Building Tradition

November 1, 2014

In February 2015, Baylor will celebrate 170 years of growth and change and tradition. Through the generations, Baylor Bears have enjoyed places, activities, and events on campus where they found their callings, made enduring friendships, and set their courses for lifelong journeys. As Homecoming 2014 approaches, we look back over the past seven decades with great pride and appreciation for the leadership and actions that laid the foundation for Baylor’s unprecedented progress.

While there is no way to cover every interesting and significant event through each decade, we hope you enjoy a sampling of significant milestones, memories and traditions—some of which have come and gone and others that have grown stronger—that have shaped today’s Baylor experience.

If we missed one of your favorites, please share it with us at


Pat Neff Hall - 1940s

Two iconic campus buildings became part the University skyline in the 1940s. Pat Neff Hall was formally dedicated in 1940. “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” was the first song to ring out from the newly constructed tower on the eve of the ’40s—Dec. 21, 1939. The 25 tubular chimes, donated by Cullen F. Thomas of Dallas, operated until 1985 and were succeeded by the 48-bell McLane Carillon in 1988. The long-delayed Student Union Building was completed and dedicated at Homecoming 1948.

The Baylor Symphony Orchestra was organized in fall 1943 and made its debut in 1944.

dedicated pPillars honoring University founders William Tryon and James Huckins

To celebrate the Baylor Centennial in 1945, the campus dedicated pillars honoring University founders William Tryon and James Huckins, numerous live oak trees and the Founders Mall Centennial Monument, constructed of stones from Baylor buildings at the Independence and Waco campuses.

The 1945-46 Baylor men’s basketball team won the conference championship and made the Bears’ first NCAA tournament appearance.

A new Baylor fight song—today simply called “Old Fight”—made its debut in 1947. Penned by Baylor students, Dick Baker, BA ’50, and Frank Boggs, BA ’48, the song replaced the existing fight song that students found unmemorable and difficult to sing.

In fall 1948, Baylor’s official registration totaled 5,054 students—the first time enrollment had topped 5,000. The following year, Baylor graduated more than 1,000 students for the first time.

Plaque Honoring a Fallen Student

Homecoming was suspended from 1943-45 due to the war, but resumed in 1946, with activities including the dedication of 125 memorial lamp posts.

A tradition of welcoming noted public figures continued when U.S. President Harry Truman arrived in March 1947 and accepted an honorary Baylor degree.

On Jan. 1, 1949, Baylor played its first bowl game, defeating Wake Forest in the Dixie Bowl.

1949 Football Team



Dr. WJ Wimpee became the first University Chaplain in 1951.

1952 Dr Pepper Hour

Dr Pepper Hour had its origins in 1952, when the first “Coffee Hour” offered coffee and “frosted coffee” to visitors in the Student Union Building.

The decade’s biggest debut was the opening of Baylor Stadium in September 1950. New academic buildings and student residence halls opened, including Armstrong Browning Library, Tidwell Bible Building, Roxy Grove Hall, Morrison Constitution Hall, and five student residence facilities: Martin Hall, Allen Hall, Dawson Hall, Collins Hall and the Speight-Jenkins Apartments.

Baylor Traditions

Baylor’s first All University Sing took place on April 25, 1953. The inaugural Pigskin Revue would follow in October 1954.

Baylor awarded its first PhD degree in May 1954—100 years after the University granted its first-ever degree. Baylor also began programs in honors and foreign service.

Baylor’s first nationally televised football game, a victory over the Texas Longhorns 13-7, aired Nov. 6, 1954.

In 1956, Baylor was the site for the South’s first racially integrated debate tournament, with future Congresswoman Barbara Jordan as one of the competitors.

Throughout the decade, visitors to campus included evangelist Billy Graham, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, pianist Van Cliburn, actors Claude Rains, Tyrone Power, Burgess Meredith, Charlton Heston and Sandra Dee and director Cecil B. DeMille.

