• Celebrating 50 years of the Baylor Institute of Oral History

    An example from the archives of the Baylor Institute for Oral History

    History is recorded in a variety of ways, but none are as dynamic as the art of oral history — and Baylor has its very own collection! For 50 years now, the Baylor Institute for Oral History has preserved the stories of those who helped create the fabric of history and whose lives, in turn, were shaped by ideas of their day.

    “We are the oldest interdisciplinary program at Baylor, and our collections not only reflect the history of Baylor, but also the Waco/McLennan County community and beyond,” says Dr. Stephen Sloan, BBA ’90, MA ’98, director of the institute. “Our collections are accessible to everyone: researchers, students, scholars, alumni, and those simply interested in the topics presented.”

    The Institute for Oral History (BUIOH) was founded by a group of faculty members under the direction of Dr. Thomas L. Charlton, BA ’59, then a new assistant professor of history. Since its inception, the institute has been an invaluable resource for study on the history of Baylor, Texas Baptists, Hispanic Baptists, and Waco and McLennan County.

    “The work we do is important because we are documenting the memories and first-person, eyewitness experiences of people with and from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, while also capturing the social, cultural and historical significance of the life stories being shared,” says Adrienne Cain, assistant director of the institute.

    Some examples of those whose memories are included in the collection include:

    • Robert Aguilar, BA ’69, a Waco native who studied sociology and psychology at Baylor during the 1960s, and who became involved with various social and political movements of the time period.
    • Leon Jaworski, ’25, a Waco native who served as special prosecutor during Watergate.
    • Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes, a brilliant mathematician and the first Black professor at Baylor. She was also a Waco native and the fifth African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics.
    • Abner McCall, JD ’38, BA ’42, who served as dean of the law school and a justice of the Supreme Court of Texas before becoming president of Baylor University.
    • Mary Kemendo Sendón, BA ’22, MA ’32, a lifelong Waco resident who taught school for 50 years. Her oral history offers colorful insight into Waco’s Italian American community.
    • John Valls, BBA ’50, a Baylor track student-athlete who served in the US Army in World War II, interviewed as part of a BUIOH project documenting the stories of Texas veterans who liberated Nazi concentration camps.
    • Barbara Ann Walker, BA ’67, the first Black woman to graduate from Baylor and a longtime social worker who led the state of California’s Department of Mental Health’s inpatient and outpatient mental health programs.

    Under ordinary circumstances, 2020 would have been a year of celebration for the institute, with a series of events to honor its 50th anniversary. Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic has led BUIOH to postpone all events until 2021, but exciting plans are in the works. “We look forward to celebrating this milestone with an array of events and programs for the campus and the public,” says Cain.

    Sic ’em, Baylor Oral History!

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