The extended St. Thomas Family is mourning the passing of Hall of Honor member William Fr. Joplin ‘54, a philanthropic champion who played an essential role during a transformational period of the school’s history. Joplin died August 1 at the age of 86 years old.
“In his extraordinary service to our school, Bill Joplin was a trusted, wise, and valued member of the St. Thomas community,” President Fr. James Murphy, CSB said. “He was a faithful, humble advocate who left an eternal impact on his alma mater, ensuring and enhancing the Catholic character of the institution. Our prayers are with Bill’s many loved ones and family members as we remember and celebrate his remarkable life. May God grant him eternal rest.”
Outside the insular world of Texas oil and energy, penetrating professional achievement and anonymity are not mutually exclusive.
For years Bill Joplin was a prominent presence in Houston’s defining industry and champion philanthropist while keeping a relatively low public profile. He began his exploits by partnering with his family’s Oil & Gas Supply Company. He and his brother John ‘42 then founded, operated, and sold a series of highly profitable entities – Oil & Gas Manufacturing Co., Bush Manufacturing Co., Turbines Hispano Ogasco, Inc., and Sound Optics Systems, Inc. In 1974, their confidence bursting, the brothers acquired Hutchison-Hayes International, Inc., later Hutchison-Hayes Separation, which was brokered and moved in 2008.
In November 2014, Joplin’s identity would be a mystery no more within the St. Thomas campus community. He emerged from the shadows to provide a raging wave of momentum in the final stages of the 4500Forever capital campaign. The staggering $6 million matching donation from Joplin and his wife Jane triggered a seismic shift in contributions. During 11 weeks, commitments worth more than $14 million empowered St. Thomas to close on a property acquisition that would advance future academic programs, vibrant campus life, scholarship, and creative work of consequence to the city, the state, and beyond.
At a time when St. Thomas was working to accelerate its purposeful impact in the world, Joplin thought that “very seldom in life do you have the opportunity to make a real difference. And the campaign needed someone to step up in a big way. And I said to myself, ‘I can do it.’”
Former St. Thomas President Fr. Kevin Storey, CSB, now the current Superior General of the Congregation of St. Basil, recognized in real time that 4500Forever required a thunder-bolt jolt to catapult the campaign to completion. “Bill was an answer to our prayers, no doubt about it. He guaranteed the success of the campaign.”
Vice President for Advancement Mark deTranaltes ‘83 vividly recalls that when “working with Bill, you quickly learned he was a man of action. If a challenge was presented, he would find the solution, if he couldn’t he would create one. When I look back on the events of the 4500Forever Campaign, like I would for any historical event, there were clutch moments, moments when individuals changed the course of the game. Bill and Jane provided a clutch moment in the history of St. Thomas. We will forever be grateful for their generosity and their friendship.”
Joplin was a consistent St. Thomas financial contributor for decades but never approached a commitment of such multi-million dollar proportions. He offered not a gift from generational wealth but rather a contribution inspired through self-examination, the generosity from an everyman out of gratitude rather than extravagance.
The Basilian Fathers and the St. Thomas Board of Directors acknowledged the Joplin’s far-reaching benevolence by naming the expanded footprint for the two bold and daring Eagle supporters.
In November 2020, St. Thomas was extremely proud to officially dedicate the Jane and Bill Joplin ‘54 Campus expansion. The priority project is promoting the success of Eagle scholar-athletes in competition, in the classroom, and in the community. The Joplin Campus contains four vital components, all different in their use, but all four supplying a superior training and preparation facility. The extensive renovation includes more than 20,000 square feet devoted to enhanced practice amenities and locker rooms for Eagle Basketball and Eagle Wrestling, plus a complex for strength and conditioning, and sports medicine.
The new Fr. Wilson Field is in its completion stages, serving as the next jewel among the school’s ever-expanding athletic facilities and representing one of the premier on-campus high school baseball parks in the region.
“It was a pleasure to work with Jane and Bill on 4500Forever,” deTranaltes said. “And it was even more rewarding after the frenzy of securing the new property was over to have the Joplins on campus, as we began to create a new future for Bill’s beloved St. Thomas.”
In January 2021, Joplin was saluted with the school’s highest alumni distinction. The 16th Hall of Honor event elevated Joplin among the most acclaimed former scholars with exceptional contributions to their professions and communities.
St. Thomas has never let convention limit its dreams. Especially when there’s an opportunity for bold, enterprising execution. Joplin possessed a deep passion and distinguished history of benevolence to St. Thomas. His son Richard ‘84 is continuing the family legacy, one that carries a stirring and emotional recollection.
Bill often described how during his high school years his family once faced financial stress. His father, unable to meet the next tuition payments, arrived on campus fully prepared to remove his older brother from the enrollment. The Basilians would have none of it, instructing the father to leave John in class and simply pay when the dollars became available.
The loyalty and compassion left an indelible mark embossed within Joplin to his final days. And as the Hall of Honor inductee proudly described, “that was one of the best investments St. Thomas ever made.”
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Catholic. Basilian. Teaching Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge since 1900.
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