Fountains, Namesakes and Rockets

Fountains, Namesakes and Rockets

Baylor’s Campus has welcomed a number of architectural styles through the years, starting and ending with the red bricks and familiar steeples of Old Main.

A number of other styles also accent the well-traveled thoroughfares and byways of campus today. These include the venerable white stones that make up the Carroll Science Hall, the stalwart columns and taupe bricks of the Carroll Library, the weighty, clean lines of the Hankamer Cashion Academic Center, and the many stately fountains that have given Fountain Mall its name.

Three different fountains have graced the heart of campus, beginning with the original Green and Gold Fountain, erected in 1964. Most recently, the elegant Rosenbalm Fountain makes its home in the center of Fifth Street at the south end of Fountain Mall.

From 1982 to 2003, the Vara Martin Daniel Fountain — informally and affectionally referred to by many as “the rocket launcher” fountain — was the singular fountain in the center of campus.

Vara Martin Daniel Fountain
Vara Martin Daniel Fountain

Named for the wife of former Texas Gov. Bill Daniel, J.D. ’38, the fountain was located between Bill Daniel Student Center and Carroll Science Hall in the space that is now Vara Martin Daniel Plaza. The Daniels, often counted among Baylor’s “first families,” were dedicated supporters of the University and provided the lead gift that helped finance construction of the fountain and adjoining plaza.

“What success I have had, I owe it all to there,” Bill Daniel said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “I am humbly grateful for all Baylor University has done for me and I am full of gratitude to her.”

The plaza surrounding the Daniel fountain provided several new seating areas. The fountain itself featured a long sloping wall down which water cascaded and eventually spilled into a pool at the base. The fountain was designed by Myrick-Newman-Dahlberg & Partners’ President Walter Dahlberg and other MND staff members. The design was intended to reflect the University’s unique character and used local materials, imported glass bricks and special molds for the concrete, which formed the fountain’s sides.

Vara Martin Daniel Fountain also encouraged participation through the use of the stepping pads around the fountain that were meant to represent the various stages of academic life. Today’s students, prone to be looking down at their cellphones, may have found it challenging to navigate the stepping pads without ending up in the fountain pool.

For more than 20 years, the “rocket launcher” fountain stood at the center of Baylor’s campus and, therefore, at the center of countless student experiences, photographs and memories. The fountain was removed in 2003 after an outside engineering study determined significant structural and safety concerns.

As the University moved toward the unified Baylor brick aesthetic that connects the majority of campus, the decision was made to not rebuild the fountain. Instead, the space was left open as a part of Vara Martin Daniel Plaza, which remains a bustling center of campus life where students enjoy Christmas on Fifth, Dia del Oso activities and multitudes of student-led events.