There’s a great likelihood that regardless of whom the commander was at the time, the most popular staff person in Baylor’s Air Force Reserve Officer Train Corps Detachment 810 over the past three decades has been storekeeper Betty Spencer. Spencer is retiring at the end of the spring semester after almost 31 years with Baylor AFROTC.
Spencer started at Baylor in August 1981, and over that time she’s gotten to know hundreds of students who have begun their Air Force careers in AFROTC. It’s those relationships she will treasure most as she leaves Baylor.
“It’s been so great to work with the students – that’s the part I love the best,” Spencer said.
Spencer’s main job is to make sure that Baylor AFROTC students have the essentials needed to dress out for any occasion, from training sessions to public events.
“The main thing I do at the beginning of school is to suit out all our new students with uniforms, and to order what I don’t have in stock,” she said. “We always want to get that in before the Homecoming parade, because all the students want to wear their uniforms to march in that. It always works out –– we’ve not had to miss a parade yet.”
And of course, as students over the years inevitably grew taller, gained or lost weight or damaged their clothes with rough wear, Spencer was always there to make sure they had the new gear they needed. But when students weren’t visiting her about uniforms, they would come by just to talk about what was on their minds.
Jeff Bowles was both an AFROTC student corps commander at Baylor and later the detachment’s commander (2001-2004) before taking his current position with Baylor Electronic Marketing. He says the many hours Spencer spent talking with cadets might be her most valuable legacy.
“Betty has been a wonderful servant to Baylor and our nation’s Air Force,” Bowles said. “She’s not just outfitted future Air Force leaders with uniforms, she’s mothered, mentored and worked to build the character of all the students she’s served. Some of those students needed a kick in the pants, and others needed a comforting shoulder – Betty knew how to offer both whenever and however needed. Her influence and service are irreplaceable.”
The current AFROTC commander at Baylor, Lt. Col. Carl D. Wooten (shown with Betty at left), said having someone like Spencer stay with the detachment for so long has been invaluable, since she has been the constant in a program where both administrators and students constantly rotate.
“Betty is kind of an institution here with her 30-plus years of experience,” Wooten said. “Having a person such as her who has mastered her piece of things provides me with a lot of comfort, knowing that it is going to be run perfectly and I don’t have to worry about it. Betty’s been a huge help.”
Many former students keep in touch with Spencer even decades after they leave Baylor, sending her mementos from around the world such as the many Air Force-themed stuffed bears she proudly displays in her work area. One student decided that instead of a bear he’d give her a modified fly swatter that he adorned with the title “Cadet Swatter,” which hangs on the wall.
“He told me, ‘I made this for you with one stipulation –– you can’t use it on me,” Spencer said.
One former student came by to visit recently and told Spencer that she’d been in Taiwan, and when she mentioned she was from Baylor she was asked, “Oh, do you know Betty Spencer?”
“I told her, ‘Well, I guess I’m known around the world now,'” Spencer said.
Spencer’s friends and colleagues and all AFROTC cadets are invited to attend a pot luck lunch in honor of her retirement this coming Monday, April 30, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in Suite 100 of the Speight Plaza Building. AFROTC cadets will be doing the cooking.