Baylor Mourns Passing of Benefactor Louise Herrington Ornelas, Founder’s Medal Recipient and Namesake of Baylor Nursing School

  • Louise Ornelas Founder's Medal Photo
    Louise Herrington Ornelas, Founder's Medal recipient, Alumna Honoris Causa and namesake of Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas. (Robert Rogers/Baylor University)
  • Louise Ornelas LHSON Students
    "Ms. Lou" particularly enjoyed visiting with Baylor LHSON nursing students at the annual Gala, which helps students achieve their dreams of a nursing education that integrates Christian faith and academic excellence. (Robert Rogers/Baylor University)
  • The Louise Herrington School of Nursing Academic Building, made possible by a lead gift from Louise Herrington Ornelas and opened in August 2018, added 100,000 square feet of space for Baylor nursing students to strengthen their preparation for successful careers and for faculty to teach and conduct life-changing research in the health and nursing fields. (Morty Ortega/Baylor University)
Dec. 20, 2018

Generosity and friendship of ‘Ms. Lou’ inspires generations of Baylor nursing students at the school that bears her name

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-6275
Follow Lori on Twitter at @LoriBaylorU
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WACO, Texas (Dec. 20, 2018) – Baylor University is mourning the passing of longtime University benefactor Louise Herrington Ornelas, whose significant friendship and generosity has provided an enduring impact on nursing education – and on future generations of Baylor nurses – at the school that bears her name: Baylor University’s Louise Herrington Nursing School of Nursing in Dallas.

“Ms. Lou,” as she was lovingly called by Baylor students, faculty and staff, died Dec. 18 in Tyler. Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at Green Acres Baptist Church, 1607 Troup Hwy., in Tyler. A memorial service is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, in the chapel at Green Acres Baptist Church, followed by burial in Arp.

“We are praying for Ms. Lou’s family,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “Ms. Lou was a strong, smart, generous member of our Baylor Family who loved our nursing students. To Ms. Lou, they were hers, and to them, she was theirs. When personal circumstances changed her path in life and ended her pursuit of a nursing career, she allowed that dream deferred to become the inspiration for supporting the school that now bears her name. As a result, generations of nursing students are taking her legacy of love and care to the thousands of patients they will treat during their careers as nurses. We are honored that we can celebrate her life, and we are humbled that we will continue to carry on that legacy.”

Ornelas had dreamed of becoming a nurse, though family responsibilities kept her from realizing that ambition. Although she never became a practicing nurse, she enjoyed a successful career as co-founder of TCA Cable Inc. and volunteering as a Pink Lady for 30 years in Tyler, Texas, hospitals. For decades, she and her husband, businessman Joseph Ornelas, supported multiple health care institutions in East Texas, and she was intensely involved in helping young people become nurses and supporting nursing education across Texas, including at Baylor.

Generosity transformed nursing school

In fall 1999, Ornelas made a $13 million endowment gift to the Baylor School of Nursing, at the time the third-largest gift from an individual in the University’s history. In recognition of her long and generous support of the nursing program, the school was named the Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON). In April 2015, another lead gift by Ornelas made possible the purchase of the Baptist General Convention of Texas building in Dallas for use as the new academic home for Baylor’s LHSON.

The facility, dedicated in August 2018, was renamed the Louise Herrington Nursing School Academic Building, adding 100,000 square feet of space for Baylor nursing students to strengthen their preparation for successful careers and for faculty to teach and conduct life-changing research in the health and nursing fields. The building is adjacent to the LHSON’s longtime campus – which now focuses exclusively on clinical practice and simulation laboratories for nursing students and faculty – as well as Baylor University Medical Center and more than 150 professional nursing practice sites in Dallas-area communities.

“On behalf of all of at the Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing, we are deeply saddened by the loss of Mrs. Louise Herrington Ornelas (affectionately known as Ms. Lou). She was an outstanding individual who had been a longtime supporter of our nursing school and beloved friend to all of our nursing students, faculty, staff and the Baylor community at large,” said Shelley F. Conroy, Ed.D., M.S., R.N., C.N.E., dean of LSHON.

“Her overflowing passion for supporting generations of Baylor nursing students was unmatched through her endowment to our school, all the many scholarships she made possible and her sustaining generosity of the nursing school building so that these aspiring students had a roof over their head to ‘Learn Lead and Serve.’ We are deeply grateful to Ms. Lou for her servant’s heart and were blessed beyond measure for her love of nurses. Her memory will always be cherished,” Conroy said.

“My love for the students is No. 1.”

At the dedication of the Louise Herrington Nursing School Academic Building, Ornelas shared her love for students at LHSON:

    “My love for the students is No. 1. Why? Because students can come and prepare themselves for a lifetime of joy and satisfaction knowing that they had a part in helping to save a life, or to help give the patient a quality of life. Not only using their medical knowledge that was taught at the School of Nursing, but learning the needs of a patient, both medically and emotionally. I think that this school not only teaches medical knowledge, but a positive spiritual knowledge that God will be with them and walk with them through a difficult time.

