Baylor Alums Commit Lead Gift For Bear Habitat

  • News Photo 1931
    North Yard - Elevations will be changed to provide up-close viewing opportunities level with the bears in their natural environment.
  • News Photo 1932
    South Yard - Natural landscaping will be featured providing a home for the bears closely resembling their native habitat.
  • News Photo 1930
    Architectural plans for the Baylor Bear Habitat.
May 4, 2004

by Lori Scott Fogleman

Baylor University announced today a lead gift from the Bill and Eva Williams family of Scottsdale, Ariz., that will move the Bear Habitat expansion and renovation project halfway to its goal of $950,000.

The popular on-campus facility, which is home to Baylor's North American Bear mascots, Joy and Lady, will be named the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat Complex. The Williams, both Baylor graduates, said they believe it is critical for the university's live mascots to have the best facility possible for both the well-being of the bears and for the many visitors to Baylor's campus, who often get their first impression of the university at the bear facility.

"When I first stepped on the Baylor campus as a freshman, I was so impressed by the bears. That was a great part of the college experience at Baylor and one that many universities don't have," said Bill Williams, chairman, president and CEO of Scottsdale-based Medcom USA, a leading provider of healthcare/financial transaction solutions for the healthcare industry.

"When the opportunity came up about the Bear Habitat, we talked about it as a family because we all know what the Baylor Bears mean to the life of Baylor, and we decided to do something to help out," Williams said. "The Hudson family did a remarkable job with the bear plaza, and we look forward to taking the tradition ahead and expanding the facility even further."

The bears' home, built in 1976 as the Steve Hudson Memorial Bear Plaza, will stay in its present location along Waco Creek but will double in size. The existing site will be completely renovated with an area recognizing the Hudson's original gift. The new habitat will enhance the bears' living environment and provide a home more similar to their natural habitat.

The Williams Bear Habitat Complex will include:

• additional square footage increasing the bears' current living space

• natural terraced landscaping with grassy areas and detailed rockwork

• feeder log and deadfall trees providing enrichment activities for the bears

• educational cabana providing information about the North American black bear

• play area for the bears consisting of a waterfall and den

• designated photo sites for pictures of Baylor's beloved tradition

• change in existing elevations enhancing viewing areas and providing an up-close glimpse of the bears in their natural habitat

• permanent recognition areas for bear habitat donors

The current facility is designated as a Class C specialty zoo and educational exhibit and is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to hold up to three bears. The bear plaza is the most visited site on campus and also provides an educational experience for area schoolchildren, students, alumni and others about North American Black Bears.

Bill Williams earned his bachelor's degree in business in 1975 and his MBA in 1977, and Eva Williams received her bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1976. The Williams' daughter, Michelle, is a junior at Baylor, and their son, Preston, will be a freshman in the fall.

The Williams both serve on the university's Student Life Advisory Board. Bill Williams is a member of the Hankamer School of Business Advisory Board and also serves on the board of the Arizona Baptist Retirement Centers. They also have endowed the Bill and Eva Williams Scholarship in the business school for entrepreneurship majors. They are life members of the Baylor Alumni Association and are active leaders in the Parents League in Arizona. They are members of North Phoenix Baptist Church.

In addition to the Williams family lead gift, the Bear Habitat project has received a $50,000 commitment from the 2004 Baylor/Waco Foundation campaign, as well as other gifts from donors. Construction on the project will begin once the funds have been raised.

In 1914, the student body voted by overwhelming majority to adopt the North American black bear as the university mascot. The first live bear, nicknamed Bruin, arrived on campus in 1917 to take his place as Baylor's official mascot. Over the last eight decades, the bears have become a beloved symbol of Baylor spirit and life for students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends.

For more information on supporting the Bear Habitat project, contact Cathy Dunnam Pleitz, project coordinator, at (254) 710-2561 or (800) BAYLOR-U, option 4.

Visit the Bear Habitat web site at:

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