Baylor Mourns Passing of Bill Harlan, Founder of Student Foundation

April 10, 2017
Bill HarlanBill Harlan founded Student Foundation at Baylor University in 1969 and devoted time to the organization and its students until his retirement in 2000. (Courtesy photo)

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WACO, Texas (April 10, 2017) – Baylor University is mourning the passing of Bill Harlan, B.B.A. ’55, who in 1969 founded Student Foundation, the organization known for its students clad in green-and-white striped jerseys who have a passion for Baylor and a legacy of service to the University and its students.

Harlan passed away Friday, April 7, 2017. He was 84. Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, April 13, at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, 300 Columbus Ave. in Waco.

A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Harlan graduated from La Vega High School and attended Baylor, graduating in 1955 with his business degree in personnel management. He later attended graduate school, while employed at Texas A&M. In 1964, he joined Baylor as director of administrative services in the development department and devoted many hours to Student Foundation that he helped establish and loved.

“Bill Harlan was a positive influence in my life as a Baylor student in the early days of Student Foundation back in the 1970s,” said Larry D. Smith B.B.A. ’73, assistant vice president for gift planning at Baylor. “He and Nancy impacted the lives of countless students over the 35 years he served the University and continued showing their love and support to our students during their retirement years. Bill was extremely proud of Student Foundation, which is his Baylor legacy.”

In 1996, Harlan was honored with an endowed scholarship in his name, created by past and present Student Foundation steering committee members. Today, the scholarship fund – the Bill and Nancy Harlan Student Foundation Scholarship Fund – also honors his wife.

“Student Foundation alumni and members are deeply saddened by the recent passing of our beloved founder, Mr. Bill Harlan,” said Jordan M. Hannah, B.A. ’10, Troy and Betty Mays Director of Student Foundation. “It is due to Mr. Harlan’s vision – along with that of the late President Abner McCall and Mr. Tom Parrish – that we stand today as a premiere service organization dedicated to serving Baylor University and its students.

Hannah said Student Foundation continues the honorable work set forth in its mission: “building community-minded servants and leaders in its membership and entrusting them with the responsibility of accomplishing the tasks of recruiting qualified students, raising scholarship funds and building goodwill among alumni and students.”

“Student Foundation will vigilantly persist in our work so as to honor Mr. Harlan’s memory. He would encourage us to continue to support the Kingdom-building work happening each and every day at Baylor University,” Hannah said. “His legacy will forever continue in the daily work of Student Foundation and through the thousands of students who have received and will continue to receive financial support through Student Foundation scholarships.”

According to Harlan’s obituary, while attending Baylor University, he enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1953 as a member of the 420th Engineering Brigade and then entered active duty in 1955. He remained in the Army Reserve for nine years until discharged. The day after discharge from the Army Reserve, he entered the U.S. Navy, serving until November 1978. He retired after 25 years of military service as a Chief Petty officer working in personnel matters at various naval air stations.

Harlan was a member of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church since 1964 and worked in the college department for 30 years. He was known as the “donut man” by the students for bringing 25 dozen donuts each Sunday. He was a devoted member of the church and spent many hours volunteering and helping those in need. He also gave back to the community throughout his life working with United Way for 35 years.

Harlan is survived by his wife of 61 years, Nancy Smith Harlan; daughter, Lee Lowe and husband, Tim; son, Scott, and wife, Tonya, and granddaughter, Danielle.

Memorials may be made to the Bill and Nancy Harlan Student Foundation Scholarship Fund at Baylor University, University Development, One Bear Place #97050, Waco, Texas 76798-7026, or Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, 1300 Columbus Ave., Waco, Texas 76701.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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