Major gifts move proposed stadium project forward

July 5, 2012
Three significant gifts received between March and May continued strong momentum toward the building of a new Baylor football stadium on the banks of the Brazos River, a move that would return the sport to the Baylor campus for the first time since 1936.

A family gift from Elizabeth and Drayton, BBA '58, McLane Jr., got the ball rolling in a big way with a leadership gift in early March. Their unspecified donation was identified only as the largest capital gift in university history, which would place it above $20 million. With this naming rights gift, the McLane family asked that the new football facility be named Baylor Stadium.

"We are fortunate to be a family that includes a number of proud Baylor University alumni," said Drayton McLane. "Our son Drayton III, a 1996 graduate of Baylor, and his wife Amy, and their sons Drayton IV, Brooks and Walker, as well as our son Denton, who graduated from Baylor in 1999, and his wife Amy, and sons Jeff and Jake, join us in joyfully making this gift to Baylor. As a family, we wanted to do something that would shine a light on the university we love, while enhancing student life at Baylor and impacting positively the city of Waco and Central Texas."

Two months later, two more gifts -- each among the top-10 such donations ever given to Baylor -- kept the momentum building. The first came from John Eddie Williams Jr., BBA '76, JD '78, a former Baylor football player who is now partner at a prestigious law firm in Houston. In honor of his gift, which ranks among the top five capital gifts in university history, the field at Baylor Stadium will be named John Eddie Williams Field.

"Baylor and Baylor Law School encouraged me to work in service to others and, so far as I am able, to give back to others," said Williams. "As a former football student-athlete under Coach Grant Teaff, I am honored and humbled to have my name associated with a project that will take Baylor athletics to new heights."

A subsequent gift from Sheila and Walter Umphrey, BBA '59, JD '65, will support construction of the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Pedestrian Bridge at Baylor Stadium that will span the Brazos and connect the new stadium with the Baylor Law School and the rest of campus. Walter Umphrey is a senior managing partner at a law firm in Beaumont, best known as the lead attorney in the historic $17 billion settlement for Texas residents against the tobacco industry in 1998.

"Baylor University is making enormous strides, and we believe this new stadium will be a showpiece, reflecting the university's remarkable progress and its strong standing in higher education," Umphrey said. "It is an honor for Sheila and me to attach our name to this significant walkway that will call attention to the quality and competitiveness of both Baylor athletics and Baylor Law School."

The proposed on-campus stadium is expected to be built on a 93-acre site at the intersection of Interstate 35, one of the nation's busiest highways, and the Brazos River, the longest waterway in the state of Texas. The stadium will hold 45,000 spectators and feature canopy shading for half of all seats throughout the day, open concourses with views directly into the stadium, suites, loge boxes, indoor and outdoor club seating, designated seating for Baylor students and the Baylor band, and a Stadium Club for year-round use.

"Throughout our 167-year history, at what we now recognize as signature moments, visionary leaders have stepped out boldly to help propel Baylor and advance important university objectives," said Baylor President Ken Starr. "We recognize that we are living in a remarkable time in the history of Baylor athletics, and we are blessed to have loyal, courageous and generous friends in the McLanes, Williams and Umphreys who have stepped forward to encourage all of us to take hold of a rare opportunity for our football program."

These three leadership gifts give the university a strong start toward the $250 million needed to construct the stadium. A successful fundraising campaign this summer could allow construction to begin this fall and the stadium to be completed as early as 2014.

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