    “Sometimes, just the medical knowledge is not enough. A nurse that has been trained to meet medical needs and also focuses on meeting the emotional and spiritual needs can aid in speeding up the recovery time.

    “Sometimes, a patient remembers the nurse above anything else. This is why I give. I believe that God takes this and multiples our giving and the return with interest is the many quality nurses this school produces on a yearly basis.”

Ornelas received several of Baylor’s most distinguished honors, including the 2015 Founder’s Medal, which recognized her significant service and contributions to the life and future of Baylor. She received the Huckins Medallion in 1988, and was honored as an Alumna Honoris Causa in 1992, presented with the Herbert H. Reynolds Exemplary Service Award in 1996 and bestowed an honorary Baylor nursing degree in 2000.

She established The Lou Ornelas Endowment for the School of Nursing and The Louise Herrington Endowed Scholarship Fund in Nursing and supported a simulation lab and Sim-Man Simulator patient that allows nursing students to practice various medical scenarios. She also was one of the lead donors for the School of Engineering and Computer Science’s Rogers Engineering and Computer Science Building.

A Baylor family

Ornelas was proud to have started a family legacy tied to Baylor as her love for the University has permeated multiple generations.

Three of her children – Randall Kent Rogers, B.B.A. ’82, Rebecca Wangner, B.A. ’83, and Russell Rogers, B.B.A. ’86 – and many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended or are currently attending Baylor, including two who earned nursing degrees.

“I love Baylor,” she told Baylor Magazine in 2015. “I love what they’re doing with young people. I think it’s just wonderful, and I’ve probably done a little bit of proselytizing over the years.”

A recipient of the prestigious Horatio Alger Award in 1996, Ornelas was named Volunteer of the Year in Tyler in 1989. She also received an Honorary Doctor of Humanities from East Texas Baptist University. She was a member, along with her husband, of Green Acres Baptist Church.

Below is an excerpt from the fall 2015 Baylor Magazine article about Ornelas, her philanthropic spirit and her lifelong desire to support health care and nursing education:

    Louise Herrington Ornelas’ caring spirit has been evident throughout her life, from her pre-teen years near Arp, Texas, where she and her friends gathered tin foil and scrap metal at the onset of World War II, to her support for her community and for Baylor University.

    “We piled the metal by the railroad for the war effort,” Ornelas says. “The pile was so big you couldn’t see over it. And we felt so good about helping the country. It was great to be part of it.”

    Ornelas’ family also baked cookies to give to troops on the train at the station in Arp. Her family regularly invited servicemen from nearby Camp Fannin who visited their church to their home for a meal.

    “We’d take two or three home with us and feed them fried chicken. We made so many friends that way. Those were bad times, but good times, too,” she says.

    The second of seven children, Ornelas admired her older sister and her profession of caring for the sick and injured.

    “I love nursing. My older sister was a registered nurse, and she was so good at it,” Ornelas says. “During World War II she was a lieutenant, and right out of Baylor she worked in a hospital unit helping shell-shocked men, and I thought that was wonderful.”

    Ornelas decided she also wanted to help meet the needs of others and become a nurse herself. On her first day of classes, though, a sharp pain struck: kidney stones. She was hospitalized for nearly a month after surgery, delaying her studies.

    Ornelas is intensely involved in helping young people become nurses and supporting nursing education across Texas, including the nursing programs at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas, the University of Texas-Tyler, and Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON).

    “All my life, I have loved to see kids go to school,” Ornelas says. “I have helped many go to college, and that does me more good than anything – to see passionate young people with good grades have the opportunity to go to college.”

    Ornelas particularly enjoys visiting with Baylor students and attending the annual LHSON Gala. One of her prized possessions is a book containing letters she has received from Baylor students for the scholarships she has provided.

    “I can’t tell you how great it is,” Ornelas says. “I sit and cry reading those letters. Almost all of them say ‘I could not go to school here had it not been for the scholarship.’ It’s so wonderful to me for those kids to get to go to Baylor.”

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 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.

ABOUT LOUISE HERRINGTON SCHOOL OF NURSING

The Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON) located in Dallas was established in 1909 as a diploma program within Baylor Hospital in Dallas, which is now Baylor University Medical Center, and in 1950 became one of the six degree-granting schools of Baylor University. The first Baccalaureate degrees were granted in 1950 establishing the school among the earliest baccalaureate nursing programs in the United States. In 1999, the School was renamed the Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing after Louise Herrington Ornelas, a 1992 Baylor Alumna Honoris Causa, who made an endowment gift to the school. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing, LHSON offers Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) degrees through a traditional program and FastBacc (one-year accelerated program). LHSON also offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) Leadership and Innovation program, as well as Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) programs to include Family Nurse Practitioner Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse-Midwifery and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner. LHSON was featured in U.S. News & World Report for the 2019 Best Graduate Schools ranking the D.N.P. program at No. 54. The Nurse Midwifery program’s top 10 ranking remains in place for four years until 2019 under the health disciplines category. In 2017 and 2018, USNWR ranked the Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Innovation online degree program at No. 39 of the Best Online Graduate Programs. For more information, visit www.baylor.edu/nursing.

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