Baylor University Announces $1.5 Million Challenge Grant from Mabee Foundation

Grant supports addition to Honors Residential College

May 3, 2023
Architectural drawing of the exterior of the Honors Residential College at Baylor University

Construction on the Honors Residential College capital project, which includes the renovation and expansion of Alexander and Memorial halls, is slated to begin in May and completed by the start of the 2024-2025 academic year.

Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (May 3, 2023) – Baylor University today announced a $1.5 million challenge grant from the J.E. & L.E. Mabee Foundation of Midland, Texas, providing significant momentum and support for the renovation and construction of the Honors Residential College. The grant will fund a significant portion of the more than $7 million needed in philanthropic support to complete the project, one of many capital projects funded through the Give Light campaign.

The grant, intended to spark private giving toward an organization, will require the University to raise an additional $2.8 million by April 11, 2024, for the project. The Mabee Foundation, established in 1948, has provided more than $1.5 billion in grant support to capital projects and major medical equipment, exclusively funding projects located in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas.

“We are grateful for the Mabee Foundation’s challenge grant and for the philanthropy they seek to inspire in our Baylor Family through this generous investment,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “The Mabee Foundation has provided pivotal support for Baylor’s physical campus at critical moments of growth in the life of the University, and we are thankful that, once again, they have seen the importance of coming alongside these important improvements to our students’ residential campus experiences.”

The Honors Residential College (HRC) project involves the renovation and expansion of two of the University’s oldest residential halls: Alexander and Memorial halls. Currently separate structures, the two buildings will be connected by The Commons, a new building architecturally and functionally uniting the residence halls. Additionally, the project will include refurbishing and consolidating offices for Honors College faculty and professional staff in the adjacent Draper Academic Building. The University will fund $50.5 million of the project through funds from its deferred maintenance plan, with fundraising providing the remainder of the $57.75 million capital project.

“Creating a true campus home for the Honors College is a key commitment of Illuminate,” said Douglas Henry, Ph.D., dean of the Honors College. “We are excited to watch construction begin on this long-awaited initiative, knowing it will enable us to teach, mentor and inspire outstanding undergraduates with even greater excellence. The Commons, so generously supported by the Mabee Foundation, is a vital component of our vision. We celebrate our partnership with the foundation and other donors in giving our best to students.”

The project, which is slated to begin later this month and completed by the start of the 2024-2025 academic year, fulfills key commitments of the Illuminate strategic plan to improve students’ residential campus experience and to improve the Honors College.

The centerpiece of the capital project, The Commons, is a three-story addition, which garnered the Mabee Foundation’s support. Bridging the two existing residence halls, it will create an architecturally elevated and attractive focal point for the HRC. On the ground level, The Commons provides new public access to Memorial Dining Hall and Alexander Reading Room, along with a new outdoor courtyard. On upper floors, it enhances residential life through a learning center, study rooms, gaming area, lounge spaces, and a community kitchen.

In addition to improving students’ residential campus experiences, a major project element is to create a centrally located home for the Honors College. The renovations will include offices for the dean and other administrative leaders in Alexander, and offices in Draper Academic Building for faculty and staff in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, Great Texts, Honors Program and University Scholars.

Founded in philanthropy

The J.E. & L.E. Mabee Foundation has supported many significant capital improvement projects at Baylor University, including support for the Bill Daniel Student Center in the 1990s, the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center and the Ferrell Center. A previous grant also provided significant support for Draper Academic Building. The Mabee Foundation has been recognized through the Presidents Medallion, James Huckins and Pat Neff Medals and the Judge R.E.B. Baylor Medallion.

The Mabee Foundation was formed in 1948 by Missouri natives (and Oklahoma residents) John and Lottie Mabee. John, who did not complete high school, and Lottie were hard workers, innovative entrepreneurs and shrewd investors. Starting with nothing, they built an impressive business and were gracious and generous as they shared their financial blessings with others through various forms of philanthropy. John and Lottie, who had no children, formed the Foundation in 1948 and ultimately both left the bulk of their estates to the Foundation.

Over time, the Foundation began to limit grants to “brick and mortar” projects. The Mabees also desired others to give, and they crafted the foundation’s grants in such a way as to both require and inspire widespread public support. As such, Mabee Foundation Challenge Grants have enabled many organizations to finish projects in a timely fashion and, in the process, build their bases of support in such a way as to help ensure the long-term health of the organizations.

Baylor publicly launched the Give Light campaign on Nov. 1, 2018. To date, the campaign has raised $1.3 billion. The Campaign has seen 89,116 alumni, parents and friends give to the University’s priorities, as well as establishing 777 endowed scholarships and 44 endowed faculty positions. For more information or to support the Give Light campaign, visit the Give Light website.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 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 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


The Honors College at Baylor University unites four innovative interdisciplinary programs – the Honors Program, University Scholars, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and Great Texts – with a shared commitment to providing undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue questions that often fall between the cracks of the specialized disciplines by investigating the writings of scientists along with the writings of poets, historians and philosophers. For more information, visit the Honors College website.