Brooks Brothers

December 4, 2006

As a resident of Brooks Hall, Kit Jackson was there to search out the ghosts of the Fifth Floor, and he was there to steal the Eternal Flame from its guardians at Homecoming in 2005. 
Now the Beaumont sophomore and other former Brooks men are eager to revive the spirit of the University dormitory when it returns, new and improved, as the Brooks Village Complex.
"I want to keep the Brooks feeling; everybody felt like family," Jackson says. "We did everything together."
For Jackson, and others in the Brooks tradition, 'everything' included the time-honored task of seizing the Eternal Flame, which symbolizes the passing down of Baylor traditions, from its freshman defenders during Homecoming week, only to return it in time for the weekend's big events. It also included a mock funeral, held last spring, to remember the old building before it was demolished.
"Just bringing Brooks together to do something, that's always fun," says Arlington junior Moses George, who spoke at the funeral for the 85-year-old men's dormitory. "We did have the best community on campus."
George attributes the camaraderie in large part to a leadership that prayed with and for Brooks Hall residents on a regular basis.
Part of what made Brooks Hall a memorable and enviable place to live, he says, was the diversity roaming the halls. He hopes to see that same diversity alive and influencing the next generation of residents.
"I think that's what Campus Living & Learning is trying to do," George says. "We want community, but in an environment that is second to none."
George's sentiment has been echoed by other former residents of Brooks, like Donald Jackson, a junior who hopes to see the Brooks life he experienced restored within the redesigned housing complex.
Donald Jackson says while no single memory he has can define the character of Brooks men, that character is evident in the way students spent time together.
"Brooks is a definition unto itself, and the reason was because of the people who lived there. It was an awesome group of people at the right time."
Houston junior Joshua Garraway says the vision for a new Brooks Village was not only adopted by its residents but is, in a way, a product of the community.
"Everyone that's lived in Brooks feels a bit of ownership," Garraway says. "Dr. (Frank) Shushok let us take ownership."
Because of that strong tie, Garraway hopes the men who represent the spirit of the old Brooks will get the first chance to reserve spaces in the new units next fall.
"I think a lot of the old residents are coming back. (The college) is new, but it isn't. And it was their dream, too." 
The dream of the new Brooks complex is quickly becoming a visible reality, says Shushok, dean for student learning and engagement.
"We are on the tightest of timelines," Shushok says. "But we are on schedule and it is going well."
By late fall, he expects much of the structure that comprises Brooks Residential Flats will be erected on the old site, near Kokernot Hall women's dormitory and across from Pat Neff Hall, while the Residential College continues to emerge.
The college itself represents the most marked change in the way Baylor has combined living and learning on campus since implementing Vision 2012. The North Village, near the School of Engineering and Computer Science, was its predecessor in putting students and faculty in a communal setting.
The Residential College will retain some traditional elements of the original such as the keystone, the arch and the bust of Samuel Palmer Brooks, the former Baylor president for whom the hall was named.
The college's interior is much different from the old Brooks Hall, which separated students through a series of stairwells and clusters of rooms.
The Great Hall and chapel, for example, reflect the University's desire to keep students and professors in close contact with one another. Students will have the opportunity to dine with their entire community each Sunday evening.
"It is a return to an idea that was fundamental to the Baylor founders in 1845," Shushok says, "and one that is centered on chance encounters."
Shushok believes that the more present students are on campus, particularly in the company of professors and students within their own disciplines, the more those relationships are strengthened.
"Most critical of all (in the Brooks vision) is that Baylor is very interested in student learning; what we know is that students who live on campus engage in different and more powerful ways than those who don't," he says.
As an example of the communion of living and learning, Brooks' newly appointed faculty master, Dr. Doug Henry, will live with his wife and young son in the college.
Henry serves assistant professor of philosophy and director for the Institute for Faith and Learning. His wife, Michele, is an associate professor of music education.
"I am very excited," Henry says of the college's offerings. "It builds upon a deeply cherished legacy of Samuel Palmer Brooks, and I think it is a wholly fitting way to sustain that legacy."
He adds that the college seeks to provide a place where students aren't simply anonymous, where they "can't be lost in the crowd."
"It enables us to communicate to students that we care about all of their life. My hope is that we can in time provide ... an intense, intellectual experience for all our students -- that Brooks will be the first in a series (of residential colleges) on campus."
The college is open to men and women of every major around the university, in hopes that students who are biology majors might find themselves engaging in meaningful discussions with political science majors. 
Spaces for the Brooks Residential Flats are offered on a first-come, first-served basis beginning with upperclassmen who currently live on campus, Shushok says. Spaces at Brooks College will be offered through an admissions process first, then any remaining spots will be filled by first-come, first-served request. 
The goal for the division of students in Brooks College is 60 percent upperclassmen and 40 percent incoming students.
Arlington junior Gary Guadagnolo is just one more Brooks admirer hoping to be part of that opportunity for engagement.
Though not a former resident, Guadagnolo has been drawn to the spirit of the Brooks community, and he is eager to be part of a place that will integrate living and learning in much the same way residential colleges have done for decades at schools like Oxford and Harvard Universities.
"Brooks College specifically offers the opportunity to combine the things that I am most passionate about," Guadagnolo says. "I think it will provide another way to maximize the Baylor experience."
He believes the concept of the new Brooks reflects the University's desire to gather a diverse student population under one roof, and that it can become a place where residents have meaningful discussions about how faith and learning work together.
"It's also a place where a ton of fun can happen," he says.