Longtime benefactor Tom Benson, who jump-started the University of the Incarnate Word’s football program, and baseball star Matt Seale are the Class of 2013 for UIW’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
The induction of Benson and Seale will come at halftime of the Cardinals’ Sept. 28 home football game. Their election by the UIW
Hall of Fame selection committee brings to 20 the number of athletes, coaches and administrators named since 2005 when the hall was initiated.
Benson, a longtime supporter of Incarnate Word and education as a whole, and his wife, Gayle, were among the moving influences behind initiation of the UIW football program. Ground was broken in April 2007 for Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium and field house on campus. The football Cardinals played their first game at Benson Stadium in August of 2009 and this fall will mark the fifth season of action for UIW.
In addition to the financial investment in Cardinals athletics, the Benson family endowed the Tom Benson Chair of Banking and Finance at UIW back in 1985.
That same year Benson became principal owner of the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints and in 2010 the club won its first world championship at Super Bowl XLIV. The Saints have established such a winning tradition that since 2006 the New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome has been sold out with a season ticket waiting list of more than 73,000 fans.
Additionally the Benson organization now owns the New Orleans Pelicans of the National Basketball Association, a purchase made in June 2012.
The Benson family’s dedication to Greater New Orleans and to the Gulf South region is legendary particularly since 2005 when the area suffered through Hurricane Katrina. Since that time the Saints organization annually has infused more than $15 million into the region in the form of charitable contributions. Because of his efforts here Benson received the Volunteers of America Good Samaritan Award in Philanthropy.
Benson’s memberships in halls of fame are impressive. In addition to the UIW Athletic Hall of Fame, previously he has been inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame (2012), Greater New Orleans chapter of the Achievement Business Hall of Fame (2013), San Antonio Business Hall of Fame (2011), and Texas Business Hall of Fame (2007).
In addition to his support of Incarnate Word, Benson is an ardent backer of his own alma mater, Loyola University in New Orleans, as well as San Antonio’s Central Catholic High School, New Orleans’ Brother Martin High School, and Tulane University.
In 2012 the Bensons received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award from Pope Benedict XVI. That same year he was awarded an Oblate Doctor of Human Letters by the Catholic Church.
Seale, the former baseballer, completed his four years of baseball action at Incarnate Word in the spring of 2006. Between then and his selection for the UIW Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013, seven seasons elapsed for the Cardinals and he continued to hold eight school records. He was second in two more and third in another two categories.
To date no one player at UIW has surpassed his games played (221) in his career, or the 59 games he played in the single season of 2006. Also he is the UIW leader for career at-bats (805), at-bats in a single game (7, twice), career doubles (56) and doubles in a single game (3).
Continuing with his record-setting run for the Cardinals, Seale holds the marks for career runs batted in (193), and career sacrifices (23). His career runs (198) are second and his career hits (286) likewise are second.
Over his four seasons at UIW the Cardinals were a cumulative 144-84 for a winning percentage of .632. Twice UIW and Seale won conference championships and once won the conference tournament. And two times the Cardinals advanced to the regional tournament reaching the title game in 2006. He was named to the regional all-tournament squad that spring.
In 2005 he was voted All-America by the National College Baseball Writers Association after being named All-South Central Region by that same group of voters. And that spring he was the Heartland Conference Player of the Year.
Seale was successful in the classroom also. Two years, 2005 and 2006, he was on the Heartland Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll. He received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from UIW in 2007.
A native of the Austin area, Seale is back in that city working as a senior personal banker with Frost Bank. He manages portfolios for more than 150 clients and he was named top sales performer for both 2010 and 2011.
His love of baseball has not receded since his days at Incarnate Word. In Austin he is active in the Men’s Senior Baseball League and he has been a volunteer for the construction of baseball diamonds in the area.