Baylor To Dedicate New $33 Million Umphrey Law Center April 6

April 2, 2002

by Alan Hunt

Dedication ceremonies will be held Saturday, April 6, for Baylor University's new Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, built at a cost of $33 million on the banks of the Brazos River.

Judge Robert M. Parker of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will be the keynote speaker during the 3:30 p.m. program, which will be attended by many of the law school's nearly 6,000 alumni.

The annual Law Day Banquet scheduled for 6:45 p.m. in the Ferrell Center will honor John Eddie Williams of Houston as the Baylor Lawyer of the Year for 2002. The keynote speaker during the evening will be Baylor graduate and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who will deliver the John William and Florence Dean Minton Endowed Law School Lecture.

Law Dean Brad Toben said the impressive new center provides Baylor with one of the nation's finest law school facilities. Offering a total of 128,000 square feet of space, it is "well beyond double" the size of the law school's former home since 1955, Morrison Constitution Hall, he said. The new building includes state-of-the-art classrooms, courtrooms, law library facilities, computer labs, seminar and meeting rooms, faculty and administrative offices, and common areas.

As well as being visually striking in its riverfront setting, the new center is technically advanced for effective teaching and research and contains more than 30 miles of computer wiring, Toben said. "The building is simply the latest evidence of a program that is going places," he added. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new center took place on April 10, 1999, and the first classes were held there on Aug. 27, 2001.

The new facility is named in honor of 1965 Baylor law graduate and famed Beaumont lawyer Walter Umphrey and his wife, Sheila, who made an unprecedented $10 million gift to the Law School's capital and endowment campaign. The campaign has underwritten both the law center and program enhancements that will ensure the excellence of the Law School into the 21st century and beyond.

Umphrey led the five-lawyer "Dream Team" that recovered an historic $17.6 billion settlement for the people of Texas from the tobacco industry in 1998.

Two other members of the team, Harold Nix and John Eddie Williams and their spouses, made major gifts to the capital and endowment campaign. Nix, a 1965 Baylor law graduate and his wife, Carol Ann, of Daingerfield, gave $5 million, and Williams, a 1978 Baylor law graduate, and his wife, Sheridan, of Houston, also gave $5 million. Significant components of the new facility and the School's academic program are named in honor of the Nixes and the Williamses.

"This collective gift of $20 million from the 'Dream Team' members not only represents the largest financial commitment to the Law School in its 153-year history, but is also the largest gift from individuals in the history of the university," Toben said, who added that generous seven-figure gifts to the campaign also have been received from many other Baylor law alumni.

Following Saturday's dedication ceremonies for the new center, class reunion receptions will be held at 5:30 p.m. for law classes with years ending in a 1, 2, 6 or 7. At 5:45 p.m., a reception for scholarship and awards donors and recipients will be held on the concourse of the Ferrell Center. The banquet honoring Williams and featuring the keynote by former Gov. Richards will follow at 6:45 p.m. in the Ferrell Center.

For more information, contact Alan Hunt, associate director of media relations, at (254) 710-6271.

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