The Impact of World War II on Baylor University’s Course and Program Offerings

By Sarah Madsen

World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945, had enduring influences on the world at large: approximately 60 million casualties, widespread European destruction, food and material rationing, and military expansion were just some of these effects (Ervin & Smith, 2008, p. 15).  At the societal level, the second World War caused considerable alterations to daily life, especially for young men and women.  In the United States, such changes were clearly visible at institutions of higher education after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Military training programs that brought new students, new buildings, and new courses to campus exemplify the adjustments Americans made to prepare for and fight in the global war.  Baylor University, founded in 1845, was one such institution that introduced military-oriented curricular innovations in support of American efforts in World War .

In hopes of fulfilling its precedent of war involvement, Baylor University implemented wartime-oriented curricular changes starting in 1942, in direct response to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and subsequent declaration of war by America.  Baylor supported American involvement in World War II through the implementation of the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) and Navy V-12 Training Program, the introduction of Department of Defense courses for faculty and staff, and the expansion of wartime preparation and international themed courses for undergraduates.  These curricular innovations highlight Baylor’s patriotism in the 1940s, as well as the responsiveness of the university in an era of conflict and uncertainty.

Military Training Programs

Baylor’s central focus related to wartime preparations, beginning in late December of 1941, was the establishment of on-campus military training programs.  The President of Baylor University, Pat M. Neff, spearheaded these establishment efforts.  In a letter to the Commanding General of Service and Supply, President Neff wrote, “In keeping with the tradition of this university through five wars, we wish to share our responsibilities in furthering the present war effort.  We would be happy to serve you through participation in the training of enlisted men and officer candidates” (Neff, 1942).  President Neff also described Baylor’s facilities in this letter: departments such as business administration, pre-medicine, physics, and mathematics were listed as valuable to the war effort, in addition to Baylor classrooms that could seat between 75 and 250 students, and on-campus technologies such as radio, broadcasting, and photography equipment.  Despite these comprehensive facilities, Baylor was not immediately selected to host a military training program (Neff, 1942).

President Neff’s continued efforts, in the form of appeals to both Congressmen and Washington officials, led to the implementation of both the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) and the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Baylor University.  Baylor was not selected for an Air Force program due to the proximity of other flying schools in Waco, though the school also desired an Air Force Training program.  The purpose of the ASTP was “to provide technicians and specialists for the Army”, while the purpose of the V-12 program was to provide “officers for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard” (The Baylor Lariat, November 9, 1943).  Both the ASTP and V-12 program represent a tangible way in which Baylor University supported American war efforts in the early 1940s, namely through the provision of trained soldiers.

The United States War Department approved Baylor University to host an Army Specialized Training Program on April 1, 1943, and during its year-long tenure in Waco the program educated and trained hundreds of young men for future technical positions in the Army (Durkee, 1943).  Trainings at Baylor occurred in two cycles, the first beginning in April of 1943 and the second in February of 1944.  To qualify for the ASTP, male students needed to pass a written qualifying exam.  In addition, a high school education was required of potential candidates, and the age limit for the program was between 17 and 22 years of age (The Baylor Lariat, November 9, 1943).  Once inducted into the ASTP, trainees studied at colleges and universities across America, at the expense of the government, and were considered on active duty for the US Army.

At Baylor, the academic coursework of the ASTP was rigorous.  Trainees took mandatory courses in chemistry, physics, English, history, geography, and mathematics in addition to physical military trainings (The Baylor Lariat, February 15, 1944).  Joseph D. Herrick, an ASTP trainee, wrote in a July 1943 letter to President Pat Neff, “The curricula of the ASTP present six subjects, forming a well-balanced selection.  These subjects, if mastered, will undoubtedly prove beneficial to the Army in the war as well as to the trainee himself in later life”.  The comprehensive nature of the ASTP’s academic education, however, was not always praised.  “But in light of the intensity of the curriculum, I feel the schedule is overloaded; so much so that, I have experienced utter discouragement in trying to keep abreast of the work”, wrote Frank Kypreos, a fellow ASTP trainee, also in a 1943 letter to President Neff.  Additionally, trainees expressed their discontent regarding the professors of the ASTP courses.  Edward C. Lunte describes his personal dissatisfaction to President Neff, writing,

One very important factor that I don’t think has been given due consideration is the choice of the teachers. Two of my most important classes are taught by persons who, to my way of thinking, should not be teaching in the ASTP. With the enormous amount of work we are required to do in a such little time I think we are entitled to the very best teachers (Lunte, 1943).

