The cross-campus collaboration of students & staff that makes Homecoming possible
It’s the nation’s oldest homecoming — an annual fall celebration that takes over the city of Waco and the Baylor University campus that hosts it. The preparation, travel plans and excitement for the weekend bring the campus community and the entire Baylor Family together in a planning process that takes nearly the entire year.
You might be a Baylor alum returning for a class reunion or departmental open house or to meet old friends. You could be a freshman attending Mass Meeting, or an upperclassman attending Dinner with the Livingstones. Or maybe you’re a future Baylor Bear attending the Homecoming parade, or a family engaging in any of the innumerable other activities that surround Homecoming.
You get the idea — Baylor Homecoming has something for every Bear, and preparation for it all begins almost as soon as the last one ends, with a collaboration that brings students, staff, administrators and many others together to create an unforgettable “welcome home” for alumni and friends.
Baylor’s Homecoming tradition began in 1909 when President Samuel Palmer Brooks and a group of faculty embarked on a campaign to bring graduates home to renew old friendships and “catch the Baylor spirit again.” That first Homecoming, planned for Thanksgiving weekend, included festivities such as a band concert, reception, class reunions, a parade through Waco to campus, a football game on Carroll Field, and an “old-time soirée” in Burleson Hall (which at the time was a female residence hall).
“Homecoming today is built around the same purpose and framework as the very first one,” says Toby Barnett (BA ’94), interim vice president for university advancement. “We want our alumni to feel welcomed back to campus and to know the valuable role they play in the life of the university. It’s our hope that they will see both our history and our future in the experiences and will catch the Baylor spirit again, just as President Brooks dreamed they would.”
Baylor’s Alumni office plays a key role in the Homecoming celebration — planning reunions and other gatherings, honoring alumni who graduated 50 years ago with their “golden diplomas,” hosting Singspiration (the Baylor Family worship service), and welcoming alumni and friends to the Homecoming game with a festive tailgate, among other events.
This year, alumni will find a new front door to the Homecoming festivities in the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center and the McLane Family Alumni Center housed within it.
“We can’t wait for alumni, their families, and friends of the university to see the new Hurd Welcome Center and McLane Family Alumni Center,” says Barnett. “The facility will be a hub of activity as alumni come into town this year for Homecoming. Our Baylor Alumni team will be on hand to greet visitors and share details about the weekend, but even more than that, we look forward to catching up with friends and finding new ways to connect all year long. Homecoming is an amazing time of remembering and reflecting, but it also is a time for looking forward and getting excited about the university’s very bright future.”
Baylor’s Chamber of Commerce is the other key cog in making Homecoming happen. In fact, Barnett got his start behind the scenes of Homecoming as a member of Chamber while an undergraduate student.
“Chamber’s motto, ‘Anything for Baylor,’ is on full display around Homecoming, but you likely won’t see these students doing their jobs,” he says. “They work tirelessly on the events — not for the glory, but to do their part to make sure our alumni and the entire Baylor Family feel welcomed and get excited about Baylor.”
Chamber plays an important part in executing Mass Meeting, the pep rally and bonfire, the parade, and of course the running of the Baylor Line at McLane Stadium.
“Starting even before school lets out, Chamber of Commerce leaders are working with university staff to craft a schedule, plan events, work with partners and stakeholders, set up meetings, and talk to campus safety,” says Dakota Farquhar-Caddell (BBA ’11, MDiv ’18), associate director of student activities and the Robert Reid Director of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a year-long planning process. In the months leading up to it, Chamber continues to collaborate with university leaders and partners to be sure everything is supported, safety measures exceed expectations, and that all events welcome alumni and the entire Baylor Family to reignite the Baylor spirit.”
In the end, it creates an event the likes of which you won’t find on many other college campuses. We’ll see you back home on campus this weekend.
Sic ’em, Bears!