Reflecting on 10 Years in Leadership: A DPG Exit Interview with Dean of Libraries Pattie Orr

Dean of Libraries/Vice President for Information Technology Services Pattie Orr. Photographed in Moody Memorial Library on May 9, 2017 by Carlye Thornton, BU Marketing Communications.

When I sat down this past March with Dean of Libraries and Vice President for Information Technology Services Pattie Orr, we were in her office in Moody Memorial Library, surrounded by ten years’ worth of mementos both personal and professional. A construction helmet from the ceremonial groundbreaking for McLane Stadium. A print of a sheet music cover from the 19th century. Books written by or about Baylor luminaries. And on the table before us one of her ever-present cups of iced green tea, fresh and cold from the upstairs Starbucks location that she helped shepherd from idea to reality in 2011.

The purpose of our visit was to document Dean Orr’s memories of the Digital Projects Group on the eve of her upcoming retirement. After a decade of service to the libraries and ITS, Dean Orr will retire from Baylor on May 31. Pattie likes to joke that she’s leaving at 5:00 PM on that day, but her husband Steve, who preceded her in retirement two years ago, likes to say it won’t be a moment longer than 5:00:01. Maybe that’s because he’s excited for her to join him in the post-workaday world, or maybe it’s because he knows she’s accomplished so many big things during her tenure that he’s afraid she’ll find one last thing to do – which could lead to another, and another and a further delaying of her well-deserved time off. Either way, you get the sense he’s not taking any chances, hence the very specific timestamp for her final day’s work as dean.

Day One: A Chance Encounter, A Longtime Partner

Darryl Stuhr (from left), Prof. Robert Darden and Pattie at an event in Washington, D.C. promoting the BGMRP, 2016. Prof. Darden would be one of Pattie’s earliest and most dedicated faculty supporters.

I asked Dean Orr to relay her first memory of the DPG, the group that has grown under her leadership to oversee a digital collection of more than 400,000 items, a suite filled with sophisticated digitization equipment and a flagship project – the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project or BGMRP – that is now part of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History & Culture. And it seems fitting somehow that her first memory involves meeting the BGMRP’s patron saint, Robert Darden.

“Bill Hair [interim dean, Pattie’s predecessor] and I were walking through the Goodpasture Concourse [in Moody Memorial Library] and Bob Darden was standing there, and Bill introduced me to him, and he told me what a great partner he was and how he’d worked so closely with all of you [in the Digital Projects Group],” Pattie told me. “He said Bob was one of our most supportive faculty and he turned out to be the very first faculty I met in the library.

“Bob told me about all the great work you were doing [in the DPG] and the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project and how wonderful it was, and so I started my first day with a compliment from faculty lips, so it was  good way to start.”

That hallway conversation would start a relationship between Dean Orr and Prof. Darden that would culminate in a nationally recognized effort to save imperiled recordings of America’s black gospel music heritage, a project that would find its way into the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.

From a Dark Room to a Bright Future

Darryl Stuhr drafted the initial plans for the Riley Digitization Center (then suite) in 2006

I asked Pattie to recall her first meeting with the team that would become the Digital Projects Group – at the time, a team composed of Darryl Stuhr (now Associate Director for Special Projects), audio engineer Tony Tadey and myself. “My earliest memory of the Electronic Library digitization group in particular was in this room that became the Riley Center that had stacks of books and that y’all were in the dark, working on your scanning,” Pattie said. “And I just thought that was so interesting because I saw the Riley Reading Room [on Moody 2nd floor] and realized there was more to it than just that room, but my main vision of you all in the beginning was you all sitting in the dark, scanning, lights all off.

“And then you and Darryl showing me the recording studio and realizing why you put it down there – which made perfect sense – and I just remember [thinking], ‘This is such interesting work that’s being done. It’s a shame that they’re in the dark.’ And then not too long after that we began to think about what we could do to expand it and how could we move things and I remember that first summer we met with Harold Riley.”

Harold Riley would play a crucial role in the development of the Digital Projects Group, and Pattie’s visit in the summer of 2007 – along with then-director of development John Wilson – would pave the way toward Mr. Riley’s generous gift to fund the creation of the Ray I. Riley Digitization Center, named in honor of his father. Pattie said that while she hadn’t met Mr. Riley prior to their summer meeting, she had heard he was a man of great faith, so she asked us to put images from the BGMRP and other projects onto a laptop to show him the kind of work the DPG was doing in its current sub-optimal configuration – literally, in the dark, among stacks of books in an underutilized space called the Scholars Room.

“I remember we sat on the couch together and I showed him those images and played him the music and he was very inspired by that,” Pattie said. “I told him a little bit more about it and after we talked about this he said the words that every dean loves to hear: ‘How can I help you?’ And I’ll just never forget that – the happiest words, ‘How can I help you?”

Those five words sparked a flurry of planning and dreaming on the part of the Electronic Library, particularly with Darryl as he worked to create an outline of what the Riley Center could look like if it were to serve the needs of the DPG for decades to come. Pattie returned to Mr. Riley with a plan to house current and future DPG employees and their necessary work spaces and specialized equipment in one central location: the space that would become the Riley Center.

“I’ve been really proud of that space. I think it was well-planned by the group. You all did the thinking power behind how that space could work,” Pattie said.

A Day with Lev and Ella

Pattie’s second major memory of the pre-Riley Center digitization space was the day the team and Dean Orr spent with our dear friend, the late Lev H. Prichard III. When Mr. and Mrs. Prichard read a story in their local newspaper, written by Professor Robert Darden, lamenting the scarcity of America’s recordings of black gospel music. A black gospel music collector and fan, Mr. Prichard and his wife Ella Prichard became interested in finding ways to work with Baylor to address the problem.

Lev and Ella got connected with Dean Pattie Orr and a visit to the digitization center was arranged. After a tour of the Riley Digitization Center and meetings with Electronic Library staff, Mr. Prichard spent the balance of the day with Darryl, Tony and myself listening to recordings of black gospel songs and generally being overwhelmed with the power and potential of the project.

“I remember you all spending the day with Lev and watching him listen to the recordings you had saved for the BGMRP and seeing his obvious love of the genre. And that love of the black gospel music led his family to create a generous gift to support the project.”

