The Wave of the Future: The Baylor School of Commerce and Business

by Cassandra Thompson

By the 1920’s Baylor was expanding with professional schools of medicine, dentistry, law, and music. Students were no longer attending college to learn arts and science alone, but wanted more that would aid them in a profession after graduation. In order to stay current with the times and satisfy the demands of students, Baylor needed a school of business (Round Up, 1926). With the creation of the School of Commerce and Business Administration, Baylor fulfilled the needs the university by bringing in more tuition and staying comparable with other large institutions, and the needs of its students, who desired to learn and be equipped for professional business work. The administration’s desire to be seen as a prestigious, national institution and the students’ desire to become businessmen and women would be fulfilled through the creation of a school of commerce and business.

Early Desires for School

            Though the School of Commerce and Business Administration was not officially formed until 1923, recognition for the needs of business education began as early as the late 1800’s. When the university moved to Waco from Independence, the school was now located in a much more urban area with a variety of businesses. With the move, an opportunity arose. The city of Waco was larger than Independence and therefore had more local commerce.  Baylor could fulfill the needs of the city by offering more business degrees and creating future businessmen. (Hencke, p. 9). In 1888, the university established a commercial college within Baylor. Courses were basic and secretarial in nature, including: penmanship, correspondence, and bookkeeping.  Even though the college was part of the university, no academic credit was awarded towards a degree (Hencke, p. 4).

President Brooks saw the need to expand curriculum and facilities at the university to elevate its academic status, but in order to do so more financial resources were needed (Hencke, p. 4). These resources could come through a new school. In essence, the idea was to create a new school to bring the funds, and since business and industry were growing fields in society creating a school of business seemed the best solution to the problem. President Brooks hoped that by jumping on this trend of business schools Baylor would enroll more students, thereby receiving more tuition (Hencke, p. 9). University enrollment was also a major concern in and of itself and the school would undeniably aid in the increase.

One compelling motivation for wanting to create a school of commerce and business was the need to keep the male to female ration equal. In his 1919 letter to the Board of Trustees, President Brooks wrote that the school was losing men to the University of Texas where business was offered. As a result women outnumbered men at Baylor and yet women did not want to attend a school with no men. He argued that in order to offset the loss, the university needed to keep on the “current of educational progress” and follow other institutions in opening a department of business (Brooks, S.P., 1919, Brooks to the Board of Trustees, December 22, 1919).

Creating a school of commerce and business administration would bring the university to a total of eight schools, giving a broad foundation of graduate work. The Lariat stated that men from the school will “measure lances with men from any State or University, with every assurance of success” (February 28, 1923). The university administration also thought that by having a school of commerce, the institution would have a more well-rounded curriculum (Lariat, March 14, 1923). Clearly, Baylor’s leaders believed the university had much to benefit with the creation of the school.

President Brooks and the administration also realized that students desired to learn business. The Baylor Bulletin in 1923 stated that there were male and female students at the school that did not want to learn to teach or preach, but did desire to work in business. For that reason, practical training would now be provided. Clearly, the creation of a school of commerce a win-win was in store for everyone.

A False Start

            In October 1919, President Brooks proposed a school of business to the board of trustees, and the board unanimously accepted and authorized the proposal (Hencke, p. 10). Unfortunately the school did not materialize at that time. Teachers were scarce in 1919 and the decision was made to wait a year (Brooks, S.P. 1920, Brooks to the Board of Trustees, May 31, 1920).  An economic depression in 1921 and 1922 postponed inauguration of the school even farther (Hencke, p. 10).

A New Proposal

            In 1923, President Brooks created a new proposal for a school of commerce and business.  C.D. Johnson went before the Baylor Chamber of Commerce and requested that they draw up resolutions to present to President Brooks. The Baylor Chamber of Commerce was composed of students who found business to be of the utmost importance and university officials wanted their backing and support for the new school (Lariat, February 10, 1923). Johnson had already been laying the groundwork to gain the group’s support since speaking with them a year earlier. He spoke to the organization in 1922 and spoke of his own commercial school experience and complimented the organization on their work at Baylor and in the community (Lariat, January 24, 1922). He also shared with them that Baylor would retain and gain more students if the university offered courses in the commercial line. He gave the organization a reason to be invested in the process so that by the time he requested their help in 1923 they were willing to take action.

The plans created by Johnson were used for the proposal given by President Brooks (Lariat, March 14, 1923). On March 13, 1923 President Brooks brought before the Board of Trustees a new proposal for a School of Commerce and Business Administration. President Brooks began by discussing the growth of other business schools, most importantly business schools at other Texas universities. He specifically mentioned the University of Texas, observing that while the school was only a few years old it already had over 1,000 students. He also listed the growth of other schools and the number of years they had been open. The list of schools included University of Wisconsin, Iowa State, University of Southern California, Washington & Lee, and Mercer.  President Brooks plead to the Board that “Baylor must not lag further behind” (Brooks, S.P., 1923, Brooks to the Board of Trustees, March 13, 1923).

