Baylor Mourns Death Of Philanthropist, Former Regent

April 5, 2007
News Photo 4029Judge Joe E. Brisco at a 2002 luncheon honoring the Briscoes as recipients of Baylor's Founders Medal, one of the most distinguished awards given by the university.

Baptist education in Texas long occupied the thought, energy and philanthropy of Judge Joe E. Briscoe, who passed away April 4 in Devine, Texas, at the age of 92. Visitation will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, April 6, at the Briscoe home in Devine, with burial at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 7, at the Evergreen Cemetery in Devine. A memorial service will follow at 2 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Devine.

(Read the full obituary here for Judge Joe E. Briscoe.)

Judge Briscoe practiced law for more than 40 years and served as judge of the Medina County Court of Law for 11 years and visiting judge for 26 Texas counties. Judge Briscoe's faithful service with the Baptist General Convention of Texas led to his more than three-decade relationship with Baylor, where he served as a Baylor trustee and charter regent from 1974-83 and 1985-94.

"I had the pleasure last year of visiting Judge Briscoe in his home," said Baylor President John M. Lilley. "The judge and his wife, Gene Aubrey, who were recipients of our Founders Medal in 2002, represent all that is good about Baylor, particularly a love of educating students in a Christian environment. Baylor University and countless students will truly miss Judge Briscoe, a gentle giant of a man whose legal mind and giving spirit have changed literally thousands of lives."

Throughout his nearly 20 years as a member of the Baylor board of trustees and later regents, Judge Briscoe was involved in the planning and completion of the renovation of Old Main, Moody Library, construction of the Hooper-Schaefer building, construction of Rogers Engineering and Computer Science Building, the establishment of the School of Engineering, reconstruction of Russell Gym, construction of the Ferrell Center, construction of the McCrary Music Building, purchase and renovation of the Clifton Robinson Tower, establishment of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary and renovation of Carroll Science Hall and Carroll Library.

In 2002, Judge Briscoe and his wife, Gene Aubrey, were honored for their unwavering support of Baylor with the Founders Medal, the university's most distinguished award. The Briscoes were the recipients of numerous other university awards, including the James Huckins Award in 1987 and Pat Neff Award in 1989 and also were recognized that year as Alumni Honoris Causa for their investments in the life of Baylor and its students. Judge Briscoe was honored with the W.R. White Meritorious Service Award and the Herbert H. Reynolds Award.

The Briscoes began their legacy of giving in 1975, when they established an endowed scholarship fund that has already assisted more than 300 students. In 1996, the couple began providing scholarships for Baylor Law School students through an endowed law school scholarship fund.

Though Judge Briscoe did not receive his bachelor's or law degree from Baylor, he was a longtime supporter and friend to the Baylor School of Law.

"Judge Briscoe was a paradigm of the committed servant-lawyer and was a model of the wise and discerning judge. He, along with Mrs. Briscoe, so loved Baylor University and his adopted Baylor Law School," said Baylor School of Law Dean Brad Toben. "What an honor is has been for our school to have the encouragement and support of this classy gentleman. The Judge was always so kind; always so self-deprecating, and always so committed to living each day to its fullest extent in service. His example of a life lived in faith, and committed to justice and the meeting of the needs of others, is a life that we will all gain inspiration from as we cherish his memory."

Throughout the years, the Briscoe family support has stretched far beyond the law school. In addition to their two endowed scholarships, they have supported academic scholarships, the Law Day awards, the division of Student Life, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, the Bear Foundation and the Alumni Association, and along the way they often chose to honor friends and loved ones through their generous gifts.

Judge Briscoe and his wife were known for their Briscoe "fireside chats," an annual meeting where they hosted their scholarship recipients and often prodded students for information about their course load and local church involvement.

"There are generations of students who will remember those intimate 'fireside chats' with the Briscoes," said Bill Dube, director of the Endowed Scholarship Program at Baylor. "After sitting around to discuss life, education and faith, the Briscoes would end each 'chat' by lining up the students and giving them each a crisp, $20 bill - with the encouragement to go out and spend it. It was the personal attention that the Briscoes paid to each student that will surely remain with them as they continue to carry their Baylor educations in professions across the world. The legacy of Judge Briscoe will truly continue."

For more than 50 years, Judge Briscoe was an active Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church in San Antonio and in Devine. He was elected as a trustee of the University of Corpus Christi and later helped establish the Christian Learning Center, which is now operated by Howard Payne University.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Gene Aubrey; two daughters who graduated from Baylor: Dr. Harriet Harral, who earned her bachelor's degree in 1966 and master's degree in 1967, and her husband, Paul, of Fort Worth, and Joanne Jones, who received her bachelor's degree in 1970, and her husband, Ben, of Spring Branch; four grandchildren, Huard Harral of Irving, Aprile Westbrook of Fort Worth, Bailey Jones of Austin and Corinda Fellers of Dallas; and seven great-grandchildren.

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