The Baylor University Chamber of Commerce traces its origin to February 26, 1919, when the Baylor Business Men’s Club was organized by a group of students interested in a business career. Headed by Henry Craig of Hillsboro, Texas, the club was formed when no business classes were offered at the University. The first officers of the club were: President Henry Craig, Vice President H.L. Roach, and Secretary-Treasurer J.C. Jones. This group of Baylor men, most of whom lived at Ma Greer’s boarding house on Fifth Street, felt a definite need for an organization to help promote Baylor University. Cited by the Baylor Lariat as “the most promising organization on campus", the chamber was the chief influence in building Baylor spirit.
Victory Loan Drive
Working with the faculty, students, and businesses of Waco, one of the club’s first undertakings was to help Waco reach its goal of $10,000 in the National Victory Loan Drive, a program set up by the Secretary of War immediately following World War I.
Promoting Baylor University and initiating projects to benefit the university, the Baylor Business Men’s Club realized its kinship to that of a city chamber of commerce. Desiring to widen its purposes and strengthen itself by changing its name, the Business Men’s Club adopted the name “Baylor University Chamber of Commerce” on March 10, 1920. Simultaneously, the Baylor Chamber of Commerce affiliated with the Texas, East Texas, and Waco Chamber of Commerce.
Another responsibility of the Chamber has been the maintenance of the bear mascots. The first bears were given to the University in 1917, and the Chamber assumed responsibility for them soon afterwards.
School of Commerce
On February 8, 1923, the Chamber sent a letter to Baylor President Samuel Palmer Brooks petitioning him to establish a School of Business at Baylor. The men signing the Petition on behalf of the entire Chamber knew "full well that the School is of interest to may students already in attendance and, hundreds of others [who] in the next few years will be drawn to Baylor University in order to acquire the theoretical and practical values [attached] to courses offered in proper correlation in a Baylor University School of Commerce." That same year, President Brooks Organized the School of Business
In 1924, the Chamber began the intramural sports program to promote class rivalries and to discover talent for Baylor athletic programs. This same year, Chamber also presented new uniforms to the band through monetary pledges from the Baylor and Waco communities. Moreover, the year 1924 marked the beginning of the annual Football Banquet. The first banquet honored Baylor's 1924 Southwest Conference Championship team.
Baylor's Yell Leaders were equipped with proper green and gold uniforms in 1926. In 1929, a Yell Leader Fund was established in order to pay for the expenses of out of town games attended by the Yell Leaders. The Chamber assumed responsibility for that group, as well as Baylor's pep rallies, in 1937. This continued until 1967, when the Chamber relinquished its responsibilities for the Yell Leaders.
Good Will Week
Also in 1926, the Chamber began the tradition of "Good Will Week" to foster friendships, and deepen personal relationships among students. This event, which preceded the Homecoming game, was officially designated Homecoming Week in 1969. While homecoming itself had been established in 1909, the year 1936 marked Chamber sponsorship of the Homecoming Parade and the crowning of Baylor's first Homecoming Queen. Today, the parade is recognized as the oldest and largest collegiate parade in the nation
Another University-wide organization originating from Chamber work is the Placement Center, derived in part from the Student's Employment Bureau established by the Chamber in 1929. This service is now under the University jurisdiction. Also, in 1934, the Chamber directed the publication of the first Freshman Guide, which served as a integral part of the freshman and transfer orientation.
Diadeloso, an annual spring holiday originally known as All University Day, then Physical Fitness Day, and then May Day, was founded in 1932 and transferred to Chamber control in 1935. The name "Diadeloso" was adopted following a campus name contest in 1966. Diadeloso changed to its present format in 1983. Currently, the day is filled with tournaments, live entertainment, and other student activities.
In 1940, the Chamber sponsored the selection of a new Baylor Fight Song, which was composed by Fred Waring and introduced on December 20, 1940 This song, "Bear Down You Bears of Old Baylor U.," was announced on Waring's National Broadcast.
In 1960, a special day was designated to introduce the University to Baylor parents. By 1970, the event had become a full weekend known as Parents Weekend, featuring a student talent show, a parent-faculty coffee, a dinner on the grounds, and other events designed to show parents the best of Baylor. The Spring of 1974 marked the introduction of a Spring Parents Weekend, which became Spring Preview Weekend. In 2013, the name of the weekend was changed to Family Weekend..
Green and Gold Fountain
In 1963, the Chamber announced the building of the circular Green and Gold Fountain, originally situated on what would become known as Fountain Mall; dedicated to the Baylor-Waco Foundation in 1964, this was further evidence of the work of the Chamber on Baylor campus. The year 1964 also marked the beginning of Cub Week, designed to honor the Freshman Class. This event was discontinued in 1968. In 1964, the Bob Hope Benefit Show, which netted $14,000 for the Baylor Library Fund, was sponsored and publicized by the Chamber.
Athletic Hall of Fame
In 1965, the Chamber held an induction banquet for Mr. F. A. "Jim" Crow, who retired after 46 years of service to Baylor athletics. "Uncle Jim" Crow was one of the two charter members of the Baylor University Athletic Hall of Fame, which was organized by the Chamber in 1960.
October 10, 1967 marked the tragic death of John Clifton, a pledge of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce. In 1968, a John Clifton Memorial Reading Room was established in Moody Library, and the John Clifton Memorial Scholarship was instigated. Through various donations by Chamber Alumni and fund raising projects by the Chamber, the endowment for the scholarship was completed in the Fall Semester, 1975.
The Spring of 1971 marked the introduction of Counselors' Symposium, designed to bring high school counselors to the Baylor campus in order to expose them and their students to Baylor University.
The year 1976 marked a complete renovation of the Bear Pit area, as well as the renaming of the area as the Steve Hudson Memorial Bear Plaza.
Mike Singletary Award
Since 1981, the Chamber has awarded the annual Mike Singletary Award to the senior football player who has contributed the most to the team and brought honor and recognition to the University through his actions both on and off the field. The recipient of this award is selected by the student body and presented at the Football Banquet.
Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat
The current habitat, The Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, was opened in 2005 and includes many features that make that space more natural for the bears. Features include a waterfall, river, caves, as well as a spacious indoor facility where the bears spend their nights.