Baylor University: Limited Access to International Travel and Study Abroad Programs for Students from 1900-1920

By: Holly Smith

The period from 1900 to 1920 revealed enormous progress in global thinking as students started to charter peace and foreign language clubs and hosted activities that represented other cultures. More professors started to take a leave of absence to further their education abroad or pursue field work in other countries. In addition, Chairman of the English Department, Dr. Andrew Joseph Armstrong’s strong domestic and international network of contacts sparked the arrival of well-known authors, missionaries, and government officials who travelled to Baylor‘s campus and spoke in chapel. This paper will explore Baylor students and faculty’s growing interest in international issues, focusing on the lack of access and opportunity for students to study abroad.

Chartering of First Peace Club

Beginning in 1910 and continuing through 1920 Baylor University’s faculty and students began to show an increasing interest in global societies and cultures. In March 1910, Baylor students formed the first college peace society in the state of Texas with 27 charter members. According to The Lariat, “the object of the organization is to promote the interest and study of international peace in the university, and its meetings held once every two months are expected to be most profitable” (Minatra,O. 1910, March 19). Two months later, on May 18th, Baylor joined with schools across the country to celebrate Peace Day. The Baylor Peace League organized a program for chapel in which G.H Penland would speak about the college peace movement, followed by a performance by the Glee Club, and a lecture on Peace and Democracy by Dr. Phelan (Minatra, O.1910, May 14).

Foreign Language Clubs Host Events

Within a span of ten years, various language clubs were chartered on campus and hosted annual events. “The Spanish club held its final picnic of the year at Cameron Park [and] a large crowd went out together and lunch was served as soon as all of the members arrived (Hunt, H. L. 1920, June 10). The Lariat also discussed the active French Club on campus as they held meetings every Tuesday afternoon in the Model School. The French Club showcased a French play, Le Cercle Francais, which The Lariat (1920-05-27) reporters explained as “quite distinctive for none of the modern language clubs have put forth so much effort in showing to the public their ability to really speak, intelligently, the particular tongue which is their special study.” The play’s success was shown by the high student attendance as  “the large number of people present proved that the interest in such affairs is at very high pitch and the attractiveness of such programs as ‘The Rainy Day’ will surely increase enthusiasm”( Hunt, H. L.1920 May 27). Baylor students began actively seeking outlets to explore and express cultural diversity. The chartering of new clubs and successful large scale events are tangible pieces of evidence that suggest that students were interested in international affairs.

International Conciliation

During this same time period, The American Branch Association for International Conciliation was producing bi-monthly reports on strategies to become more internationally aware. In April 1908, the possibility of intellectual cooperation between North and South America was the spotlight topic. The organization saw an increasing need to prepare American teachers for service abroad in South America and to equip them with the skills to establish schools that replicated American models. According to a bi-monthly publication by the American Branch Association for International Conciliation, educators, “ must make a more concerted effort to attract a larger number of South American students to our normal schools and universities” (Rowe. L.S.1908).

Rowe. L.S. (1908).The possibilities of international co-operation between North and South America.American Branch of International Conciliation. Andrew Joseph Armstrong Papers #0449. Box 4:Folder 27. p.6.

This reveals the idea that study abroad and exchange programs for students would create a cross-cultural exchange of information. By sending American teachers to help in South American schools and by educating South American students in the United States, a greater understanding of the two cultures would be produced.

Lectures about International Experiences

Lectures were another way in which cultural diversity and stories from abroad were being fed to Baylor students. Many professors came to Baylor from international universities where they studied abroad or worked abroad. For example, Mr. Provence, an English professor, taught in China for three years and in Japan for three years. The Lariat revealed that “his earnest and practical way of describing conditions in the land of the rising sun convinces one that though the Oriental people are strange, they are also intensely human and should command some consideration from even the most occidental of us”( Minatra, O. 1910, October 15). These lectures revealed curiosity and a need to understand different countries and their cultures. Though there was a definite labeling system that deemed people different from Americans, these lectures were a call to become educated.

Another example of a lecture was reported in The Lariat when Madame Slavko Grouitch, wife of the Serbian ambassador to the United States, gave a lecture in Carroll Chapel on the subject of Serbia and its part in the recent war. She spoke about the history of Serbia and pleaded for people to study Serbia and the surrounding countries. She said, “these countries are the buffer states against the dreaded advance of the Turks…the world has more to fear from the Mohammedans than from Japan or any other nation of the world”(Hunt, H. L.1920, April 8).

Her lecture reveals the apparent fear towards people, countries, and cultures different from America and the need for education as a solution.

