Main Content

ACU Remembers: William R. Waugh

William R Waugh 3x4 96
William R. Waugh (’59), a talented artist and innovative businessman who founded and developed successful Taco Bueno, Casa Bonita, Casa Viva, Crystal’s Pizza, and Burger Street restaurants across the Southwest, passed away Jan. 20, 2015, in Dallas, Texas, at age 79.
A memorial service will be held at Sparkman-Hillcrest Funeral Home (7405 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas, Texas 75225) on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 10 a.m., conducted by Bill Morrow, with burial afterward at Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas. Visitation with the family will be 6-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, at the funeral home.
Waugh was born Aug. 2, 1935, in Norman, Okla., and graduated from Colorado Springs (Colo.) High School in 1953. He married Francis Vickrey in 1964.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Abilene Christian University in 1959. While at ACU he was president of the Art Club, president of Kappa Pi, vice president of Phi Delta Psi, and a member of Blue Key. In 1965 he attended the Frank J. Reilly School of Art in New York City.
With a commitment to customer service and high standards of excellence, his first venture was in the dry cleaning and laundry business, purchasing a One-Hour Martinizing franchise in 1959 and expanding it to a small chain in Texas and Oklahoma over the next eight years. Waugh’s first Taco Bueno, specializing in Tex-Mex fast-food cuisine, opened on South First Street in Abilene in 1967 and now features 176 restaurants in seven states. In Abilene he developed Tony’s Pizza Cave in 1972 into Crystal’s Pizza and Spaghetti, one of a chain of popular family-focused restaurants in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma for 35 years. He began Casa Bonita in Oklahoma City in 1968 and expanded to locations in Texas, Colorado and Arkansas. With seating for 1,100, its location near Denver was the largest Mexican food restaurant in the world, serving more than 1 million customers a year and entertaining them with cliff divers and water falls, puppet shows, mariachi bands and life-size costumed characters. Waugh sold Taco Bueno and Casa Bonita to the British food company Unigate in 1981. He founded Burger Street in 1985 in Lewisville, Texas, growing the all-drive-through concept store to 14 locations in the DFW Metroplex and four in Tulsa. The company is poised to expand over the next year in a new phase of growth.
He was board chair of Waugh Enterprises Inc., senior board chair and founder of Plaza National Bank, president and CEO of Rembrandt Antiek Gallerie, and board chair of Christian Services of the Southwest. Waugh also served as a trustee or regent of ACU, Pepperdine University, Dallas Christian School, the Hockaday School, the Dallas Salvation Army, Dallas Christian Leadership, and Heartbeat Ministries. He was a visiting lecturer for the business schools at Abilene Christian, Southern Methodist and Baylor universities.

Mabee Business Building
Mabee Business Building
“Bill had unique and remarkable gifts as an entrepreneur, artist and man of faith,” said former ACU trustee J. McDonald Williams (’63), retired chair and CEO of Trammell Crow Company. “He built nationally renowned business enterprises. He approached all of life as an artist, with an acute attention to detail, whether a new restaurant or a new business school building at ACU as chair of its campaign.”
Waugh had a special relationship with his alma mater. Besides serving as an ACU trustee (1982-98) and member of the Senior Board (1998-2007), he received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Citation in 1982, was named the College of Business Administration’s 1983 Entrepreneur of the Year, served on the COBA Dean’s Advisory Council, and was the college’s first adjunct professor of business. He also was an influential leader on planning committees for the Mabee Business Building and Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building.
“Bill’s leadership in design of those two facilities resulted in new structures at Abilene Christian, and years later, influenced the aesthetics of the Hunter Welcome Center and the Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center,” said Dr. Jack Griggs (’64), Overton Faubus Professor Emeritus of Business and former COBA dean. “He marked the campus through his capacity for thinking big and his attention to detail.”
Dr. J. William Petty (’64), former COBA dean who is now professor of finance and W.W. Caruth Chair of Entrepreneurship at Baylor University, believes Waugh deserves much of the credit for the campus aesthetics for which ACU is known today. “He had an eye for beauty and a commitment to nothing less than excellence,” Petty said. “As a result, we have a business building that will stand the test of time. ACU was never to be the same after Bill.”
“He was a gifted human being who had incredible insight into consumer behavior and customer service related to retail,” said COBA dean Dr. Rick Lytle. “Bill was always kind and gracious to me, my students on their many field trips to Dallas, and our college. He was generous to us in many ways.”
Sowell Rotunda and Chapel on the Hill
Sowell Rotunda and Chapel on the Hill
He was known for nurturing long-term relationships and grateful people spoke often of how he provided them transformational opportunities. His commitment to the growth of his employees and those around him were hallmarks of his success in business and life. Waugh donated his time and money to causes that included orphanages, learning institutes, and feeding and clothing those in need around the world. He was an involved member of Prestoncrest Church of Christ, and his honesty and integrity were beyond reproach.
“Bill was generous with his time,” said former ACU trustee Holt Lunsford (’85), CEO and president of Holt Lunsford Commercial in Dallas. “He wanted to stretch your thinking by introducing thoughts and material that inspired him, and hopefully you. I have countless articles with a cover note that says, ‘Thought you might be interested.’ It was his way of encouraging business as a mission, not just a vocation.”
The World Missions Globe inside Sowell Rotunda
The World Missions Globe inside Sowell Rotunda
Former ACU board chair Don W. Crisp (’64), CEO of Rosewood Trust Company, recalled weekend retreats Waugh helped host that brought thought leaders together to inspire the faith of his close friends. “Those opportunities changed my life. Exposure to teachers and thinkers like Dr. Lynn Anderson (D.Min. ’90), Jim McGuiggan, Landon Saunders and Stanley Shipp (’46) literally changed the way I see God and the world,” Crisp said. “Carol (Crosen ’64) and I remain so grateful to be included in those groups. Bill’s generosity has blessed so many.”
Waugh married Liwei Wang on Jan. 19, 2004.
He was preceded in death by his parents, W. Ray and Ruby Waugh. Among survivors are Liwei, his wife of 11 years; two daughters, Lisa Nicole (Waugh ’95) Miethe and her husband, John-Hayden Miethe (’95) of Franklin, Tenn.; Anna Christina (Waugh ’97) Richards and her husband, Bubba Richards of Brentwood, Tenn.; a son, Nicholas David Waugh (’97) and his wife, Robin Abigail Waugh of Franklin, Tenn.; a stepdaughter, Ya Zhou of Toronto, Canada; grandchildren Britain Avery Miethe, Elijah Daniel-King Miethe, Emerson Nicole Miethe, Favor Shalom Miethe, Ian Bray Miethe, Love Mercy Miethe, Parker Hayden Miethe, Ryan Isabella Miethe, Grayson Richards, Brayden Russiano, Campbell Russiano, Greyson Russiano, Holden Russiano, and Jonah Nicholas Waugh; and a brother, Thomas Lee Waugh (’62) and his wife, Carole Lynn Waugh of Flower Mound, Texas.
Memorials may be made online to Abilene Christian University (or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132), the Dallas Salvation Army or Dallas Christian School.