The Heart of Campus

Carroll Science made its Hollywood debut 16 years ago

By Kalli Damschen | Lariat Reporter

The Carroll Science Building may not have its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but the historic building did make a big-screen debut at the beginning of the early 2000s.

The building made an appearance in a scene of the feature film “Where the Heart Is.” The movie was released in April 2000 and starred Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing and Joan Cusack.

In 1999 the film’s co-producer Susan Cartsonis told the Lariat that the producers chose to film the second-to-last shot at Baylor University because the campus’ old-fashioned red-brick buildings are reminiscent of New England universities, which is the look they were trying to duplicate.

A number of Baylor students also got to be extras in the movie, and according to Lariat archives by reporter Sarah Scheck, the extras were filmed leaving Carroll Science Building, talking with friends and walking around campus.

Roxanne Wilson was one of the students who was featured in the movie. Wilson graduated from Baylor in 2000 with a bachelor of business administration in economics. Since graduating, Wilson has been an appellate attorney, a television host for the Liquidation Channel, a contestant on the NBC reality show “The Apprentice” and a Jazzercise franchisee.

“Word of the filming traveled quickly, and they had a casting call of sorts,” Wilson said. “No one knew much except that the girl from the ‘The Professional’ was doing a movie about a single mother having a baby in Wal-Mart. We were a little surprised that Baylor said yes, but also a little impressed and confident that the overall message of the movie was good.”

Wilson recalled how the Burleson Quadrangle was packed with students during the filming­ — some on bikes and some walking while they carried their books or backpacks. Meanwhile, Natalie Portman’s character was looking for her character’s love interest, played by James Frain, who was standing on the steps of the Carroll Science Building.

“We were sweating, but we had so much fun,” Wilson said. “It was definitely a bonding moment for all the students. From the pre-meeting to the day shoot, everyone was really excited.”

Wilson said she never got the opportunity to meet Portman, but the famous actress did walk past Wilson.

When “Where the Heart Is” came out, Baylor rented out a movie theater so all of the extras could attend the screening.

“The Baylor scenes are at the very end of the movie,” Wilson said. “When Baylor hit the screen, we all cheered. I did make the film, which made it even more exciting.”

Although the Carroll Science Building had its Hollywood debut in 2000, it has been an important building on Baylor’s campus for over a hundred years.

Lois Ferguson, manager of commencement and facilities planning, said Carroll Science was one of the four original buildings on Baylor campus. The three others are Old Main, Burleson Hall and Carroll Library. Carroll Science was built when F.L. Carroll and his son, George W. Carroll, made two $75,000 donations to the university in the fall of 1900.

“At that time, they were the largest donations that had been made to a college in the state,” Ferguson said.

The Carroll Science Building was record-breaking in another way. Ferguson said that when the building was finished in 1903, it had the most science classrooms and lab space for any building of the time in the entire state of Texas.

Carroll Science housed the sciences from the time it was built until the department outgrew the building. Ferguson said the university then raised funds and was given donations to build Marrs McLean Science Building, which housed chemistry and physics, and Sid Richardson Building for biology, geology, mathematics and physics.

Carroll Science is the only one of these buildings that is still commonly referred to as a science building, even though the building has been home to the English department since the interior was remodeled during the 1970s, according to the Baylor Alumni Association website.

“We may change the occupants, but we don’t change the names of buildings,” Ferguson said. “For instance, Marrs McLean Science Building and Sid Rich Science Building. Those are still technically the names of the buildings. We may just drop the name “science” on Marrs McLean and Sid Rich, which is effectively what we did, but that never happened with Carroll Science Building. It’s an old, long-standing tradition that it just never dropped.”

Ferguson said it was when Carroll Science was remodeled that the building’s distinctive great stairwells and beautiful woodwork were added, though the exterior of the building remains much as it was built at the start of the 20th century.

“That’s one of the very, very special things at Baylor. We honor the past by preserving the past, and having those buildings continue to stand is one of them,” Ferguson said.