How Baylor influenced the establishment of other major Texas universities
Green and gold aren’t the first colors that come to mind when you think of in-state rivals like Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and the University of Texas — and rightfully so. But what most people don’t know is that Baylor University people, leaders and graduates alike, played important roles in the founding or early days of these universities and more.
Here’s how those pioneering Bears took “Pro Texana” quite literally when it came to higher education:
The University of Texas — Baylor University’s sixth president, Oscar Henry Cooper, brought a pretty impressive educational resume to campus when he arrived in 1899, having served as state superintendent of public instruction and a founder of the Texas State Teachers Association. In that role, he was one of the most vocal champions of a state university, and his TSTA subcommittee officially proposed a state university in 1880; two years later, the University of Texas was formed. Cooper, who later served as president of Hardin-Simmons University, was eulogized as having done “more to establish state and Christian education in Texas than any other single man.”
Texas A&M University — Lawrence Sullivan “Sul” Ross was educated at Baylor during the university’s early days in Independence, and went on to become one of five Baylor alumni to serve as governor of Texas. Today, a university in Alpine, Texas, bears his name, but he had perhaps his biggest influence at what was then known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. Ross actually resigned the governorship to become the fourth president of the school, which in the late 1880s was at risk of closing, with rumors of poor management and discontent. Ross’ leadership during his seven-year tenure (1891-98) helped keep the college open, and today, Aggies still toss pennies for good luck on exams at the feet of a campus statue honoring this Baylor Bear.
Texas Tech University — Every Baylor graduate knows of Pat Neff, AB 1894, AM 1898, the only man to have served as governor of Texas and president of Baylor University (and whose name adorns the campus administration building). But Baylor isn’t the only university where his impact is felt. As governor of Texas, Neff signed the 1923 bill (pictured above) that formed Texas Technological College — now known as Texas Tech. Neff, who served as governor from 1921-25, later spoke at the laying of Texas Tech’s cornerstone building in 1924, and the university opened for classes the following year.
Early Baylor founders and alumni also played meaningful roles in the founding of the state’s first public school system, the Association of Texas Colleges, and more, but their impacts on other Texas universities are tangible reminders of how Baylor Bears have long served our state — and provide us still today with fun athletic rivalries and meaningful educational partners in the state we call home.
Sic ’em, Bears!