If you call yourself a Baylor Bear, you already know that "family" comes with the territory. There is, of course, a school solidarity formed by attending just about any university, but Baylor is a place where words like "family" and "legacy" take on an even deeper meaning. If you're not already genetically linked to someone who can recite "That Good Old Baylor Line" like the Pledge of Allegiance, then you probably know someone's father, grandmother, uncle, in-law or any number of relatives from a generation gone by who have donned the green and gold. Join five such families, Baylor born and bred, to rediscover the university's grasp on its history, a campus transformed to greet the new generation of students ... and the many ways Baylor hasn't changed a bit from generations gone by.
When Susan Hamby Senser, BS '83, reminisces about "her" 1980s Baylor, she can still feel the brain freeze from chocolate-chip milkshakes at the SUB, relive the walk to Schmaltz's sandwich shop just off campus, and picture Friday nights at Waco Hall watching Gone With the Wind before retiring to the dorms. Today her son, sophomore bioinformatics major Corbin Senser, enjoys a different kind of campus life -- one in which he cooks his own meals in the North Village Residential Community, one of Baylor's unique Living-Learning Centers, and swims in the leisure pool at the McLane Student Life Center (SLC). Mother and son share a special Baylor bond, and they explain the differences and similarities between their lives at Baylor, a generation apart.
Susan Senser: I was so excited to go to Baylor. I remember driving up and parking, and boys converging on my car and happily unloading all of my things, taking them to my dorm room! Everyone was so warm and welcoming. Baylor seemed so big, yet warm and comfortable.
Corbin Senser: Growing up, my mom talked about Baylor day and night, and it always started with, "You know, when I was at Baylor..." All I ever heard from her were stories of tradition, Greek life, football and Homecoming -- I'd never have guessed she did any work here! I heard about so many memories and highlights.
Susan Senser: I remember actually driving to the art building because we all thought it was SO far away! I hate to admit it now, because Baylor was much smaller then. I'm amazed by how the campus has grown -- so many new and fabulous [academic] buildings and apartment-style dorms. It has become so modern, from the SLC to the 'hip' eating establishments, making it so much more enticing to the new generation of Baylor students. The red, brick buildings with their beautiful, pitched peaks intermingling among the old buildings lend such an old-world and rich feel, giving students the feeling of history and heritage of those who traveled the campus before them. And, so many of the old Baylor traditions and spirit remain the same. The family, Christian values and "small school" feeling are ever-present.
Corbin Senser: I grew up coming to Baylor. It's been in my life so long I don't know what I first thought about it, but it's always felt comfortable. One of my favorite parts is that [even with all the new facilities] the campus is open and not jam-packed with buildings. As part of a residential community, I am building strong relationships with other engineering and computer science majors. It's great because we're all relatively similar individuals. These relationships are important, and it's nice to relate to people who are like-minded and able to help each other on classwork.
Susan Senser: The class size was a crucial point in [Corbin choosing Baylor] as well as how he was welcomed when he attended on his visit -- and yes, even though he had attended Baylor Homecoming since he was three months old, I still made him come and visit like a first-time prospective student! We compared Baylor to other institutions and knew the financial commitment was greater. Of course, there was no question of the value of a Baylor education. Also, we were truly grateful and blessed by the academic scholarships that Baylor so graciously granted him.
Corbin Senser: Though it is expensive, Baylor offers a lot that you can't find anywhere else. The most significant aspect is its Christian atmosphere. All the great things about Baylor are rooted in that. It offers a better community with better principles than many other universities out there.
Susan Senser: I think Corbin sees Baylor as a safe haven to start experiencing his own adult journey. When I'm there, even today, it's like going home. I feel a warmth. It's comforting to leave my son there for so many reasons. I know he is safe and that he is in a strong Christian environment. Also, I know when he's walking to Waco Hall or anywhere on campus, I can envision myself walking the same paths so many years ago. In other words, when I step on Baylor's campus or even think about Baylor, it really hasn't changed, deep down in my heart. It's still the same, great place I remember from 1979.
They're called "The Baylor Family" in their hometown of Victoria, Texas. And it's true -- the green and gold are practically strands in the Starkeys' DNA. Dr. Taylor Starkey, BA '81, is one of five siblings, each of whom graduated from Baylor in the footsteps of their father, Dr. John Starkey, BA '53, MD '57, and mother, L'Nell Starkey, BA '53. Baylor senior Spencer Starkey now represents the family's third Baylor generation -- though in a much different world than his father remembers, one where iPads, smart classrooms and Blackboard have made obsolete his father's No. 2 pencils, dusty white chalk and, well, blackboards. And don't tell anyone, but yes, that '70s-themed getup Spencer wore to a fraternity party last October may or may not have been dusted off from deep within a certain family member's closet. Father and son can agree -- literally, relate -- on plenty. Even into the farthest-flung corners (and today those corners are very far) of the green and gold glow cast down from Pat Neff Hall, there are things that, undisplaced even by technology, here remain undeniably, truly, "forever down the years."
