Virginia DuPuy

The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce honored former Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy with its Legacy Award during a ceremony Thursday at the Waco Convention Center. A $17 million expansion of the convention center was among several projects paid for with a voter-approved bond DuPuy oversaw during her time as mayor.

Virginia DuPuy, longtime Waco civic leader, businesswoman and former Waco mayor, received the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce’s Legacy Award during ceremonies Thursday evening at the Waco Convention Center.

An estimated 500 people bought tickets to the fete, which included a mixer and a proclamation read by current Mayor Kyle Deaver. Earlier, in an interview, Deaver said DuPuy is an inspiration, mentor, “and one of the great leaders we’ve had in Waco, in my opinion, and I have known her all my life. She was one of my teachers in elementary school, St. Paul’s Episcopal.”

DuPuy, whose family has long operated DuPuy Oxygen & Supply, served a two-year term on the Waco City Council, and as mayor from 2005 to 2010. She co-founded Prosper Waco, an organization whose goal is to improve quality of life, employment opportunities and educational achievement locally.

She also chaired the chamber’s board in the year 2000.

After the ceremonies, DuPuy, who just turned 84, offered her assessment of accomplishments that have shaped her civic and personal life:

  • “The business, taking what my husband started and seeing it grow to seven locations across Central Texas, becoming business partners with my sons,” she said. “We are very different, but our differences complement each other.”
  • The citywide bond election of 2007, in which voters overwhelmingly approved a $17 million expansion of the Waco Convention Center, systemwide library improvements, additions and upgrades to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, and improvements to Cameron Park.
  • “We have developed a community of leaders willing to step up to the plate in almost any circumstance and work together for the common good,” she said. “These include pastors, members of the business community, teachers, mentors, the whole spectrum. There is a deep sense of pride in our community.”

Chamber spokeswoman Autumn Outlaw said recipients of the chamber’s Legacy Award are chosen by past chamber chairs interested in participating in the process. Longtime Waco businessman Tom Salome, who is involved in the ownership of M. Lipsitz & Co., a Waco-based scrap metal processing company with a statewide presence, received the inaugural Legacy Award last year.

Salome also was among the chief fundraisers to build a new chamber headquarters downtown, on South Third Street, which was dedicated in 2008 as what local officials said was the first green, or energy efficient, chamber office in the United States. It was named the Salome Commerce Center.

DuPuy, meanwhile, served as executive director of the Greater Waco Community Education Alliance, one prong in the three-pronged initiative to achieve measurable improvement in the education, health and finances of Waco residences — and a prelude to Prosper Waco.

Its contributions meshed with those of the Community Health Improvement Plan and the Poverty Solutions Steering Committee.

DuPuy graduated from Baylor University, and it was there she met the man she would marry, Les DuPuy. After the birth of her sons, Carr and Cary, she focused on parenting, civic volunteering and art, according to a Tribune-Herald profile. She created an arts in public program, which led to art shows at Waco Regional Airport. She later helped her husband modernize the business with new computers, learned to enjoy dealing with customers, and complied with her husband’s urging that she take the reins.

She chaired the chamber’s water quality task force, whose goal was to work with dairy farmers to reduce upstream dairy waste that threatened the North Bosque River and Lake Waco. It also encouraged the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to more rigorously enforce its rulings.

DuPuy ran for Waco City Council in 1985, saying she thought she could contribute to economic development efforts. She was serving as president of the Waco Business League at the time. She also made downtown development a top priority and suggested the city create a timeline for major projects.

Today, downtown is bustling, in part due to the Magnolia Market at the Silos phenomenon. The Waco Hippodrome Theatre has undergone two remodels, historic buildings are becoming loft, office and entertainment venues, and the multimillion-dollar Brazos Promenade will alter Lake Brazos’ west bank, bringing more multi-family housing, dining and retail uses to downtown.

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