By Kate McGuire
Baylor alum Drayon McLane Jr., longtime Baylor benefactor has given the biggest gift in Baylor history as well as receiving the most prestigious award in Texas higher education.
McLane, regent emeritus and philanthropist was presented the 2013 Mirabeau B. Lamar Award for Higher Education on January 23.
This award was presented by President Judge Ken Starr and Mary-Hardin Baylor President Randy O’ Rear along with Marc Nigliazzo, president of Texas A&M University, and Thomas Klincar, chancellor of Central Texas College.
“This award was given in recognition of his contribution in education in Texas,” Starr said.
The Lamar medal is awarded to those who have made huge contributions in funding to higher education in Texas.
In regard to why McLane received the award, Starr said, “It was the extent of his giving and the amount of his giving.”
McLane graduated from Baylor in 1958 after living in Cameron, outside of Waco, his whole life. At that time Baylor had around 5,000 students McLane said.
Although he was first interested in studying history, McLane was influenced by his father’s work to switch to business.
He began taking business courses the start of his sophomore year.
Through his academics, he was taught teamwork, self-worth, and self-value.
He began graduate school at Michigan State University, where he received his MBA in 1959.
“This was considered a bold move at the time because people didn’t travel very much and we didn’t have a lot of resources,” McLane said.
Graduate school helped him mature as a young businessman so that when he returned to Texas he began work at his father’s grocery distribution company.
In 1966 he helped his father move the company to Temple.
In Temple, his family started selling to big discount merchandisers.
Once the company took off there was no looking back. McLane then became CEO of the McLane Co. in 1978 as it helped to sell to restaurants, grocery stores and discount merchandisers as well as selling restaurants themselves.
Throughout his life he has grown in his Christian faith and recalls that Baylor helped him grow even stronger during his time here.
In 1959 he became the deacon and chairman of his hometown church.
He believes his biggest accomplishments in life were marrying his wife Elizabeth and raising his two sons, Drayton McLane III and Denton, as well as being a grandfather to his five grandsons.
In 1993 McLane bought the Houston Astros major league baseball team for around $1 million and sold it in 2005 for around $6 million.
Now, McLane is working on continuing his philanthropy at Scott and White and to universities like Baylor, Mary-Hardin Baylor and other colleges and universities.
Students may recognize the McLane’s’ name when they hear of the McLane Student Life Center, the McLane Carillion in Pat Neff Hall, or the McLane Organ in Jones Concert Hall.
“I always got excited to hear the carillons and then they stopped working in the 80s so my family and I saw the need to have them ring again,” McLane said.
McLane has contributed to the largest gift in Baylor’s history which students may know of as the new Baylor Stadium.
“Being the only Big 12 school that didn’t have a stadium on campus — as well as to get the recruiting that we needed, we had to get a new stadium put together,” McLane said. With the gift comes the chance to name the stadium, which McLane and his family named Baylor Stadium instead of naming it after their own family.
“I think too many stadiums get named after corporate officials so we thought that naming the stadium after Baylor was more important than our family name,” McLane said.
“They are very generous, very humble and the stadium is something our alumni can rally for,” athletics director Ian McCaw said.
McLane served on Baylor’s Board of Regents from 1991-2006 and was named Regent Emeritus in 2010.
He then served as chairman for the Board of Regents and Board of Trustees, and Trustee for the Baylor College of Medicine.
McLane also served on President George W. Bush’s Presidential Steering Committee in hopes of bringing the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to Waco. The library’s final location was settled in Dallas.
In regards to the upcoming stadium McCaw said, “The stadium costs around $260 million and holds 45,00 seats, and will include 45 suites and 79 loge boxes. We think it will be great for families.”
“Drayton is a wonderful individual. That is why he received the Lamar Award. He wanted Baylor to be the best in the country,” McCaw said.