May 9, 2012
WACO, Texas - Baylor University announced today that the university has received a major gift from John Eddie Williams Jr., BBA '76, JD '78, of Houston for Baylor Stadium. This generous gift, which ranks among the top 5 capital gifts in university history, will support construction of the university's new on-campus football stadium to be built alongside the Brazos River. With this naming rights gift, the field at Baylor Stadium will be named John Eddie Williams Field.
Williams' gift follows the announcement of a leadership gift in March by Elizabeth and Drayton McLane Jr. Both generous gifts will lead on-going fundraising to support stadium construction.
"Baylor and Baylor Law School encouraged me to work in service to others and, so far as I am able, to give back to others," Williams said. "As a former football student-athlete under Coach Grant Teaff, I am honored and humbled to have my name associated with a project that will take Baylor athletics to new heights. Sheridan and I are delighted to have a role helping to ensure that the university will soon have the finest football stadium in the country. As a proud Baylor Lawyer, I am excited that Baylor Stadium will connect fans to the Baylor Law School, as they walk to the stadium and sit in their seats on game day," he said.
"A distinguished alumnus of both Baylor University and Baylor Law School, and one of our nation's foremost legal advocates, John Eddie Williams has already left a major imprint on our campus, here along the banks of the Brazos. His transformative gift helped build the spectacular Baylor Law School in 2001, and now his leadership and generosity extends to the opposite side of the river," said Baylor President Ken Starr. "A former football student-athlete under legendary coach Grant Teaff, John Eddie has provided a generous gift that will continue to fuel the momentum that is gathering around construction of our new on-campus football stadium. It is fitting tribute to John Eddie and Sheridan Williams that the vistas of both the stadium and John Eddie's beloved Baylor Law School will complement one another, and our law school will be a game day highlight as thousands of our loyal fans stroll through campus on their way to fill Baylor Stadium.
The new on-campus Baylor Stadium, which encompasses John Eddie Williams Field, is expected to be built on a 93-acre site on Interstate 35, one of the nation's busiest highways, traversed by more than 42 million drivers annually. The stadium will hold 45,000 spectators, with the flexibility to expand to 55,000 in the future. It also will feature a bridge crossing the Brazos River and connecting the stadium to the campus, canopy shading for half of all seats throughout the day, open concourses with views directly into the stadium, suites, loge boxes, indoor and outdoor club seating, designated seating for Baylor students and the Baylor band, and an event center and Stadium Club for year-round use.
A native Houstonian and the son of a longshoreman, Williams is managing partner of Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas Law Firm L.L.P. of Houston. He was a standout football player at Pasadena High School and entered Baylor on a football scholarship after being recruited by then-head coach Grant Teaff. Williams played football for Baylor for two years before graduating cum laude with his bachelor of business degree in 1976. He then entered Baylor Law School, finishing first in his class and serving as editor-in-chief of the Baylor Law Review. He passed the Texas State Bar Exam 15 days before he graduated from law school.
Previously, John Eddie and Sheridan Williams have made major gifts to Baylor Law School's capital and endowment campaign to help finance the construction of the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, which opened in 2001. Williams' gift also helped establish the Sheridan and John Eddie Williams Legal Research and Technology Center at Baylor Law School. In addition to Baylor Law School, Williams has supported other projects, such as the Student Life Center, Floyd Casey Stadium Skyboxes, the Matt R. Dawson Endowed Professorship and the John E. Williams Athletic Scholarship.
In 2002, Williams was honored by Baylor Law School as Baylor Lawyer of the Year, an award given annually to an outstanding alumnus who has brought honor and distinction to Baylor Law School and the legal profession. His honors also include the 2008 Clarence Darrow Award and the 2009 David S. Shrager President's Award. He has been named a Super Lawyer® every year since 2004 and was named to Texas' Top Rated Lawyers 2012 Edition. He is past president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association and the Houston Trial Lawyers Foundation.
"We are extremely grateful to John Eddie Williams for providing this generous gift toward a new on-campus Baylor football stadium," said Baylor Director of Athletics Ian McCaw. "It will be a tremendous honor to have John Eddie Williams' name associated with this state-of-the-art facility and Baylor football. This commitment, coupled with that of Drayton McLane and his family last month, continues to demonstrate that our fundraising momentum for a new Baylor Stadium is growing."
"It is truly humbling for all of us in the Baylor football program that John Eddie Williams has provided a generous gift for Baylor's new on-campus football stadium," said Bears' head football coach Art Briles. "What makes this gift especially meaningful to our coaches and student-athletes is that it comes from a Baylor football student-athlete. That says a lot about his love for Baylor University and his desire to help us make this vision a reality."
With a successful spring fundraising campaign, the stadium project could be completed in time for the first game in fall 2014.
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 15,000 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 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.