The government-mandated achievement tests were another subject of contention among ASTP trainees: in multiple letters to Neff, students described these tests as covering as much as three times the material taught in class, despite their rigorous studies.  The required coursework and related academic topics in the ASTP at Baylor, then, created polarizing reactions for student trainees.

Reactions from parents regarding the ASTP were uniformly positive.  In the summer of 1943, President Pat Neff personally wrote to the parents of each ASTP trainee, praising their sons for his involvement in the program and inquiring if Baylor could provide any additional services or support for their son.  Hundreds of parents responded to the president’s letters, lauding the training program and Baylor’s wartime efforts.  Mr. and Mrs. Adolph de Koster, in their response to President Neff on July 5, 1943, wrote, “Feel assured that if, and when he is sent out into the world to fight the battles of freedom, you have done your part in making him a strong an [sic] dependable Christian citizen of this beloved country of ours”.  This juxtaposition between trainees’ criticism and parents’ praise highlights the greater discussion of the effectiveness and value of the ASTP across American universities.

Although the ASTP was successful in providing trained soldiers and specialists for the US military in a time of great need, the program was not without criticism, especially related to its curriculum.  First, ASTP trainees criticized the sheer amount of work demanded by the program, which often amounted to 29 hours of classroom and laboratory instruction per week, in addition to military training exercises (Cardozier, 1993, p. 37).  This heavy schedule left trainees little time for recreation or studying.  Another critique of the ASTP’s curriculum regarded its rigidity: faculty members saw the ASTP schedule, which did not allow for elective courses, as strict and narrow (Cardozier, 1993, p. 43). The technical nature of the ASTP curriculum was also faulted by educators, like University of Chicago President Robert M. Hutchins: Hutchins, a staunch proponent of a liberal arts education, believed that the ASTP emphasis on practical studies denied students a broader education (The Chicago Tribune, August 15, 1943). Assessment of the ASTP, then, depended on one’s relation to the program: whereas military officials and trainee parents applauded the program for its provision of trained soldiers during World War II, trainees and educators alike questioned its curricular character.

The ASTP was not the only military training program hosted by Baylor during World War II: The V-12 Navy College Training Program trained male students for future officer positions in the Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard.  The qualifications for the V-12 program were identical to those for the ASTP, namely a passing score on the Army Navy Qualifying Examination, a high school education, and an age limit of 17 – 22 years (The Baylor Lariat, March 16, 1943).  Baylor was home to both Medical and Dental V-12 programs, each three terms in length. Premedical and predental trainees studied chemistry and a foreign language, in addition to the basic V-12 curriculum of mathematics, physics, geometry, and Naval organization, and physical training (Cardozier, 1993, p. 56). Medical and Dental trainees, however, were exempt from English and history courses required for other V-12 trainees. Weekly, a premedical or predental trainee would have 18 classroom hours and 8 laboratory hours; this “heavy course load” was acknowledged by the Navy, but rationalized given the pressing need for trained officers (Cardozier, 1993, p. 57). However, unlike ASTP trainees, premedical and predental V-12 trainees did not explicitly express their discontent in written form to Baylor’s President, Pat Neff. One possible explanation of this phenomenon is the small size of the Navy V-12 program at Baylor: according to The Baylor Lariat, 25 Baylor students were selected for the Navy V-12 program, considerably less than ASTP enrollment (February 25, 1944).  Despite the lack of criticism by Navy V-12 trainees at Baylor, nationwide critique of the program mirrored the criticism of the ASTP, namely that the program was too rigorous, too time-consuming, and too specialized (Herge, 1996, p. 29).

