By Megan San Miguel | Contributor
For 86-year-old Jere Kernodle Baylor University’s homecoming is one of the most memorable times of the year. Kernodle, who graduated from the Hankamer School of Business in1954, has attended the eventful weekend nearly every year over the last 64 years.
Driving nearly nine hours from Wynne, Arkansas, Kernodle has only missed four homecomings since graduating from Baylor. The first year that he missed was due to military deployment, followed by the birth of two of his children and his wife’s passing in 2015, he said.
Kernodle transferred to Baylor after attending a Catholic junior college. He expressed his love for football and desire to attend a Southwest Conference school. Kernodle wanted to attend a college where he could take religion classes and had originally looked into Southern Methodist University.
In the end, he said Baylor won his heart.
“It’s just the friendliness of the student body, the professors. It always has been outstanding,” Kernodle said. “I’ve been devoted to that kind of friendliness.”
Since graduation, Kernodle has maintained relationships with people he befriended while attending Baylor. He often planned his family vacations around Baylor’s homecoming.
“Baylor hasn’t changed so much that you can’t keep up with people,” Kernodle said. “I called and talked to two of my roommates after the game on Saturday. We used to all sit together at the parade in front of Penland. Two of my roommates ended up in Dallas, and we correspond with Christmas cards. But there’s getting less and less of us as we get older.”
Some of the memories Kernodle said he cherishes the most is bringing his children to homecoming and dressing them up.
“Sometimes we would have to find a babysitter,’ Kernodle said. “One time we left them in Russell Hall with some girls who were not going to the game.”
In recent years, Baylor has replaced the Floyd Casey Stadium with the brand new state-of-the art McLane Stadium. Aside from bigger parking lots, remodeled structures and the new Hankamer and Baylor Sciences buildings, the university still has ongoing construction projects. Kernodle still remembers when the business school was on the third floor of the SUB, he said. He is amazed at how much the campus has changed since the 1950s.
“Ironically, when I was there, everything was easily in walking distance,” said Kernodle. “You didn’t need a bicycle. You didn’t have to go far. You could sleep late and leave at 7:30 and make it to your 8:00 class. Back then, we knew all the students faces and names. It just blows my mind how hard it would be now to learn all the names of the freshman class because it’s so big.”
These days, Kernodle makes the drive back to campus alone.
Both of Kernodle’s daughters graduated from Baylor and married Baylor graduates. One of Kernodle’s sons spent a year and a semester at Baylor studying medicine before transferring elsewhere after changing his major to architecture. Though he left, Kernodle’s son has maintained the relationships he made at Baylor and comes back often. Kernodle’s granddaughter Kamille, graduated from Baylor in 2015. As result, he said, homecoming still serves as a family reunion of sorts and now his grandchildren and great grandchildren get to join in.
“Our love for Baylor runs deep and there’s never a time on campus or in Waco when we want to leave,” Kamille said. “We always swap our stories from both our times at Baylor, and I try to update my grandfather on what current students are up to. I’m so lucky to spend all this time with him on the grounds of a university we both love, and the memories we’ve made and will continue to make are ones I will cherish forever.”