Throughout the decade, visitors to campus included evangelist Billy Graham, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, pianist Van Cliburn, actors Claude Rains, Tyrone Power, Burgess Meredith, Charlton Heston and Sandra Dee and director Cecil B. DeMille.



1960s Yell Leaders

Two important Baylor traditions date back to the early 1960s. Baylor yell leaders are credited with introducing the famous Sic ‘em “bear claw,” while the first Parents Weekend, now Family Weekend, was held in March 1961. About 1,000 parents attended the activities.

Baylor Students in past years

In 1961, Baylor was one of the first universities in the country to be visited by the newly formed Peace Corps. By 1965, Baylor’s tradition of service to the world was evident as 45 Baylor student volunteers were serving through the Peace Corps across the globe.

Howdy Week also made its debut in September 1962, and the popular spring campus holiday known as May Day was renamed Diadeloso (Day of the Bear) in 1966.

Baylor’s first computer arrived on campus in 1962. The massive machine, an IBM 1620, was purchased for $40,000 with funds from a donor. The first computer courses were taught in spring 1963 by Dr. Helen Ligon of the Hankamer School of Business.

In April 1967 students approved a proposal allowing women to join men as Baylor yell leaders. The first new female yell leaders—Patsy Foster, Peggy Pate and Mary Mathews—began serving in fall 1968.

A long legacy of excellence in Baylor track and field was strengthened in 1960 when the Bears captured their first Southwest Conference track championship.

On Sept 10, 1965, Baylor halfback John Westbrook became the first African American athlete to compete in a Southwest Conference sporting event.

Some of the buildings that were constructed during the 1960s included the Hankamer School of Business, Marrs McLean Science Building, Sid Richardson Science Building, Moody Memorial Library, North and South Russell Halls, Penland Hall, Waco Hall East and Russell Gymnasium.


1970s Baylor Line

The Baylor Line, a spirit organization for freshmen men, was organized in 1970 and later expanded to include freshmen women. Over the years, Baylor Line members have become an important means of marshaling Baylor spirit during home football games.

The first Welcome Week for incoming freshmen and transfers was held in August 1979.

While there were many memorable events in the 1970s, few became legend like “The Miracle on the Brazos.” That was the name given to Baylor’s unbelievable 1974 football season, which saw the Bears, led by coach Grant Teaff, capture their first Southwest Conference championship in 50 years.

1970s Outdoor Class

The Baylor Mace, a representation of our rich history, was first carried in a commencement ceremony in May 1974. The mace includes canes belonging to Rufus Burleson and Sam Houston and a sword presented to Cyrus Alexander Baylor, the brother of Judge R.E.B. Baylor, by President Andrew Jackson for bravery in battle.

The Baylor Marina opened for students and guests to enjoy water sports on the Brazos River.

Popular musical groups performing on campus included Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, The Carpenters, Captain and Tennille, Neil Sedaka, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and The Vienna Boys Choir.


In 1980, Baylor debuted its first shuttle bus system with three routes departing every 15 minutes from Moody Memorial Library.

Habitat for Humanity 1980s

The first collegiate chapter of Habitat for Humanity was formed at Baylor in 1987.

Baylor’s enrollment topped 10,000 students for the first time in 1980.

Steppin’ Out, when Baylor students, faculty and staff step out into the Waco community to perform service projects, was first held in spring 1985.

Student Foundation sponsors the first Baylor Freshman Follies in 1980.

Beloved Baylor professors Robert Reid and Ann Miller

Beloved Baylor professors Robert Reid and Ann Miller were named Baylor’s first Master Teachers in September 1982.

Students once again heard bells sound from Pat Neff Hall’s tower following the dedication of the 48-bronze-bell McLane Carillon in November 1988.