It would come to pass that this visit would be Mr. Prichard’s last to the campus that he loved so dearly and supported so strongly; he passed away in 2009 . And it would be one that would prove incredibly important in the life of the BGMRP, as it eventually led to the creation of the Lev H. Prichard III Black Sacred Music Endowed Fund, an important source of revenue that helps us continue the work of the BGMRP.

The Prichard family’s generosity toward the libraries would take form in two other ways under Pattie’s watch, as well. Lev’s Gathering Place, a beautifully furnished space in the Crouch Fine Arts Library, was created to showcase items from the BGMRP and to provide listening stations where students, faculty and visitors could listen to gospel tunes year-round. In 1996, Lev and Ella established the Pruit Symposium, an annual gathering of researchers and scholars that examines contemporary issues through the “perspective of the Christian intellectual tradition.” In partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences, along with many other academic partners, the Pruit Symposium has focused for the past several years on the topic of black sacred music and its evolving place in African American culture, as well as the broader role of religion in American society.

Workers install the sound isolation booth in the Scholars Room, an area that would become the Riley Digitization Center, in 2007.

On Fundraising

If it hasn’t become clear to this point, one of Pattie’s strongest skills is her ability to match a library need with an interested party in a fundraising version of the Match Game. I asked her if raising money was something specific she’d set out to do in her career in higher education administration or if it was something she found a natural talent for along the way.

“If you really feel strongly about what you’re raising money for, it’s the easiest thing to do,” she told me. “I’ve raised money for very practical things – air conditioning in one case, bathrooms in another – a lot of things that aren’t necessarily exciting on their own. When we held the Regents’ Dinner in the space outside the Riley Center in 2008, right after the RDC opened, they [the Regents] could look around at the old furniture nearby from 1968 and they could see the need to upgrade and they said, ‘Oh, boy, there’s work to do’ to renovate the library. That made it easier to find donors to support that work.

“[With the BGMRP] we can really care about the music and the message. We can paint a vision for what we can do for this genre,” Pattie continued. “Baylor’s a unique place where we can combine the academics with the message of Jesus and we can work together to save these irreplaceable recordings for future generations. That makes raising money for the project much, much easier.”

How Do I Love The(se Digitized Letters)?

The members of the Browning Letters Project gather for a tour of the RDC (from left): Roberta Rodriquez (BU), Anna Sander (Balliol, Ofxord), Ian Graham (Wellesley), Fiona Godber (Balliol), Darryl Stuhr (BU), Eric Ames (BU) and Allyson Riley (BU) in 2014.

Pattie’s previous employer, Wellesley College, is known for having the “love letters” of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. So when she arrived at Baylor in 2007, she jokes that she kept getting asked one question over and over by fans of the Armstrong Browning Library: “Did you bring any of those love letters with you?”

It turned out to be a prophetic question, as Pattie was able to use her connections with Wellesley’s special collections librarians to help facilitate what she calls “the personal project I most wanted to see become complete”: the Browning Letters Project. In partnership with Wellesley and other holding institutions including Oxford and the University of Texas at Austin, Pattie and the staff at the ABL partnered with us to create a joint digitization project that unified Robert and Elizabeth’s written correspondence under one asset management system for the first time ever. That meant more than 4,880 (and counting) letters related to the Brownings were accessible in one site to researchers all over the world, but Pattie was most excited about the impact it could have on undergraduate scholars.

“To think that undergraduates could have unlimited access to those letters … No undergraduate would ever get the kind of access to the original documents that they can get with this digital collection – to improve scholarship, to have unlimited amounts of time to access them, that was the important aspect of the project [to me].”

Who Knew the Cruse Was So Versatile?

One of my favorite moments in our discussion came when I asked Pattie if she had a favorite piece of digitization equipment in the RDC. Her answer surprised me: the Cruse CS-285 large format scanner, or as she’s called it from day one, “Papa Bear.” Most people go with a flashier option like the KIRTAS APT-2900 automatic page turning book imager, but Pattie’s description of the Cruse revealed her fascination with the mammoth German import.

“I mean, it’s a hammer, a Swiss army knife, a shoe polish, a dessert topping – there are so many unexpected uses for this machine!” Pattie said with a laugh. And she’s right: over the years, the Cruse has been used to digitize newspapers, panoramic photographs, student artwork, the official portraits of all the Baylor presidents, architectural blueprints and more. It certainly finds new ways to be useful each and every semester, though none of us have tried it on ice cream (yet).

I mean, it’s a hammer, a Swiss army knife, a shoe polish, a dessert topping – there are so many unexpected uses for this machine!

A Vision for the Future of the DPG

Pattie (far right) surprised the DPG during a photo shoot in 2012. She suggested we do a “jumping shot” with her and the result became legend. From left, Darryl Stuhr, Allyson Riley, Eric Ames, Austin Schneider and Stephen Bolech join in the fun.

We wrapped up our conversation with a discussion of where Pattie would like to see the DPG in the next five to ten years. She expressed her excitement at seeing how the projects we undertake touch the lives of people in unexpected ways.

“My first teaching job after school was with the Texas School for the Blind in Austin,” Pattie said. “So it was a nice surprise to find that the DPG was able to use its scanners to help vision-impaired students through OALA.” OALA is our Office of Access and Learning Accommodation, and for many years the RDC has used its high-speed book imager to create digital versions of textbooks and course materials for students with visual impairments to access on book readers and other devices. Prior to our help, OALA staff members had to laboriously unbind and scan books one page at a time on a flatbed, a process that could take hours for a single book. Now, we can turn around a fully digitized textbook – sometimes upwards of 700 pages long – as a PDF in less than a day.

She also got a real kick out of watching faculty retirees interact with the BGMRP during a recent event on campus. “It was a real joy to do that program for the retirees,” Pattie said. “To see the sparkle in their eyes, to see them interact with the black gospel music and the other special materials was wonderful.”

