Jim and Nell Hawkins

September 29, 2011
Jim and Nell Hawkins Baylor Legacy Winners

Baylor Legacy Award

Individuals who demonstrate extraordinary service and philanthropy to Baylor or causes that fit the university's mission

Jim, BBA '58, & Nell Hawkins

  • Longtime donors to academic and athletic scholarships
  • Recently donated $3.5 million for Jim and Nell Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center; key contributors to Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility; 
    and donated funds for the first electronic scoreboard at Floyd Casey Stadium
  • Members of 1845 Society, Presidents Club, Baylor Bear Foundation, and Baylor/Waco Foundation
  • 1997 Philanthropists of the Year by the National Society of Fund Raising Executives
  • The Hawkinses have four children, including Lisa Hawkins Green, BBA '84, and nine grandchildren, including Bryan Carter, a Baylor junior.

Mr. Hawkins:

  • A CPA, Chairman of the Board of J-Hawk Ltd, Chairman of the Board of AMC Financial and retired Chairman of the Board and CEO of FirstCity Financial. Member of the Baylor Foundation and Waco Foundation Boards. Served as president of Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, the Waco ISD Board and the Waco Business League

Mrs. Hawkins:

  • Co-founder of Baylor "Gold Rush" and a Baylor Alumna by Choice. Currently on the Advisory Committee of the Waco Mammoth Board and a Baylor Martin Museum Founding Art Angel. Service includes: the Board of Directors of Cameron Park Zoological Association, president and Zoobilee Co-Chair for two years, Advisory Board Member of the Louise Herrington School of Nursing, Board of Directors of the Brazos Valley Public Broadcasting Foundation, Board of Directors of McLennan Community College, Art Center of Waco, and Historic Waco Foundation East Terrace House

When Jim Hawkins was a student at Arkansas High School, the Texarkana, Ark., native received a football scholarship offer from the University of Arkansas. He planned on taking it, until he attended a Razorbacks game in Little Rock versus the Baylor Bears. 

"I remember being struck by the Baylor students' enthusiasm, and the Baylor team just had a unique spirit about them. I don't even recall who won the game, but I made up my mind then and there that I was going to Baylor," says Hawkins, who gave up the Arkansas scholarship and worked to pay his way through Baylor. 

That education paid off, Hawkins says. Early in his career, which included working on Wall Street, Hawkins admits he was a little intimidated working alongside alumni of Ivy League schools, "but I found out that didn't really matter; what mattered was the education I received from Baylor. I'm so proud to be a Baylor graduate. It's just phenomenal what has happened here and to see how far we've come.

"The thing that impresses me the most is that Baylor has become a world-class school, known for its athletics and academics. I am very excited to see what has happened, and the last 10 to 15 years seem to have been the most dramatic. With all the new facilities, and of course under the leadership of [athletic director] Ian McCaw, I never would have dreamed we'd be competing at this level across the board. Baylor is such a well-balanced school, and it makes you want to give back." 

The latest evidence of that sentiment comes in the form of the Jim and Nell Hawkins Indoor Tennis Facility, a $7 million facility for which the couple provided half the funding. The Hawkinses were motivated in part by how their gift to the basketball programs helped build the practice facility attached to the Ferrell Center. They hope the tennis facility undergirds the tennis program in much the same way.
"I had a hard time getting convinced that the basketball practice facility was actually needed," says Jim. "But when we were at the 2005 women's Final Four, just before the last game, I think I said to Kim [Mulkey], 'You win this game and you'll get your practice court,' and she won the whole thing. Of course, she commented the next day, 'Where's my practice court?' You feel good about giving back, but that [basketball practice facility] gift has been one of the most gratifying. You could just see the difference it made in the whole program."

Through the years, the Hawkinses have worked just as hard for the Waco community as they have for Baylor. During their 26 years of marriage, the couple has been active supporting projects that the public can enjoy, such as Heritage Square, the Cameron Park Zoo and McLennan Community College's science building art display, among many others. Today, they are particularly interested in community art, promoting the downtown area, and branding the Brazos.

"We believe a beautiful, healthy environment inspires people to grow and to have more ideas and to help students make better grades," says Nell. "I know what it does for me internally when I'm in a beautiful place. It is very stimulating.

"Some things I would really like to see downtown are a carousel, a picnic area and a place to rent boats -- attractions that help spur more activity."

Jim's lifelong hobbies have been tennis and snow skiing. Nell says her husband doesn't have many other pursuits outside of Baylor and Waco.

"Truthfully, Jim works in order to give back to the community, to make Baylor and Waco a better place. That's his passion."

There's no doubt the Baylor and Waco communities have benefited greatly from the passion of Jim and Nell Hawkins. Fortunately, Jim attended that Baylor versus Arkansas football game in 1952, and the Baylor faithful on hand that day helped stir a young man's heart.