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Baylor honors the life of a distinguished alumnus and former regent

Friday, December 14, 2012 - 12:23pm

A steadfast pillar of the Baylor family, the legacy of Joe Allbritton of Houston will be forever etched into Baylor University’s rich history. Mr. Allbritton, a Baylor alumnus and former Regent, passed away Dec. 12, 2012, just 17 days before his 88th birthday. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, his son and daughter-in-law, Robert and Elena, and two grandchildren.

“The breadth of Joe Allbritton’s generosity touched countless lives at Baylor and around the world, leaving a lasting impression on our hearts,” Baylor University President Ken Starr said. “We deeply admire Joe for his servanthood and selfless care for others. His innovative spirit and enduring friendship will be deeply missed, but we know that his legacy here at Baylor – and beyond – will be preserved through future generations.”

Mr. Allbritton, who spent three years serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II before finishing his Baylor education, graduated in 1949 with a bachelor of law degree and quickly became an avid supporter of the University. An innovative and visionary leader, Mr. Allbritton’s expertise was welcomed on Baylor’s Board of Trustees from 1959-1968 and as a Baylor Regent from 1998-2001. The generosity of Joe and Barbara Allbritton is evidenced across campus from the Allbritton House, the home of Baylor presidents since 1974, to the Allbritton Art Institute within Baylor’s department of art. The Institute enriches the art curriculum and provides invaluable educational travel opportunities for students.

“For many years, Joe Allbritton and family have been valued friends and benefactors of the arts at Baylor,” said Lee Nordt, Ph.D., dean of Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences. “The Allbritton Institute in the department of art has provided an important platform to promote the arts through faculty appointments, exhibit support, student enrichment activities and the donation of art pieces. Even though his name lives on, he will be sorely missed.”

Throughout the years, the Allbrittons faithfully supported Baylor Law School and the debate program, demonstrating Mr. Allbritton’s deep appreciation for his own experiences at Baylor and enhancing the program for current and future students. Through their establishment of the Abner McCall Chair in Evidence in the law school and the Joe L. and Barbara B. Allbritton Endowment Fund in support of the Glenn R. Capp Chair in Forensics, the Allbrittons aided Baylor’s recruitment and retention of esteemed faculty – furthering Baylor’s commitment to academic excellence.

“Joe Allbritton debated for legendary Baylor Professor Glenn R. Capp and was a lifelong supporter of Baylor’s debate program,” said Matt Gerber, Ph.D., The Glenn R. Capp Chair of Forensics. “We are indebted to Joe Allbritton and his family, not only for his establishment and support of the Glenn R. Capp Endowed Chair of Forensics, but also for his generous contributions to help fund scholarships for Baylor students who demonstrate excellence in intercollegiate debate. Joe's legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of the members and numerous alumni of Baylor debate.”

In 1974, Mr. Allbritton’s abiding commitment to the University was recognized through the presentation of the Baylor Distinguished Alumni Award. Joe and Barbara received the Baylor Founders Medallion in 2003, the University’s most distinguished award reserved for men and women whose service and contributions have been unusually significant to the life and future of the University, and the James Huckins Medallion for their consistent philanthropy. In 2011, the Allbrittons also were awarded the Baylor Legacy Award in recognition of their extraordinary service to further the mission and legacy of Baylor University.

Throughout his life, Mr. Allbritton exhibited unparalleled entrepreneurial foresight through a variety of business ventures. Following a few years in law practice, Mr. Allbritton entered the banking industry, where he served for the next 50 years. In 1959, he founded Perpetual Corporation and began the journey to build Allbritton Communications Company, encompassing television, cable and Internet companies and the political website Politico.com, which was developed by his son, Robert.

In 1979, Mr. Allbritton also took interest in Riggs National Corporation, the parent company of Washington D.C.’s largest bank, Riggs National Bank. Within only three years, he became the largest shareholder and chairman. Mr. Allbritton enjoyed a very successful career as the CEO and chairman of the company before semi-retiring in 2001. Robert Allbritton continues to carry his family’s legacy forward as chairman and CEO of Allbritton Communications Company and publisher of Politico. Barbara Allbritton, an ardent civic leader, also continues to serve as executive vice president of the company, in addition to her contribution as an officer and board member for many of their enterprises.

Many organizations benefitted from Mr. Allbritton’s dynamic leadership, including three Presidential Foundations and several philanthropic groups, such as the Allbritton Foundation and the Killson Educational Foundation.

Mr. Allbritton demonstrated a sense of humor and love for people that captured the hearts of everyone he encountered. He was friends with Prince Charles of Britain and enjoyed social events with Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, though he was never overcome by fanfare.

A man of selfless service and tenacious giving, the reach of Mr. Allbritton’s life is extensive. For his generous giving to Baylor, he was honored through membership in the Golden Bear Circle of Baylor’s Endowed Scholarship Society, the Judge R.E.B. Baylor Society and Baylor’s Old Main Society. He served on the board of advisors for the Baylor University Foundation and was a member of the Baylor Alumni Association’s Heritage Club.

“Joe Allbritton’s establishment of Baylor University’s Allbritton Art Institute has significantly contributed to the culture of the University and the lives of the many students who participate in the Institute’s programs,” said Paul McCoy, director of the Allbritton Art Institute. “Through his vision and selfless generosity, Joe Allbritton has initiated a process of perpetual growth and transformation that will expand exponentially as students move through time into their respective futures, touching so many others along the way. I cannot imagine a greater gift, a more meaningful legacy.”

Mr. Allbritton lived each day with purpose and integrity – creating a legacy that will continue to burn brightly through the many tangible expressions of his generous and faithful support.
 

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