War Department Memorandum, courtesy of The Texas Collection at Baylor University

In 1944, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson announced a national policy curtailing the ASTP at college campuses across America.  In a memorandum for the press, Mr. Stimson stated, “The War Department in announcing today [February 18, 1944] the drastic reduction of the Army Specialized Training Program and the transfer to active duty with troops of the larger part of the students now in the program. The decision has been made for reasons of imperative military necessity”.  One central reason behind the liquidation of the ASTP trainees, as explained by US General George Marshall, was the large number of troops needed for the impending Allied invasion of Western Europe (Palmer, Wiley, & Keast, 1948).  Just as the ASTP curriculum was both praised and critiqued during the program’s tenure at American colleges and universities, so too was its reduction and eventual end of operation.  Whereas the ASTP was lauded by Army officials for its immediate deployment of trained men, it was criticized by current trainees who were under the impression that specialized training was of the upmost importance.  These trainees acknowledged the paradox of their liquidation to the frontline of Europe: it was of military necessity, yet “arbitrary”, given the War Department’s previous commitment to sending well-trained, specialized troops abroad (Palmer, Wiley, & Keast, 1948).  The ASTP, then, was subject to both praise and criticism during its operational existence, though overall considered successful in its ability to train and supply specialized soldiers during World War II.

As Baylor ASTP trainees graduated to active duty in the months prior to and following Stimson’s policy announcement, fellow Baylor students expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the trainees.  An excerpt found in a 1944 Baylor Lariat articled titled “Bye ASTP” reads,

As the fellows [ASTP trainees] leave, we congratulate them on their record here, and we express our appreciation to them for making that sort of a record for Baylor. We invite them all to return, we assure them of our undying hospitality, we thank them for their additions to our state and our school. We take no credit for their abilities, we accept no recognition for their talents – these they already had; but we have gained from their being here, we have profited from their acquaintance, and we won’t forget them. Bye, ASTP! (January 25, 1944).

Despite expressions like these made to leaving ASTP trainees, it is difficult to gauge the overall assessment of the program by those at Baylor, since criticism of the ASTP often came from educators who saw the program as too specialized or rigid.  In contrast, the Navy V-12 program continued to operate at Baylor until June of 1946, providing medical and dental training to future Naval officers.  Despite their different tenures at Baylor, both the ASTP and Navy V-12 program left an indelible mark on the campus.

The ASTP and Navy V-12 program are significant in Baylor’s history in three central ways: first, these military programs provided an influx of enrolled students in a time period that saw droves of students leaving college for the military.  Second, the college experience offered by the programs inspired many veterans to return to Baylor after the war.  Finally, the ASTP and Navy V-12 program illustrate a tangible demonstration of support by Baylor for World War II and America.  Across America, over 200,000 students completed the ASTP, while approximately 125,000 students completed the Navy V-12 program (Herge, 1996, p. 8, 50).  In addition to the number of students these military programs provided to colleges during the war, historical data shows that 4 in 5 ASTP graduates returned to college after the war (Keefer, 1988).  This phenomenon rang true for Baylor: in 1945, 1,128 veteran students enrolled at Baylor, and the following year, that number was 2,336 (Baylor Registrar’s Reports, 1946-1947, 1947-1948).  Ultimately, the ASTP and Navy V-12 program demonstrated Baylor’s physical support for World War II.  Arthur M. Lukeus, the father of an ASTP trainee, wrote to President Pat Neff, “Mankind truly has need for sons who will take their stand for the right and will fight for what is good and true” (July 11, 1943).  Baylor aimed to provide such men through its military training programs.

Defense Courses

Defense courses offered to faculty, staff, and Central Texas residents in the 1940s demonstrate a secondary curricular change at Baylor’s campus, namely the introduction of innovative, practical classes to train professors, staff, and citizens alike for positions in management, accounting, and administration that would aid the overall American war effort.  The US Department of Education approved Baylor’s Defense courses in December of 1941, and university administrators worked over the Christmas break to organize the program, which began in the January term of 1942 (Baylor Press Release, December 18, 1941).  The courses were offered free of charge, and were not for credit.  Dr. Monroe Carroll, the chairman of the Baylor School of Business, alongside other business faculty members, taught courses on personnel administration, cost accounting, and office management.

