Louise Herrington Ornelas passes away at the age of 93

Louise Herrington Ornelas famously donated a $13 million endowment to Baylor University’s Nursing School and passed away this past week. Photo courtesy of Baylor University.

By Morgan Harlan

Louise Herrington Ornelas, an East Texas philanthropist and Baylor beneficiary, died on Dec.18, 2018, at the age of 93 in Tyler, Texas. In the fall of 1999, Ornelas famously donated a $13 million endowment to Baylor University’s Nursing School. To honor the generous donor, Baylor’s Nursing School was renamed to the Louise Herrington School of Nursing.

Ornelas was not a graduate of Baylor, but she thought nursing was a crucial and important job and wanted to support those pursing a nursing career. Ornelas’s sister was a nurse in World War II, and she once hoped to pursue a nursing career herself. In 2015, Ornelas purchased another building in Dallas, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, to allow the nursing school to expand. This building has become the head building of academics for nursing students. It was dedicated in Aug. 2018 and was renamed the Louise Herrington Nursing School Academic Building.

“That building is absolutely going to be great for those kids. They’re going to have a larger place to study and to do simulations,” Ornelas said in the Fall 2015 issue of Baylor Magazine. “It’s going to be so much better than what they had before. I thank God for that building.”

Georgetown junior and nursing major Courtney Hewlett is currently in her second semester at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing. Hewlett and other nursing majors had the opportunity to meet Ornelas in person. At the new building dedication, Hewlett held Ornelas’s hand while taking a picture.

“She was so sweet and caring and asked what kind of nurse we wanted to become,” Hewlett said. “It makes me sad that new students coming in will only get to learn about her impact without being able to meet the woman that made it possible.”

Baylor President Linda Livingstone made a heartfelt statement to Louise Herrington Ornelas in “Remembering a Baylor Nursing legend: Louise Herrington Ornelas”:

“Ms. Lou was a strong, smart, generous member of our Baylor Family who loved our nursing students,” Livingstone said. “To Ms. Lou, they were hers, and to them, she was theirs. When personal circumstances changed her path in life and ended her pursuit of a nursing career, she allowed that dream deferred to become the inspiration for supporting the school that now bears her name. As a result, generations of nursing students are taking her legacy of love and care to the thousands of patients they will treat during their careers as nurses. We are honored that we can celebrate her life, and we are humbled that we will continue to carry on that legacy.”

In addition to Ornelas’s philanthropic deeds at Baylor, she also gave donations to other worthwhile causes such as Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army and Meals on Wheels.

Baylor has awarded Ornelas with multiple honors such as the Herbert H. Reynolds Exemplary Service Award, the Huckins Medallion, Alumna Honoris Causa, a Founders Medal and an honorary nursing degree.