Lastly, Pattie hopes to see us further expand the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project and its related materials, most notably the nascent Black Preaching Project. As the BGMRP gets larger and more recognition nationwide, we are expanding our collections into preserving the sermons of African American preachers, starting with the Rev. Clay Evans of Chicago, whose recorded sermons will be online in the coming months. Other projects include a “piano bench” project under the guidance of ethnomusicologist and Baylor faculty member Horace Maxile that would focus on saving sheet music published by African American artists and publishers around the turn of the last century. And of course, there’s the dozens of programs and events like Voices & Vinyl and Visions of Rapture that promote and support the BGMRP.

Pattie knows that’s a lot to ask – “You’ll always need a Sabbath; even a horse and a mule need a Sabbath!” she joked – but she also knows we’re up to the challenge. “What you all have been able to do in the past ten years is just incredible and I know you’re only going to keep doing bigger and better things in the coming years.”

That’s high praise from someone who’s overseen a decade’s worth of incredible work from a talent staff of library and ITS professionals, and we’re honored to take it.


We ended our conversation as so many of Pattie’s conversations end these days: right before she had to go into another meeting. There’s a steady stream of those nowadays as Pattie works to wrap up her final projects in the last months of her time on Baylor’s clock. But she shows no sign of riding quietly into the sunset. She told me she’s looking forward to transitioning from being the dean to being on the board of advisors for the library – “Now I can tell you what I really think!” she said with a laugh – and to attending the dozens of library events and faculty talks she rarely got to attend when she was dean/vice president.

I suspect retirement will be kind to Pattie; with two young grandsons in town and an eager travel companion in her husband, Steve, what’s not to love? But it’s also equally likely that whoever takes the reins as Dean of Libraries in the coming years will have big shoes to fill, especially when it comes to her unwavering support for the DPG.

Darryl Stuhr, Pattie Orr and Eric Ames at Dean Orr’s retirement reception in the Armstrong Browning Library’s Foyer of Meditation, May 9, 2017

Dean Pattie Orr will retire from Baylor University at the end of the day on May 31, 2017. This interview is a condensed version of an interview conducted on March 22. The DPG wishes to thank Pattie for her years of service to Baylor and her support of our work. Enjoy your retirement, Dean Orr, and sic ’em!


“I Like to Speak the Lingo of the Laity” – Celebrating the 70th anniversary of a Pat Neff Chapel Talk

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-2-42-44-pmOn Monday, December 16, 1946, Baylor University president Pat M. Neff delivered a speech to the students assembled for what would be the final Chapel gathering of the year. Students were scheduled to be released for the Christmas break at 5:00 PM on Thursday the 19th, and everyone was in a festive frame of mind, including President Neff. That spirit of good cheer probably accounts for why, as the needle dropped on a turntable that would record his speech for posterity, Neff chose to open his presentation with a joke.

I do not know what we’d do if we didn’t have the weather to talk about. And do you know why we talk about the weather? It’s because one person in Texas knows just as much about the weather as any other person. Therefore, we meet on a common platform and discuss the weather.

(I didn’t say it was a good joke, just that it was, technically a joke.)

And now, 70 years to the day after it was recorded live in Waco Hall, you can hear the speech in its entirety – and read a full transcript, if you’re so inclined – as part of the Baylor University Archives Digital Collection. []

Click play on the player above to listen to the entire speech in this browser window. NOTE: Due to size restrictions for MP3 files in WordPress, the quality of this audio has been reduced from the original audio that can be found at the link to our Digital Collections site.

We wanted to take the occasion of this major anniversary to examine President Neff’s message, to dive into its sentiments, to examine what was on the president’s mind at the close of what would be his penultimate year as Baylor’s chief executive … and, most importantly, to discuss something that caught all of us here a little off-guard: Pat Neff was actually pretty funny.

“Smilin'” Pat Neff

We jokingly refer to President Neff by the nickname “Smilin'” Pat Neff, mainly because we’ve never actually seen him smile. As evidence, here are his official portraits from the Round Up, our campus yearbook, from the 1940s.


That’s as big as his smiles get, folks.

And lest you think this was just a result of being a little more seasoned by life’s hardships, so to speak, observe this retrospective collage of Neff photos from the 1943 Round Up.


Some people just want to watch the world react in an even-keeled way.

With all of this evidence to the contrary, you can forgive us for not expecting Neff to have much of a sense of humor. But that’s where we turned out to be very wrong.

It actually shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise, in retrospect. After all, Neff ran a successful campaign for statewide office – governor, no less – and was a successful fundraiser and member of Baylor’s Board of Trustees before assuming the BU presidency. With some notable exceptions – *coughCalvinCoolidgecough* – it’s incredibly difficult to become such a powerful person without possessing any personality at all. But you can forgive us for being surprised to find not one but numerous occasions throughout the December 16, 1946 chapel talk recording where Neff’s speech is interrupted by audience laughter. And not just polite, “Oh, our president is so humorous, let’s give him a chuckle” kind of laughter, but actual, “By gum, that’s funny!” laughter. In fact, the transcript is interrupted more than two dozen times with the phrase [audience laughter], indicating Neff not only knew his way around a desk but around a punchline as well.

The Man Speaks


President Neff: statesman, president, world champion microphone staring contest winner

When the transcription disks containing Neff’s 1946 Chapel talk were digitized earlier this year, none of our staff in the Digital Projects Group had ever heard his voice. In fact, other than recognizing his stoic visage from an item we’d digitized several years earlier, no one other than myself had had much occasion to look at or think about materials related to Baylor’s former president. But I’d always been fascinated with Neff’s life and impact on the state of Texas. (Fun fact: as a proud Texas Tech Red Raider alumnus, Neff holds a special place in my heart as the governor who signed the bill, in 1923, establishing Texas Technological College in Lubbock.) So I was particularly excited to hear Neff’s voice for the first time when I first sat down to transcribe the five album sides containing the speech.

Neff’s voice on the recordings is strong and clear, with a distinct Texas drawl and a now-familiar cadence that I recognize as being inherent to public speakers who grew up learning to speak in public at the turn of the last century. He speaks a little on the slow side and with a seasoned speaker’s ability to pace his words to his audience’s reaction. This, after all, was a man accustomed to addressing crowds of well-wishers, nay-sayers, Congressmen, rodeos, student groups and classrooms; in short, he knows what he’s doing on a speaker’s rostrum.

