John, '50, '52, and Marie Chiles

September 29, 2011
John and Marie Chiles Pictured Recipients of the Baylor Founders Medal

Baylor Founders Medal

Individuals whose service and contributions have been unusually significant to the life and future of Baylor

John, BA '50, JD '52, & Marie Chiles

  • Charter members of Baylor's Old Main Society, Law School Chancellors, Endowed Scholarship Society, Torchbearers Society, and Presidents Club
  • Members of Louise Herrington School of Nursing Dean's Board, Old Main Quadrangle Club, Baylor's Medallion Fellowship and the Development Council
  • Recipients of the W. R. White Meritorious Service Award and the Milton T. Gregory Distinguished Service Award
  • Honored by the Dallas Chapter of the National Society of Fundraising Executives in 2000

Mr. Chiles:

  • U.S. Air Force captain, serving as a staff judge advocate in U.S. and England
  • Attorney for Humble Oil and Refining Co., retired as senior staff counsel in 1982
  • 1998 Outstanding Graduate of Baylor's Hankamer School of Business
  • Waxahachie High Hall of Fame
  • Was chair of the Mayborn Museum Building Committee and is a trustee for Baylor University Health Care, Waxahachie, and has served on many committees and boards both professionally and in the community

Mrs. chiles:

  • Chatham University (Penn.) alumna, served as first lieutenant in U.S. Air Force, and a Baylor Alumna by Choice
  • In Houston, Waco and Dallas, has been a full-time volunteer and board member of many nonprofit cultural and philanthropic organizations, many associated with her longtime study of the decorative arts

Long Island native Marie Chiles says she didn't realize back in 1955 that marrying the son of a Waxahachie grocer was a package deal.

"I didn't know at that time that Baylor would be playing such a major role in our lives, but it certainly has," she says. 

John and Marie met and married in England, where both were stationed as officers in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Their first stateside destination after leaving the service was Baylor's final football game of the 1955 season. 

Marie, who jokes that she is a Baylor "Alumna by (No Other) Choice," has enjoyed telling the story hundreds of times of how they "met in England, he proposed in Paris, married in Bedford, England, honeymooned in Switzerland, and John has tried to get [me] back to Waxahachie ever since."

While the Chileses have never returned to live in Waxahachie, they have made Texas their home during most of their 56-year marriage. After his military service, John began working in the law department of Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil), spending most of his 28 years there in Houston. After John's retirement in 1982, the Chileses lived in Waco for eight years, then moved to Dallas in 1992, where they reside today. They have been two of Baylor's most loyal benefactors for decades.

John developed his passion for Baylor during six years as a student at Baylor, earning business and law degrees and becoming president of Chamber. He says the men he met there are among his closest lifelong friends. Among his favorite professors were Abner McCall, Angus McSwain and Ed Horner.

John's best memories of his student days are Homecoming, the football banquet, and other Chamber events, living at Brooks Hall and the old Greer House on Fifth Street. 

"My time at Baylor helped further develop a set of values and goals and the importance of being committed to something worthwhile. Baylor's Christian principles helped to strengthen my own faith and beliefs," he says.

Upon moving to Waco after John's retirement, the Chileses met Calvin Smith, then director of Baylor's Strecker Museum. They organized the Strecker Associates, his support group, and became champions of Smith's plan for a museum complex comprised of a cultural and natural history museum, the Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village and the Ollie Mae Moen Discovery Center. The Chileses and others recruited more than 450 members from the Baylor and Waco communities. After 15 years of support and planning, the 143,000-square-foot Mayborn Museum opened in 2004. The museum and its programs have been well received, attracting more than 130,000 visitors in a single year, fulfilling the dreams of its long-time supporters.

After moving to Dallas and visiting with then Dean Dr. Judy Wright Lott of the Louise Herrington School of Nursing and development director Janis Kovar, the Chileses decided to help, moved by their enthusiasm and the critical shortage of nurses. Their involvement has included adding two juvenile high fidelity simulators to the new Buchholz Simulation Laboratory as well as establishing an endowed scholarship for nursing students. Recently, they received the inaugural Friends of Nursing Award.

"We've been inspired to fill in some of the blanks. And now we're very hopeful and prayerful that we'll have an expanded nursing school because of the great need," says John. 

Their financial support has been enhanced by the generous three-to-one matching funds program of ExxonMobil which they use thoughtfully.

John's message to alumni is to "develop an early habit of giving which even in modest amounts can become significant over the years. While we have had limited resources, every year for over 40 years we have sought to support one or more Baylor projects." 

The Chileses hope their rewarding and satisfying experience will help encourage others to become active in giving to Baylor. 

"My wish for Baylor students," says John, "is that when they reach the point in their lives where I am now, they will have as many good memories and friends from their time at Baylor as I have from my time as a student."