Baylor Breaks Ground on Brooks Village

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    More than 150 people gathered under the landmark Brooks arch for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Brooks Village.
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    Dr. Dub Oliver, interim vice president for student life, talks with students at the groundbreaking, including Mark Laymon (right), Baylor's student body president.
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    Participating in the ceremonial groundbreaking were Mark Laymon, student body president; Dr. Frank Shushok, dean for student learning and engagement; Will D. Davis, chairman of the board of regents; and Dr. John M. Lilley, Baylor president.
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    Members of the Campus Living and Learning Student Advisory Board, Division of Student Life staff members and current Brooks Hall residents break ground on Brooks Village.
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    Nine members of the Samuel Palmer Brooks family took part in the groundbreaking for Brooks Village. (L to R) Kelly Brooks, Gray Blackburn Brooks, Leah Brooks, Charlotte Brooks, Duncan Palmer Brooks Jr., Claire Lenoir Brooks, Duncan Palmer Brooks, Louise Lenoir Brooks and Samuel Palmer Brooks III.
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    Gray Blackburn Brooks holds his own ceremonial groundbreaking.
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May 12, 2006

by Lori Fogleman, director of media relations, (254) 710-6275

The Brooks Village groundbreaking is available via streaming video on

Under the landmark Brooks arch, with nine members of the Samuel Palmer Brooks family looking on, Baylor University broke ground May 12 on Brooks Village, the university's newest residential community that is expected to open in fall 2007.

"One of the major commitments of the university's vision is the building of community," said Baylor President John M. Lilley, a Baylor alumnus and himself a former resident of Brooks Hall. "The Brooks Village project will enhance our learning environment and move us toward a stronger residential campus, both in and out of the classroom. Brooks Village will be very helpful in attracting and retaining top students."

At 252,000 square feet, Brooks Village will accommodate 700 students in two new residential quadrangles: Brooks College - a traditional residential college that will offer 384 students across all disciplines and classifications the opportunity to live and learn in a community that is faculty-led, and Brooks Flats - a group of residential flats similar to Baylor's North Village layout providing 316 beds for upper-division students.

During the ceremony, students, faculty and staff gathered to pay tribute to Brooks Hall, which has been home to thousands of Baylor students since its construction in 1921, and to celebrate the university's new residential community, also named after Baylor's seventh president, which will serve the needs for future generations of students.

The architecture of the residential college will incorporate many of the external features of the current Brooks Hall, including the Brooks Arch. The complex also will feature a great hall, a chapel, a dining room, library and resource center, group study rooms and classrooms. Construction on the $42.8 million project is already under way.

An 800-car parking garage also will be built across from Collins Hall to accommodate the needs of residents living on the south side of the Baylor campus.

Students were involved and engaged in every step of the design for Brooks Village, including Miguel Romero, a junior accounting major from Laredo and community leader during the last year of Brooks Hall.

"When I look at the plans for the new Brooks my worries are quickly put to rest," Romero said. "From the common areas that reach out and invite students to come in, to the dining hall that brings a new and unprecedented feel to eating on campus, Brooks will be an amazing place to live for all those who have the opportunity."

Romero said many students often make their college decision after a visiting the campus, which is how he chose Baylor.

"My hope for Brooks Village is that those students who step inside the boundaries of it will, as I did, instantly be convinced that Baylor is the university for them," Romero said. "Not because of the nice buildings themselves, but I hope that students will take Brooks Village as a sign of a university that is committed to providing diverse residential experiences, unique academic challenges, faith strengthening emotions, and an overall student life that ranks among the top in the nation."

Dr. Dub Oliver, interim vice president for student life, presided over the ceremony, and gave a brief history of Brooks Hall:

• Construction on the $365,530 building began in February of 1920, but funding problems caused delays.

• Waco residents stepped up to contribute $200,000, and the building was completed in September 1921.

• For its first two years, the building was known simply as "Men's Dormitory."

• In 1923, the Board of Trustees named the building S.P. Brooks Hall in honor of then-Baylor President Samuel Palmer Brooks.

• The five-story building was built on a "stairwell" plan with eight stairwells and contained no interior hallways. Most of the rooms were two-room suites connected by bathrooms.

• Air conditioning was added in 1965.

• In 1987, interior hallways were added, community baths were created, and the fifth floor was closed.

"During its 85 years of service, over 25,000 Baylor men have lived here, serving faithfully in their local communities, our state, the nation and around the world after learning lessons here that as S.P. Brooks would say, 'Fit them for life here and hereafter,'" Oliver said. "Brooks has been a campus icon for 85 years, and the new Brooks Residential College will be so as well. The name Samuel Palmer Brooks will forever link the past and the future."

Nine members of the Brooks family attended the groundbreaking, including Louise Lenoir Brooks, the wife of Samuel Palmer Brooks II; Lou's son, Duncan Palmer Brooks, his wife, Kelly, and their children Leah Brooks, Duncan Palmer Brooks Jr., Gray Blackburn Brooks and Claire Lenoir Brooks; and two of Lou's grandchildren, Samuel Palmer Brooks III, a Baylor freshman, and Charlotte Lenoir Brooks, a Baylor junior.

"I think all the traditions will still be there," Palmer Brooks said. "I think all the students will remembers Brooks' name a lot better with the newer building and have a more positive connotation with the name."

Lou Brooks said she was "horrified' when she first learned that Brooks Hall would be torn down but calls the new Brooks Village "wonderful."

"For this day and age, it's much of an improvement," she said. "When I was at Baylor, we all lived on campus. It's a wonderful experience. I think [Brooks Village] will enhance student life and learning."

"We're proud of our family, and we're also proud of the new building that's being built," Charlotte Brooks said. "It will be a vast improvement, and I love that it's going to keep some of the old architectural style and the integrity of the old building."

A Baylor graduate and former teacher, Brooks served as president of Baylor from 1902 until his death on May 14, 1931.

When Brooks began at Baylor, the university had fewer than 300 students. He established a College of Medicine, a College of Pharmacy, a College of Dentistry and a theological seminary. He organized the College of Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Education, Music, Business and Nursing. He reinstated the School of Law as well as established Baylor Hospital in Dallas. Enrollment at the end of his presidency exceeded 3,000 students.

Called "Prexy," Brooks permitted students to choose the school colors, adopt the bear as the university's mascot, and organized the first homecoming celebration.

Oliver told the crowd that "we come today to break ground on a complex of which Samuel Palmer Brooks and all the Baylor family can be proud."

Following that ceremony, Baylor dedicated Bear Park, the senior class gift. Chosen by the Class of 2006 to promote fellowship on campus, the outdoor meeting and social area at South Russell field includes a sand volleyball court, barbecue pits and picnic tables.

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