After opening with his “Texas weather” joke – a safe topic for anyone who’s spent more than 10 seconds in our fair state – Neff launches into the meat of his presentation: what to talk about when you head home for Christmas and you’re stuck with your parents. Neff recognizes that many of these students are going home for the first time since arriving in the summer as freshmen, and he notes that the people back home might not recognize them anymore (because the women students in particular might have on “these little lampshade things they call a hat”). In addition, he thinks they might be interested to hear more about Baylor University and the life of the campus, so his thrust for the speech is to give the student body some interesting facts with which to regale the curious during the Christmastide.

One of his biggest laugh lines – and the source of the quote in this post’s title – is when Neff encourages the students to engage with everyone they meet back home. He notes that they may be shy to speak to these strange creatures known as college students, but that the Baylor Bears are to be “calm when you go to church, or their party, or their shindig” – at which point the audience breaks into laughter. Neff, in a bit of self-effacing humor after using such an up-to-date piece of slang, notes with mock humility that he likes “to speak the lingo of the laity.” This, of course, draws additional laughter.

Neff draws another big laugh out of a riff on what a privilege it is to be at Baylor in 1946. I’ll let the transcript tell it from here:

Sure, it’s a wonderful thing to be at an institution of learning like this. Sit down and talk to your folks about it. It won’t do you any harm and it’ll do them a whole lot of good. That’s what the girl said when her mother reprimanded her for letting the boys kiss her. She says, ‘Mother, it didn’t do me any harm and it did the boys a lot of good.'” [audience laughter] I don’t see anything funny about that! [laughs, audience laughter].

The “boys kissing the girl” joke plays off smoothly and strikes me as the kind of joke Neff probably told dozens of times at dozens of events during a long career as a public figure. But that doesn’t make the students’ genuinely amused response, or Neff’s laughing retort, any less delightful.

In between all the giggles and guffaws, however, there runs a serious streak. Neff takes the occasion of his Chapel talk to remind the assembled students that while the majority of students at Baylor were reported to be of the Baptist religious affiliation, other groups on campus were growing every year. The presence of Methodists, Lutherans, Church of Christ and Christian Church members may not be surprising on a large college campus in 1946, but the note that there were a total of 26 different denominations – including Quakers and Mormons – might be. Perhaps more surprising is Neff’s encouragement that the students “touch elbows and have comradeship and fellowship with somebody outside of your circle.” He continues, “If I were in your place, I’d make the acquaintance of these Mormons, and I’d make acquaintance of these Quakers … You might try them on and see what they have with their religion. If you can’t fortify yours and stand up with it and by it, perhaps it’ll do you good to listen to some of these others.”

That sets up one of Neff’s most effective lines in the entire speech, one that does what any good university-level speech ought to do to its audience: make them think.

I’ll tell you now, if you ever tie in to a Mormon, he can tell you why he’s a Mormon. I know why you’re a Baptist: because your parents were. He can tell you why he is. The faith that’s in him. Try one of them. See if you can.

At first, this reads as much as an insult as a joke, but after letting it sit with me for a few minutes, it struck me that what Neff was doing wasn’t an attempt to tear anyone down but to encourage members of all the various faiths present on campus to truly examine their beliefs, to do some (literal) soul searching and to know, inherently, why they identified as a particular religion, and not just for a surface reason like family tradition. He is encouraging the students to truly – to borrow a phrase – “know themselves.”

After a true master class in public speaking, Neff draws his speech to a close after twenty minutes of laughs, insight and homespun wisdom with this closing passage:

We just have to to through the world our one time, we go through just once. And when you go through these coming holiday seasons, you’ll pass through them no more. When this chapel has been adjourned, you’ll not be just as you are anymore; that’ll be in the past. The mill never grinds through the water that’s passed.

It’s an introspective, somewhat bittersweet dispensation of wisdom from a man who will pass from the Earth in a mere five years to a room full of the nation’s robust youth, fresh off the end of a devastating World War and awash in the promise of a better tomorrow, and it strikes me as pitch perfect for the occasion.

In lieu of a “benediction,” Neff closes the recording by kicking off an organ-accompanied rendition of That Good Old Baylor Line, as hundreds of youthful voices unite together to close out a semester of learning, fellowship and growth.



A Worthy Challenge

The entire 22 minute recording is well worth your listen, but if you have time for only a short excerpt, I encourage you to listen to this section of audio where Neff exhorts the students to remember the high privilege of being able to attend a university in a time when so many people in the country worked at backbreaking, manual labor and would never know the dream of an advanced education.



Bonus Audio!

On the b-side of the final disk of the Chapel talk recordings, an enterprising audiophile went into the clear cold morning of December 24, 1946 and recorded audio of the bells of Baylor campus playing two short Christmas songs: O Christmas Tree and Silent Night. We hope you enjoy these seasonally appropriate sounds of Baylor University as it was recorded live, 70 years ago this month.

“Modern, Functional and Beautiful” – Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Moody Memorial Library Groundbreaking

October 21, 1966 marked a major event in the history of Baylor University when students, trustees, faculty and supporters gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of a “modern, functional and beautiful” new library. Named in honor of a generous gift from the Moody Foundation of Galveston, the Moody Memorial Library building was a much-needed expansion of Baylor’s physical plant and a crucial element in a long-range plan called Projection 68 that sought to grow the university’s physical footprint and enhance its reputation as an institution of higher education.

A Key Component of Projection 68

A new library facility was identified as one of three major components of Projection 68, an ambitious plan aimed at rejuvenating the aging infrastructure of Baylor’s campus. Parts of the campus built environment dated to the mid 1880s with buildings like Old Main and Burleson Hall, and the library facilities housed in the Carroll Library building were woefully inadequate for the swelling numbers of students enrolled in classes by the 1960s.

Tom Parrish, director of development and a participant in the Moody ceremony, called Projection 68 “a plan which when realized ‘will raise Baylor to a new plateau of service. We must think big and act big because the challenge is big at Baylor.'” In addition to the new library, Projection 68 called for construction of a new wing on Waco Hall for the School of Music; improvements to the auditorium at Waco Hall; and construction of a new science building.

