Joe Bax ‘66 can easily relate today’s turbulent cultural times to his St. Thomas years when America was unravelling, ripped apart by fractured extremes, idealism and alienation, riots and rebellion, protests and backlash.
“I can remember to this day Father Alnoch’s announcement during Father Cooper’s Latin class that President Kennedy had been assassinated … first that the president had been shot … and then shortly thereafter he had died,” Bax confidently recalls.
America’s cities had become powder kegs then, and now a tumultuous uprising of pronounced divisiveness resonates with political and civil unrest often punctuated by a sharp spike in the contempt that partisans express for their opponents.
The 68-year-old Bax can clearly connect the fraying forces fueling polarizing periods separated by a half century, and has been consistently comforted throughout the divides and debates by a steady internal calm instilled during his St. Thomas experience.
“Ultimately, in a person’s life, character is the only quality that counts. If you’re teaching a young man goodness, discipline and knowledge, you’re going to produce character,” Bax says while referencing the Basilian motto that has served as the school’s bedrock for 117 years.
“You find in our society today many who are quick to compromise character, whether it’s individual or institutional, and never is that kind of compromise the answer. Young men of character are needed in every occupation, in every walk of life, now more than ever.”
Bax’s conviction in Basilian education is such that he is joining donors of all income levels who have expressed their wishes for the future of St. Thomas through participation in the 1900 Society, created to honor those individuals who have pledged generous, lasting gifts from a will or living trust, known as a charitable bequest.
“I’ve always considered (an estate) gift of some kind simply because I believe attending St. Thomas to be highest honor and highest privilege I’ve been afforded,” Bax says. “I wish every young man could participate in what I had. Both my wife Michele and I hope that whatever contribution we can make will enable the Basilian Fathers to continue their mission.”
Bax grew up in St. Christopher’s parish, moved with his family to an egg farm near Lake Houston at the end of his seventh grade, and then was “rubbing shoulders with high school classmates from across the bayou in River Oaks and from all across Houston.”
He remembers his cast of Eagles “were immediately afforded the respect of a young man but were also expected to carry the responsibilities of a young man. The Basilians were amazing in that respect. To this day it staggers me that they took more than 700 students who were nothing more than testosterone and tennis shoes and molded us into a unified disciplined group.”
From St. Thomas Bax earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1970 and his Juris Doctor in 1972 at the University of Houston, emerging as a managing partner with Hoover Bax & Slovacek where he specialized in real estate law for 23 years until resigning his partnership in December 1994 to return to ranching.
Consistent with the Basilian vision to develop faith-filled life-long learners, Bax received his master’s degree in history from Texas A&M at age 50. His fascination with the Reconstruction period inspired his debut novel The General and Monaville, the story of small-town Brazos Valley life during a time of great change in the post-slavery era. The work garnered top honors at the North Texas Book Festival and a Will Rogers Medallion Award in 2010.
Joe Bax. Scholar. Attorney. Rancher. Author. Eagle for life committed to supporting St. Thomas beyond his lifetime.
“I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the same successes had I not attended St. Thomas,” Bax says. “This school made me who I am. I sleep very well at night because the Basilians taught me how to conduct myself during the day. Not just through academics but accountability. And to this day I couldn’t be more grateful.”
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Catholic. Basilian. Teaching Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge since 1900.