Baptist minister William M. Tryon was the first to suggest that a Baptist university be established in Texas, beginning the push toward what would become Baylor in 1841. District Judge R. E. B. Baylor quickly joined in the promotion of the idea, and they were supported by the members of the Texas Baptist Education Society, which was affiliated with the Union Baptist Association. James Huckins, the first Baptist missionary to Texas, was the university's first full-time fund-raiser. These three men are credited as being our founders, though there were many others who probably worked just as much to see the University established, including the 15 members of Baylor’s first Board of Trustees.
On February 1, 1845, Baylor University's charter was officially signed by Republic of Texas President Anson Jones. The University's founders saw Baylor first and foremost as an institution for training Baptist ministers, but they also had an eye on the future. Early plans called for "an academical and theological institution" that would meet "the requirements of existing conditions," but that also "would be susceptible of enlargement and development to meet the needs of all the ages to come," as Huckins wrote in 1844.
Research into the University’s early years, conducted for the Commission on Historic Campus Representations in 2020, determined that the three men credited as founders of the University and the majority of the first Board of Trustees were slaveholders. Additionally, given the era of the University’s founding and initial decades of operation, the agricultural economy of the region surrounding Independence at the time, and the importance of the financial support that slaveholding founders and early trustees provided the University, it is understood that the labor of enslaved people, both directly and indirectly, played a significant role in Baylor University’s history from the very beginning of the institution’s existence and throughout the University’s growth during its early years in Independence. The identities of these enslaved persons are unknown, but the University acknowledges their place in the Baylor story and humbly recognizes their contributions to the foundation upon which the University was built.
Today, Baylor -- the only university chartered by the Republic of Texas that has remained in continuous operation -- continues to grow to meet new needs. Building on its original mission, the University promotes exemplary teaching, encourages innovative and original research, and supports professional excellence in a wide variety of specialized disciplines. Baylor is a nationally ranked research institution, a vibrant, caring community of 19,000 students, 3,000 faculty and staff members and more than 160,000 living alumni, the largest Baptist educational institution in the world, and an active member of the international community of higher learning. We believe Tryon, Baylor and Huckins would be proud to meet the 3,000+ Baylor students who graduate each year prepared for worldwide leadership and service.
The Founders Medal was established in September 1969 and is one of the most distinguished awards given by Baylor University. This award is reserved for men and women whose service and contributions have been unusually significant to the life and future of the University. One copy of the medal is on permanent exhibition in the National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
The face of the medal bears the likeness of Judge R.E.B. Baylor, with the inscription "Pro Ecclesia Pro Texana." The obverse bears the likeness of Pat Neff Hall with the inscription "Baylor University Founders Medal," plus the name of the recipient and year of presentation.