Dr. Taylor Starkey: Like so many "Baylor kids," so to speak, it was familiar because I had been going to Homecoming for so many years -- since I was an infant, actually. In my baby book there's a note from Baylor my parents had saved from one of our Homecoming trips in the early '60s. It says, 'See you in 1977.'
Spencer Starkey: Oh yes, I've been coming to Homecoming for as long as I can remember. I was so excited to finally be a student and meet all the new people and live on my own in Penland. I was surprised how many people I already "knew" at Baylor; everyone seems to be connected by one or two people.
Dr. Taylor Starkey: For a brand new freshman at Baylor, the experience can be overwhelming at first because it's so diverse. There's an academic experience, a religious experience and a social experience that a 17- or 18-year old has never been exposed to before. But it's safe; it's comforting because in some way or another, you're all coming from the same place, a common background.
Spencer Starkey: Baylor transitions you from being a child, living under your parents' close watch, to becoming your own person and making your own decisions.
Dr. Taylor Starkey: But Baylor itself shapes you, it molds you -- maybe subconsciously -- into becoming someone unlike the rest of the world. You see Christianity lived out by students, professors and administrators, and it's real. What Baylor makes you into can't be unmade. You become independent, yes, but then you witness in your role models at Baylor the things they're dependent on, and together you live a life that's dependent on God.
Spencer Starkey: In many ways I feel as though the relationships and connections I'm making at Baylor, equal to if not more so than my grade point average, will affect my professional future a great deal. And although this thought process may frighten my parents, I think the ability to be a sharp, personable individual will be a major factor in being offered a job one day. My experience with Baylor Greek life has been influential in developing that ability.
Dr. Taylor Starkey: I had quite a few memorable professors, but the ones who stood out most were those -- and there were many -- who were involved with sponsoring the fraternities and really loved to be around the students. It was a strange but wonderful mix of competing academically with some of the brightest students in the country, yet at the same time being part of a big family with those people. They helped push you forward, and like any big family, it's inclusive, accepting of all its members. You don't leave part of the family out.
Spencer Starkey: My grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings love Baylor because of the experiences, knowledge, connections and friendships it has allowed them to acquire. Baylor is a place to receive a great education and to one day join many elite Texans and Americans as Baylor alumni.
Dr. Taylor Starkey: Each of Baylor's generations changes a little bit, but not dramatically. It's an unashamedly Christian place, I'd say now maybe even more than in the '70s. It's not that Baylor demands its students to be Christian, but it wants the world to know they're not trying to be a worldly place. Baylor prepares its students to live a life meaningful in the world, and it doesn't indoctrinate them for anything but to be a productive, Christian citizen.
You wonder why so many kids follow in their parents' footsteps to Baylor. But if you think about it, there's really no mystery. When we were little kids, our parents never talked about, "when you go to college." They talked about, "when you go to Baylor."
In a very special way, the Pattersons are something of a Baylor family within the Baylor family. Parents Phyllis, BA '74, and Randy, BA '74, JD '75, have two sons, Clint, BA '05, and Sam, BA '08, MSED '10, each of whom, like their parents, found their spouses at Baylor -- Megan [Stiefel] Patterson, BA '09, and Tricia [Lovvorn] Patterson, BA '10, respectively. Tricia's parents attended Baylor, too, and both Clint and Sam are now on Baylor's staff. Each couple cherishes most of all the relationships that formed their Baylor experience, and though the time and place have changed, the Baylor they all share has stayed much the same.
Clint Patterson: My grandmothers would tell stories of Baylor while I bobbed around in my diaper as a member of the Baylor crawling team. Dad used to always say that Penland [cafeteria] had one line, and you simply decided if you wanted gravy or not. [When I arrived as a student,] I was humbled that I was sharing something special with my family. I would wonder, "Did my dad study at this cubicle? Did my mother sit in this classroom? Which Burleson Hall window was my grandmother's?" It seems I have always had a love for Baylor, and I only wish I had had a better understanding of it before putting on a Line jersey. I would have liked to have asked my deceased grandmother to tell me the stories of her Baylor -- what Pat Neff was like, if she knew any of the Chambermen, was she friends with any of the Immortal Ten?
