Dr Pepper unites Waco, Baylor

Photo illustration by Jed Dean | Lariat Photo Editor

By Jessica Acklen
Arts and Entertainment Editor

Few things define Waco as much as Dr Pepper does. It has been a staple in Waco since its creation where the drink was created in the 1880s.

Not only is Dr Pepper prominent in Waco, it is a fixture on campus. From Dr Pepper hour to the Dr Pepper products in the dining halls to the student organization parties often hosted at the Dr Pepper Museum, relationship between Baylor and the soft drink is evident.

“There’s a sense of identity. Definitely Dr Pepper is something for Waco to be proud of,” Matt Burchett, director of Student Activities, said. “It was founded here in the city and for [Baylor] to be a part of that I think is more than appropriate. … I think things that make Waco distinctive also make us distinctive.”

So where did this relationship between Baylor and Dr Pepper begin?

Aside from both entities’ presence in Waco for more than 130 years, the partnership between Baylor and Dr Pepper became official in 1997 when the two made a deal that Dr Pepper would be the beverage of choice at Baylor.

“More than 100 universities across the country have similar relationships with soft drink companies, but this one has special meaning for Baylor. Not only was Dr Pepper invented in Waco, Jim Turner (then-CEO of Dr Pepper) is a graduate of the university,” said then-president of Baylor Robert B. Sloan Jr. in a press conference in 1997.

Thus, Baylor entered into an agreement that solidified the relationship. Today, a mainstay on Baylor campus is Dr Pepper Hour, a tradition that only adds to that relationship.

What started originally as a weekly Coke Hour in 1953, was changed to Dr Pepper hour in 1997 following the agreement.

“It offers a time in the week for everyone in the Baylor community to come together for a few moments and have a Dr Pepper float and a conversation and just be together,” Burchett said.

With roughly 800 student, faculty and staff in attendance every week, it is one of the traditions that Burchett said defines the Baylor experience.

“I think its always going to be important for us to have a time to join together as faculty, staff and students and enjoy a Dr Pepper float and conversation,” Burchett said. “I think a lot of times our lives are so busy that we don’t get to stand around and have conversation and enjoy something simple. … It’s one of those [incentives] that make the Baylor experience … so unique and special.”

Not only does Dr Pepper unite the Baylor community, but Baylor also facilitated one of Waco’s landmark attractions — the Dr Pepper Museum.

Aside from the assistance that Baylor gave the museum by making the building available, members of the Baylor community play a role in the Dr Pepper Museum.

Baylor faculty and staff members have been members of the museum’s board of directors, said Jack McKinney, executive director. The relationship between the school and the museum doesn’t stop there.

“The other way we are involved with Baylor is through the museum studies program,” McKinney said. “Several people on the staff here, as museum professionals, graduated from Baylor and used their masters degrees and undergraduate degrees from the museum studies program.”

In addition to the full-time workers from Baylor at the Dr Pepper museum, four part-time staff members at the museum are also students in the museum studies program at Baylor.

One such student, Robin Bischof, a second-year graduate student from Bloomfield, Miss., found a job at the Dr Pepper Museum through the company’s interest in working with Baylor students.

“When I was a first year graduate student looking for a job, one of my professors was like, ‘One of my former students works at the Dr Pepper Museum and she’s offering a job in collections,’ and so I applied for it and got the job,” Bischof said. “Evidently Dr Pepper was really interested in kind of helping the Baylor graduate students and giving them positions to work on collections specifically.”

Bischof said a number of her superiors are Baylor graduates and members of the Baylor family.

Both Bischof and McKinney said they believe the Dr Pepper Museum is an attraction for Waco visitors — students and parents alike, a possible party venue for Baylor students and a way to engage in Waco’s history.

“I think [the Dr Pepper Museum] is a very interesting place. It’s part of Waco history, if you really want to know about Waco,” Bischof said.

“When it’s Parents Weekend, those parents show up after you’ve been in school six weeks and students think, ‘Gosh, what am I going to do with mom and dad now that they’re here?’ You can walk around campus, but the Dr Pepper Museum is a great place to take the parents to show them something about Waco. … We’re really one of the unique things about Waco, because Dr Pepper was invented here. It’s a piece of history,” McKinney said.

With the Dr Pepper Museum and Dr Pepper Hour, the soft drink is a tradition that current students and graduates can share.

“[Dr Pepper Hour is] something that we share together, that connects us to one another that isn’t anywhere else in the country,” Burchett said. “We’re the one place that has Dr Pepper Hour. That’s really unique for us, because if you mention that to a Baylor alumni, no matter what generation they are a part of, whether it’s 1953 to present, we all know what [Dr Pepper Hour] is and we can share that. We share not only what it is, but where it is.”