Who was Kokernot Hall named for?
Since 1947, Kokernot Hall has served thousands of Baylor students. If you aren’t one of the many who called its walls home, you’ve at least driven by it a thousand times while heading toward 8th Street — and you should know its namesake, Herbert Lee Kokernot.
H.L. Kokernot was born Dec. 28, 1867, in Gonzales County, about 70 miles east of San Antonio. He studied at Southwestern University and the University of Texas before eventually taking over his father’s ranching business. Kokernot continued to grow the ranch, buying more and more property in West Texas; by 1938, he had acquired about 300,000 acres of ranching property in Brewster, Pecos and Jeff Davis counties, which came to be known collectively as the Kokernot 06 Ranch.
Kokernot and his wife, the former Elizabeth Vanham, settled in San Antonio; there, they built a home along what San Antonians now call “the Avenue of the Cattle Barons.” Over the years, he served as president of the Cattle Raisers’ Association of Texas (now the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association), the Alpine-Marfa Highland Hereford Association, and the Texas Livestock Marketing Association, and as vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
He also served on multiple boards. Kokernot was a co-founder and chairman of the board of the Baptist Foundation of Texas (now HighGround advisors), president of the board of San Marcos Baptist Academy, and a regent/trustee for both the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) and Baylor University.
Kokernot served as a Baylor trustee from the late 1920s into the 1940s, working with many other individuals whose names you’d certainly recognize — men such as Earl Hankamer, J.M. Penland, George W. Truett, and Pat Neff. During that time, Kokernot made three major donations to the university that would have lasting effects on the university we know today.
The first was during the Greater Baylor Campaign of 1928-30, which aimed to fend off efforts by some to move the university to Dallas, instead keeping Baylor prospering in Waco. Kokernot kicked off the campaign with a donation of $100,000, which was matched by four of his friends. (The campaign, as you might have guessed, proved successful.)
The second was in 1940, with a gift of $600,000 — the largest in Baylor history at that time — to help the university build several new buildings (including what we know today as the Tidwell Bible Building and the Bill Daniel Student Center).
The third was in 1946, when enrollment at the university was booming after World War II. Anticipating a large influx of male students, Baylor’s Board approved the construction of a new men’s dorm west of Brooks Hall. Kokernot gave $1 million — nearly $13 million in today’s prices — toward the project, and the hall was named in his honor. Groundbreaking on the structure was held in May 1946, and the dorm officially opened the following year.
Just two short years later, Kokernot passed away at the age of 82, leaving behind a legacy of dear love for the university he helped lead. Every time Baylor needed room to grow, he supported her — and to this very day, students and alumni benefit from his generosity.
Sic ’em, H.L. Kokernot!