Guest Blog by Dr. Raymond Fleck
This blog is a variation of a speech that Dr. Raymond Fleck will be giving today at an all classes reunion at St. Edward’s University of the former students of St. Edward’s High School which closed its doors in 1967. Raymond Fleck will be finally revealing to us all why East Hall at St. Edward’s University is called East Hall. When I first saw Raymond Fleck back in 1959 he was a tall, thin and seemingly remote young man who went by the name of Brother Raymond Fleck, C.S.C. He was a Brother of Holy Cross and at his young age he was the President of St. Edward’s University. I sort of feared him and I suspected that in his walks the tall man considered the paths of neutrinos and how they might be affected by solar flares. I would have never suspected that the man had it in him to plead, and successfully at that, for money which was something the small university in a then lazy provincial town clearly needed. It took all these years for me to find out the real story. It also taught me that time tempers our initial assessments. Raymond Fleck isn’t so tall, he is still thin, but he is about as friendly and warm as can be! I know I will be sitting with Raymond Fleck today. We will have Mike East with us who will proudly present the picture of his grandmother and grandfather to the university.
Fifty years ago, St. Edward’s University was engaged in an ambitious building program. Six new buildings were built along the western portion of the hilltop campus near South Congress Avenue. One of these was a Dining Hall (now the Fine Arts Center), which was designed to have a second phase of construction, with the addition of an auditorium complex.
Early in the 1960s, Bert Maloney, a banker in Austin, secured a substantial pledge of funds to our building program from the Moody Foundation in Galveston. We intended to apply this Moody gift to build the auditorium, but when our plan was presented to our Advisory Board, Bernard Johnson, an engineer from Houston, objected. He said it was time to develop a new master plan for the campus before we built any more. The University administration agreed, on condition that three questions were answered before the planning process would get underway: (1) Was the University going to admit women as regular students? (2) Was St. Edward’s High School to remain on campus? (3) Was the University going to offer graduate programs beyond the bachelor’s degree?
At that time, St. Edward’s was under the ultimate control of the South-West Province of the Brothers of Holy Cross. The matter was relayed to them and in a short time we received a reply, saying: (1) It was up to the University to decide for itself whether to admit women students. (2) We should proceed with our planning on the basis that the High School would eventually not be on campus. (3) Whether the University would begin graduate programs would probably not have much effect on the development of a new master plan.
St. Edward’s High School was doing very well at the time, under the leadership of its principal, Brother Peter Celestine Maranto. The decision about its future location arrived like a bombshell for them. Strenuous efforts were made to find or build new facilities for the High School elsewhere in Austin but, unfortunately, those efforts proved fruitless and the High School eventually closed.
The question of admitting women as regular students had been simmering at the University for five years. The administration now put forth a plan for them to be admitted. The renowned Houston firm of Caudill Rowlett Scott was engaged to develop a new campus master plan. The first two buildings were to be an instructional facility and a women’s residence hall. In further negotiations with the Moody Foundation, it was agreed to apply their pledge to the new instructional building, and to increase the amount to $250,000. To get an idea of the significance of this gift, one would have to consider that it would be about ten times as much in today’s dollars. The instructional building, which would be named Moody Hall, cost one million dollars fifty years ago, and would probably cost ten million to build today.
Turning our attention to the needed women’s residence hall, we reviewed possible donors, and decided to contact the East family in South Texas. St. Edward’s owned a 7000 acre ranch, called the Casa Verde, which had been left to the Brothers of Holy Cross in the will of Mary Premont. The Casa Verde was adjacent to the East Family’s San Antonio de Viejo Ranch, and for many years we had been leasing our ranch to them for grazing. I had visited the East family once or twice, and two Brothers from St. Ed’s went there each year during hunting season. During these visits, we would be welcomed to stay at the East family’s home on their San Antonio de Viejo ranch. Alice Kleberg East was the granddaughter of Captain King, founder of the King Ranch. She was a widow, and two of her children, Lica and Robert, lived with her. Her other son, Tom East, Jr., managed her ranching operations, but he lived on their Santa Fe ranch with his wife and children. His son, Mike, attended St. Edward’s High School.
When I told Mrs. East I would like to come for a weekend visit, she welcomed me. On Saturday, Tom East and I toured the Casa Verde and he gave me an update on conditions there. I told Mrs. East that I had brought some pictures of St. Edward’s and I would like to show them to her. She wanted her children to see them too, and she said that after Sunday dinner would be good. When the time came, we gathered in a small parlor, and I brought out a view book that had been prepared for such presentations.
I gave a commentary as I worked my way through the various pictures. Eventually, I came to the new master plan, and told them of our need for financial assistance to build the women’s residence hall. At that point, Tom East took charge of the gathering. Up until then, his only comment had been that he was pleased with the education his son, Mike, received at St. Ed’s. Now that I had reached the point of asking for a contribution, he said, “Mr. Floyd knows what we can do. Go see him at the Alice National Bank. He will advise us.”
The little town of Alice, Texas was named for Mrs. East’s mother, Alice King Kleberg. The most important building in town was the Alice National Bank, of which Tom East and Jake Floyd were Board members. Jake Floyd was a lawyer and a powerful figure in Texas politics. I had met him previously, when renewing our grazing lease with the East family. On Monday morning, I met him at his office at the bank. He had been told the purpose of my visit. I gave him a brief explanation of the need for a substantial contribution towards the construction of the women’s residence hall. He asked how much we needed. “The building will cost $300,000.” I replied (about three million in today’s dollars). “For years, I’ve been trying to get the East family to contribute to charitable causes,“ he said, “but so far I’ve only gotten them to give ten dollars to the Red Cross. They’re not going to contribute the whole building — — how about half that amount … $150,000.”
That sounded good to me. Then Mr. Floyd added, “They won’t give it all at once. How about $30,000 per year for five years…. We can add a sixth year to cover the interest.”
And so it was that we received $180,000 from the East family over the next six years. In appreciation, we named the building in honor of Alice Kleberg East. Her grandson, Mike East is here today for this St. Edward’s High School reunion, and I ask him to come forward now. Raymond Fleck, May 2011
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.