Construction projects included Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center, Wiethorn Visitors Center, Bobo Baptist Spiritual Center, Cashion Academic Center, Fifth Street Parking Facility and the Rogers Engineering and Computer Science Building. The Ferrell Center, which returned Baylor basketball and commencement ceremonies to campus, opened in 1988 with an overflow crowd to hear sitting U.S. President Ronald Reagan.



On March 13, 1992, the first baseball game under lights was played at Baylor. The Bears beat TCU 2-1.

Dr. Joe Cox received the inaugural Collins Outstanding Professor Award in May 1994.

On Feb 1, 1995, Baylor observed its 150th Birthday with a Sesquicentennial celebration, including the addition of the Sesquicentennial Walkway in Burleson Quadrangle.

Big 12 Conference

With the 1996 season, Baylor athletics began participating in the new Big 12 Conference.

On April 18, 1996, Baylor invited the public to the “Miracle on Fifth Street Dance,” held on Fifth Street in front of Burleson Quadrangle. The event officially broke the 151-year-old campus ban on dancing. President and Mrs. Robert Sloan were given the honor of the first dance.

Baylor’s engineering and computer science programs officially became the School of Engineering and Computer Science on June 1, 1995.

When Baylor scored an upset victory over Texas on Nov. 1, 1997, delirious fans pulled down one of the goal posts and carried it back to campus.

Distinguished speakers on campus

Distinguished speakers on campus featured Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former President Jimmy Carter and Gen. Colin Powell. Bill Cosby, Governors Ann Richards and George W. Bush, former FBI director William Sessions, documentarian Ken Burns and DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick also were on campus.

Baylor won its first Big 12 championship in any sport on Nov. 1, 1998, as the women’s soccer team defeated the No. 9 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers 1-0 in Waco. This was the third year for the Baylor soccer program.

New campus facilities included the Glennis McCrary Music Building, Jones Library, Speight Avenue Parking Garage, and McLane Student Life Center.

Baylor Regents voted to establish the first seminary at Baylor since the early 1900s. George W. Truett Theological Seminary held its first classes in 1994. The Baugh-Reynolds Campus opened in January 2002.



Judges Joy and Lady, the two current bear mascots, arrived on campus in the early 2000s. Joy was officially introduced in June 2001 with her biological sister, Lady, appearing in June 2002.

Baylor Traditions

Two Baylor programs celebrated 100 years. Former theater program director Paul Baker returned in June 2001 to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the University’s theater program. On Jan. 23, 2004, the Baylor School of Music celebrated 100 years of conferring music degrees.

On Nov. 29, 2001, the first Christmas on Fifth Street celebration was held at Baylor, featuring the annual KOT Christmas tree lighting.

In fall 2004, students moved into the North Village Residential Community, the first on-campus residence hall constructed in 37 years. The complex was dedicated at Homecoming.

Baylor men’s tennis clinched the University’s first NCAA title, as the second-ranked Bears rolled UCLA 4-0 in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships May 25, 2004, with Benjamin Becker taking the national individual title May 31.

On March 3, 2005, the Lady Bears basketball team beat Texas Tech 79-69 to clinch their first Big 12 regular season title outright. Then, on April 5, 2005, Coach Kim Mulkey’s Lady Bears defeated Michigan State 84-62 in Indianapolis to capture Baylor’s—and the Big 12’s—first national basketball title.

Other structures completed during the 2000s include: Getterman Softball Stadium, Baylor Ballpark, Jeanes Discovery Center of the Mayborn Museum Complex, Stacy Riddle Forum, Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, Baylor Sciences Building, Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, Ed Crenshaw Student Foundation Center, Willis Family Equestrian Center, Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility, Brooks Village, Robbins Chapel, Alwin O. and Dorothy Highers Athletics Complex and the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center, McMullen-Connally Faculty Center, Eighth Street Parking Facility, Carlile Geology Research Building and the Jay and Jenny Allison Indoor Football Practice Facility. Baylor also dedicated Baylor Park on Windmill Hill in Independence and the Immortal Ten memorial on the Waco campus.