Baylor Honors Mary Russell McCall With Founders Medal

January 31, 2008

Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275

Baylor University alumna and former Baylor First Lady Mary Russell McCall was presented with one of the university's most distinguished awards - the Baylor University Founders Medallion - during the Jan. 28 Founders Day ceremony in Waco Hall. Established in 1969, the Founders Medal is reserved for men and women whose service and contributions have been unusually significant to the life and future of the university.

"Just as Jesus commanded us, Mary loves the Lord her God with all her heart and serves others for His glory," said Harold Cunningham, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents. "Baylor owes a debt of gratitude for her constant support. We can only imagine that our founders would have prayed to have such a person as Mary McCall at Baylor."

McCall has had the unique opportunity to invest her life in Baylor through many roles: student, professor's wife, parent, First Lady and alumna.

"If you've had a chance to meet Mary McCall, you know her charisma fills every room which she enters," said Baylor President John M. Lilley. "Baylor University is immeasurably blessed by the lifelong dedication and faithful servant-leadership of Mary Russell McCall."

A member of Baylor groups such as Heritage Club, the Endowed Scholarship Society, Old Main Society and the Medallion Fellowship, McCall's loyalty to Baylor was recognized in 1982 with the W.R. White Meritorious Service Award. Because of her unceasing service to her community, Gov. George W. Bush honored McCall in 1995 as a "Yellow Rose of Texas," a distinction reserved for women who have made significant contributions to their communities and to Texas.

"The one continuity in my life has been Baylor," McCall said at a luncheon following the ceremony. "That 'good old Baylor line' is all over the world, and the mutual love for Baylor that we all have is the tie that binds."

The Baylor community celebrates its founding on the anniversary of its charter. Baylor University was chartered Feb. 1, 1845, and each year the celebration is observed on the Monday or Wednesday nearest that date. Past recipients of the Founders Medal include Ralph and Jean Storm, Troy Mays, Ted and Sue Getterman, Will and Mary Long, Joe L. and Barbara Balfanz Allbritton, Bob Bullock, Samuel Palmer Brooks, W.R. White, Abner V. McCall and Herbert H. Reynolds.

The face of the Founders Medal bears the likeness of Judge R.E.B. Baylor, with the inscription, "Pro Ecclesia Pro Texana." The obverse bears the likeness of Pat Neff Hall. A copy of the medal is on permanent exhibit in the National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Full Text of the Founders Day Citation, Jan. 28, 2008

Baylor University is immeasurably blessed by the lifelong dedication and faithful servant-leadership of Mary Russell McCall. In word and deed, Mary has invested her life in Baylor as a student, professor's wife, parent, First Lady, and alumna.

Beginning her Baylor journey as a student at age sixteen, Mary took pleasure not only in her studies, but also in spending time with her Athenean sisters and dating fellow student and future husband, Lloyd Russell. During World War II, Lloyd left his bride to serve his country, and Mary transferred to North Texas State Teacher's College, where she earned her bachelor's degree.

It was Lloyd who served as Mary's anchor back to the university. Upon his homecoming from the war, the couple returned to Baylor, where Lloyd served as baseball coach and department chair, and Mary eventually earned her master's degree in education. In addition to her work as an educator and counselor in the Waco school district, Mary immersed herself in Baylor life. The Russells raised their two daughters among the Baylor family and were enjoying the Baylor experience as parents when Lloyd died in 1968.

With the loving support of her family and the Baylor family, Mary persevered through this difficult time. Indeed, it was within the Baylor family that she discovered a new spouse. On Christmas Day 1970, she married Baylor President Abner McCall and embraced with fervor her new role as the First Lady of Baylor University. From thoughtfully administrating the most intricate design details of the President's home, Allbritton House, to developing friendships with Baylor alumni, faculty, staff, and students, her influence as Baylor's First Lady served as a model for her successors. Mary considers her longtime partnership with Baylor University a privilege and joy, and Baylor recognizes Mary's contributions as a blessing.

Because of her heart for service and fond kinship with "That Good Old Baylor Line," Mary always has gone above and beyond for her alma mater. Baylor students continue to benefit from the Round Table Scholarship Fund, established under her leadership, the Lloyd O. Russell Memorial Scholarship Fund, and the Abner V. and Mary McCall Scholarship Fund. She served as adviser to Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, co-president of Heritage Club, and was a charter member of the Endowed Scholarship Society, Old Main Society, and The Presidents Club. Eager to memorialize Baylor professor, author, and dear friend, Lois Smith Douglas Strain, Mary led efforts to provide the "Italy" window in the Armstrong Browning Library in Strain's honor. As a member of the Medallion Fellowship, the Baylor University Women's Council of Dallas, and the Armstrong Browning Library Guardian Angels, Mary's devotion of time and resources to Baylor is an inspiration to all.

Lauding Mary's years of loyal service to the university, the Baylor Alumni Association commended her with the W.R. White Meritorious Service Award in 1982; in 1996, the Baylor University Women's Council of Dallas proclaimed her a Woman of Distinction. Recognizing her dedication to the spiritual lives of Baylor students, her daughters named the Mary McCall Chapel of the Stacy Riddle Panhellenic Forum in honor of their mother.

In addition to her faithful commitment to Baylor, Mary maintains active involvement with her family and community. Mary has two daughters, Linda Russell Letbetter (BA '62) and Nancy Russell Chapman (BA '69, MSEd '73); four stepchildren, Ann McCall Chroman (BS '63), Bette McCall Miller (BA '67), Richard McCall (BA '69, JD '72), and Kathleen McCall Sigtenhorst (BA '71); ten grandchildren, several of whom also are Baylor graduates; and five great-grandchildren. A family of strong Baylor ties, the McCall family received the inaugural "First Families of Baylor" award in 1980.

As a Wacoan, Mary devotedly served First Baptist Church as a Sunday School teacher and church trustee. She was a member of the Historic Waco Foundation, Brazos Forum, and Waco Literary Club. Upon her move to Dallas, she has remained equally engaged with her local community and church, Park Cities Baptist Church. Because of her unceasing service to her community, in 1995 Governor George W. Bush honored Mary as a "Yellow Rose of Texas," a distinction reserved for women who have made significant contributions to their communities and to Texas.

In recognition of Mary's embodiment of the heritage, spirit, and vision of the original founders of the University, be it resolved that Mary Russell McCall is hereby named a Founder of Baylor University on this twenty-eighth day of January in the year of our Lord, two thousand eight, and in the one hundred sixty-third year of Baylor University.