Sam Patterson: My parents love Baylor because college is such a pivotal time in a person's life, and Baylor was the source for shaping their lives and careers. My love for Baylor is similar, in the fact that I found out what I wanted to do with my life while there, and I found the person with whom I wanted to spend my life. I would be a totally different person if I had not gone to Baylor, and I am fortunate and blessed to have been led there by my parents.
Phyllis Patterson: The academic experience at Baylor, for me, was very challenging and eye-opening. I remember anatomy and physiology with Dr. Madalene Barnett, where I learned we are truly "fearfully and wonderfully made." I remember history with Dr. Paul Armitstead -- my most enjoyable and very first 'C'. And there's [Baylor Law School icon] Ed Horner, who inspired my husband's love of oil and gas law. Baylor gave us great pride in our education. Today, it inspires a greater, worldwide student base and vision than ever before and a raised level of expectations in its graduates.
Clint Patterson: Baylor's themes span generations. I see my parents' greatest joy when they witness what Baylor means to others, the same way it means to them. My relationships formed at Baylor have been instrumental and important in my life. My Baylor friends were there to celebrate my successes, to stand by me during challenges and to teach me the values of friendship. Of course, most memorable was meeting my spouse at Baylor. Every day at Baylor, first as a student and now as a staff member, I create memories. Simply put, Baylor is in the memory-making business, and it is successful in doing so.
Sam Patterson: I am fortunate to have known quality coaches and mentors during my time at Baylor, and I credit them with who and where I am today. I feel like the obvious difference [between my experience and my parents'] is the facilities that make my Baylor even more enticing. The emphasis Baylor has put on improving classrooms and student buildings has really improved its identity. I feel like the atmosphere around campus hasn't changed since my parents' enrollment. Baylor has always been a university that promotes Christian values and top-notch academics.
Tricia Lovvorn Patterson: Although we attended Baylor at very different times [than my parents and in-laws], I know that our experiences at Baylor were equally valuable and life-changing. I didn't apply anywhere else because I knew Baylor was the place for me. I hoped to be surrounded by Christians who would support and encourage me, and that is what I got! A Christian atmosphere is worth the extra money. Baylor is not merely Christian in name; the university lives out Christian principles. I had so many professors who encouraged me in my Christian walk. Having the Christian bond is priceless.
Phyllis Patterson: I look at Baylor now and see all that's changed. I remember in my speech therapy classes, Old Main's windows shook each time the wind blew! There are so many new athletic venues; when we were students, everything was off campus. The closed streets on campus that were once open [to traffic] contribute to the close-knit feel of the Baylor community, and I remember many old parking lots that are now beautiful green spaces. What has not changed are the same quality students, the same outstanding faculty and the same caring community. When I step on campus I still feel that sense of pride, a flood of memories and a renewed excitement for today's Baylor students -- even though they look so young!
Clint Patterson: Yes, Baylor is expensive. But I know there are vast and diverse scholarship opportunities available if a student has the determination to investigate. You will find intentional faculty here, and what most defines Baylor is the opportunity to have an academic experience enriched by faith. Baylor is an institution that can change your life. That should always be a bargain.
Carey, BBA '85, and Stacie, BSEd '86, Hendrickson are proudly sandwiched in the middle of another third-generation Baylor family. Their children, senior Holly and junior Hunter, are carrying on a musical tradition begun by their grandfather, who conducted Baylor choral ensembles for nearly 20 years. The middle Hendrickson couple, both vocalists in their own right, ended their first date at the swing in front of Draper Hall; they later got engaged at that same spot. The Hendrickson ladies light up when remembering the dances, socials and Homecoming activities that marked their Baylor years, while father and son bond over years' worth of memories from family road trips to Floyd Casey Stadium. They've built a harmonious mixture of old-and-new, then-and-now nostalgia that, while defined by distinctly different generations, told together is uniquely Baylor.
Stacie Hendrickson: I was from a small town in West Texas, so I was scared at first. Still, it was an exciting experience, and I adjusted pretty quickly. A Cappella Choir was always my favorite class because my dad was the director. I loved to sing and it provided great relief and a break from the rest of school, which was sometimes quite stressful.
Holly Hendrickson: We all have a love for music, which is pretty special. Being a part of the Baylor Religious Hour Choir and other musical activities with Tri Delt -- Pigskin, Sing, pledge songs -- have been such a blessing in my life. Not only have I had the opportunity to spread the gospel to countries around the world, but the relationships I built through those groups are the things I'll tell my children about Baylor.
