By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer, Video by Grace Smith | Broadcast Reporter
The Baylor fight song was heard loud and clear from the corner of Interstate 35 and University Parks Drive Friday afternoon. The groundbreaking ceremony of the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center was celebrated in true Baylor fashion.
President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., the Hurd family, Baylor Board of Regents and other Baylor faculty were welcomed to the future site of the welcome center by ambassadors of Baylor: the spirit squads, the Golden Wave band, the tennis team and other student organizations.
Mark and Paula Hurd’s lead gift last year to Give Light: The Campaign for Baylor, the University’s $1.1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign, allowed the opportunity to make a “new front door to campus” a reality.
Livingstone said she was grateful for the Hurd family as co-chairs to the campaign.
Livingstone said, “they embraced the opportunity fully to be leaders within the Baylor family for what was going to be a historic fundraising campaign.”
The ceremony also honored the late Mark Hurd, Baylor alum and former vice chair of the Board of Regents, Hurd’s generosity reflected his passion and commitment to the university’s future and the welcome center is planned to be a reminder of that from now on.
Honorary alumna, Paula Hurd explained their families’ decision to support the campaign.
“We chose to invest in the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center because we believe this facility will do more than just transform the physical space on Baylor’s campus. We believe that it will transform the experience of Baylor’s future students,” Hurd said. “It will be a welcoming space where prospective students and guests can dream big about finding a home with Baylor.”
With over 60,0000 visitors to Baylor’s campus every year, those being prospective students and families, alumni, friends and parents of students, Livingstone said the welcome center is a significant need and a new way to represent the University to visitors.
It will combine the visit and admissions experiences for students who are considering Baylor as their home in a “high-tech and interactive way.” A restaurant, spirit shop, ballroom and additional businesses around the building will make it a travel and visitor center for not only the university but Waco as well.
The ceremonial “overturning of the dirt” was done by Livingstone, the Hurd family and chair Jerry Clements in nothing other than green sand to close out the ceremony.
Afterwards, Livingstone answered questions about the welcome center. She said her favorite part of the building is a special feature that “illuminates” Baylor’s past and future.
“I really love the light pillars that are in the building. They’re so dramatic, and they are such a wonderful representation of the past, the pillars at Independence, and the colors that you see on the rest of our campus that acknowledge the wonderful history of Baylor,” Livingstone said. “They also map out our four pillars in our illuminate strategic plan that are also about the future of Baylor and where we’re going.”
Construction on the welcome center is expected to begin this spring in hopes to finish in spring 2022. This is the newest infrastructure addition to Baylor since McLane Stadium opened in 2014, followed by the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation in 2015.