One key component of the proposal was that the school would add little additional expense to the university. Most of the school would be comprised of existing departments that would now be shifted from the College of Arts and Sciences into the new school. Dr. C.D. Johnson, already a professor, would be made head of the school, but have the same salary of $3400 for twelve months. One of only a few expenses was to hire Mr. W.Q. Sharp to be professor of accounting, a new department that was being created (Brooks, S.P., 1923, Brooks to the Board of Trustees, March 13, 1923).

In regards to the needs of students, the training at the school was directed towards the following goals:

  • To enable students to see clearly the complex nature of modern business and the qualifications needed for the field
  • To shorten the apprenticeship period students would normally serve when first employed
  • To make student’s services of “higher order” and lead to rapid advancement, thereby lessening the trouble and expense taken on by future employers
  • To develop ideals on how to conduct business

These goals would fill the needs and desires of students who were seeking business as a career (Hencke, p. 12).

The Board of Trustees approved the proposal and the School of Commerce and Business Administration was to be established in the Fall of 1923. C.D. Johnson returned to the Chamber of Commerce and thanked them for their help and asked for their continuing cooperation in the new school (Lariat, March 17, 1923).

Trustees approve new School of Commerce. Photo courtesy of the Baylor University Archives.

The Baylor School of Commerce and Business is Born

            In the Fall of 1923, students began taking classes in the new School of Commerce and Business Administration. The Baylor Bulletin wrote that the school was created in response to the demand of students and that while attention had been given to training lawyers, ministers, teachers, and doctors, it had only been in the last twenty years that any schools had given attention to training for business. To remedy this, and fulfill student demands, the programs offered would combine theoretical, cultural, and practical courses; insuring the virtues of a liberal arts education with training for each student’s chosen career (Baylor Bulletin, 1923).

The new School of Commerce was composed of the departments of Commerce and Business Administration, Economics, Journalism, Political Science and Sociology (Baylor Bulletin, 1923). The school also subsumed departments from the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Commerce also offered new courses including: Introduction to Business Administration, Business and Professional Ethics, Secretarial Science, and Introduction to Accounting, Bank Accounting, and Industrial Geography among many others (Lariat, September 29, 1923).

Baylor had expected to enroll 80 students in the first semester and instead enrolled 212 (Johnson, C.D., 1923, Johnson to Melford Rouse, October 13, 1923). Clearly the goal of earning more tuition had been met. Students could enter the school in their junior year, but would apply sophomore year to enter in a program for business administration, accounting, commerce, or secretarial science (Johnson, C.D., 1923, Johnson to B.L. Thomas, December 19, 1923). Students would take three subjects at a time for three months and then take three more courses in different subjects or follow up with more advanced work in the same subjects (Johnson, C.D., 1923, Johnson to C. H. Tarrant, December 4, 1923). At this time students would still leave school with a Bachelor of Arts degree, but there was hope that a Bachelor of Business would soon be available (Johnson, C.D., 1923, Johnson to B.L. Thomas, December 19, 1923).

At the end of 1923, C.D. Johnson performed a widespread search on other colleges and universities’ business schools and programs to see how Baylor could stay on par with some of the best in the nation. In a letter to President Brooks, Johnson stated that the development of Baylor was his biggest concern and wanted to see the school continue to grow and succeed. Mr. Johnson wrote letters of inquiry to Tulane University, Mercer College, University of Georgia, University of North Carolina, Washington and Lee, and Richmond. Outside the south he inquired to the University of Missouri, University of Chicago, Colorado State, Washington State University, University of Southern California, Ohio State, Johns Hopkins, and New York University. Although the schools studied had lots of variation in requirements, all seemed to require courses in English, foreign language, science, math, and history; providing all students with a broad knowledge of the arts and sciences. He then recommended the school be constituted as one of the professional schools of the university and that a degree of Bachelors of Business Administration be granted, keeping Baylor at the forefront of business in higher education (Johnson, C.D., 1923, Johnson to President Brooks, December 26, 1923). He also proposed that nine majors count toward a Bachelor of Arts degree as nine majors in law do the same. Johnson believed that these changes would draw businessmen and their future sons to the university.

In a 1924 letter to the Board of Trustees, President Brooks proposed the changes made by C.D. Johnson and the proposals were approved (Brooks, S.P., 1924, Brooks to the Board of Trustees, March 11, 1924). Starting in Fall 1924, the Baylor Bulletin added a course of study leading to a Bachelors of Business Administration degree. Now, all freshmen had to take general courses including history, math, and English and started taking classes such as Business Administration and Economics in their sophomore year (Baylor Bulletin, 1924).

