Major donors play key role in center's opening

Release Date: February 8, 2008

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University’s donors have been crucial to its existence for more than a century, and in the case of the Pete and Nelda Laney Student Activities Center, they have played a major role in seeing this dream facility become a reality.

Though more than 120 donors contributed at least $1,000 toward the building fund, six major gifts have propelled the project. Special naming opportunities were provided for the most generous gifts, and special signs inside and outside the facility will mark the legacy those donors leave.

The James and Eva Mayer Foundation of Plainview and Wayne and Lynda Evans of Jupiter, Fla., made the two lead gifts, while a supporter’s estate, a Dallas foundation, a major trust and a former state senator round out the top donor tier.

Evans is a former All-American basketball player at Wayland who set school scoring records while working on his education during the 1960s. A native of New York, Evans received the Distinguished Service Alumni Award from Wayland’s Association of Former Students at homecoming in 2006, sharing his experiences and how his time at Wayland shaped his life significantly.

After working in insurance and financial services for many years, Evans and wife Lynda run a real estate and mortgage broker business, Kids Depot Realty, which lists and sells privately-owned preschools and childcare centers. They also own and operate several childcare centers.

With a long pattern of support for Wayland and the Plainview community as a whole, the James and Eva Mayer Foundation was created in the last will and testament of Mrs. Mayer in 1982. After living in Philadelphia for many years, Mrs. Mayer moved to Plainview in the 1960s to care for her mother, becoming involved in the Plainview community. With no immediate family, Mrs. Mayer enlisted her attorney, the late Gene Owen, to set up a foundation with her estate at her death, charged with supporting the causes in which she believed, specifically for religious, charitable, educational, literary or scientific purposes.

Plainviewans Paul Lyle, David Wilder and Rudd Owen, Gene’s son, serve as trustees for the foundation, which has awarded more than $3.5 million in grants since its inception. Besides various projects at Wayland – including the Mabee Learning Resources Center, Plainview 2000 campaign, the technology center at the Community Classroom and the circle drive outside Harral Auditorium – the Mayer Foundation has supported other Texas Christian colleges, the Plainview YMCA, the Wee Care Child Center, American Cancer Society, Covenant Hospital in Lubbock and Plainview and other causes.

The estate of Cecil S. Watson contributed significantly to the Laney Center fund as well, providing for a named classroom. Watson died in October 2002, a longtime Plainview resident and farmer who served in World War II with combat engineers in Europe and the South Pacific. Watson attended Wayland, playing for the Jackrabbit Football team and graduating in 1934. He and his wife Ann, who died in 1993, were members of First Baptist Church in Plainview until their deaths.

The LeRoy and Merle Weir Charitable Trust provided funding for the snack bar area of the lounge. The Weir Trust was established in 1993 in Austin by Mrs. Weir to aid students in obtaining a college education, specifically with a heart for Baptist colleges in Texas. The trust currently makes quarterly distributions to the university for its use in scholarships, aiding hundreds of WBU students with the cost of their education each year.

The Simmons Family Foundation Advised Fund of the Dallas Foundation provided funds for the elevator in the lobby area. The Dallas Foundation is the oldest community foundation in Texas, formed in 1929 to provide philanthropists with opportunities to assist their communities in various ways. That foundation manages funds for the Simmons Family Foundation, formed in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1986 by Roy and Elizabeth Simmons.

The climbing wall is named for the Honorable Kent Hance. After serving in the state senate and the U.S. Congress, Hance now serves as chancellor of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. A graduate of Tech and the University of Texas School of Law, Hance got his start in politics in 1974, winning a seat in the Texas Senate, serving on the finance and state affairs committees. In 1978, he won election to the 19th Congressional District, authoring and helping gain passage for President Ronald Reagan’s tax bill. He later served on the Texas Railroad Commission and was a lawyer in private practice before joining the Tech administration in December 2006.

Other named areas in the Laney Center include the McDougal-Davis Indoor Track, funded by gifts from the McDougal Family in Lubbock and Dr. Wallace Davis, chancellor emeritus at Wayland; the United Supermarkets Cardiac and Strength Center; the University Medical Center Aerobics Center; and classrooms provided by AT&T, the CH Foundation and David and Myrt Wilder of Plainview. Former Board of Trustee member Sally Shaw of Lockney provided funds for the women’s dressing room area, and alums Joe and Terri Jesko of Arlington funded the office suite on the first floor.