Nov. 10, 2008
Lamar University's football stadium will have a new name when the Cardinals return to the gridiron for the 2010 season, officials announced today.
The stadium will become Provost Umphrey Stadium in recognition of a $3 million contribution to Lamar University from the firm and an additional $1 million gift from Walter and Sheila Umphrey, said James Simmons, president of the university. The gifts will "enable the university to move ahead with the return of a competitive football program," Simmons said.
"Jimmy Simmons has done wonders for this university and Lamar University is the future of Southeast Texas -- the absolute future," Walter Umphrey said after introducing senior partners Bryan Blevins, Paul "Chip" Ferguson, Joe Fisher, James Payne and David Wilson.
"We didn't give the gift necessarily for football. We did it for Lamar University," Umphrey said. "They thought it was a great idea."
"The Provost Umphrey Law Firm has long been recognized as the home for steadfast champions of the rights of individuals. The women and men of Provost Umphrey are as committed to the communities of Southeast Texas as they are to the clients they serve so diligently," Simmons said. "This generous gift will be a tremendous boost to Lamar and to the entire region."
"Likewise, Walter and Sheila are known for their generosity," Simmons said, "and for showing unwavering support to important civic and community causes."
"Private gifts can transform a university," Simmons said. "The generosity Provost Umphrey Law Firm and Walter and Sheila Umphrey have shown enables us to continue to provide the quality education our students deserve."
"These major gifts make it possible to begin the many steps necessary to prepare the Cardinals to be competitive on the gridiron," Simmons said.
Lamar will field a team in fall 2009, with scholarship and walk-on student-athletes, but will not begin playing outside competition until fall 2010. LU will play a full NCAA schedule as a Football
Championship Subdivision (FCS) Independent in 2010 before officially rejoining the Southland Conference as a football member in 2011, when the university will play a full 8-game conference schedule.
Campus leaders consider the return of NCAA football a powerful and important enrollment management tool. "With the excitement collegiate football brings, we will see more and more prospective students moving Lamar University to the head of their list," Simmons said.
The gift follows other contributions the couple has made to Lamar. In December 2005, the Umphreys contributed $5 million to the university, then the largest single gift in LU's history. In recognition of the gift, Lamar's state-of-the-art recreational sports center was named for Sheila Umphrey. The facility opened in Spring 2007.
A native of Port Arthur, Umphrey received a football scholarship to Southern Methodist University, then transferred to Baylor, ultimately earning two degrees there, the bachelor of business administration in 1959 and a juris doctorate in 1965. He returned to Southeast Texas and joined the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office as a prosecuting attorney, ultimately becoming chief felony prosecutor.
In 1969, Umphrey co-founded a law office in Port Arthur with David Provost. The firm, known nationally for its many successful class action lawsuit settlements, now has 53 attorneys and more than 200 staff members working from Beaumont and additional offices in Houston, Nashville, Little Rock, Tyler and Washington, D.C.
The senior managing partner of Provost and Umphrey LLP, Umphrey is well known as the lead attorney in the historic settlement for Texas residents against the tobacco industry in 1998.
Board certified in the areas of personal injury trial law and labor and employment law, Umphrey was chosen as Baylor Lawyer of the Year in 1999 and the next year was named one of the top Texas lawyers of the 20th century in the book Legal Legends: A Century of Texas Law and Lawyering.
Sheila Umphrey owns The Decorating Depot Inc., a residential and commercial interior design business in Port Neches and is active in many local civic organizations.
"Lamar's football coaches building a competitive program from the ground up. We're also building up a marching band and spirit team, all in preparation for gridiron excitement in the new Provost Umphrey Stadium," Simmons said.
"All across the campus, excitement is building for the return of football."