Baylor Mourns Passing of Beloved Former First Lady and Founders Medallion Recipient Mary McCall

  • In 2008, Baylor presented Mary McCall with the Baylor University Founders Medallion, an honor reserved for men and women whose service and contributions have been unusually significant to the life and future of the University. (Matthew Minard/Baylor Marketing & Communications)
  • Mary McCall (center) with her extended family in 2008, following a luncheon celebrating the presentation of the Baylor University Founders Medallion. (Matthew Minard/Baylor Marketing & Communications)
  • Judge Abner V. McCall and First Lady Mary McCall welcomed new bear cubs to campus in 1978.
  • (L to R) - Mary McCall and Judge Abner V. McCall at a Heritage Club event at Baylor in 1980.
Nov. 14, 2014

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Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275

WACO, Texas (Nov. 14, 2014) – The Baylor University family is grieving the loss of beloved former First Lady and Founders Medallion recipient Mary McCall, who passed away Nov. 13, at the age of 95. The wife of Baylor’s 10th President and later Chancellor Abner V. McCall, Mary’s servant heart, grace and passion for supporting the University’s students have left an indelible mark on the lives of generations of Baylor men and women.

“We celebrate today the life and legacy of Mary McCall, whose service to Baylor University was informed by her strong faith and whose dedication touched the lives of so many of our Baylor men and women,” said Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr. “We mourn Mary’s passing, yet we rejoice at her life and Christian legacy. Mary invested in Baylor as a student, a professor’s wife, a parent, an alumna and as First Lady, and for her truly selfless service, we give heartfelt gratitude.”

In 2008, Baylor presented Mary with the Baylor University Founders Medallion, an honor reserved for men and women whose service and contributions have been unusually significant to the life and future of the University. She received many other awards, honors, accolades and celebrations during her life – and the number of alumni and friends who have benefitted from her wise counsel, generous spirit and graceful humor is greater than Mary or her family will ever know.

Mary began her Baylor journey as a 16-year-old student and quickly immersed herself in the University’s culture. She was a member of the Atheneans when she met fellow student and future husband Lloyd Russell. The two later married and soon found their time together interrupted when Lloyd left to serve in World War II. Mary transferred to North Texas State Teacher’s College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree while waiting for Lloyd’s safe return.

Upon his homecoming, the Russells returned to Baylor, where Lloyd served as baseball coach and chairman of the department of health, physical education and recreation. During this time, Mary earned her master’s degree in education from Baylor and began working as an educator and counselor in the Waco Independent School District. The Russells raised two daughters within the Baylor family and were seeing their alma mater through fresh eyes as Baylor parents when Lloyd passed away suddenly in 1968.

Mary relied upon her ties to her Baylor family as she grieved her loss. Two years later, on Christmas Day in 1970, she married Baylor President Abner V. McCall and became the First Lady of Baylor University. Mary understood that this new chapter in her life came with great responsibility, which she embraced willingly and with the grace that would become a hallmark of her time as Baylor’s First Lady. Mary used her position to develop strong relationships across the University, opening doors for students and strengthening the ties that bind the Baylor family together.

“To know Mary McCall was to love her,” said Baylor First Lady Alice Starr. “Mary had such a heart for Baylor’s students and such a pride in her alma mater. In her service as First Lady, she exemplified the values and Christian faith that inspire us all in our own walks of faith today.”

Mary supervised the construction and decoration of the President’s Home, Allbritton House, even traveling to Williamsburg, Virginia, to ensure the home was authentic in its design. As president of Baylor University’s Round Table, she challenged her membership to establish the Round Table Scholarship Fund to benefit Baylor’s students. Mary was passionate about supporting the men and women of Baylor University, and she established the Lloyd O. Russell Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Abner V. and Mary McCall Scholarship Fund.

Integral in the social life of the University, Mary served as adviser to Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, co-president of Heritage Club and was a charter member of the Endowed Scholarship Society, Old Main Society and The Presidents Club. Eager to memorialize Baylor professor, author and dear friend Lois Smith Douglas Strain, Mary led efforts to provide the “Italy” window in Armstrong Browning Library in Strain’s honor. As a member of the Medallion Fellowship, the Baylor University Women’s Council of Dallas and the Armstrong Browning Library Guardian Angels, Mary’s devotion of time and resources to Baylor is an inspiration to all.

Active in her community, Mary served with devotion her church family at First Baptist Church, Waco, as a Sunday School Teacher and church trustee. She was a member of the Historic Waco Foundation, Brazos Forum and Waco Literary Club. Upon her move to Dallas, she remained equally engaged with her local community and church, Park Cities Baptist Church. In 1995, because of her unceasing service to her community, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush honored Mary as a “Yellow Rose of Texas,” a distinction reserved for women who have made significant contributions to their communities and to Texas.

Visitation will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home, 6101 Bosque Blvd., Waco, TX 76710. Funeral services for Mrs. McCall will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, at First Baptist Church of Waco, 500 Webster Ave., Waco, TX 76706. The family will have a private burial.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

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