New School Fulfills Needs

            Only open a year, Baylor’s new School of Commerce and Business Administration was already proving exceedingly attractive to those who wanted to attend the university. In a letter, Mr. Johnson stated that the school was attractive because it permits students to “carry practical courses along with the theoretical” (Johnson, C.D., 1924, Johnson to Dickinson, March 7, 1924). Through the escalation in enrollment and new courses offered, both the university and students received what they wanted.

Needs of the University Fulfilled

Baylor’s leaders had desired two things through the creation of the new School of Commerce and Business Administration; increased enrollment in order to gain more finances from tuition, and to keep pace with other great universities in the nation. In 1922 Baylor had enrolled 1,115 students and in 1923 enrollment increased to 1,336. The uptick in enrollment was credited to the creation of the School of Commerce (Lariat, October, 24, 1923). In his research, C.D. Johnson discovered that Iowa State had 1,400 business students and enrollment continued to grow every year. He also noted that the school was the largest revenue source at the university. His hope was that Baylor’s new school would be similar and grow every year, projecting that in its second year the School of Commerce and Business Administration would have 400-450 students enrolled (Johnson, C.D., 1923, Johnson to President Brooks, December 26, 1923).

The new School of Commerce and Business Administration was established in order to keep pace with the major universities in the north and east (Lariat, October 27, 1923). In a June issue of the Lariat it was noted that there were many changes taking place at Baylor including the growth in students and departments. It stated that the new school brought students would not have otherwise come to the university and that the changes would put the school into a position with the foremost universities in the country (Lariat, June 6, 1923). In the Baylor Bulletin in 1923, the schools completed needs were expressed in the following statement:

Baylor University takes its place along with other standard universities in the United States in the establishment of the School of Commerce and Business Administration which provides a combination of theoretical and practical courses leading to adequate preparation for a successful career in business.

Needs of Students Fulfilled

The Lariat proclaimed the benefits of the School of Commerce to the students and thereby to the nation. “It is to the university trained business man that industry will turn to furnish a balm for the smarting wounds of capital and labor…business has become a profession (Lariat, November 28, 1923)”. Through the programs and courses offered in the school, students would now be able to take on managerial positions after college; positions that without business training would not be an option (Lariat, November 28, 1923). This training was provided in two ways, theory and practical application.

During the inaugural year of the school, freshman were allowed to take one introductory course and then all other courses were taken junior and senior year (Johnson, C.D., 1923, Johnson to Bertram Thomas, October 1, 1923). As at other comparable universities, students were required to take English, History, Sociology, Economics, and one other science or modern language course along with commerce and business classes. To show the mix of practical and theoretical, the following is a sampling of courses offered:

  • Business Administration and American Race Problems
  • Business Commerce
  • Business Administration (secretarial science)
  • Labor Problems

In 1923 there were five suggested programs of study:

  • General Business Organization and Administration
  • Accounting and Auditing
  • Public Service Administration
  • Social Service Administration
  • Public Welfare (Baylor Bulletin, 1923)
Sanger Bros. Review of a student. Photo courtesy of the Baylor University Archives.

In order to gain more hands-on, practical experience, and give the institution greater influence in local commerce, C.D. Johnson, now head of the department, wrote to local businesses informing them of the new school and inquiring if they would be interested in hiring students. He asked for their cooperation and said the school was ready if they needed or desired help in any way. Local businesses that responded to his call included a dress shop, hotel, two banks, and a truck company (Johnson, C.D., 1923, Johnson to South Brothers Truck Company, November 9, 1923). Students who did work for companies were given a review, which was sent to Mr. Johnson. They were graded on punctuality, initiative, judgment, common sense, personality, health, honesty, energy and industry, and adaptability to new people and situations (Johnson, C.D., 1924, Sanger Bros. to C.D. Johnson, December 16, 1924).  In another course for Business Administration, lab work was assigned to locate four types of business enterprises in Waco. Students had to consider sites for locations for specific types of businesses (Lariat, October 27, 1923). This is a perfect example of taking theories from class and putting them into practice.

Letter from The Dallas News. Photo courtesy of the Baylor University Archives.

Journalism was now housed under the School of Commerce and Business Administration and they had a particularly interesting hands-on experience. In 1923, the journalism department was invited to edit the Dallas Journal, Jr. during the Dallas fair. Students were given the entire front page and were to limit stories to the fair. They had to prepare and edit copy, and direct layout, and take it to press all in one day. In a letter to Mr. Johnson, the Dallas News wrote, “We believe this will give the class practical experience that will be agreeable and helpful” (Johnson, C.D., 1923, Dallas News to C.D. Johnson, October 5, 1923).  The work of the students was reported to be efficient and there was discussion that it would become a yearly activity. This sort of work would be extremely beneficial and an important skill for students in working towards future careers. Through this partnership, students received training and contacts for the future, while Baylor gained greater exposure to the Dallas Journal audience.