Moody Memorial Library was slated for construction at the far end of what is known today as Fountain Mall, just across Third Street from the main campus. In 1966, the land across Third Street from campus was residential all the way to the Brazos River. This aerial photo by Windy Drum, from The Texas Collection Photographic Archive, shows the general area in the mid-1950s.


Click to enlarge. See the full photo in The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.


As part of a major redevelopment project called Urban Renewal – which radically transformed the landscape of Waco during the 1960s – the area between Third Street and the Brazos River was acquired and ceded to the university by the Baylor-Waco Foundation, and plans to expand campus toward the river began immediately.

A call for proposals for the library’s new design went out and the winning bid went to the Dallas architecture firm of Jarvis Putty Jarvis. An early rendering of the library – proposed to be situated on Burleson Quadrangle, not the area across Third Street where it would eventually be built — looked like this:

Architects' renderings of proposed new library for Baylor University, 1964.

Architects’ renderings of proposed new library for Baylor University, 1964. Image courtesy Baylor University, The Texas Collection, Waco, TX via The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.


Moving the library’s site to the new area across Third Street also allowed for changes to be made to the proposed elevation of the facility, and the more-or-less final design was available for presentation by Jarvis Putty Jarvis at a meeting on October 14, 1966.

Photo of Jarvis Putty Jarvis representatives with library building rendering from the October 14, 1966 Baylor Lariat.

Photo of Jarvis Putty Jarvis representatives with library building rendering from the October 14, 1966 Baylor Lariat.


The same rendering can be seen in this photo of Joe Allbritton and Abner V. McCall from around the same time.

Photo of Joe Allbritton and Abner V. McCall with library building rendering.

Photo of Joe Allbritton and Abner V. McCall with library building rendering. Image courtesy Baylor University, The Texas Collection, Waco, TX via The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.


Images of the Ceremony

The day of the ceremony dawned clear but breezy. As Baylor Lariat reporter Mike McKinney noted in his front-page coverage of the event, “Speakers held down their notes, women covered their blowing hair and most everyone had on sunglasses” during the festivities.


Mike McKinney's article on the ceremony, from the October 22, 1966 Baylor Lariat.

Mike McKinney’s article on the ceremony, from the October 22, 1966 Baylor Lariat.


Dignitaries took their places on the viewing stand for a program that included speeches from Joe Allbritton (chair of the Board of Trustees’ Library Committee), Baylor University librarian James Rogers and Baylor president Abner V. McCall. A brass ensemble provided musical accompaniment to the festivities, and the event concluded with the ceremonial first shovelful of dirt being turned by Mrs. Mary Moody Northen of the Moody family. To make things easier for all involved, McKinney notes that a pile of sand was trucked in for the ceremony by maintenance crews so as to “make digging a little easier.”

We also know that no university has achieved true greatness without excellent library facilities.”

– Joe Allbritton, from groundbreaking ceremony address

Scenes from the ceremony were captured by commercial photography Lavern “Windy” Drum. The originals are available as part of the photographic holdings of The Texas Collection, with digital surrogates viewable in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections. Selections of those digital versions are presented here.

Ceremonial shovels await the beginning of festivities next to the speakers' platform.

Ceremonial shovels await the beginning of festivities next to the speakers’ platform. Photo by Windy Drum. Image courtesy Baylor University, The Texas Collection, Waco, TX via The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.

Mary Moody Northen turns the first shovel of dirt during the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Windy Drum. Image courtesy Baylor University, The Texas Collection, Waco, TX via The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.

Mary Moody Northen turns the first shovel of dirt during the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Windy Drum. Image courtesy Baylor University, The Texas Collection, Waco, TX via The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.


View from behind the speakers' platform at the groundbreaking ceremony. Note Pat Neff Hall in background and Marrs McLean Science building on right. Photo by Windy Drum. Image courtesy Baylor University, The Texas Collection, Waco, TX via The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.

View from behind the speakers’ platform at the groundbreaking ceremony. Note Pat Neff Hall in background and Marrs McLean Science building on right. Photo by Windy Drum. Image courtesy Baylor University, The Texas Collection, Waco, TX via The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.


Ceremony participants (from left) Joe Allbritton, Hilton Howell and Baylor University president Abner V. McCall with ceremonial shovel.

Ceremony participants (from left) Joe Allbritton, Hilton Howell and Baylor University president Abner V. McCall with ceremonial shovel. Photo by Windy Drum. Image courtesy Baylor University, The Texas Collection, Waco, TX via The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.


The speech delivered by committee chair Joe Allbritton was released as a press release after the ceremony, but it is reproduced here in non-ALL CAPS FORMAT for your review. Note that several sections of it are quoted directly in the coverage provided by the October 22 edition of the Baylor Lariat.

Text of Baylor trustees’ library committee chair Joe Allbritton’s speech at the Moody Memorial Library groundbreaking ceremony, Friday, October 21, 1966

There have been many momentous occasions in the 121-year history of Baylor University, but none excels the cause that brings us together this morning and none will mean more to the future greatness of our university.

I’m sure there are those who will disagree with that conclusion. Some may even contend that the winning of the Southwest Conference football championship in 1924 was a more auspicious achievement.

Suffice it to say we have somehow managed to survive on the gridiron for 42 years without another conference title and likewise we have progressed and grown into a respected and reputable institution of higher learning despite inadequate library facilities for at least that long a span of time.

I think it is reasonable, and certainly delectable, as we return to campus for homecoming, to speculate on the possibility of achieving both goals this year.

Of course, football fortunes come and go because they largely depend on the transitory nature of human elements — or translated into the Bridgers’ vernacular, manpower or personnel. School presidents, professors, even chairmen of library building committees are of but fleeting importance in the long-range scheme of building a great university.

But a library, and the wisdom and knowledge contained therein, is of a different nature.

Thomas Carlyle put it appropriately some 100 years ago when he said: “After all manner of professors have done their best for us, the place we are to get knowledge is in books. The true university of these days is a collection of books.” If true then, all the more is it true today. The explosion of knowledge since World War II, particularly in the physical sciences, makes it imperative that this relatively new knowledge be made readily accessible to the university student.

