William Henry Dietz, Jr.

By Charis Dietz

Festival on the Brazos Ambassador 2023

Pictured: Photo by Doug Fitzjarrell

William “Bill” Henry Dietz, Jr. will serve as Ambassador at the 53rd annual Festival on the Brazos taking place on Friday, April 28, at University High Performing Arts Center. As a fifth-generation Wacoan who cherished the opportunity to raise his own children in Waco, Dietz feels honored to represent the city and community he loves throughout the festival weekend.

“Waco is such an encouraging community, and I feel lucky to call it my hometown. The deep, multigenerational relationships we are blessed to experience here foster an environment where people genuinely care about and look out for one another,” Dietz said. “This community has nurtured my family for generations, and it has shaped and molded me personally in significant ways over my lifetime. I’m very touched and humbled to represent and celebrate Waco in this way.”

Serving as the Festival on the Brazos Ambassador is meaningful to Bill for another reason. He is the first third-generation person to be honored with this distinction. In years past, both his grandfather, Henry Dietz, and father, William “Bill” Henry Dietz, were named King of Waco Cotton Palace, as the title and event were formerly called.

Both Bill and his wife, Elizabeth Dietz, enjoyed participating in the weekend festivities as seniors in high school, Bill as a Royal Escort, and Elizabeth as Maid of Honor. Elizabeth, also a fifth-generation Wacoan, began volunteering with the organization in 1995 and has served as Chair of various committees for nine of those years. She was also a Royal Attendant as a little girl. Their two sons, Liam and Alex Dietz, were Royal Attendants as children and then Royal Escorts in recent years.

Along with sharing Festival traditions, there have been countless aspects of growing up and raising his own family in a community-centric city like Waco that Dietz has treasured.

“I have these idyllic memories of our Waco neighborhood when I was a child. I would spend so much time with all of the neighborhood kids, from exploring the woods behind our houses to waiting excitedly for the ice cream truck to arrive in the afternoon,” Dietz reminisced. “Those memories sort of set my expectations for the kind of neighborhood and community I wanted for my own children, and I think that’s part of the reason Elizabeth and I decided to make Waco our home as adults. Having a strong, foundational sense of home is something from which we benefit all our lives.”

Dietz moved to Jacksonville, Texas and spent several years of his childhood there before moving back to Waco the summer before his junior year. He graduated from Waco High School, where he was able to connect with his family roots in special ways like playing football on the same field that his father had in high school, Paul Tyson Field. Waco High School is also where he continued to develop what would become a lifelong love of music and theatre, performing roles like Billy Bigelow in “Carousel” and Black Elk in “Black Elk Speaks,” among others.

His love for performing arts continued at his alma mater, Baylor University, where he was a member of the song and dance ensemble, Baylor Showtime! for a number of years, and where he served as his fraternity’s All-University Sing Chairman. He later performed professionally in venues such as the Crazy Horse Saloon at Six Flags Over Texas.

“One of the reasons I think theatre and music are so enriching is that they give both the performer and the audience member the opportunity to step outside their own lives into someone else’s shoes who may be living and experiencing things in another way,” Dietz said. “The performing arts have the potential to expand your perspective with regard to different people, different situations and life in general.”

Over the years, Dietz has found a myriad of ways to engage in and support performing arts in Waco and around the state. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Waco Civic Theatre, the Lyric Opera of Waco, Friends of Baylor Fine Arts and the Waco Symphony Orchestra where he and Elizabeth are Patron Members. Bill currently serves as a Board Member for Amphibian Stage in Fort Worth, and, on more than one occasion, he has had the opportunity to join the Dallas Museum of Art for dramatic readings and presentations. He has also enjoyed participating in the Waco Civic Chorus, the Central Texas Choral Society and in past performances with Waco Summer Musicals and Waco Civic Theatre, portraying characters like Michael in the musical comedy, “I Do! I Do!”

This pastime has included telling the story of Waco by serving as both Production Advisor and Narrator for Festival on the Brazos for the past 15 years. Not only have these roles allowed him to introduce visitors — and hometown folks alike — to Waco’s unique and colorful history, but they’ve also allowed him to keep his artistic sensibilities engaged during the many years when building a business, taking on numerous community leadership roles and staying busy with his kids’ activities kept life a little too full for extracurricular artistic endeavors.

Professionally, Dietz is President of Dietz Financial Services, LLC.

“I saw my dad and my grandfather develop businesses and build lives for themselves and their families in the Waco community, and I wanted to find a way to do that,” he said. “I used to want to be a doctor so I could help people physically, but a Personal Finance class I took while majoring in business at Baylor gave me the insight that helping people with the financial aspect of their lives could be just as impactful.”

Bill is a graduate of the Securities Industry Institute at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He is a member of the national Financial Services Institute, and he served on the Board of Directors and as President of the Heart of Texas Estate Planning Council. In 2009, Governor Rick Perry appointed Dietz to serve on the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC) Board of Directors. In 2018, after chairing the Audit Committee and serving as vice president, he was appointed Chair of the Corporation by Governor Greg Abbott.

Dietz views his service on the TSAHC Board of Directors as an extension of his desire to help people with the foundational financial elements of their lives.

“Having a place to call home is fundamental to being able to be a contributing member of society,” Dietz said. “At the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation, we work to ensure that every Texan has an opportunity to live in decent and affordable housing.”

Locally, Dietz has enjoyed serving on the Board of Directors for the Rotary Club of Waco and continues to be a Rotarian. For the City of Waco, he has served on the Animal Welfare Advisory Board and chaired the Zoning Board of Adjustments. Dietz has also served on the Vestry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where he and Elizabeth were married 28 years ago, and as Treasurer for St. Paul’s Episcopal School Board of Trustees.

One of Bill’s greatest joys in life has been to share some of the activities that enriched his own childhood with his sons and their peers in the community, Scouting being chief among these.

“There is something about the relationships you build and the learning you do in an outdoor environment that tends to last a lifetime,” Dietz, who is still close friends with his own Scoutmaster and many of the boys with whom he spent his years in Scouting, said. “You’re working together to accomplish common goals and you have to learn to rely on one another. You learn so much about yourself, about each other and ultimately, about God. Those lessons have stayed with me from my own years in Scouting. And it has meant so much to be able to bring those experiences to boys in the Waco community over the years.”

Dietz served as Cubmaster and then Assistant Scoutmaster for a total of 14 years for Boy Scouts of America’s Pack 308 and Troop 308 of Waco. He was awarded both the Unit Leader Award of Merit and the District Award of Merit in recognition of his commitment to youth in Scouting, having also completed Scouting’s premier leadership training course, Wood Badge, and served as District Chair for the Heart O’ Texas District.

Most meaningful to him from these years of leadership in Scouts, Dietz said, has been the opportunity to “walk alongside these young men on their path to adulthood.” It has been deeply gratifying for him to see members of his Troop, including his own two sons, go on to achieve the distinction of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Scouting.

With both of his sons away at college these days, Bill is once again enjoying theatre performance as an avocation, most recently through roles in three different productions with Silent House Theatre Company, a young but burgeoning professional theatre group which launched in 2020.

“Waco has always been a thriving place for cultural and performing arts, and the arts scene here has truly exploded in the last several years,” Dietz said. “But being able to pay performers, which is what Silent House aspires to do, will provide a whole new level of opportunity for professional actors who want to develop their career while still getting to live in a caring, intimate community like Waco.”

Rich and diverse opportunities within a warm and welcoming community — it’s a rare and dynamic combination for any city. And it’s one of the many reasons Dietz himself is so proud to call Waco home.