to the Law School in its 141-year history but is also the largest gift from individuals in the history of the university.

The gift from Umphrey and his wife, Sheila; Nix and his wife, Carol Ann; and Williams and his wife, Sheridan, is earmarked for the Law School's upcoming $35 million capital and endowment campaign. The campaign will underwrite both a state-of-the-art $27 million law center on the banks of the Brazos River and program enhancements that will ensure the excellence of the Law School into the 21st century and beyond.

In recognition of their unprecedented $10 million commitment, the Law School's new home will be named the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center. Significant components of the new facility and the School's academic program will be named in honor of the Nixes and the Williamses, who have each made gifts of $5 million. Umphrey, Nix and Williams are members of the much-heralded, five-lawyer "Dream Team" that recovered an historic $17.6 billion settlement for the people of Texas from the tobacco industry in January 1998. Umphrey led the team.

Umphrey, Nix and Williams are members of the much-heralded, five-lawyer "Dream Team" that recovered an historic $17.6 billion settlement for the people of Texas from the tobacco industry in January 1998. Umphrey led the team.

"It is no coincidence that three of the five team members are Baylor lawyers," Toben said. "Baylor lawyers have always distinguished themselves inside and outside the courtroom. This case was no exception. What these men did wasn't just a three-pointer, it was a shot from the other end of the court. And they put it squarely in the net for all Texans."

Toben said the announcement illustrates the tremendous success the Law School has enjoyed during the "anchor gift" portion of the campaign.

"I am confident that we will have several additional anchor gifts to announce as we go forward into a broad campaign among all Baylor lawyers early in the new year," Toben said. "These men are challenging every Baylor lawyer to join in this effort to enhance further our profile in Texas and the nation."

Baylor Law School is a leader in academic excellence and professional achievement, Sloan said, and this gift will ensure that the Law School will maintain and enhance its leadership position.

"We are extremely proud of the extraordinary accomplishments of these Baylor lawyers in representing the men, women, and children of Texas. We are deeply grateful for their unprecedented, institution-transforming philanthropy."

"I was able to go to Baylor Law School because I received scholarship assistance," said Nix, a 1965 graduate. "Our alumni have always banded together to advance our school and help its students. The teamwork of Baylor lawyers and their strong sense of unity are a source of incredible strength to every Baylor law student."

"I am grateful for the quality of education I received at Baylor Law School," said Williams, who played football at Baylor and graduated from the Law School in 1978. "I always have been very proud of my degree, so it is gratifying to give back to the school."

Umphrey, also a 1965 graduate of the Law School, put the upcoming capital and enhanced endowment campaign into perspective.

"Through the coming campaign, all Baylor lawyers will have an opportunity to add even more value to their degree. The time has arrived for all Baylor lawyers to express our gratitude. We must all do what we are capable of doing in the campaign to ensure that Baylor remains one of the very finest law schools in the nation."

The Baylor Board of Regents formally approved the building project in February following six years of architectural design and "anchor gift" development.

The 121,000-square-foot facility, which will be located adjacent to Fort Fisher, will include classrooms, practice courtrooms, the law library, seminar and meeting rooms, faculty and administrative offices, and common areas. The architect for the project is KCF/SHG of Washington, D.C., which has designed law school facilities for Catholic University, Vanderbilt University, and Indiana University.

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