Wayland Baptist University gets $5 million for Jimmy Dean Museum

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Jimmy Dean's widow donated $5 million to Wayland Baptist University in his hometown of Plainview, Texas, to fund a museum honoring the legendary entertainer and sausage mogul.

The late Jimmy Dean and his widow, Donna Dean-Stevens, have donated $6 million to Wayland Baptist University since 2008.

At just the right moment, the Deans intersected the life and ministry of the university. They will always be cherished at Wayland.

The legend of Jimmy Dean continues to grow in his hometown of Plainview; specifically at Wayland Baptist University.

On the heels of a $1 million gift in 2008, Dean’s death in 2010 and the opening of Jimmy Dean Hall in August, Dean’s influence continues to impact his hometown university as a $5 million donation has been made by his widow, Donna Dean-Stevens, to fund a Jimmy Dean Museum. The museum will serve as a memorial to a man who grew up in the poor neighborhood of Seth Ward and became a legend in the entertainment industry.

“The museum will be a fitting and attractive tribute to Jimmy’s life and career,” explained Wayland Baptist University President Dr. Paul Armes. “The new building will be more than a museum; it will be a gathering place for our university and community.”
Tentative plans call for the Jimmy Dean Museum to be built adjacent to the existing Museum of the Llano Estacado on the Wayland campus and include a community venue that can be used for various activities and events.

Dean-Stevens originally planned to use the money to fund a museum on the Dean property in Virginia. However, zoning and construction complications made the project exceedingly difficult to undertake. In her ongoing conversations with Wayland representatives, she decided to donate the money to Wayland with the stipulation that it be used to fund a museum.

“Construction will probably begin sometime next summer,” Armes said. “We are currently meeting with museum consultants to develop a conceptual plan for the structure.”

The museum will house memorabilia, videos and awards earned by Dean throughout his long career as an entertainer, singer, television personality and businessman. The Sara Lee Corporation that purchased the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company in 1984, has also committed to donate a life-size bronze of the legendary pitch-man.

Dean’s personal items and memorabilia have already been shipped from Virginia and are in storage, awaiting construction of the museum.

Armes said the majority of the donation will be used for construction and to set up an endowed fund to offset the cost of maintenance and upkeep on the structure. Dean-Stevens, who will have input into the process as it moves forward, stipulated that any additional funds may be used at the university’s discretion.

Armes said the Deans’ generosity has had a major impact on the university.

“At just the right moment, the Deans intersected the life and ministry of the university,” Armes said. “Their support represents more than the dollars they have contributed. By their generosity, they have enhanced and empowered the mission of the school. They will always be cherished at Wayland.”

In total, the Deans have donated approximately $6 million to Wayland since 2008. A Jimmy Dean exhibit is already in place as part of the Hale County Hall of Fame exhibit in the Museum of the Llano Estacado. Jimmy Dean Hall, a 350-bed men’s dormitory, opened in August of 2012.

Wayland Baptist University is a faith-based institution of higher education located in Plainview, Texas, and operating campuses in 13 locations in six states and the African nation of Kenya.

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Jonathan Petty
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