MARSHALL, Texas (1/25/12)- Long-time benefactors of East Texas Baptist University were awarded the 2012 Mirabeau B. Lamar Medal on Wednesday, January 25, 2012. Tyler residents Joseph Z. and Louise H. Ornelas received the Lamar award for their extraordinary support of higher education during a luncheon held at the Headliners Club in Austin. For over 30 years, the prestigious award has been presented by members of the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors, the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, and the Texas Association of Community Colleges.
ETBU President Dr. Dub Oliver wrote in his nomination letter, “This year, over 25,000 college students will learn, interact, and live in buildings that were constructed through the generous contributions of Louise H. and Joseph Z. Ornelas.” Oliver continued, “Louise and Joseph have supported all sectors of higher education in Texas including private universities, community colleges, and public universities. This remarkable couple has made an unmistakable mark on higher education in Texas.” The nomination, submitted jointly with Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Tyler, highlighted the many contributions to different institutions over the years by the Ornelases.
The impact that this couple has had on changing the lives of ETBU students is immeasurable as students during the last 20 years have been helped through their generosity through buildings, scholarships, educational assistance, and housing. In 1989, Mrs. Ornelas began serving as a member of the Board of Trustees and now serves as Trustee Emeritus. She was awarded a Doctor of Humanities from ETBU in 1993.
With gifts totaling over $12 million, the Ornelases have assisted with the renovations of the Craig Nursing Building, and Marshall Hall (the most historic building on campus). Additionally, they have provided funding for construction of the Ornelas Residence Hall, the Ornelas Spiritual Life Center, the Ornelas Gymnasium, and Ornelas Stadium. To honor her brother, Mrs. Ornelas provided funding for the Herrington Physical Facilities Building. The most recent gift by the couple brought to fruition the 31,852 square-foot Louise H. and Joseph Z. Ornelas Student Center which has been open to the ETBU and Marshall communities since January 2011.
The Lamar Award is presented to distinguished individuals, foundations, and other organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to higher education in Texas. Previous recipients include Red and Charline McCombs, Lieutenant Governor William P. Hobby, Professor Barbara Jordan, The Honorable Alan Shivers, the Houston Endowment, Inc., Senator William Ratliff, and the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin.
The Association of Texas Colleges and Universities, a membership organization representing all of Texas’ public and private institutions of higher education, created the Lamar Medal in 1977; in 2009 the three associations of higher education executives continued the tradition of awarding the Lamar Medal. The award was named for President Maribeau B. Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas who is called the Father of Texas education. Under his administration, land was set aside in each county for the creation of public schools and additional land was set aside for the creation of two public universities. The organizations that represent the three sectors of Texas higher education work together on important higher education projects, including the tradition of awarding the Lamar Medal.