By Anna Flagg
The shortest commute at Baylor may belong to the master and associate master of Brooks Residential College, Dr. Douglas Henry and his wife Dr. Michelle Henry.
Douglas, a great texts professor, and Michele, a choral music education professor, have lived in Brooks with their now 5-year-old son, Zachary, since Brooks opened in fall 2007.
Douglas is the master of Brooks College and Michele is the associate master. Both work to ensure that the goals of community — academic excellence and faculty-student interaction — are achieved.
When the Baylor 2012 vision was created, conversations began about building a new residential college. As the vision came together and Douglas heard plans about Brooks College, he saw it as an opportunity to lead.
“I have always been passionate about the creation of communities and this was a chance to help build a new community within Baylor,” Douglas said.
Before joining the Brooks staff, the Henrys lived in a house in Waco and cooked for a group of students weekly. Douglas said they talked as a group about the students’ futures and callings. This created a stepping-stone toward the level of involvement the Henrys would take in Brooks College.
“Living in Brooks, we have a clearer sense of the complexity of students’ lives,” Douglas said. “As professors working with students in the classroom, you see students in a very circumscribed way. In the college, we see life in all the ways that it is both glorious and challenging beyond imagination at times.”
The Henrys choose to invest in students weekly by holding a Brooks-wide teatime at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Often, there is a guest speaker that talks about what he or she does for a living and why that matters.
Some of the guests have included the mayor of Waco, the director of Mission Waco and the publisher of the Waco Tribune-Herald.
New Braunfels sophomore Spencer Bueche spoke highly of teatime.
“It is a time to be refreshed and learn, all in the comfort of a living room,” Bueche said. “The Henrys are personable and welcoming and want to get to know the students of Brooks.”
When the opportunity arose for the Henrys to move to Brooks College, they wanted to be sure that it would be a good place for their son to grow up.
Douglas said Zachary has loved the environment — the students play with Zachary even when he is spraying his water gun at them or fighting them off with his lightsaber.
Each week, a family style dinner is held for the residents of Brooks to fellowship and build community.
At the Sunday night dinners, Zachary runs around and talks to students when he is not eating.
The residents are patient with Zachary and the Henrys said they are thankful for the students’ impact on his life.
Zachary’s kindergarten teacher at Live Oak Classical Academy, Meagan Morris, boasted about his intelligence and how living at Brooks has attributed to that.
“Zachary told me a few days ago that he has read ‘The Odyssey,’” Morris said. “That is crazy considering he is in kindergarten. He loves learning and really wants to please me by doing his best work. I would definitely say that his living situation has definitely had a positive effect on him both intellectually and personality-wise.”
The Henrys said they do not have any plans to change their living situation any time soon.
“By living in Brooks, we have a richer, deeper sense of who these human beings are — these Baylor students on the cusp of life,” Douglas said. “And this has in turn given our lives more meaning.”