Baylor Confers Honorary Degree on Harry Jeanes
by Lori Fogleman, director of media relations, (254) 710-6275
During a special ceremony in the building that bears his name, Baylor University recognized J. Harry Jeanes for his lifelong service to Baylor and the community by bestowing an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters upon the longtime Waco businessman, Baylor graduate and regent emeritus.
More than 30 Baylor administrators, friends and special guests honored Jeanes and his wife of 57 years, Anna, at the June 12 ceremony, which was held most appropriately in the Harry and Anna Jeanes Discovery Center, the centerpiece of Baylor's Mayborn Museum Complex. The Jeanes Discovery Center includes 16 hands-on discovery rooms and multiple natural history exhibits located indoors and outdoors that educate and entertain people of all ages.
Six years ago, the Jeanes provided a significant gift that allowed the much-anticipated project to move forward, said Dr. Ellie Caston, director of the Mayborn Museum Complex and one of the participants in the ceremony.
"There is no better place to honor our dear friend Harry Jeanes than here in the Harry and Anna Jeanes Discovery Center," Caston said. "Their generosity made this building a reality, but more importantly it has given us all a sense of direction of what the 'insides' are all about. I'm not talking about our wonderful exhibits, of which we're very proud, but I'm talking about the feeling that our visitors have when they come here.
"We welcome them with open arms, because that is what Mr. and Mrs. Jeanes would do. We invite them to experience the thrill of discovery and learning, because that is what Mr. and Mrs. Jeanes would do. We offer those children who can't afford the admission price a special scholarship that Mr. Jeanes makes available. So their generosity never stops. It is my privilege to call them my friends," Caston said.
With Anna Jeanes looking on, Baylor President John M. Lilley and Executive Vice President and Provost Randall O'Brien conferred the honorary degree upon Jeanes.
"Mr. and Mrs. Jeanes have devoted their entire lives to the Waco community and to this university," Lilley said. "Universities, when they have that kind of friendship, are very fortunate indeed, and the Jeanes have proved their enduring commitment to the university and remain strong for all ages to come."
In 161 years of existence, Lilley said Baylor has conferred honorary degrees to more than 500 individuals. However, since 1980, the university has presented only 26 honorary degrees.
In the last decade, those honorees have included the former president and dean of the Baylor College of Dentistry Dominick P. DePaola, composer and musician Kurt Kaiser, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush, beloved Baylor professors Robert Reid and Ann Miller, Indiana philanthropist and Baylor graduate Virginia Beall Ball, and entertainer Bill Cosby.
"In higher education, honorary degrees are a recognition reserved for eminent individuals with national or international reputations, or individuals who have rendered lifelong service to an institution through board membership, volunteerism and major contributions," Lilley said. "Mr. Jeanes is well qualified to receive this recognition under these guidelines. This honorary degree is indeed one of Baylor's highest honors, and it could not be going to a more deserving individual."
Other participants in the ceremony included Dr. Marshall Edwards, retired pastor of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, where Mr. Jeanes has attended since childhood. Edwards flew in from his home in North Carolina to give the invocation at the ceremony.
"Harry Jeanes, throughout his life and our friendship of over 30 years, has impressed me in many ways. He impressed me as a businessman, he impressed me as a citizen of Waco, Texas, he impressed with his love for Baylor and his generosity to Baylor," Edwards said. "But I must say that nothing about Harry Jeanes impresses me more than the love and devotion that he has for Anna. I really believe that that's going to be the greatest legacy of his life, though these other things he has done are absolutely wonderful. I really think we are here today not only to honor Harry but to honor Anna as well."
Dr. Robert Packard, professor emeritus of physics and Master Teacher, read the citation honoring Jeanes, his close friend.
"Embracing the personal values of an impeccable work ethic, personal integrity and perseverance, Mr. Jeanes' long and exemplary life is a fine example of the fervent stewardship of his time and resources for the service of others," Packard read. "His generous gifts of time, talents and financial resources have served as a catalyst to create a broad range of experiences that students will carry with them throughout their lives. Baylor University will always be indebted to Mr. Jeanes, a man of action and resolve, for his foresight and vision honoring Baylor's Christian mission."
A native Wacoan and 1934 Baylor graduate, Jeanes served 18 years as a Baylor trustee, including two years as chairman in 1983 and 1984. He was elected regent emeritus in 1990.
Jeanes is a former chairman and chief executive officer of First Federal Savings and former director of Westview National Bank in Waco. Jeanes and his wife, Anna, also a 1934 Baylor graduate, have dedicated their lives to civic and service activities and have maintained a high level of interest in and support of Baylor.
The university has honored Jeanes with the W.R. White Meritorious Service Award and in 1999 with the Baylor Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award. He also was a member of Baylor's Sesquicentennial Council of 150.
Together, the Jeanes have received the Herbert H. Reynolds Award, the James Huckins Medallion for their service and loyalty to Baylor, and the Founders Medal, Baylor's highest honor, in 1999 for their significant service and contributions to the life and future of the university.
The Jeanes have continued to support their alma mater, including endowing scholarships, as well as Academic Honors Week in 1993. In addition to providing a major gift for the Jeanes Discovery Center, they have supported the McLane Student Life Center, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor/Waco Foundation, Bear Foundation and the Presidents Club, to name a few.
In the Waco community, Jeanes has served as president of the Waco Rotary Club, Waco Junior Chamber of Commerce, Waco Symphony Association, Waco Boys' Club board of directors, Baylor Bear Club and Baylor Business Alumni. He also has been campaign chairman for the Greater Waco United Fund and director, vice president and treasurer of the Waco Chamber of Commerce.
A recipient of the Texas Savings and Loan League Award for Outstanding Public Service, Jeanes has been a member of the executive committee of both the United States Savings and Loan League and the Federal Savings and Loan Advisory Council in Washington, D.C.
Named to the Waco Rotary Club's District 587 Roll of Fame, Jeanes is a member of Masonic Lodge #92, Karen Shrine and Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. A World War II veteran, the U.S. Army presented Jeanes with a Bronze Star on June 17, 2003, for his "meritorious" service at Iwo Jima from 1944-45.
Also at the June 12 ceremony, the Jeanes were honored for their decades of generosity in endowing student scholarships. Bill Dube, the director of Baylor's Endowed Scholarship Program, presented the Jeanes, already members of the Endowed Scholarship Society, with the Diamond Circle Medallion.
"Your scholarships have opened doors of greater dreams to so many students and even more importantly the courage to follow those dreams," Dube said.
Lilley, assisted by Larry Smith, assistant vice president for development programs and gift planning, then presented the Judge Baylor Statue to the Jeanes, inducting them into the Baylor University Medallion Fellowship in the Judge R.E.B. Baylor Society at the Bronze Level.
Members of the Medallion Fellowship represent Baylor's most faithful and generous benefactors.
"I've loved Baylor all my life, and I'm sincerely thankful for all that Baylor has done for me," Jeanes said.
"The Jeanes's faithful and generous support has and will continue - forever - to further our efforts to provide excellent academic programs, while remaining true to our historic mission, and for that we are most grateful," Lilley said.