True To Her Mission

August 24, 2004

This year, the Baylor community saw the passing of two of her most ardent supporters, Gussie and Louie Hulme. They also happened to be my parents. While having lost two of her biggest fans, the University also has in recent years gained two more supporters - my niece and nephew, Jenni and Brandon. These events, as well as my own celebration of 20-plus years as a Baylor alum, have caused me to reflect on 66 years of Baylor history. What has changed? What has stayed the same? And what do these things tell us about where we are going?

Pat Neff

Pat Neff served as the president of Baylor when my parents entered as freshmen in 1938. They remembered vividly his fiery Chapel speeches exhorting them to put out their cigarettes, stay away from dance halls and always behave in a manner that would bring honor to the Baylor name. In 1999 when I was named assistant vice president for student life, my office was in the building that bears Pat Neff's name. Every time I walked by his portrait in the foyer, I was reminded of the responsibility I had to carry on his legacy, i.e., to ensure that student behavior still mirrors the values and behaviors that bring honor to Baylor and to God's kingdom. My nephew, a freshman last year, has experienced Pat Neff a bit differently. He is fairly sure that "Patnef" is where all the ringing came from as he scurried across campus to beat his professor to his 8 a.m. religion final. In that regard, you might say that Pat Neff still is exhorting students to prayer.

Although Pat Neff no longer roams the campus instructing students to put away their cigarettes, Baylor's commitment to her core values remains strong. Faculty and staff still encourage students to maintain a lifestyle that includes honesty, a concern for others, ethical decision-making, hard work and an ability to delay immediate gratification. And yes, Baylor still has single-gender residence halls, allows no alcohol on campus or at any Baylor event, requires Chapel and even sends the men home from Collins when visitation hours are over.


Being technologically advanced for my parents meant black, rotary-dial phones and a radio. The Baylor University Handbook for Dormitory Women, 1941-1942 reads: "Telephones for local calls are found in the business office and on the second floor of Memorial and Burleson dormitories. Long-distance calls are made over only long-distance phones in each building. Long-distance calls may be made until 10:45 p.m." Twenty years ago, I was considered technologically savvy because I owned an electric typewriter and a small Panasonic TV. Last year, my nephew brought to Baylor his computer, cell phone, portable DVD player and an XBox. He functions each day on a virtually wireless campus that gives him complete access to worldwide communication. When he is not talking or text-messaging on his cell phone, he is answering e-mails from friends across the country, as well as those living 5 feet from his door in Penland Hall.

Although technology has changed the educational landscape dramatically, Baylor remains a place committed to equipping students with knowledge of the technological advances necessary to position them as leaders in their professional endeavors. The knowledge and resources may have changed since my parents' day, but their availability has not. Baylor students still are well prepared for the world beyond our boundaries.

Dr. A.J. Armstrong

My father worked as a graduate assistant for Dr. A.J. Armstrong during his tenure at Baylor. He fell in love with Elizabeth and Robert Browning as he sat spellbound by Dr. Armstrong's vast knowledge of literature. Dad's life was shaped by the books that were introduced to him by one of Baylor's great teachers. When I was a student, I spent many afternoons in the Armstrong Browning Library that bears this legendary teacher's name. Under the light that streams through the beautiful stained glass windows of the library, my spirit soared as I studied for Literature of the South with Dr. Frank Leavell and the Bible as Literature with Dr. Andy Moore. I'm fairly confident that my nephew hasn't quite made it through the doors of the Armstrong Browning Library yet, but I do know he is hoping for a quarterback this year with an arm strong.

Great teaching has always been Baylor's hallmark, and great teaching remains at the core of all we do as a University. Whether we are teaching a stats course in Hankamer or life skills on the ropes course at Eastland Lakes, Baylor's goal is education that will change a life and ultimately a generation.


My mother barely passed chemistry in the basement of the Carroll Science building. I barely passed chemistry in the second floor of the Sid Richardson building. We are all praying that my nephew will pass chemistry in the magnificent state-of-the-art science building that opened this fall. The 508,000-square-foot building will attract students and faculty from across the world to engage in the scientific realm of discovery at Baylor. This building exemplifies Baylor's historical commitment to developing facilities that support the advancement of knowledge while creating an aesthetically pleasing environment in which to study.

The battles

My father had to drop out of Baylor to fight in World War II. He, like most of his generation, was driven by a sense of duty to serve his country. Never one to brag about his accomplishments, he described his war heroics in the following manner: "During the war, I served as a pilot in the South Pacific for the U.S. Air Force, but the United States won anyway." My generation was marked by the emergence of the war on drugs; "Uncle Sam Wants You" became "Just Say No." The focus had turned from service to self. My nephew's generation, while engaged in the conflict in Iraq, seems also to be fighting the war within. More students come to the University on antidepressants and already engaged in some form of counseling. These exceptional students exemplify their high-achieving, duty-oriented generation - a generation that places a great deal of pressure on itself. Their war is being fought as they search for significance, meaning and faith in an ever-changing, relativistic world.

Baylor's deep concern for her students outside the four walls of the classroom has never changed. Whatever battle will be waged during a student's tenure at Baylor, the University continues to stand with each individual. That is the essence of the Baylor family.

Students today live in a completely different world from that of my parents and myself. They are busier, have high expectations for themselves and are faced with a proliferation of information unmatched in the 21st century. Yet, what they will find at Baylor will be essentially the same as what my parents found in 1938. They will discover a school filled with great teachers. They will learn in state-of-the art facilities equipped with cutting-edge technology. And they will understand that Baylor cares not only about their minds, but also about their hearts, their souls and their spiritual foundation.

Do I believe that Baylor is moving forward while remaining true to her mission? Absolutely.

Hulme, BSEd '82 (Baylor), MA '85 (Azusa Pacific), PhD '97 (University of Texas-Austin), returned to Baylor in 1999 as assistant vice president for student life and was named vice president in 2001.