For some, Baylor seems the natural choice

From left to right, my sister Jennifer Ryals Ramsey; her twin daughters Mallory and Meredith Ramsey; our mom Terry Terracino Ryals Newkirk; my daughter Arden McCormack and myself, Gretchen Ryals McCormack. Courtesy Photo
Back row left to right are Arden, me, my husband Sandy McCormack; and our oldest son Wes; in front are our son Brandal; and Clark, current Baylor junior.
Courtesy Photo

By Mallory Hisler

Many school traditions start freshman year at Baylor, such as Line Camp, Welcome Week, learning the stories of the Immortal Ten and running the Baylor Line with a line jersey and slime cap. Some traditions, however, start long before students even think about applying to college. Some Baylor students are born into Baylor families.

Two Baylor students, Houston siblings Clark and Arden McCormack, are examples of just that. Their older brothers, Wes and Brandal, their parents, Gretchen Ryals McCormack and Sandy McCormack, and their maternal grandmother, Terry Terracino Ryals Newkirk, all attended Baylor.

The McCormack siblings’ aunt, Jennifer Ryals Ramsey, graduated from Baylor as well, and Jennifer’s daughters (their cousins), Mallory and Meredith are both juniors at Baylor.

To top it off, Clark and Arden’s paternal grandmother also attended Baylor. Clark is a junior and Arden is a freshman.

From left to right, my sister Jennifer Ryals Ramsey; her twin daughters Mallory and Meredith Ramsey; our mom Terry Terracino Ryals Newkirk; my daughter Arden McCormack and myself, Gretchen Ryals McCormack. Courtesy Photo

Their mother, Gretchen, remembers being raised in a Baylor household, even though it was only the alma mater of one parent.

“My dad didn’t even go to Baylor, but he is what you would call an ‘alumni-by-choice,’” Gretchen said. “He had no real allegiance to his school, so he took up Baylor as his own.”

Growing up, Gretchen’s family took her to homecoming and sporting events, and when it came time for her to decide on a school, they made their opinion clear.

“When I was in high school and thinking about college, my parents said, ‘If you want to go to Baylor, we’ll pay your way. If you go anywhere else, you’re on your own,’” she said. Whether or not her parents would have followed through with what they said, Gretchen said she was glad she came to Baylor all the same. She didn’t, however, use the same approach with her children’s choice.

McCormack family tree of Baylor alumni

“Obviously, we exposed them to Baylor, but they each were drawn to Baylor for different reasons,” Gretchen said. “They came on their own.”

Both of Gretchen’s youngest children echoed her sentiment.

Arden McCormack, the youngest in the family and the last of the third generation to attend Baylor, said although her parents brought him up around Baylor culture, attending all sorts of functions at the university, she did not feel pushed to attend Baylor.

“I did look at other schools,” Arden said. “But what drew me back to Baylor didn’t have anything to do with my family. It was just the Lord having a divine plan for my life. I just knew that Baylor could help me chart my own course and decide who I am and who the Lord wants me to be.”

Arden’s brother Clark said he has fond memories of his parents bringing him back to the school where they met.

“Whether the floats, football games, Pigskin — whatever — I knew that homecoming was always a fun time,” Clark said. “Just being a part of it and knowing that I was a part of the big Baylor family was awesome.”

Gretchen said it was an easy decision for her to support her children going to Baylor, because there was so much to love about it.

“For our family, the things that we appreciate about Baylor are the strong academics, Christian heritage, Christian environment and the integrity of the university,” Gretchen said. “We just feel like it has everything to offer in a personal environment.”

Through her years as a Bear, Gretchen has noticed some changes in the university, but said she thinks its religious heritage has remained strong.

“They [Baylor] allow a lot more things. They have had to adapt and change,” she said. “I think they’ve done a great job to align with the changes in society and yet maintain their Christian background.” Arden decided the atmosphere was right for her as well, after visiting Baylor in high school.

“When I came to premiere when I was a junior, I realized that this was the place that I needed to be, and the place that was going to foster my growth and development,” Arden said. “Baylor was a place where I could build relationships for the rest of my life.”

Recently, the McCormacks made a big move to build their bond with Baylor. When Arden graduated from high school, the family sold their home in Houston and moved to Waco.

“For a number of years, we just had this draw to come back to Waco,” Gretchen said.

Gretchen and Sandy lived in Waco for the first four years of their marriage but moved to Houston before the birth of their son Wes in order to be close to Gretchen’s parents. When the last of their children graduated high school, Gretchen said they both decided it was time to return.

“We just thought, well, in future years, when we want to get together and see our kids and future grandkids, we will always have Waco,” she said.

Although some students might be apprehensive about their parents following them to school, Clark has a positive view and said he plans on continuing the Baylor legacy with his own family someday. “Now that my parents live here, it is going to be easier to bring my kids and family back,” he said, “like my parents did.”