Remembering a Baylor Nursing legend: Louise Herrington Ornelas
Just before Christmas, the Baylor Family truly lost a great one: Louise Herrington Ornelas, longtime benefactor of the Baylor nursing school, which bears her name.
Ornelas — or “Ms. Lou,” as students called her — dedicated much of her life to Baylor nursing students. In 1999, her $13 million gift to the Baylor School of Nursing led to the school being formally named the Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON). In 2015, another lead gift made possible the purchase of the Baptist General Convention of Texas building in Dallas, which has since become the new academic home for LHSON. Inbetween, she established the Lou Ornelas Endowment for the School of Nursing and the Louise Herrington Endowed Scholarship Fund in Nursing, supported a simulation lab to give Baylor nursing students the most real-world experience possible, and was even one of the lead donors for the School of Engineering and Computer Science’s current building.
Why such devout support for Baylor nursing? Ornelas was not a Baylor graduate, but throughout her life, she saw the impact that nursing has on the world and felt compelled to be a part of it.
“I love nursing. My older sister was a registered nurse, and she was so good at it,” Ornelas said in a Fall 2015 Baylor Magazine interview. “During World War II she was a lieutenant, and right out of Baylor she worked in a hospital unit helping shell-shocked men, and I thought that was wonderful.”
Ornelas decided she also wanted to help meet the needs of others and become a nurse herself. On her first day of classes, though, a sharp pain struck: kidney stones. She was hospitalized for nearly a month after surgery, delaying her studies.
“All my life, I have loved to see kids go to school,” she said. “I have helped many go to college, and that does me more good than anything — to see passionate young people with good grades have the opportunity to go to college.” In fact, three of her children attended Baylor, and many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended or are currently attending Baylor — including two who earned nursing degrees.
“Ms. Lou was a strong, smart, generous member of our Baylor Family who loved our nursing students,” says Baylor President Linda Livingstone. “To Ms. Lou, they were hers, and to them, she was theirs. When personal circumstances changed her path in life and ended her pursuit of a nursing career, she allowed that dream deferred to become the inspiration for supporting the school that now bears her name. As a result, generations of nursing students are taking her legacy of love and care to the thousands of patients they will treat during their careers as nurses. We are honored that we can celebrate her life, and we are humbled that we will continue to carry on that legacy.”
Ornelas received some of the most distinguished honors Baylor has to offer, including the Huckins Medallion in 1988, Alumna Honoris Causa in 1992, the Herbert H. Reynolds Exemplary Service Award in 1996, an honorary Baylor nursing degree in 2000, and the Founders Medal in 2015. She was an absolute institution for this university, and there is no question that Baylor nursing wouldn’t look the same without her.
Sic ’em, Ms. Lou!