Addressing U.S. Citizenship

As different speakers were travelling to Baylor to bring their personal experiences to Baylor students, Baylor faculty began to address what it meant to be a citizen of the United States. The Lariat (Foster, W.S. 1920, July 1) reported that Dean Spencer spoke in chapel and emphasized the preparation for citizenship.

What are the colleges doing to prepare for citizenship? It was pointed out, however, that only a small percent of the people ever go to college, thus most of them can hardly be reached through college preparation. The dean brought forth the need of the public school, which was to instill into the children a love for their country, saying that the highest ideal it is possible to teach a man is to be loyal to his country.

Dean Spencer’s remarks reveal the need for students to establish their identity as an American first before educating themselves on the various cultures, politics, and people of the world.

Armstrong’s Celebrity lecturers

As international themed lectures began to trickle into the chapel itinerary, Andrew Joseph Armstrong and his wife Mary Maxwell Armstrong moved to Waco. In 1912, Dr. Armstrong was offered the position as Chairman of the English department. Armstrong was incredibly transformative in not only the English department, but the entire Baylor campus. He had strong connections around the world and brought over 150 well known literary celebrities to lecture at Baylor (Andrew Joseph Armstrong Papers #0449). Since Waco was deep in the center of Texas, individuals would only come and speak if he could arrange additional appearances in the south-central or southwestern part of the country. Armstrong would often have to organize four other platforms for the individual to speak at in order to secure their presence at Baylor (Dr. A. impresario and tour manager.2012July 6).This demonstrates Dr. Armstrong’s large network of contacts surrounding Waco, Texas.

Armstrong had a deep love for poetry and was able to bring William B. Yeats to Baylor in April 1920. The Lariat reflected on this event and reported that “one thing that is quite significant in the coming of Yeats is that it will make the last of the great trio of major English poets to visit Baylor. Alfred Noyes was the first, Masefield the second and now, greater than either of the others, comes Yeats.”(Hunt, H. L.1920, February 5).Having an international poet of such fame and stature was also influential because he helped publicize American poets.

One of the significant facts connected with the coming of Yeats is the fact that four years ago he astonished Americans by stating that Vachel Lindsay was one of the greatest forces in American literature. At that time Lindsay was comparatively unknown.  Now he is the foremost of American poets ( Hunt, H. L.1920, February 5).

In addition to literary celebrities, Armstrong arranged for other speakers to come to Baylor. For example:

Richard Halliburton, then-famous chronicler of his own travel adventures; world-famous explorers Prince William of Sweden, who spoke and showed slides of his African adventures, Roald Amundsen, at the time the only man who had traveled to both the North and South Poles; and Admiral Richard E. Byrd; British playwright Hugh Walpole whose lecture was entitled ‘How to Write a Play”(Dr. A. impresario and tour manager. 2012July 6).

The presence of world renowned speakers at Baylor University allowed for a transformational experience in chapel and in student’s classes. Globalization and an international perspective was being highlighted in the classroom and supported by extracurricular involvement, and special lectures. Students’ minds were being infiltrated with stories from other countries and cultures.

Armstrong Educational Tours

In addition to organizing speakers to come to Baylor, the Armstrong’s founded Armstrong Educational Tours in 1912 and led tours to Europe for more than 30 summers. Dr. Armstrong led the tours and had an office in Waco and France, while Mrs. Armstrong served as the business manager. The brochures advertising the trips proclaimed:

A remarkably complete sightseeing program will feature each important point, and care will be taken that the outstanding scenic wonders of Europe will be included. So complete is this program that one might well call it an Art, literary, historical, and scenic pilgrimage over Europe (Andrew Joseph Armstrong Papers #0449 B4 F23).

Armstrong Educational Tours Mailing Instructions and Tour Schedule. ArmstrongPapers #0449. Box 4:Folder 23

The tours were restricted access which meant that, “membership in this group is by personal invitation only. This will insure the congeniality of the personnel. The number is limited to twelve persons” (Andrew Joseph Armstrong Papers #0449 B4: F23). Armstrong really helped bring international affairs to the forefront of student and faculty agendas. He made sitting in Chapel interesting by bringing in credible and influential international leaders. For faculty, he made the lectures come alive and chartered trips overseas so faculty could experience Europe with their own eyes. Armstrong did a wonderful job of bringing international events to student’s radar and feeding them with knowledge. The problem was that access abroad was restricted to his personal invitation.