And certainly just as important as the new, mushrooming technology of the space age, are the truths, the opinions, and the philosophies of old — some of which, when brought into perspective can be of invaluable assistance in solving the social problems that still defy solution.

Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, addressed himself to this phase of a library’s importance when he wrote: “… one of the unhappy characteristics of modern man is that he lives in a state of historical disconnection. He has not put his experience to work in coping with new dangers. He has tended to segregate himself from the wisdom so slowly and painfully built up over long centuries. He has made the mistake of thinking that because there is so much that is new in the nature of contemporary crisis the past has nothing of value to say to use …”

“it is in this sense,” Cousins continued, “that the library may be able to speak to the human condition in today’s world. For books serve as the natural bloodstream of human experience. They make it possible for the big thoughts of big minds to circulate in the body of history. They represent a point of contact between the past and future.”

As we break ground today for the magnificent Moody Memorial Library I feel that we are commencing a new era of academic achievement and excellence at Baylor University. Today marks the beginning of the end of Projection 68 which was designed in 1963 to provide the physical improvements so necessary to further the academic maturation of our University.

Already completed are the improvements to our School of Music and the Auditorium in Waco Hall, and the new science building is well under way.

We have known for years that the inadequacy of physical facilities stood as a barrier to our objectives and that the lack of a modern, efficient, and excellent library was the major obstacle in the path toward a truly great university.

Through the dedication and hard work of many — the administration, the trustees, the ex-students, and the many friends of Baylor — we have been successful in raising most of the funds necessary to bring Projection 68 into reality.

While we must continue our efforts to assure our fundraising goals, we can now at least begin to shift our major development emphasis from the physical to the academic. While our physical plan needs were critical, we all realize that architecture, brick, and stone merely provide the proper setting and environment for those who work in the academic community and allow them to perform their tasks and services at a higher level of inspiration and efficiency.

We also know that no university has achieved true greatness without excellent library facilities.

Paul Buck, the former director of libraries at Harvard University, has pointed out that the quality of a university’s library is “a major factor in determining the quality of the education that an institution can provide and the quality of the faculty it can recruit. Strong libraries are essential to the full exploitation of intellectual resources and to the maintenance of free access to ideas,” he concludes.

In the past few years Baylor has reached the crossroads of excellence in education. The university administrators and trustees could have taken the path of least resistance — we could have patched the roof and taken other temporary measures and in so doing still maintained and improved a good university.

Rather, we took the more difficult path toward excellence, because it is the most logical road for Baylor to travel toward maintaining and improving and excellence undergraduate program and expanding the graduate program to meet the increasing demands of our state and nation.

So today, Baylor University, the oldest university in continuous service in the State of Texas, looks to the future with confidence and great expectations.

Our goal is not bigness, for this is not the function of a private, religiously oriented university. Rather, our objective is quality.

We have made great strides toward this objective. But always, the lack of physical facilities — particularly inadequate library space — has caused concern and slowed the pace of progress.

The modern, functional and beautiful Moody Memorial Library will be the catalyst that will move the university toward realization of its true potential.

NOTE: The preceding text was edited slightly from the original to address typographical errors. Read the full address in its original typewritten form in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

A Final Look at Early Moody

The 1967 Baylor Round Up, the campus yearbook, shows how much progress was made by the time the official story of 1966 had been documented and told by Baylor’s student journalists.

Image from construction site of Moody Memorial Library toward Fountain Mall from 1967 "Baylor Round Up."

Image from construction site of Moody Memorial Library toward Fountain Mall from 1967 “Baylor Round Up.”


Today, we mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the building in which so many Baylor library staff, faculty and students have spent time – including those of us in the Digital Projects Group, whose offices are located on Moody’s Garden Level. We will be providing periodic updates to the construction and grand opening of Moody in advance of the 50th anniversary of its debut in 1968, so stay tuned to this blog for much more to come!


Still “Crush”-ing It 120 Years Later: Revisiting a Classic Post on a Big Anniversary

Today is the 120th anniversary of the “Crash at Crush,” a marketing stunt carried out by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT or “Katy”) Railroad in a field just outside of Waco. Our friends at Waco History have a great post about the event on their website, and it used materials from our blog post below to help give a more in-depth look to a truly unique instance in Texas history.

Screenshot of Crash at Crush story from Waco History (

Screenshot of Crash at Crush story from Waco History (

In honor of the big day, we’re re-posting our look at the event, as well as the way Scott Joplin memorialized it in song. Enjoy!

(Original post from April 19, 2012 follows below.)

Scott Joplin’s “Great Crush Collision March” and
the Memorialization of a Marketing Spectacle

For most people, the name Scott Joplin brings up a common range of responses: ragtime music, the Maple Leaf Rag, and his opera Treemonisha. But you’d be hard pressed to find someone whose first reaction to hearing Joplin’s name would be, “Oh, he’s the guy who wrote the song about the staged train crash near Waco!” Strangely enough, that person would be just as correct as the rest of us.

While conducting contextual background research for the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music, I came across a reference to the collection having been cited in the preface of a book entitled The Collected Works of Scott Joplin. I retrieved a copy from the Crouch Fine Arts Library holdings and began reading the preface, looking for a mention of the collection. In a section on Joplin’s early years, I read the following paragraphs:

In 1896 the Quartette toured Louisiana and Texas. In Temple, Texas, Joplin secured his first piano publications: Combination March and Harmony Club Waltz, both with the local imprint of Robert Smith; and The (Great) Crush Collision March, published by John R. Fuller.

The first two pieces are uneventful period pieces. Crush Collision March, however, is a period piece of a special sort. As much program music as a march, it is, strangely, ‘Dedicated to the M.K.&T. Ry.,” this being the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway, which runs through Temple and there crosses the tracks of another line. The march describes a train wreck that, quite possibly, had recently occurred (otherwise, why the dedication?). Could there have been a wreck at the crossing in Temple? And could Joplin have added sound-effects and descriptive narrative to a piece already written but unpublished? Or had he quickly composed a work to fit the situation?

