With students looking in at the crowd from new computer banks and study spaces, Baylor University officials welcomed Paul Foster and other donors Friday morning into the new, $100 million Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation.
Foster graduated from Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business with a finance degree 36 years ago and is the executive chairman of El Paso-based Western Refining.
“The reality is that Baylor contributed to my life in a meaningful way,” Foster said. “If my contribution helps students to that end, then it’s all worth it.”
Foster has made numerous donations to El Paso educational institutions, and he said he is happy to share some of his success with his alma mater.
When he has met with students who have already seen his name on the building, they are surprised such a young man is in a position to make the lead donation for a major university building project, Foster said.
“They look at me and say, ‘I thought you would be a lot older,’ and in some cases ‘not with us anymore,’ ” Foster said.
As a token representing a watershed innovation in business, Baylor University President Ken Starr presented Foster with an original ticker from the New York Stock Exchange that would have been operational in the late 1800s.
Starr said he still has a vivid memory of a meal with Foster in 2013 when Foster agreed to get on board with the building project.
After overeating in true West Texas oilman style, Starr showed Foster some preliminary designs on their way out of the restaurant, Starr said. Foster looked at them and said, “I think I can do it.”
With a lead donor on board, fundraisers got donations for the building from about 550 individuals and families, said Richard Willis, chairman of Baylor’s board of regents.
Many of those donors’ names are attached to the study spaces, classrooms and lounges in the building.
The school decided to display those names prominently to show students the connection alumni have to their school, said Terry Maness, dean of the Hankamer School of Business.
“We intentionally are telling stories about our alumni who made a contribution,” Maness said. “We want our students to know who this building came from.”
The San Antonio firm Overland Partners was the architect of the building, and Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Flintco, which also built McLane Stadium, built the new business building.
Four floors of offices, classrooms and study spaces are arranged around an open atrium in the middle of the 275,000-square-foot building, which doesn’t house a single chalkboard.