For 121 years, notable St. Thomas graduates have personified the Basilian credo Teach Me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge. The most acclaimed former scholars with exceptional contributions to their professions and communities are saluted with the school’s highest alumni distinction.
On January 23, the Eagle Family will elevate five transformative leaders who have embraced the St. Thomas spirit at its best. The 16th Hall of Honor event takes place as a socially distanced, invitation only celebration in Cemo Auditorium.
Recognized for their long-lasting, significant impacts far beyond the St. Thomas campus are Raymond Bourgeois ‘70, Albert William Clay ‘61, Colonel Timothy DeWayne Gatlin ‘95, William Ferdinand Joplin ‘54, and the Most Reverend George Arthur Sheltz ‘63. The 2021 recipients reflect the broad and deep domain of a St. Thomas education and experience.
This is the second in a series.
Albert William Clay ‘61
The founder of Clay Development & Construction pioneered with his son Robert the profound re-emergence of Houston’s commercial real estate development. Their services include designing, engineering, architectural, and site planning.
As recently as 2019, the company’s aggressive industrial speculation accounted for 10 percent of the projects going up in the greater Houston region. The most recent threshold for the new development has ignited the northwest market and stretches to Port Houston and Port Freeport. The continued spiking success engulfing the company has been described as “expertise and dedication with a willingness to take risk” mixed with “careful attention to detail while enhancing relationships.” In short, “educated talent combined with hard work and an amazing ability to look into the future.”
Al Clay personified these same absolute qualities to help navigate St. Thomas through the most ambitious fundraising initiative in the institution’s storied annals which he completed with a resounding individual stroke of profound groundbreaking philanthropy.
A lasting gift that extends beyond a lifetime.
Throughout his acclaimed professional success, Clay has emphatically advocated for Catholic education and the growing needs of St. Thomas to further its objectives. In 2015, he and his wife Dona assured legacy distinction with the largest leadership gift in the school’s chronicle, donating $10 million to the 4500Forever capital campaign. Dona and Al’s remarkable generosity resulted in the naming of Clay-Storey Hall on the St. Thomas main campus. The honor united the Clays with former St. Thomas President Fr. Kevin Storey, CSB, the current Superior General of the Congregation of St. Basil.
Rare is that opportunity when individuals are positioned to carve a select slice of history. Al and Dona seized such a moment. Not for singular acclaim and appeal to vanity but to transform the St. Thomas campus environment and fortify the school’s college preparatory future. Clay’s “dream became a reality” – St. Thomas expanding its physical footprint to remain an urban educational beacon in the Basilian tradition, and continuing to meet the needs of diverse students and families well into the school’s second century.
In 2018, Dona and Al were saluted during the annual Auction & Gala for their steadfast support of St. Thomas and embodying the genuine spirit of Clay’s beloved alma mater. Their unmitigated optimism and relentless commitment redefined what was possible, proving there is nothing that can be denied. The galvanizing efforts promise to have a profound influence for generations on student life, faculty and academic performance, and life-affirming opportunities.
“When you’re in the trenches, you’re fighting for your life, another kind of life, with a fixed focus,” Clay says. “It was about reaching the goal, not taking ‘no’ for an answer, keep pushing and shoving. I always believed that making that bid (to acquire the HISD property) and raising those millions of dollars was the right thing to do because it happened. If God didn’t want that to happen, there would have been an obstacle we couldn’t have cleared.”
Clay repeatedly echoed his personal mantra throughout the 4500Forever adventure, including the night his $10 million donation was revealed to the St. Thomas family. The words have served as the guiding compass throughout a beloved life that led to his Hall of Honor acclaim.
“’To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Catholic. Basilian. Teaching Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge since 1900.