It was quite a surprise to me to discover that Joplin, a Texas-born composer and son of an emancipated slave, had written a song commemorating a marketing gimmick concocted to sell tickets on a regional railroad with deep ties to Central Texas. Though the editors’ guesses were incorrect, the actual story behind the piece is something so brazen, so unique that it bears much closer examination.

Detail from “The Crash at Crush” by artist Robert Roswell Abernathy (1911-1981).

The Origins of the Crash

Beginning with the so-called Panic of 1893, the economy of the United States began a decade-long slide, with high unemployment, devalued currency, and the collapse of several major railroads epitomizing the dire situation. It was this last situation that indirectly led to the staging of the “Monster Crash” outside Waco.

As confidence in America’s railroad system eroded with the faltering economy, railroads began looking for ways to both boost their sagging bottom lines and provide some positive attention in an era when the over-extended growth of railroads was seen as a major cause of great personal financial insecurity. At the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad (known to many by its nickname, the Katy), a passenger agent named William George Crush had an idea: use a head-on collision between two locomotives to generate income (and newspaper headlines). Officials at the MK&T agreed, and planning was underway.

The event was staged on September 15, 1896 in a valley north of Waco. Crush and his crew of MK&T laborers built a temporary depot, bandstand, viewing stands, and a temporary length of track measuring 4 miles long. Two locomotives were placed at either end; one was painted bright green, the other bright red. Both had been toured around the state in the months leading up to the crash in order to generate publicity. Crush dubbed the location of the spectacle “Crush, Texas.”

Admission was free, and round-trip tickets to “Crush” cost only $2 per person. As a result, 40,000 people showed up for the event, making “Crush, Texas” the second-largest city in the state (if only for a day).  At 5:00 PM, the two trains were released under a full head of steam, speeding down the track at approximately 45 mph. The resulting collision caused both locomotives’ boilers to explode, sending shrapnel into the crowd that killed at least three people and wounded dozens of others.

The aftermath of the spectacle is almost unthinkable in modern times. Crush was immediately fired by the MK&T, but with officials seeing no widespread outrage in the media, was rehired the next day. The railroad paid settlements to the victims’ families of cash and lifetime rail passes, and the debris was cleaned up by MK&T crews and souvenir hunters. By the end of the day, “Crush, Texas” had ceased to exist. And within a few decades, the whole event would pass from the collective memory with the exception of railroad fans and Texas history buffs.

Click the image above to access a PDF of the complete score.

Joplin Immortalizes the “Crash” in Song

Fresh off a stint performing with his first band at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Scott Joplin was touring Texas in the late 1890s where he saw three of his compositions published in Temple. There was one waltz (Harmony Club Waltz) and two marches, the Combination March and the Great Crush Collision March. The latter of the two marches was dedicated to the “M.K.&T. Ry.,” which is of course the very railroad that had just staged the Crash at Crush. In fact, the work was copyrighted a mere 30 days after the spectacle, leading biographers to believe that Joplin had either witnessed the crash himself or heard about it from one of his acquaintances who worked as a porter on the Katy line.

While the particulars of how Joplin learned of the crash are unclear, what is known is his reaction as recorded in song. Joplin created something more than a standard march: he added instructions for creating “sound effects” for the last third of the piece that would depict the crash through music. Joplin’s notes on the piece include the following written below the staff:

The noise of the trains while running at the rate of sixty miles per hour
Whistling for the crossing
Noise of the trains
Whistle before the collision
The collision*

This approach brings to mind the kind of scoring that would become standard for Hollywood pictures in the decades following the Great Crush Collision March’s publication. It was an attempt to insert narrative flair into what was otherwise a fairly straightforward composition and was a foreshadowing of Joplin’s later work with dramatic compositions that would find their culmination in Treemonisha.

“The Great Crush Collision” Revisited

My work on this blog post brought about an exciting opportunity to bring this piece back to life. Working with our sound engineer, Stephen Bolech, we arranged for graduate student in performance studies Eunhye Shin to perform the piece at First Baptist Church, where Stephen also serves as a sound engineer. The piece is included below, performed for the first time in more than a century, mere miles away from the site of the marketing spectacle it was created to commemorate.


*Note: The sound effects described above begin at the 2:04 mark with “The noise of the trains …” and end with the sustained note at 2:17 representing “the collision.”

Works Consulted

“The Crash at Crush” (artwork) by Robert Roswell Abernathy (ca. 1937). Original on display at the Texas Collection

King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era by Edward A. Berlin (1994)

The Life and Works of Scott Joplin by Addison Walker Reed (1973)

Dancing to a Black Man’s Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin by Susan Curtis (1994)

The Collected Works of Scott Joplin edited by Vera Brodsky Lawrence (1971)

Scott Joplin on Wikipedia (

The Crash at Crush on Wikipedia (

The Crash at Crush from the Handbook of Texas Online (

Visit the Texas Collection online at for more priceless Texana.

It Was There Before The Tree, Obviously: The Story of Mrs. Hubbard’s Hidden Flag Pole at the ABL


Pictured: The Struggle Between Nature and Tall, Metal Objects

An existential question for you on this Flag Day: Is a flag pole still a flag pole if it’s no longer flying a flag? (Short answer: yes, it’s just not living up to its potential.)

Here’s another, related, question: What’s up with the 50-foot flag pole currently hidden by a giant oak tree on the west side of the Armstrong Browning Library? (Short answer: it started with a donation, and some trees grow really tall.)

It All Started (For Me) With A Post-presentation Walk

One sunny spring day, after attending a presentation at the beautiful Armstrong Browning Library, I walked out the building’s side door and ran smack dab into a flag pole I’d never seen before, which was weird, because it was 50 feet tall and topped with an eagle; kinda hard to miss, right? Normally, you’d be right, but allow me to set the stage with a little photographic evidence of its camouflaged-ness.

pole_and_treeAnd, waaaay up top: the eagle.

eagle_atop_poleCurious, I drew nearer to the mystery pole and found at its base a plaque with some intriguing – if not completely illuminating – information on it. To wit:

flag_pole_plaqueThis of course lead to a whole series of questions: Who was Robert M. Hubbard? How was he connected to Baylor? Why would a flag pole dedicated to the “Founder of the Texas Highway System” be found outside the Armstrong Browning Library? Where the heck is New Boston, Texas? And so on.