Conclusions

President Brooks’ desire for a school of commerce and business seems to be a very strategic move that supported his vision for Baylor’s progress as a whole. He desired for Baylor to become a more prominent school and knew in order to do that he needed a broader and more specialized curriculum, as well as additional finances for facilities. Baylor was a fine, satisfactory university in the early 1900’s but in order to remain competitive with its peers and be recognized as a prestigious university, it needed to expand its curriculum. Business classes teach that the best way to make a profit is to find a need and fill it. President Brooks used that key rule of business in his creation of the new school. He looked to the needs of his students and their desire for a school of business. Students were demanding courses and training in business to help them gain employment after graduation. Through the new School of Commerce and Business Administration, Baylor fulfilled the needs of the students, and in so doing; his vision for the university was advanced as well.

Even once the school commenced, Baylor’s leadership strongly desired for it to grow and be among the best in the nation. C.D. Johnson’s numerous letters to other notable colleges and universities reflect how keenly the administration wanted Baylor to be nationally known. It was almost as if the administration and Board were worried about national rankings even before national rankings began. Baylor did fulfill students’ request, yet one could argue that if the students had requested a program that did not give the university more exposure, the institution may not have fulfilled the request. In the end, the university received more students, more tuition, and more prestige, while students received the practical training they had been demanding.

References

Baylor Chamber of Commerce Hears Committee Reports on Its Several Projects. (1923, March 17). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Baylor University. (1923). The Baylor Bulletin. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library Waco, Texas.

Baylor University. (1924). The Baylor Bulletin. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library Waco, Texas.

Baylor University Continues to Advance. (1923, February 28). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Brooks, S.P. (1919, December) Samuel Palmer Brooks Papers. [Letter to the Board of Trustees from S.P. Brooks]. (Box 2C58, Folder 75). Texas Collection and Baylor University Archives, Waco, Texas.

Brooks, S.P. (1920, May) Samuel Palmer Brooks Papers. [Letter to the Board of Trustees from S.P. Brooks]. (Box 2C58, Folder 75). Texas Collection and Baylor University  Archives, Waco, Texas.

Brooks, S.P. (1923, March) Samuel Palmer Brooks Papers. [Letter to the Board of Trustees from S.P. Brooks]. (Box 2C58, Folder 75). Texas Collection and Baylor University Archives, Waco, Texas.

Brooks, S.P. (1924, March) Samuel Palmer Brooks Papers. [Letter to the Board of Trustees from S.P. Brooks]. (Box 2C58, Folder 75). Texas Collection and Baylor University Archives, Waco, Texas.

Condray Will Try For Recognition School of Commerce. (1923, October 27). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Dr. C.D. Johnson Talks to the C. of C. (1923, February 10). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Henke, Dr. E. O. and Corwin, J.A. The First 70 Years. Baylor University Printing Service, Waco, TX, 1994.

Johnson, C.D. (1923, October) Charles D. Johnson Papers [Letter C.D. Johnson from the Dallas News]. (Box 3G107). Texas Collection and Baylor University Archives, Waco, Texas.

Johnson, C.D. (1923, November) Charles D. Johnson Papers [Letter to South Brothers Truck Company from C.D. Johnson]. (Box 3G107). Texas Collection and Baylor University Archives, Waco, Texas.

Johnson, C.D. (1923, December) Charles D. Johnson Papers [Letter to C.H. Tarrant from C.D. Johnson]. (Box 3G107). Texas Collection and Baylor University Archives, Waco, Texas.

Johnson, C.D. (1923, December) Charles D. Johnson Papers [Letter to B.L. Thomas from C.D. Johnson]. (Box 3G107). Texas Collection and Baylor University Archives, Waco, Texas.

Johnson, C.D. (1923, December) Charles D. Johnson Papers [Letter to President Brooks from C.D. Johnson]. (Box 3G107). Texas Collection and Baylor University Archives, Waco, Texas.

Johnson, C.D. (1924, December) Charles D. Johnson Papers [Letter and Student Review to C.D. Johnson from Sanger Bros]. (Box 3G107). Texas Collection and Baylor University Archives, Waco, Texas.

Many Changes Seen in Baylor as Years Pass. (1923, June 9). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Open School of Commerce. (1923, September 29). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

School of Commerce Wanted. (1922, January 24). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Slowly but Surely. (1923, October 24). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Students Will Locate Business Enterprises. (1923, October 27). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

The College-Bred Business Man. (1923, November 28). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Trustees Give School of Commerce (1923, March 14). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

The Round-Up, (1925-1926). Waco, Texas: Baylor University.

 

 

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