Friday, November 11, 2022

Louise Herrington Ornelas

 Extraordinary Woman and Benefactor

In the fall of 1953, I enrolled as a freshman in the Baylor University School of Nursing. Three years before that, the school became a part of the Baccalaureate program with a four year course leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I was in the program 2 years before health issues caused me to transfer back to the main campus and change majors. Even though I was no longer in the program, I kept up with my nursing classmates. 

Over the years I became more interested in the school, and when my granddaughter-in-law graduated a few years ago from the Louise Herrington School of Nursing, I decided to do a little more research as to who Louise Herrington Ornelas was and her connection with the school. 

This remarkable lady was born on June 15, 1925 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but she grew up in Arp, Texas. Yes, a real place in Smith County in East Texas and once inhabited by Caddo Indians. She always thought of herself as a simple country girl from East Texas, but the impact she had with her life and her wealthy will live on forever. 

Her parents were Bill ad Minnie Herrington, and Louise had 6 brothers and sisters. Although limited in resources, she grew up on a tenant farm in a home filled with love, laughter, and hard work.

A turning point in her life came as a child at a birthday party for the farm's owner daughter. Her mother had made dresses out of flour sacks for Louise and her sisters to wear to the party. After playing and having fun for while, the hostess and a few other guests turned water hoses on Louise, making fun of her dress.

Louise said, "I decided then that I would never treat people the way we were treated that day." And she didn't. She spent most of her adult life giving away what she had. 

She married Martin Eugene Pettis, one of her brothers' best friends, and they moved to West Texas where he worked in the oil fields. They had one son, Ricky, before Martin was killed in a car crash.

Louise returned to East Texas where she met and married her second husband, Bob Rogers. They had six children from that marriage. The couple risked everything they had to launch TCA Cable in Tyler early on in the rapidly growing and lucrative industry of cable television. The company grew rapidly to 883,000 customers. A few years later, Bob and Louise sold it to Cox Communications for $3.5 billion.

After her divorce from Bob Rogers, she met and married a man wealthy in his

own right, Joseph Z. Ornelas, and the two became well known and well-loved philanthropists. 

She dreamed of one day becoming a nurse, but obligations and responsibilities with her family kept her from realizing that dream. Her sister did become a nurse and served as one as a lieutenant in WWll. That and her own love for nursing became a great influence on her life in later years. Keeping with her love of nursing, Louise or "Miss Lou" as she was called, volunteered as a Pink Lady at Tyler Hospital in Tyler, Texas for 30 years. 

 That love of nursing led to her and husband to donate over $13 million to Baylor University for its School of Nursing in Dallas. For that endowment, the school became known as the Louise Herrington School of Nursing. 


Miss Lou was loved by all those who knew her. Her love for people and education led to gifts to a number of higher institutions that honored her with honorary degrees. Among them were Tyler Junior College, Baylor University and East Texas Baptist University for her success in business and support of education. 

In 2001, Louise was honored by the Texas Legislature for philanthropic deeds that benefited education, medicine and religious institutions. Following is a quote from the resolution presented at the state Capitol. "Guided by honest values, basic goodness and clear goals, Mrs. Ornelas is using her resources to make a real difference in the lives of countless people, and it both a privilege and a pleasure to recognize her great contributions to this state"

Over their lifetime, Louise and Joseph Ornelas received many honors and awards for their philanthropy. 

Louise Herrington Ornelas went to be with Jesus in December of 2018 at the age of 93.

I've met and known some great women in my life, and I wish I could have known Louise. Everything said and written about her showed her to be a woman who loved the Lord and giving so others could have a better life. One friend said she loved pranks and people came to realize that if you were pranked by Louise, you were a true friend. 

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to six. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years teaching Freshman English at the college level. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and serves as President of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for today's post. It was great to "meet" another caring woman who used her blessings in life to help others.