Baylor Faculty Going Abroad

When an international scholar came to the United States and interfaced with American scholars the result was a pollination of publicity for the American scholar This reveals how exchanging scholars and inviting guest lecturers to campus, was a way in which cultures could be shared and better understood. Similarly, The Lariat continued to report on Baylor faculty who travelled abroad and what they were doing to benefit the world. For example, Mr. W.A, Moye and his family left to go to Durango, Mexico to serve as U.S. consul. The Lariat published an article announcing that:

Mr. Moye, living in different parts of Mexico for a number of years, has fitted himself for this work.  He understands the conditions in Mexico, as well as the Mexican people. While in Baylor Mr.  Moye has been connected with the Spanish department. He has had charge of the Mexican missions in the city (Hunt, H. L.1920, March 11).

Another example is when Professor E.H. Sparkman, head of the Teachers’ Bureau at the University accepted a position as an inspector of schools in Cuba. “Professor E.H. Sparkman will be working for a big sugar company and his duties will be purely of an educational nature among the employees of this company. Mrs. Sparkman is to teach English” (Hunt, H. L.1920, March 11). These two experiences reveal how Baylor faculty had the opportunity for international movement. Professors could teach at Baylor for a few years and then move across the world to continue their education or their profession. An international trade movement of professors was occurring during this time. Just as some Baylor professors were permanently moving to international locations, new faculty were being brought in from abroad. At the start of a new Fall semester in 1910, The Lariat (Minatra, O.1910, October 1) reported that:

The students this year have reason to rejoice in the fact that they are assured of interesting chapel hours for some time to come. The new members of the faculty have come from abroad field and should be well equipped, while several of the old members spent the summer abroad and their experiences must be heard.

International Networks for Faculty

Networking across country borders was very much alive during this time as faculty kept in contact with their colleagues across the world.

Dr. Hargrove had occasion to meet with Miss Scarborough in London, and from her he brings the most hearty regards for her many friends in Baylor. It may be said for the benefit of the new students that Miss Scarborough is at present on a year’s leave of absence during which she will study in Oxford college in order to more efficiently equip herself for teaching English at Baylor. During Miss Scarborough’s absence, her classes in English are accounted fortunate in securing Prof. Provence as instructor. Prof. Provence holds an A. B. degree from Richmond College and in addition has studied abroad. He has taught in the mission schools of Japan and in the government schools of China, where he also has done editorial service (Minatra, O.1910 October 1).

This correspondence shows how professors had open access to study abroad and to further their careers by teaching and studying in different countries. Whether it was temporary or permanently, professors had intricate support systems in which they could connect with faculty in other countries. This freedom to pursue interests internationally strengthened the credibility of the faculty at Baylor University. The experiences of study abroad brought richness to the classes these professors taught as they educated students from a wider perspective drawing in examples from other countries. As most of Baylor’s students were from within the state of Texas, they did not have to travel far to feel like they were experiencing new cultures.

The Lariat also had a welcome home portion of the paper which kept Baylor affiliates aware of their colleagues’ reinstatements.

However glad we are to greet the new teachers, we were equally as glad to see the old teachers, who have been away spending the summer, some abroad, others not so far away. Misses Kate Griffith and Alta Jack returned September 18 from their trip to the Old World. Every portion of their touring appealed to them as the best, and they recommend to every ambitious student just such a trip as worthwhile and easily within the limits of their purses (Minatra, O.1910, October 1).

This quote is one of the only examples that mention the opportunity for students to travel abroad. Between 1900-1920, there were two groups of students who were allowed to travel out of the country and they were athletes, and missionaries. The 1920 summer Olympics were held in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium and a few Baylor students had the opportunity to advance and travel abroad to compete. The Lariat reported that:

Out of the four men who represented Baylor in the all-Southern try-out at Boston, Mass., July 16 meet at New Orleans last Saturday two have been selected to represent the South in the National Olympic. This meet will be held at the Harvard stadium and the ones making the American teams will sail for Antwerp, Belgium, July 20(Foster, W.S. (1920 July 1).

Similarly, the idea of sending missionaries overseas was not a new idea to this time period as Baptists had been sending missionaries overseas since the middle of the eighteenth century. Opportunities as a missionary were important because it was one of the only ways in which students could go abroad and it offered women an alternative career path. The Baylor Foreign Mission Band was another active force at this time. The members of the band held weekly meetings on Monday nights and organized campus wide programs hosting missionaries and having question and answer sessions. The Lariat stated that, “there are at present thirty members of the Baylor Volunteer Band, all purposing to become foreign missionaries. They seek to inform themselves along missionary lines and to help others” (Minatra, O. 1910, November 26). A student coalition was developed to support prospective missionaries:

Ten men and two women, most of them members of Tanner’s Worker’s Band, gathered December 6, 1900 to organize the Volunteer Band. Although the group was formally constituted as the Foreign Mission Band, charter member W.B. Glass recalled that the group adopted the “Volunteer Band” moniker purposefully to promote a desired affiliation with the International Student Volunteer Movement” (Scales, L.T. & Clarkson, C.R p.18).

