Baylor's Celebrates the Founder's Medal Recipient and Recognized Student Leaders

By: Grace Armstrong

On Tuesday, President Judge Starr and Vice President Kevin Jackson, Ph.D., met with a group of approximately 50 students to honor their leadership on campus as well as to honor Louise Herrington Ornelas, the 2016 Founders Medal Recipient, at the by-annual Founder’s Leadership Dinner.
The event was held in Truett Seminary.  Judge Starr and Dr. Jackson each spoke at different times throughout the three-course meal.  The event typically occurs twice each semester, and all of the recognized student leaders of Baylor are invited. 

A Community Leader from North Russell, Jess Schurz said that she enjoyed the event.

“There is usually a dinner and a keynote speaker; however tonight, there was no speaker and just a dinner!  The dinner was really good though,” she said.

Several other events were going on this same night including a Baylor basketball game and a candle light ceremony for victims of abuse.  Because of these events, the Founder’s Leadership Dinner did not have a keynote speaker to address the students as is typical of the event.

Another rising Baylor student, freshman Allie Morrosini said, “I have attended two leadership seminars now and have walked away both times feeling encouraged and certain that I am exactly where God needs me to be—at Baylor University.  For faculty and executive staff to take an evening, bring speakers in, serve dinner, and celebrate students is an absolute honor.  I feel more than just another face in the crowd, I feel recognized and wanted.”

Judge Starr and Jackson both recognized the student leaders in the room when they spoke.  Jackson talked to the students about their role at Baylor. 

“It is so important that we follow God’s plan…He has brought you here to this University,” he said.

The dinner not only celebrates and inspires students, but also recognizes the vision of Baylor’s original founders.  Each student walking in received a program for the event that explained Founder’s Day.

“On February 1, 1845, officials of the Republic of Texas established Baylor University, the state’s oldest continually operating university. Every year on this anniversary, we celebrate the foresight of our founders and the visionary leadership of the generations that followed.  The journey to fulfill the founders’ vision continues today, and their example inspires all who love Baylor to consider their own roles in securing its legacy,” read the program.

The award given in honor of Baylor’s original founders is the Founder’s Medal.  The recipient this year is Ornelas who has contributed to Baylor’s Nursing School in Dallas. 

“I love Baylor,” she said. “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.”  

Founder’s Leadership Dinner organizes a video that gave information about the award winner’s life and her contribution to Baylor. 

“She enjoyed a successful career as co-founder of TCA Cable Inc., but her admiration for the nursing profession remained,” the video reported.  “For 30 years, she volunteered as a Pink Lady in the hospitals of Tyler.  With her husband, businessman Joseph Ornelas, she has contributed to multiple medical facilities such as the Ornelas Tower at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital-Tyler.  Ornelas also has committed herself to helping young people become nurses by supporting nursing education across Texas. Ornelas has met a host of needs at Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing, named in her honor.” 

Ornelas has received many awards.  She is the only recipient of the only honorary Bachelor of Nursing Degree that Baylor has ever given.  She has contributed to Baylor’s nursing school as well as to many scholarship funds.

“Almost all of [the scholarship recipients] say ‘I could not go to school here had it not been for the scholarship,’” she said.  “It’s so wonderful to me for those kids to get to go to Baylor.”

At the end of the dinner, students were encouraged to fulfill their roles at Baylor, and to follow God’s leading in their lives.  Each student was handed the Baylor pin.

“May the pursuit of excellence envisioned by our founders and exemplified in the symbol of this pin continue to guide you as you complete your time as a student and join the ranks of more than 160,000 Baylor alumni worldwide.  Wear it with pride,” the pin’s description read.

Many of the student attendees were from student government, the Student Foundation, and from the Community Living and Learning program.  The event is one example of the many ways in which Baylor University encourages students to excel, achieve, and inspire, and to fulfill the university’s mission statement while giving glory to God for all accomplishments.