By Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer
From the massive bonfire on Fountain Mall to the roaring fans at McLane Stadium, Baylor homecoming is an incredible outpouring of Baylor spirit from students, alumni, faculty and anyone who has come to call Baylor home.
Being a part of the Baylor family means something different to everyone — from faculty and staff, who consider Baylor a component of their calling; to past and present students, whose life paths were shaped by their time at the university; to President Linda Livingstone, who is leading the university, at a formative time. Homecoming is about finding where each member of the Baylor family fits and celebrating that. It’s about coming home.
Members of the good old Baylor Line will be reunited once again in the nation’s oldest and largest collegiate homecoming parade, but what does it actually mean to “fling our Green and Gold afar” and what happens if the “ways of time” grow dim?
For members of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, active involvement in the university’s traditions and faith keeps the Baylor spirit thriving. Nearly finished with her first semester at Baylor, one freshman student said she believed the Baylor spirit was about putting faith into action. And, for one graduating senior, the Baylor spirit is about shared experiences and education that in turn, empowers people to serve others.
Founded nearly 100 years ago, Baylor Chamber was established with the purpose of keeping the university’s traditions alive. In addition to leading the Baylor Line and caring for live mascots Lady and Joy, Chamber organizes homecoming, Diadeloso, Family Weekend and Traditions Rally.
“We’ve been a university for a really long time. We have a rich history and our Christian faith kind of unite us together even stronger,” Missouri City junior and Chamber homecoming parade chairman Audrey Hermes said.
For Hermes, Baylor spirit is a genuine and true love for Baylor and its history. Likewise, Sherman senior Ben Bailey, the Baylor Chamber homecoming chairman, said he believes the Baylor spirit first begins with a love for the school.
“I think what makes Baylor different is that it definitely includes a large service aspect. A lot of that will come from the Christian faith,” Bailey said. “Not only is it just a love for the school and the community, but it’s that love applied through service.”
Bailey has attended Baylor homecoming since he was a little kid, and he recalled that most of his memories from childhood were connected to homecoming. As a member, and now a leader in Chamber, Bailey said it has been neat creating experiences for others to enjoy.
“You could call it a sacrifice, but it’s not one that we’re not giving willingly,” Bailey said. “As far as grades, sometimes with the rest of my Baylor experience they do suffer a bit when Chamber picks up, but that’s a choice I’ve made. I think that the experiences I’m getting here are worth a couple points off a test here and there.”
Hermes said one of Chamber’s mottos is “Anything for Baylor.” She said it has been rewarding to serve the university through Chamber and to strive to make Baylor a better place for everyone on campus. If one Baylor student realizes Baylor is home because of the work Chamber put into homecoming, then Hermes said all the work would have been worth it.
“To us, I think homecoming isn’t so much about seeing the bonfire and the fireworks and the parade as it is making sure everyone else sees it and everyone else enjoys it,” Bailey said.
While Chamber works diligently to ensure that Baylor and Waco communities engage with and enjoy Baylor’s traditions, Bailey said he thinks sometimes it is easy to feel apathetic toward Baylor if the traditions are something someone feels they have no personal stake in.
“If you just show up to them, it’s easy to feel like they’re for someone else, but if you can find ways to participate, even if it’s just a small thing, even if it’s just helping with an entry in the parade,” Bailey said. “It doesn’t have to be anything big but any amount of involvement I think with any of the traditions at Baylor kind of helps to keep that spark alive.”
Hermes said everyone interacts with homecoming differently. Whether it’s building a float or participating in the parade, being an Immortal Ten member, attending the bonfire or striping McLane Stadium, Hermes said homecoming means something different to everyone.
To keep the traditions alive, it’s important to find ways to invest in them and make them personally meaningful. If individuals feel more involved, Bailey believes they’re going to care more about taking part in the traditions.
For those who might equate Baylor spirit with football program success, Hermes reiterated that Baylor’s history and Christian faith are what unite the Baylor community together.
“Even in times where our football program is not successful, I think the Baylor spirit is alive and strong,” Hermes said. “I think we’re united by more than our athletics program.”
Hermes said the football games are still fun to attend and that the team doesn’t necessarily have to win for students to enjoy their time at Baylor. Besides, there’s still the Baylor Line, Hermes said.
Coppell freshman Hannah Scholz said Baylor’s caring community was one reason she chose to attend.
“I know a lot of schools say they have a really close community but with Baylor you actually see it in action. You sort of feel it when you come to visit,” Scholz said.
Scholz said she believed the Baylor community is one where faith plays an active role.
“You can definitely see that [faith] and that influences how they [Baylor community] act in other areas of their life. They’re very loyal and they’re very proactive,” Scholz said. “They’ll find something that matters to them and they will go and pursue it. So I’d say they’re definitely very loyal and caring and kind and they’re kind of go-getters.”
Haslet senior Jared DeVries described his time at Baylor as a puzzle. DeVries said when he began his freshman year, he thought the puzzle was pretty much together, but soon realized there were pieces that weren’t fitting. All the pieces were there, DeVries said, but it was just kind of incomplete.
“The friends I’ve met, the things that have happened, the experiences, it’s come together in a way. Now I’m seeing the pieces fit perfectly and now, as a senior graduating I feel like, ‘alright, now I see the picture,’” DeVries said.
DeVries said he came to Baylor not really knowing what to expect. He said all his family went to the University of North Texas, so he wasn’t sure what the “typical Baylor experience” was. DeVries said he has come to learn that being a part of the Baylor community means being rooted in a strong foundation.
“I think God plants you in a place where there’s good soil, and sometimes it might not be good soil, but I feel like as long as you are able to work the field and prepare … you can’t control the weather, you can’t decide when it’s going to rain or not. It’s going to be cloudy some days, but if you work the field, then when it does rain and when it does shine, you’re going to grow,” DeVries said. “I feel like when you grow, nothing really stops you from growing. That’s what I’ve kind of believed in and that’s what’s helped me get through. At Baylor, you’re planted in good soil.”
For DeVries, Baylor spirit means seeing people you attended Line Camp with three years later and still smiling at them, knowing you have that shared experience and bond.
Or maybe it’s those late nights at Moody, DeVries said, when you look across the table and see some friends you haven’t spoken with in a while from a club or a class and you recognize that struggle you went through with them.
“I feel like community is one main thing that’s keeping everything together, making sure people are helped and giving them the agency to make the choices they’d like to make,” DeVries said. “I feel like Baylor has given me the agency to make an impact.”
Being a part of the Baylor community is special, DeVries said, because it means having confidence your colleagues received the same education and understand their responsibility to help and to extend their knowledge to others in a way that benefits everyone.
“When you come to Baylor, it’s nice to know that you become networked into this fraternity of like-minded people who want to serve and want to help. I’m encouraged by that daily,” DeVries said.