WACO, Texas -- Today, Baylor University celebrated the midpoint of construction on the Jim and Nell Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center with a Topping Out ceremony at the site of the new facility. Made a reality through a generous lead gift from Waco residents, Jim and Nell Hawkins, the center will propel the Baylor Tennis program to new heights.
"Jim and Nell, we are gathered here because of you," Baylor University President Ken Starr said in his opening remarks. "You embody the connection of the community to the University and the University to the community. For your generosity of spirit, for all that you've done for Baylor University, for all that you do for the beloved community in which we live, we're very, very thankful."
A traditional "Topping Out" ceremony signifies the midpoint of placement of a structure's final support beam to symbolize growth and bestow good luck. A commemorative beam was signed by student-athletes and other guests to express gratitude to the Hawkinses, who also signed the beam during the celebration.
"This is a special facility," Ian McCaw, Baylor University Director of Athletics, said. "We've been talking about an indoor facility for over a decade, and it took of the generosity of Jim and Nell Hawkins to make it a reality. Their faithfulness and their support of all of our programs has allowed us to have a year like `The Year of the Bear' and to have comprehensive success throughout our entire program."
The Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center will address the practical needs of Baylor's consistently high-performing tennis programs. The teams can now practice year-round in a state-of-the-art facility, regardless of adverse weather conditions. Featuring six parallel indoor tennis courts with spectator seating for each court, the addition of this indoor center will position Baylor to host the NCAA Tennis Championships in the future.
"This is way, way better than I ever dreamed," Matt Knoll, Director of Baylor Tennis and Head Men's Tennis Coach, said. "This is going to be one of the nicest indoor tennis facilities in the country and will make a difference for us. To recruit and to know that you're going to be able to play inside and to train inside is just huge. I'm so thankful that Jim and Nell have helped us put this into place."
The Hawkins' love for Baylor and generous support of her students and programs is apparent across campus and particularly evident in their support of Baylor Athletics. Jim (BBA '58) and Nell, a "Baylor Alumna by Choice" (ABC), have faithfully supported scholarships for student-athletes as well as excellence funds for basketball, tennis and baseball, the Baylor Bear Foundation and mission trips by Baylor's Sports Ministry Teams. They generously provided the J-Hawk Limited and Nell Hawkins practice courts for Baylor's Men's and Women's Basketball programs, and their first significant gift to Baylor Athletics funded a scoreboard at Floyd Casey Stadium.
"One of the great things in life is to be able to give back to your community, and to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor and to be able to share it," Jim Hawkins said. "We know this will make a difference for tennis. They are already an excellent program and this will sustain that level of excellence."
"Facilities make a difference," Nell Hawkins said. "This will make it better for them to recruit and get an NCAA tournament here. It's nothing but good for Baylor."
In the spirit of the verse, "to whom much is given, much is required," the Hawkins' impact has touched the University well beyond Athletics alone. They are members of the Medallion Fellowship at the Judge R.E.B. Baylor Level, and both served on the Bush Library Steering Committee. Jim and Nell also have supported several areas of Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, including endowed scholarships and endowed faculty and staff positions. Jim has served on the Hankamer School of Business Board of Advisors and the Baylor Foundation board. Nell is an Art Angel for Baylor's Martin Museum of Art and is known for co-initiating the Gold Rush Campaign that transformed the spectator experience at Baylor's athletic events. Deeply valuing both Baylor and their local community, the couple has maintained involvement with the Baylor/Waco Foundation.
In addition to the Hawkinses, Ian McCaw also thanked Claude and Becky Lindsey and the Lanning family for generous gifts to the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center.
Baylor men's and women's tennis continued their tradition of excellence in the 2011-2012 season. Both teams advanced to the round of 16, with the women finishing in the top 15 for the 8th straight year, and the men featuring an All-American for the 11th consecutive season. Baylor has dominated the Big 12 Conference under the leadership of Coach Knoll and Coach Joey Scrivano; the men have won 10 Big 12 regular season titles and seven conference tournament titles since 2000, while the women have won eight regular season titles and six conference tournaments since 2003. Located on La Salle Avenue across from the Ferrell Center, the facility also includes space to store recreational equipment for the adjacent intramural fields, benefitting a broad population of active Baylor students.