Happy 85th birthday, Drayton McLane!
If you’ve spent any time at all around Baylor’s campus, then you’re probably familiar with the name “McLane.”
For the last three-plus decades, Drayton McLane Jr. (BBA ’58), has been one of Baylor’s biggest and most dedicated benefactors, from his service as a Baylor Regent to the bells in Pat Neff Hall, the McLane Student Life Center, and Baylor’s football stadium, which all bear his and his family’s name. This week (July 22, to be exact), we celebrate his 85th birthday!
McLane’s affinity for Baylor dates back more than 70 years, to when — as a teenager in nearby Cameron, Texas — he developed a love for Baylor’s sports teams. Later, as a Baylor student, he says he learned a great deal just by living in Brooks and Martin halls. Coming from a small-town environment, Waco and Baylor made quite the impression on him.
“When I came to Baylor I was going to study history, but the second semester of my freshman year I changed my major from history to business,” McLane told Baylor Magazine in a 2012 feature. “Those business school professors took a personal interest in me, and that meant a lot. Being a Christian institution of higher education, they were teaching me the industry as well as integrity, values that helped me navigate business and life in general.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. McLane was a perfect fit in the world of business. He earned a master’s degree at Michigan State before joining McLane Wholesale Grocery Business Co., the family business founded by his grandfather in 1895. He quickly moved into management and, in 1978, replaced his father as president and CEO of the $176 million enterprise.
Throughout his successful career, McLane has made a habit of giving back to Baylor. Sometimes, that has been gifts of his time and experience, whether speaking on campus or through service on the Board or other committees. Other times, that support has been financial; he and his family have supported numerous endowed scholarships and helped make possible some of our campus’ most iconic structures of the last half-century.
“Of course the most important thing for Baylor, as the largest Christian university in America, is higher Christian education,” McLane has said. “It teaches young people how to prepare for the future where they can be successful in their careers, and then they can be successful as mature Christian adults to make contributions to other people’s lives.”
McLane’s investment in higher education doesn’t stop at Baylor. He and his family are also longtime supporters of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and he’s sat on the boards of Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, and other non-profit groups. His contributions to higher education earned him the Mirabeau B. Lamar Medal in 2013.
“I love to try to help,” he explains. “I call it finding the future. One of the arts of leadership is to see not only where you are today and what you need to do immediately, but what needs to happen in the long term.”
Because of McLane’s transformational leadership, Baylor continues to accomplish its goals and extend its mission across the world. We are so very thankful for his story, and for his support.
Sic ’em, Drayton McLane!