Carey Hendrickson: I was blessed to be involved in some great organizations at Baylor -- in fact, I don't recall having much free time! When I wasn't in class or studying, I was busy with Chamber, Baylor Religious Hour Choir, A Cappella Choir and Beta Alpha Psi, or hanging out with the people in those groups. The friendships I made and experiences I had [through those groups] "made" my Baylor experience.
Hunter Hendrickson: There's just so much Baylor has to offer, no matter what a person's interests are. For my family, music has been at the heart of the experience, but there are many stories like ours that may have nothing to do with music. There's definitely a new energy at Baylor right now with so many athletic teams on the rise. I think there's just a buzz on campus that's never been seen before. There's so much promise at Baylor right now; students are really involved in campus organizations, volunteering, supporting athletics... It's a great time to be a Bear.
Stacie Hendrickson: The campus has certainly gotten bigger and better. I would have loved to have had something like the SLC when I was at Baylor. The depth of commitment to athletic achievement is even greater now than when we were at Baylor. And academically, we read how each freshman class is more accomplished than the last.
Holly Hendrickson: As a Baylor senior, I feel so prepared to go out into the real world and be great [at my profession]. Baylor has given me perspective in making a difference in my community. The school does so itself, firsthand in the Waco community. It leads by example. Baylor has taught me to value a worldview and to make a difference wherever I am.
Carey Hendrickson: The incorporation of faith and academics is still very much a part of the Baylor experience. And I think the quality and character of the Baylor student is much the same. Baylor is still attracting great kids with big dreams and big hearts.
Hunter Hendrickson: Baylor's a school that's not too small, but it's small enough where you can have those kinds of relationships. It's a family, even more than a school. I had high expectations of Baylor, and so far it's been everything I dreamed -- and more.
Though David, BBA '85, MBA '87, and Amy, BSED '85, Hodge today live in Illinois, their daughters, Heather, BSED '12, and Baylor senior Amber, still provide a direct line to the very place this couple's story began. David, a former Baylor track athlete and currently the CEO of an athletic equipment company, speaks unapologetically of his ability to "infect" everyone around him with the Baylor bug, even a member on his company's board of directors, a fellow Illinois native whose two daughters today attend Baylor. Sports, he says, is sometimes the entry point, but there are greater, deeper reasons Baylor has maintained such loyalty through generations.
David Hodge: Being a Baylor fan at this moment in time is so exciting. With national rankings both in academics and athletics, and relentlessly holding on to its Christian tenets, there's really nobody else pulling off what Baylor is. Some of the recent conference changes have been challenging, but I really believe [Baylor President Ken Starr] "gets it." Baylor is staying its course and holding to its unique calling in the world.
Heather Hodge: One of my most memorable experiences was running the Baylor Line at my first football game as a student. Of course, when you're young, the coolest thing is the bears! The most exciting part about coming to Baylor was the fact that after all those years of driving through campus with my family, I was actually going to Baylor myself.
Amy Hodge: [The combination of] academics and sports is one of my greatest points of Baylor pride, though the best thing about my Baylor experience was how I was encouraged on a daily basis to live out my Christian faith in all areas of life. Although many of the buildings have changed or are no longer standing, walking through campus is like visiting an old friend. Even the familiar smells -- Collins' hallways and stairwells, the SUB, Waco Hall and the piano practice rooms in Roxy Grove's basement -- send a rush of emotions with every whiff.
David Hodge: I sense [my daughters'] experience is very similar to ours. It seemed life was a lot simpler then, but Baylor continues to make a college education much more than academics. Our kids have done very well academically, but getting the very best grades and finding the very best job, while a noble goal, is a whole different calling than we see our kids being called to. They're growing as people, developing skills to lead employees one day and learning about life -- that it isn't just about making money. Baylor offers a holistic way of looking at education, and it's been consistent in that pursuit.
Amber Hodge: Talking to my friends from public schools, Baylor really does have something different. A lot of things have stayed the same, but the constant change and growth at Baylor surprises my parents every time they come back to visit.
Amy Hodge: We were sad to discover one year that the limb on a tree that once held the swing where we got engaged had been cut down, but [no matter how it changes] Baylor was and is our home away from home. I felt safe and secure, and I have a great sense of pride strolling through campus, knowing how blessed I was to have been there.
David Hodge: There is a sense of family and belonging at Baylor, but it's not self-contained. Baylor's appearance has changed, but what hasn't changed is the idea that life is about taking the kingdom of God into the world and living out a higher calling.