To find the answers, I went digging into the archives at The Texas Collection, the Armstrong Browning Library and – of course – Google. The story has ties to former Texas governor (and Baylor president) Pat Neff; a man obsessed with the lives of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning; and a prominent location on the (then) frontier of the campus.

Who Was Robert M. Hubbard?

Robert M. Hubbard – Rob, to his family and friends – was born in Cooper and grew up in Paris, Texas. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1894 and went on to gain a law degree at the University of Texas, graduating in the same class as (drum roll, please) Pat Morris Neff. Later, he married Berta Lee Hart. He went on to serve two terms in the Texas state legislature from 1930-1931 and served as state highway commissioner under governors William P. Hobby and Neff. Hubbard would die on November 6, 1934.

Hubbard oversaw the transformation of the state’s roadways from a series of barely passable, poorly planned backroads and county highways to one of the most advanced, innovative state highway systems in the country, earning him the nickname – you guessed it – the Founder of the Texas Highway System.

Mrs. Hubbard’s Gift

While R.M. Hubbard was busy serving the state both in Congress and in the highway commissioner’s chair, the Baylor University campus had a monumental task of its own: creating a collection and, eventually, a library related to the lives of Victorian poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The idee fixe of English faculty member Dr. A.J. Armstrong, the development of an on-campus resource focused on Browningiana took hold in Armstrong’s mind after his participation in an auction of Browning materials held by Sotheby’s in 1913. Over the next several decades, Armstrong worked tirelessly to acquire Browning materials. In December 1951, his dream was realized with the dedication of the Armstrong Browning Library, a gala affair that drew a long list of attendees, including one Berta Hubbard.

Mrs. Hubbard and an acquaintance, a Mrs. Watley of Texarkana, attended the festivities and were greatly moved by what they saw. After some conversations with Baylor administrators, facilitated by D.K. “Dock” Martin and including Earl C. Hankamer and Dr. Armstrong, Mrs. Hubbard settled on making a gift to Baylor in her husband’s honor. In a letter to Martin dated January 23, 1952, Mrs. Hubbard wrote,

Three thousand dollars is a large gift for me at this time, but I feel that I would like to make a gift – and if the flag staff is the wise choice – I would like that. … Of course it would be in memory of Rob.”

Letter from Mrs. R.M. Hubbard to D.K. “Dock” Martin, January 23, 1952. From the W.R. White Papers at The Texas Collection. Emphases in original. $3,000 in 1953 translates to roughly $27,000 dollars in 2016.

Mrs. Hubbard’s check led to the design and manufacture of a 50-foot flag pole, topped with an eagle and featuring a memorial plaque, to be situated on the southwest side of the building. At the time, that represented the treeless boundary of the campus. In this photo from the dedication ceremony, you can see just how starkly it stood out against the 2-year-old building’s facade.

Flagpole Dedication 5For reference, here’s what that location looks like now, thanks to Google maps.

A (Lone) Star-studded Affair: Dedication Day

Planning for the flag pole’s dedication ceremony started small, with Dock Martin proposing a gathering of some 50 of Rob Hubbard’s closest friends to be held on Founders Day (February 1, 1953). However, at the encouragement of Baylor president W.R. White, the decision was made to “make a real Baylor occasion of it,” especially when former Texas governor William P. Hobby – under whom Hubbard had served as highway commissioner, you’ll recall – agreed to attend. The date was eventually changed to May 29, and Gov. Hobby served as the guest of honor.

Photos from that day show it to be a major ceremony indeed, including music, faculty in full cap-and-gown regalia, a contingent of U.S. military members and a sizable crowd present under a clear blue sky.

Flagpole Dedication 1

Gov. W.P. Hobby (left) with Mrs. R.M. Hubbard. From the archives of the Armstrong Browning Library.


Flagpole Dedication 3

Raising the Texas flag. Note the bugle player near the flag pole’s base; it is assumed he is playing “Reveille.” The presence of a piano also leads us to believe there was some form of special music presented for the occasion. From the photo archives of the Armstrong Browning Library.


Flagpole Dedication 6

The major players, from left: D.K. “Dock” Martin, Mrs. R.M. Hubbard, Gov. W.P. Hobby and Dr. W.R. White (Baylor University president)

The flag pole’s grand launch was a success, and its presence on the southern frontier of the ever-expanding campus was a daily reminder of the university’s inextricable link to the state it calls home. But over time, an innocuous bystander, present at the dedication, would grow to obscure and hide its legacy to all but the heartiest of campus visitors (or, as it turns out, curators out wandering the grounds after a presentation). I give you: The Obscurer!

Flagpole Dedication 3b


Yes, this hopeful little sapling will grow over the next 60+ years to become a mighty oak, with massive limbs and a propensity to consume. And at the time, it seemed so insubstantial, so full of promise, a future source of respite for an outdoor-minded Victorian scholar, not the dominant shade provider it would actually become.

Though it no longer bears a flag aloft in the shimmering south campus skies, the flag pole dedicated in honor of R.M. Hubbard – the Founder of the Texas State System – is a unique, endearing lagniappe to the legacy of the stunning architectural gem sitting just a stone’s throw away.  And without the vision and passion of one member of the university’s faculty, who’s to say what might have occupied this now-vibrant corner of campus? Certainly nothing as interesting as an oak tree that eats flag poles, that much is certain.

Long May She Wave?

We have it on good authority – current director and long-time faculty member Rita Patteson, at that – that at one point there was an ABL flag that flew from the pole some years ago, and while I wasn’t able to track down an image of it, I took the liberty of creating an artist’s rendition featuring Dr. Armstrong’s face and what I imagine to have been his personal motto, which may or may not have been tattooed on his left bicep (unconfirmed).

ABL_speculative_flagOh, and One More Thing

This is where the heck New Boston is.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 1.47.46 PM

We are thankful to Jennifer Borderud and Melvin Schuetz at the ABL for their help on this post, and to Benna Vaughan and the staff at The Texas Collection for their help with the W.R. White correspondence.