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WACO, Texas - Baylor University dedicated the stunning new Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center tonight with a dedication ceremony honoring the contributions of benefactors Jim and Nell Hawkins of Waco, who generously provided the lead gift to turn the dream of an indoor tennis center into a reality.
An estimated crowd of nearly 700 fans celebrated the opening of the long-awaited new indoor home for Baylor Tennis, a 34,000-square-foot, $7 million venue that will elevate Baylor's high-performing tennis program to new heights.
"Tonight, Jim and Nell, we say `Thank you,'" Baylor University President Ken Starr said. "We are grateful for the generosity of spirit that has guided you to make this possible. This is a great program and now it will be even greater."
The Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center was dedicated between doubles and singles play during the inaugural match. President Starr and Director of Tennis Matt Knoll addressed the crowd and honored longtime Baylor philanthropists Jim and Nell Hawkins.
"When I came to Baylor 17 years ago, this is what I envisioned," Knoll said. "This is a special night because of the contributions of our donors and an amazing night for Baylor University."
Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins delivered ceremonial first serves to Baylor Tennis players Alex Leatu and Marko Krickovic, respectively, to conclude the ceremony. Members of the Baylor men's and women's tennis team also expressed their appreciation to the Hawkins at a private dinner prior to the match.
"Jim and Nell Hawkins did so much for us," said Leatu, a junior women's tennis student-athlete. "They are amazing people and this building is incredible. Their gift puts us up there with other top programs in the country and will help us improve. In practices and matches, we don't have to worry about the weather anymore."
The Hawkins Indoor Center represents the realization of a longtime vision for Baylor Tennis. The state-of-the-art facility allows the men's and women's tennis team to practice and play year-round, regardless of adverse weather conditions.
Six parallel indoor tennis courts with spectator seating will ensure that fans and players can enjoy top tennis action in a comfortable environment, providing a venue that will position Baylor to host NCAA Tennis Championships in the future. Notable features of the facility were made possible by the generosity of Baylor donors. The Center's Court Number One was provided by Claude and Becky Lindsey and the lobby was supported by the Lanning family in honor of Stacy Lanning Lessman, Lori Lanning Rogers and Kristi Lanning Blauser.
"This facility turned out even better than we hoped," said Ian McCaw, Baylor University Director of Athletics. "It's another big step for Baylor Tennis and the Baylor athletic program. Without the support of great donors like the Hawkins, the Lindseys and others, we wouldn't be in the position we are right now, having one of the top programs in the country."
The Hawkins' love for Baylor and generous support of her students and programs is apparent across campus and particularly evident in their support of Baylor Athletics. Jim (BBA `58) and Nell, a "Baylor Alumna by Choice" (ABC), have faithfully supported scholarships for student-athletes as well as excellence funds for basketball, tennis and baseball, the Baylor Bear Foundation and mission trips by Baylor's Sports Ministry Teams. They generously provided the J-Hawk Limited and Nell Hawkins practice courts for Baylor's Men's and Women's Basketball programs, and their first major gift to Baylor Athletics funded a scoreboard at Floyd Casey Stadium.
"It meets all my expectations, and I am proud that we were able to do it," Jim Hawkins said. "I think this is a building that will bring Baylor a lot of good fortune and adds a new dimension to Baylor Tennis." "This is something we've been wanting for Baylor Tennis for a long time," Nell Hawkins said. "I envision us hosting the NCAA Tennis Championship here in the future and hopefully winning it."
The Hawkins' impact has touched the University well beyond Athletics alone. They are members of the Medallion Fellowship at the Judge R.E.B. Baylor Level, and both served on the Bush Library Steering Committee. Jim and Nell also have supported several areas of Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, including endowed scholarships and endowed faculty and staff positions. Jim has served on the Hankamer School of Business Board of Advisors and the Baylor Foundation board. Nell is an Art Angel for Baylor's Martin Museum of Art and is known for co-initiating the Gold Rush Campaign that transformed the spectator experience at Baylor's athletic events. Deeply valuing both Baylor and their local community, the couple has maintained involvement with the Baylor/Waco Foundation.
Baylor men's and women's tennis are poised to continue their tradition of excellence in the 2012-2013 season. Both teams advanced to the round of 16 last season, with the women finishing in the top 15 for the eighh straight year, and the men featuring an All-American for the 11th consecutive season. Baylor has dominated the Big 12 Conference under the leadership of Coach Knoll and Coach Joey Scrivano; the men have won 10 Big 12 regular season titles and seven conference tournament titles since 2000, while the women have won eight regular season titles and six conference tournaments since 2003.