Baylor University Announces $5 Million Naming Gift at Honors College, Capital Fund
Gift from John and Helen Carona is recognized through naming of the Carona Family Commons at the Honors Residential College
WACO, Texas (June 1, 2023) – Baylor University today announced a $5 million gift from John and Helen Carona of Dallas, providing significant momentum and support for the renovation and construction of the Honors Residential College, as well as the University’s other major capital priorities through the Give Light Capital Fund. In recognition of their transformational gift, Baylor will name the Carona Family Commons at the Honors Residential College and the Carona Family Premium Entry in the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion.
The Carona family’s gift to support the Honors Residential College moves the University forward on its fundraising goals, combining with a $1.5 million challenge grant from the Mabee Foundation, which was announced in May.
“Baylor University is blessed to have Baylor parents who – though they may not have attended – have joined in support of Baylor’s mission for educating our students in a caring, Christian environment so that they may go on to lead and serve in their communities throughout the world,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “A key part in fostering this caring community is having the spaces where our students can live together alongside faculty and other students, and where they can build traditions and memories, whether they are sharing in classes or basketball games. I am grateful for the Carona family and their transformational support of these priorities, and we celebrate the impact this will have on generations of Honors College students and fans, alike.”
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 now-named Carona Family Commons, a new building architecturally and functionally uniting the two residence halls. On the ground level, the Carona Family 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.
Another project element includes refurbishing and consolidating offices for the Honors College’s 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.
“Magnificence literally means making something great, and it involves generosity on a grand scale,” said Douglas Henry, Ph.D., dean of the Honors College at Baylor. “The Carona family’s gift is, pure and simple, magnificent. We are truly grateful for their generous, shared vision with us, and we celebrate the many ways the Carona Family Commons makes for a great Honors Residential College. Through it, students will be taught, mentored, inspired and prepared for exemplary life in the light of Christ, the one who defines our understanding of greatness.”
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 experiences and to improve the Honors College.
Once work is completed next summer, students will benefit from a strengthened residential living-learning experience, as well as a centrally located home for the Honors College spanning Founders Mall. The renovations will include offices for the dean and other administrative leaders in Alexander, and offices in Draper for faculty and staff in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, Great Texts, Honors Program and University Scholars.
A portion of the family’s gift also will benefit the Give Light Capital Fund, which supports the capital priorities of the Give Light campaign, Baylor’s comprehensive fundraising campaign which has seen the Baylor Family give more than $1.33 billion to support initiatives within Illuminate. The Carona Family Premium Entry at Foster Pavilion will serve as one of four entry points for Baylor fans to the new home for Baylor Basketball. The Pavilion, a 223,547-square-foot facility, will hold a more than 7,000 fans, with improved sight lines and access to concessions via an integrated concourse. In addition, two 2,000-square-foot video end boards will help to cultivate a boisterous home-court advantage to rival other facilities in the conference.
“We are grateful for John and Helen Carona and their family’s generous gift to support the Give Light Capital Fund,” said Mack B. Rhoades IV, Baylor Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “The Carona Family Premium Entry will serve as one of the main points of entry for our fans to the Foster Pavilion, and we are grateful they have joined so many in our Baylor Family – alumni, parents, fans and friends – who have supported these physical improvements and expansions of Baylor’s campus. Foster Pavilion and the Fudge Football Development Center represent significant resources to support our football and men’s and women’s basketball programs, while also creating more space for our other sport programs.”
With the construction of Foster Pavilion, the Ferrell Center will serve as the full-time home of Women’s Volleyball and Acrobatics and Tumbling, creating dedicated practice facilities for both teams, who will no longer share time on practice courts with the basketball programs. The Fudge Center’s weight room also will move Baylor Football from the Simpson Center’s performance center, creating greater access for the other sports who share this significant resource.
Site preparation and groundwork began on Foster Pavilion in March 2022, with an expected opening of the Pavilion in January 2024. Construction will continue on the Jay and Jenny Allison Development Center after the Pavilion’s completion, with a later opening expected in Summer 2024. The Foster Pavilion complex is located along the Brazos River on the west side of Interstate-35, adjacent to Baylor’s Robinson Tower and further connecting Baylor’s campus to Robinson Tower and downtown Waco. To view more renderings and learn additional details about the project, please visit the Baylor Athletics website.
Founded in philanthropy
John and Helen Carona are Baylor parents, and their gift honors their family’s ties, as well as their connections to construction and housing. John Carona Sr. is founder, chairman and CEO of Associa, a global management company that operates homeowner associations (HOA) in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Canada. Previously, John Carona served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1991 to 1996 and as a member of the Texas Senate from 1996 to 2015. He earned a B.B.A. in insurance and real estate from the University of Texas in 1978. He has authored two books, “In the Common Interest: Embracing the New American Community” and “In the Common Interest II: Embracing Five Star Customer Service.”
Helen Carona is an executive vice president and CCO at Associa. She serves on the Associa Cares board, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting families and communities in crisis due to natural or man-made disasters. In addition, she is president of Associa’s subsidiary insurance agency, which specializes in the provision of commercial property and casualty insurance coverages for community associations across the U.S.
John and Helen have four sons, Joey, B.A. ’05, Will, Jeff and Kellen, and one daughter, Kirsten. They are members of First Baptist Church of Dallas.
Baylor publicly launched the Give Light campaign on Nov. 1, 2018. To date, the campaign has raised $1.33 billion. The Campaign has seen 89,116 alumni, parents and friends give to the University’s priorities, as well as establishing 781 endowed scholarships and 43 endowed faculty positions. For more information or to support the Give Light campaign, visit the Give Light website.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
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.
ABOUT THE HONORS COLLEGE AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
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.