Everyone else was gone. Traditions Rally had ended at McLane Stadium, and the area had been abandoned by the students, fans and children who had filled it hours earlier. Unfortunately, a vendor forgot to pick up its inflatables, and the event site had to be cleaned before the next day’s arrival of the Baylor Family for tailgating and all that the first home football game of the 2018 season entailed.
So, the members of the Baylor University Chamber of Commerce — “Chambermen” for short, despite the organization’s coed membership — did what Chambermen do. They solved the problem.
Members carried the inflatables — each weighing hundreds of pounds — from the field and then hefted into the back of a member’s truck. The inflatables were moved into an across-campus storage location until the vendor arrived days later to retrieve the items.
The next afternoon, as fans arrived to cheer on the Bears, there were no physical signs that the prior night’s event had occurred, except for in the memories and photos of those who attended.
Similar circumstances — an unexpected problem to overcome during an all-community event that was organized and carried out by the Chamber — have arisen for generations of its members. The venue easily could have been Fifth Street or Austin Avenue during Homecoming; or Founders Mall, Burleson Quadrangle or the Ferrell Center during Family Weekend; or Fountain Mall or the Westmoreland Intramural Fields adjacent to the Baylor Sciences Building during Diadeloso.
Wherever or whatever it might be, the reaction of the Chamber is always the same: “What do we need to do? How can we do it? OK, let’s go.”
Chamber sponsor Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, BBA ’11, couldn’t help but chuckle as they moved the inflatables across the field: No matter how much changes with the Chamber — some things stay the same.
Looking back to his time as a Chamber member almost a decade ago, Farquhar-Caddell remembers feeling that he was held to a higher standard in the quality of his commitment and actions than he had ever been held in his life. He remembers working harder than he had ever worked before — in order to pull off Chamber’s events and its other duties for Baylor. Now, years later, here he was lugging equipment across a field in the middle of the night with students who desire to serve for the same reasons as those Chambermen who served before them.
Founded Feb. 26, 1919, as the Baylor Business Men’s Club, the organization’s original purpose was promotion of a business education at the University at a time when no business-specific classes were offered. However, a year after it was founded, the group — led by three student-boarders at Ma Greer’s Fifth Street home — expanded its aims, took on a focus of serving Baylor as its purpose, and adopted the organization’s current name.
The Chamber quickly became a leader in building spirit around campus. One of the club’s first undertakings was to help the City of Waco reach its goal of $10,000 in the National Victory Loan Drive program established immediately following World War I.
The name — Baylor University Chamber of Commerce — can be misleading to those outside Baylor’s campus. The group is not, like city or regional chambers of commerce, comprised of local businesses. Baylor Chamber maintains its name because it shares the essential purpose of more traditional chambers of commerce — the promotion of
In the case of Baylor Chamber, that community is Baylor University.
The Chamber is guided by the words of 1952 Nobel Peace Prize honoree Albert Schweitzer: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
Accordingly, the Chamber defines itself by its acts of service. Instead of service to the Waco community, as is provided laudably by many of Baylor’s student organizations, the Chamber’s service is aimed toward the University.
A focus on service has long been woven in the Chamber’s fabric. Dr. Dean Parét, BA ’79, pledged the Chamber in 1978 after being attracted to its commitment to doing what was necessary to aid Baylor. As a bonus, Parét’s grade point average increased after joining because he was forced to balance club activities with his studies. He had to become a better steward of his time, which led to more effective studying techniques.
Parét also learned valuable leadership and management skills as chair of what was then called Parents Weekend and is now known as Family Weekend.
“I remember that they changed the [football] game time, so I had to adjust on the fly,” Parét says.
The change meant that months of planning and scheduling for the weekend’s events disappeared and had to be reset in a flash. For Parét, it was a life-lesson in adjusting to changing circumstances that he carried forward with him after graduation.
Presently, the organization’s membership ranges from 35 to 50 students per semester. The club keeps its ranks intentionally small to ensure its members are truly committed to its motto: Anything for Baylor.
Vanessa Martinez, a senior majoring in international business and entrepreneurship from El Paso, served as its president last fall. She joined after meeting a Chamberman on a mission trip during the summer following her freshman year.
Chambermen are afforded opportunities to collaborate with University leadership. Martinez’s favorite moment so far occurred in December 2018 when she was one of about a dozen members who organized the Baylor Line’s first road trip — to the Texas Bowl
It was the first time the Baylor Line ran on a field outside of Waco. Standing at the edge of the NRG Stadium tunnel, arms linked with her fellow Chamber members and more than a thousand gold-clad students behind her, Martinez realized that the club’s hard work to bring the Line to Houston had paid off — in an entirely new way.
Chamber is tasked with organizing and executing many of Baylor’s most cherished traditions: the Baylor Line composed of freshmen students at football games, Traditions Rally, Family Weekend and Homecoming in the fall, and Diadeloso in the spring.
The club also cares for the University’s live mascots — currently Judges Joy and Lady — a revered duty that began during the time of Baylor’s fouth mascot, Joe College, in 1931. Since a 1974 decision, all live mascots carry the title of “Judge” followed by a surname. The move honored Judge, a beloved mascot from 1961 to 1971, and Judge Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor, the University’s namesake.
The Chamber has honored only one person by having two bears carry his name: the late Master Teacher Robert L. Reid, a treasured Chamber sponsor from 1973 to 1998.
Betsy Willis, senior lecturer of accounting and business law, has served as Chamber faculty sponsor for more than 20 years. She provides institutional knowledge about past versions of Homecoming, Family Weekend and Diadeloso, along with being the “Waco mom” for members. Her appreciation for Chamber arises from its effect on the Baylor Family.
Willis provides the best assessment of the Chamber and what it means to Baylor.
“Chamber is a group of students and other people (sponsors) who love Baylor passionately, who love Baylor traditions and want to carry those on,” Willis says. “It is people who love providing events to other people without getting any recognition and who are committed 110 percent to Baylor.”
About 500 Chamber members and their families gathered Feb. 22-24 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary. Among the celebrants was John Chiles, BBA ’50, JD ’52, who pledged in 1948, served as president in 1950 and was believed to be the oldest former Chamberman attending the events. The weekend included a bonfire and Pat Neff Hall lit in the group’s blue color. There were campus tours, time with Joy and Lady, a banner hanging contest, and recognition at the men’s basketball game.
Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone and former Baylor football coach Grant Teaff spoke at the banquet, where Teaff became the 22nd honorary Chamberman. Other highlights included a history display with photos and artifacts plus training on how to record oral histories, leading to the gathering of memories from at least 100 former Chambermen that weekend.
Regardless of the year or the task, the commitment of Chamber members to each other and to the University remains consistent: Anything for Baylor.