Judge Lady celebrates graduation alongside seniors

Graduating seniors give a send-off to Judge Lady. Assoah Ndomo | Photographer

By Olivia Turner | Staff Writer, JESSICA RAJKUMAR | LTVN Reporter

Graduating seniors and other students alike swarmed the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat on a sunny Tuesday afternoon to attend a graduation party for one of Baylor’s most beloved icons — Judge Sue Sloan, better known as “Lady.”

The party was just as grand as that of any other senior. Green and gold streamers and balloons decorated the bear habitat, and a celebratory playlist blasted as Lady’s visitors made their way around her enclosure to give her their congratulations and snap a photo with the grad. Sprinkled throughout the habitat were various photo opportunities and stationed at the front of the habitat was a table filled with cups of trail mix, according to one of the caregivers, Dallas freshman Andie Rawe.

“We have her favorite food, trail mix, that people can go buy and get a taste of what Lady likes,” Rawe said.

While Rawe said she is happy for Lady to embark on her next adventure, she is also sad to see her go. She said Lady will be remembered for the traditions she upheld at Baylor, from the game day “pic ‘ems” and trinket-destroying before football games, to her continual support for the team. She said her silly sense of humor and her lovable personality will cause her to be missed dearly.

Similarly, fellow caregiver and Monterrey, Mexico, freshman Balbina González González said she will miss Lady, but that she recognizes her need for rest after 21 years of service representing the university. She said she will remember her encounters working with Lady fondly and her one-of-a-kind personality.

“It’s always so fun,” González said. “She’s such a sweet girl and it’s really, really hard not to love her.”

While the belle of the ball was undoubtedly Lady, her graduation party was also meant to celebrate the Class of 2023 seniors who will graduate alongside her. To commemorate the occasion, a graduation banner was laid out for seniors to sign, sprinkling sweet messages to Lady and doodles of bears across the paper.

Among the graduates gathered around the banner was Tomball senior Mariana Martinez. As an avid lover of bears and a student who just happened to graduate early, this coincidence was the cherry on top to her send-off experience.

“It wasn’t something I thought was going to happen,” Martinez said. “It’s just a sweet little sentiment to graduate with Lady.”

As seniors like Martinez move on to their next adventure, so will Lady, Rawe said. Lady will be relocated to an off-campus facility about 20 minutes outside of Waco which will be closed to the public to ensure her a peaceful and restful retirement.

With Lady’s departure, the habitat doesn’t plan on leaving Baylor bear-less, Rawe said. They are on the hunt for two new cubs and plan to bring them in from conservation to make sure they adopt bears who are in need of a home, Rawe said. Though for now, just who will fill Lady’s pawprints remains undecided, she said.

“We want to have a perfect fit for campus and one that truly embodies the Baylor spirit,” Rawe said.