Baylor Founders Medal: Louise Herrington Ornelas

October 1, 2015

Reserved for men and women whose service and contributions have been unusually significant to the life and future of Baylor

Louise Herrington Ornelas' caring spirit has been evident throughout her life, from her pre-teen years near Arp, Texas, where she and her friends gathered tin foil and scrap metal at the onset of World War II, to her support for her community and for Baylor University.

"We piled the metal by the railroad for the war effort," Ornelas says. "The pile was so big you couldn't see over it. And we felt so good about helping the country. It was great to be part of it."

Ornelas' family also baked cookies to give to troops on the train at the station in Arp. Her family regularly invited servicemen from nearby Camp Fannin who visited their church to their home for a meal.

"We'd take two or three home with us and feed them fried chicken. We made so many friends that way. Those were bad times, but good times, too," she says.

The second of seven children, Ornelas admired her older sister and her profession of caring for the sick and injured.

"I love nursing. My older sister was a registered nurse, and she was so good at it," Ornelas says. "During World War II she was a lieutenant, and right out of Baylor she worked in a hospital unit helping shell-shocked men, and I thought that was wonderful."

Ornelas decided she also wanted to help meet the needs of others and become a nurse herself. On her first day of classes, though, a sharp pain struck: kidney stones. She was hospitalized for nearly a month after surgery, delaying her studies.

Although she never became a practicing nurse, she enjoyed a successful career as co-founder of TCA Cable Inc. and volunteering as a Pink Lady for 30 years in Tyler, Texas, hospitals. She and her husband--businessman Joseph Ornelas--also delight in supporting multiple medical facilities, such as the Ornelas Tower at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital-Tyler.

Ornelas is intensely involved in helping young people become nurses and supporting nursing education across Texas, including the nursing programs at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas, the University of Texas- Tyler, and Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON).

"All my life, I have loved to see kids go to school," Ornelas says. "I have helped many go to college, and that does me more good than anything--to see passionate young people with good grades have the opportunity to go to college."

Ornelas, who received an honorary nursing degree from Baylor in 2000, is proud to have started a family legacy tied to Baylor as her love for the University has permeated multiple generations.

"I love Baylor," she says. "I love what they’re doing with young people. I think it's just wonderful, and I've probably done a little bit of proselytizing over the years."

Three of her children--Randall Kent Rogers, BBA '82, Rebecca Wangner, BA '83, Russell Rogers, BBA '86--and four of her grandchildren attended Baylor, including two who earned nursing degrees.

Students, faculty and staff at Baylor's LHSON have benefited immensely from Ornelas' friendship and generosity for years.

Within this year alone, a lead gift by Ornelas made possible the purchase of the Baptist General Convention of Texas building in Dallas for use as the new home for Baylor's LHSON. The facility, to be renamed the Louise Herrington Nursing School Building, will be renovated to house the outstanding academic programs and simulation training for which the LHSON is nationally recognized. The purchase provides significant growth opportunities for LHSON and Baylor to prepare leaders in a wide range of health professions and to continue building upon the University's strategic partnerships within the healthcare community in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and across the nation.

"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 says. "It's going to be so much better than what they had before. I thank God for that building."

Her further involvement with the LHSON includes The Lou Ornelas Endowment for the School of Nursing, The Louise Herrington Endowed Scholarship Fund in Nursing, and a simulation lab and Sim-Man Simulator patient that allows nursing students to practice various medical scenarios.

Among her other Baylor activities and honors, Ornelas is a recipient of the Huckins Medallion, Alumna Honoris Causa and The Herbert H. Reynolds Award for Exemplary Service. She served on the Bush Library Steering Committee, the 1845 Society, Tyler Women's Council, Endowed Scholarship Society and Friends of Truett Seminary.

Ornelas particularly enjoys visiting with Baylor students and attending the annual LHSON Gala. She looks forward to the February 2016 event, which will honor Baylor nursing school veterans and feature veteran Noah Galloway plus Dallas Cowboys receiver and former Baylor All- American Terrance Williams.

One of Ornelas' prized possessions is a book containing letters she has received from Baylor students for the scholarships she has provided.

"I can't tell you how great it is," Ornelas says. "I sit and cry reading those letters. Almost all of them say 'I could not go to school here had it not been for the scholarship.' It's so wonderful to me for those kids to get to go to Baylor."