All in the Family

A legacy of Baylor memories inspires transformational giving

Baylor University holds many things for its alumni. For some, it’s full of memories of friendships, the start of love stories, the place where interest ignites a passion that transforms into a life’s calling. 

For Katie Dimmitt Garrison, B.S.Ed. ’85, like many others, it’s a place to chart the history of her family. Penland Dining Hall, now The Penland Crossroads, where she met her husband, Jimmy Garrison, B.B.A. ’85, during lunch one Sunday, and the McLane Carillon, where a gift from her family brought new bells to the top of Pat Neff Hall.

Katie Garrison, of Boerne, Texas, can point to places where her family tree has intertwined with Baylor’s roots. It started with her mother, Kate McLane Dimmitt, B.B.A. ’56, who was the first member of her family to attend. And since then, uncles, cousins, nieces and children have followed, and the impact Baylor has had on the family — and the family’s impact on this institution — have endured.

“It’s a sweet story, and it’s wonderful, but it isn’t that different from 100 other stories families could tell about how they are connected to Baylor,” Katie Garrison said. “But that’s part of what makes Baylor special. There’s a rich history and tradition at Baylor.”

Katie smiles.

“It’s easy to build a history here.”

Katie is sitting in a suite at McLane Stadium, which offers a clear view of the field, the berm, the scoreboard and Baylor’s campus on the horizon. Football practices will start in a few weeks, and workers are furiously finishing masonry, adding Baylor’s iconic red bricks to a new wall distinguishing the John Eddie Williams Field from the sun-soaked berm where kids can always be found during football games, waving at TV crews and playing against their own imaginary O-line.

Recently, workers added a name to this wall:  Dimmitt Garrison Family Berm.

The naming is a celebration. Earlier this summer, Katie and Jimmy Garrison committed to give a significant gift to Baylor’s Give Light Campaign — a gift in memory of her mother, Kate. Their gift will provide support for the Give Light Capital Fund, funding the University’s capital priorities, and support for student-athlete scholarships. In recognition of their generous gift, Baylor has named the berm, as well as the Dimmitt Garrison Family Lobby within the future Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion, in their honor.

For Katie, this is one more place on Baylor’s campus that tells her family’s story.

“I didn’t dream this would happen, but I think it’s sweet in that after we’re gone, the next generations can come here and actually see, in one fell swoop, family history,” Garrison said.

Katie’s uncle is Drayton McLane, B.B.A. ’58, an alumnus with his own storied history and family tradition of philanthropy. What many alumni may not know is that Drayton McLane’s path to Baylor started with his sister, Kate McLane Dimmitt (Katie’s mother).

Kate Dimmitt, then McLane, was drawn to Baylor for its Baptist faith founding — and because a group of her friends from their hometown of Cameron, Texas, came together to Baylor. As the older sister, Kate’s Baylor experiences and her stories of life on campus were attractive to her younger brother, and he followed in her footsteps two years later.

Kate would go on to graduate, returning often to Baylor as one of the “Chicks of ’56” as she and her friend group were known, marrying and settling down in Houston. After the untimely death of her husband, Malcolm Dimmitt, Kate raised her young daughter, Katie, as a single mother, working full-time to support their small family.

Katie’s earliest memories of Baylor came during these years.

“My most vivid early memories are after my dad passed away, and we started spending more time with my grandparents in Cameron and my uncle in Temple,” Katie said. “We would come to the football games with him, because it was a big deal to drive from Houston after my mom worked all week. I hadn’t been to anything like that before — it was all new, it was all exciting. It was wonderful. It was family.”

Soon, it was time for Katie to choose a college, and she decided to add to the family’s list of Baylor alumni. Katie met her husband as a freshman, and soon, they were making their own trips from home as alumni, eventually bringing their own children, Martha Garrison DePasquale, B.S. ’12, and Samuel Garrison, B.B.A. ’17, M.B.A. ’18, to the football games.

“I remember Martha, as an infant at Floyd Casey Stadium, she used to sleep at our feet while we watched the game,” Katie said with a laugh. “The game would end, we’d scoop her up and leave. Same with Samuel. Baylor was just part of everything, and that is what I hope is the part that goes on: that Baylor still brings my children together as they start their own families and live in different places. That this is the thing that keeps bringing them back together, enriching their lives, enriching their children’s lives. That they keep giving to and enriching Baylor. That that same cycle keeps going.”

Philanthropy has always been an important part of the family’s relationship to Baylor, Katie said. As far back as she can remember, Katie’s mother stressed giving back to her alma mater. Through smaller gifts at first, then growing their philanthropy over time. Katie and Jimmy Garrison have been longtime supporters of Baylor University, giving to scholarships and Baylor Athletics. Kate Dimmitt established many scholarships through the years, including surprising younger brother Drayton with one in his honor, quietly creating a profound legacy of support during her lifetime. She was honored with the Baylor Legacy Award in 2014 and as a Distinguished Baylor Woman of Central Texas in 2005.

But what prompted Katie and Jimmy Garrison to grow their philanthropy over time? For Katie, it was a simple decision.

“We’ve given to scholarships, created scholarships,” Katie said. “We’ve given and supported Athletics, but it was time to do something more.”

For Katie and Jimmy, giving to the Give Light Capital Fund was an opportunity to support the gathering places, the spaces on campus that encourage families to connect and that unite the Baylor Family.

Katie said the gift is very much a family decision. Martha and Samuel have been involved in the giving process. The family feels fortunate to be able to make a major gift to the University.

Katie is quick to emphasize, though, that it is the act of giving, not the size of the gift, that she hopes people will see and be inspired to do in their own way for the University. With the significant support garnered by the Give Light Campaign, Katie said she hopes the Baylor Family will give what they can, as they can, to give back to a place they love.

“It’s easy to look at someone who makes a gift and say, ‘well, that’s easy for them, look how much they have,’ but every gift is meaningful. Every gift counts,” Katie said. “There have been so many people, over so many years who have given to all areas of Baylor, whether supporting financially or through other ways — physically, with their time, as ambassadors or by praying for our students — that have made Baylor what it is today. Everyone giving in accordance to where they are, everyone has something to give.”

It is a lesson Katie learned from her mom, Kate, who passed away in 2017. How would she feel about Katie and Jimmy continuing her legacy of philanthropy and the naming of the Dimmitt Garrison Family Berm?

“She would be so excited,” Kate said, pausing and smiling. “She loved Baylor. She loved being a part of it. Her greatest friendships, her lifelong friendships came from Baylor. So, she would be very proud.”

 For Katie and Jimmy Garrison, Baylor will continue to be a family gathering place, even as their family grows and spreads out. 

They are looking forward to even more family memories made together, in a place that holds as much family history as it does Baylor history. From the bells ringing throughout campus to the gathering spaces for the Baylor Family, the memories of one Baylor family will continue to inspire their love and their giving to create a truly bright future for the next generation.