The Fondren legacy
Nov. 14, 2012Photo Gallery
The Longhorn Foundation is grateful to the Fondren Foundation for its generous gift, which allowed UT Athletics to complete the Walter W. Fondren III Athletics Leadership Center in the north end of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Frances Fondren, who was married to Walter for 53 years prior to his death in 2010, has also graciously shared stories about Walter.
By Frances Fondren
Life with Walter was always interesting. He taught me, and numerous others, many things that we will never forget. He was my friend, my mentor, my husband and father of our six children.
He was a great father, often leading the children on adventures like the Pied Piper. We lived on the Buffalo Bayou lined with a jungle of woods. One day he decided to get dirt bikes for each of our six children and, of course, one for himself. He took them out and cut trails through the woods, and they all rode them together. When that became monotonous, we proceeded to friends' ranches with bikes in tow to find more and longer trails, always with him in the lead.
Trying to get lost in the woods was a favorite pastime of his. But if he ever succeeded, it wasn't for long. He seemed to have a built-in compass. It didn't matter if he was in the woods, a closed-in building or on a vast, endless sea of water - he always knew north. And he would laugh at me because I could never get off an elevator and turn the right way.
Walter was the most intelligent person I have ever known. All of the adjectives in the thesaurus would apply: clever, bright, brilliant, quick-witted, smart, talented, canny, astute, intuitive, insightful, discerning and knowledgeable. He could talk to anyone about anything. Even if it was something he knew little about and wasn't interested in, he would know enough to carry on a conversation.
He loved to read. For a long time, he enjoyed novels, but somewhere in the middle of his life, he turned to anything but novels. He wanted to learn, and history was his favorite subject, especially Texas history. He loved the stories about the great families that made Texas what it is today. He was very proud of his heritage.
Walter was an avid outdoorsman, and he knew the names of all the birds, always writing down a sighting in his favorite bird book. He could name all of the trees, wild flowers and wild game. He not only knew their names but also their habitats.
Whenever he had a captive audience, his encyclopedia of knowledge was constantly open, teaching and sharing all he had experienced and learned.
His grandchildren referred to him as the "School of Bubby." He loved loading as many as he could into one of his self-designed ranch vehicles and take them on tours, or they would go fishing in the back bays of Port O'Connor on his specially-designed boat. The whole time he would be lecturing on the flora and fauna, the nuances of running a boat or what lure to use to catch a fish.
Walter was a generous person and loved to surprise with gifts at unpredictable times, but he didn't like being surprised or celebrated. He never took credit for something that he had done. He always gave credit to anyone who had helped him. He loved The University of Texas and credited it for helping him build a full and happy life.