As professors had their own network abroad, members of the Volunteer Band divided up tasks and made sure letters were written to their members who were in different countries. Additionally, both prayer and monetary support systems were established as members still at Baylor would raise funds to support missionaries abroad:

Furthermore, this correspondence promoted another practice of the FMB in the formation of missionaries: exposure to and learning about the missionary life and the missionary enterprise. The letters were read aloud in meetings, and [students] would have had opportunities to hear from missionaries in China (Scales, L.T. & Clarkson, C.R. p.23).

A student had to be a star athlete competing for a spot on the Olympic team or a missionary in order to go abroad. If a student did not belong to either of these groups, they did not have access to international travel. Instead, they had to wait to absorb the information through a professor, by hearing a guest speaker, through literature at the library, or by getting involved in a student organization.

Student Involvement in World War I

            Apart from these two groups of students, international travel became unfortunately, readily available for male students as they enlisted in the military and were sent to Europe. On December 12, 1917 Dr. Armstrong wrote an article in The Lariat (1917 December 12) encouraging correspondence from Baylor students who left the university to fight in the war.

We have more than a hundred boys in the various war activities and these boys will write some of their friends here. But all of the university family and many Waco friends will rejoice to know of the welfare and progress of these students. And to the boys who are yet here, but will soon be in the service, I beg you to remember that many of us who are left behind will think of you often and be more than glad to hear from you and of you.

(1917 December 12).Activities of Baylor Boys. The Lariat. Andrew Joseph
ArmstrongPapers#0449. Box 4:Folder 25.

Dr. Armstrong’s article reveals that Baylor University desired to support students who were sent abroad for military commitments. At the same time that young men were being sent overseas to fight for their country, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace started to develop literature discussing war solutions and prevention. In the Syllabus and Lectures on the War and Peace Problem for the Study of International Polity, education is discussed as the chief remedy for international hostilities.

American students ought to be able to sacrifice at least some of their time and to devote some of their energy to studying the problems of war and peace. They should master those ideas that will save the world from a repetition of such a breakdown of civilization in the future ( Mez. J. 1915)

The Carnegie Endowment of International Peace started to develop courses of lectures on international polity in several universities across the country. The purpose of these lectures was to “contribute toward a general changing of ideas as to the foundations of international society… militarism, and peace”(Mez. J.1915).The creation of lecture series further emphasizes the need for students to understand global societies, cultures, languages, and systems of government that shape the world.

Mez. J.(1915). Syllabus of Lectures on the War and Peace Problems for the Study of International Polity. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Andrew Joseph Armstrong Papers #0449. Box 4:Folder 23. pp.6-7.

Need for Study Abroad Programs for Students

            From 1900-1920 Baylor was going through a transformational process of becoming more globally aware. Each part of the university started to become more conscious of the complex relationships between different cultures, languages, and systems of government. Students started to charter their own clubs exploring international peace and learning foreign languages. Professors would take leave of absences and study abroad in England, China, or Japan in order to enhance their knowledge in their particular field. Professors also left their positions at Baylor to pursue full time positions abroad in their field. On campus, Deans began to discuss what it meant to be a citizen of the United States during a time of greater globalization. But this deeper exploration of the world did not translate into greater opportunities to physically see the world. Access to international travel was limited to missionaries, a few very talented athletes, and young men serving in the war. The general student body at Baylor University lacked access to international education. Students reached the end of available opportunities once they had joined international peace clubs and went to guest lectures. The problem was that there was no way for students to experience the world except through second person accounts and the curriculum they learned in class. Students had to commit to a life of missionary work, risk their lives in battle, or live vicariously through their professors. There was no center for international education or semester long study abroad program for students to join. Even though students were thirsty to understand the complex relationships between countries, they were not granted the means to fulfill their craving for knowledge.


The discussion above reveals a slow progression towards global awareness. China was no longer a distant, mystical land, it was a place missionaries and professors visited and came back to discuss with students. Instead of wallowing in fear, a demand for educational awareness began to spread through government organizations and higher education institutions. Armstrong’s arrival at Baylor particularly facilitated this breadth of vision as his ability to organize visiting speakers led to cultural exchange. Dr. Armstrong prescribed a different lens through which to view the world and shattered the belief that America was remote and isolated. Overall, students were gaining a historical understanding of global societies, cultures, and languages but unless you were a professor, missionary, or personally invited by Dr. Armstrong you could not go on international trips. From 1900 to the start of World War I, access to study abroad programs and international education was desired by students but not yet available.


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