The motivation behind introducing Defense courses for faculty, staff, and residents was “to prepare men and women for active part in the government war program” (Baylor Press Release, May 13, 1942).  A statement by E.N Jones, a dean at Baylor in the 1940s, describes the catalyst of the Defense courses: “This is a technical war, unlike that of 1917. The patriotic thing is to study these techniques even before being called for service” (Baylor Press Release, December 18, 1941).  Therefore, Baylor’s expanded course offerings in US Department of Defense-related fields represents both a practical and patriotic endeavor.  The technical nature of the courses prepared Baylor employees and Texans for governmental work, while the implicit service-oriented character of the courses illustrated Baylor’s support for America’s war effort.

The introduction of free Defense courses at Baylor in 1941 highlights two notable wartime themes: one, the expansion of college access through additional curricular opportunities, and two, the central role institutions of higher education held during World War II.  Wartime efforts made by Baylor and similar institutions in the form of military training programs and practical coursework brought students to the university that may not have previously attended. Notably, the Defense courses offered training for both men and women, giving women an opportunity to serve their country.  Moreover, these innovative courses illustrate the vital role of American colleges and universities in providing both soldiers and specialists during the war.

Changes in Undergraduate Curriculum

Baylor University, in addition to implementing on-campus military training programs and introducing free Defense courses for faculty, staff, and residents of Central Texas, augmented the undergraduate curriculum in a response to World War II through the addition of an Engineering, Science, Management, War Training (ESMWT) program, the expansion of missions-themed courses, the introduction of advanced foreign language courses, and the acceleration of the summer term.  These curricular changes highlight Baylor’s responsiveness to both American involvement in the war and the shifting focus towards the international, rather than the national.

The formation of the Engineering, Science, Management, War Training (ESMWT) program at Baylor highlights the influence of the American military and World War II on college curricula.  The ESMWT program operated under the Business School and its chairman, Dr. Monroe S. Carroll from January 1942 until July 31, 1944.  Dr. Carroll, in a final report on the program to President Neff, noted that “951 students enrolled in 30 sections of 17 courses” during the tenure of the ESMWT program (Carroll, 1944).  These courses included advanced cost accounting, industrial and government procurement, industrial organization and management, and personnel administration.  A common theme of these courses is practicality: Baylor was preparing its students, through the ESMWT program and others, for war-related positions in the immediate future.

Wartime preparations also affected the structure of Baylor’s curriculum.  In 1942, the university “arranged her schedule to include the summer session as a fourth quarter so that high school graduates entering during the summer quarter and continuing straight through may finish their college education in two years six months” (Baylor Press Release, June 5, 1942). Additional courses were also offered during the new fourth quarter, including government accounting, business policies and management during the war, readings in military German, economics of war, social problems, and nutrition (Baylor Press Release, June 5, 1942).  The acceleration of Baylor’s schedule to accommodate students who would most likely serve in the government or military after graduation illustrates another mode in which the university supported the overall war effort through curricular changes.

press release!
Baylor University Press Release dated 13 August 1948, courtesy of the Texas Collection

Baylor also made curricular adjustments focused on post-war developments, namely the need for missionaries throughout the world, and expanded interest in foreign languages heard on the battlefronts.  Missions courses taught by Baylor alumni were introduced in 1947 by the Baylor Bible Department. In the 1947 academic year, three of these courses were available to students: Brazilian missions, European missions, and Chinese missions.  In a press release, the university noted its motivation behind the formation of missions courses, namely “increasing numbers and changing times” (August 13, 1948).  Baylor also expanded its foreign language course offerings following the end of World War II. In the spring term of 1947, both the German and French departments introduced advanced language and history classes (The Baylor Lariat, February 25, 1947).  By 1950, Baylor also introduced a Russian language course for both students and Wacoans, taught by Professor Daniel Sternberg, in response to the growing threat of war with the USSR (Baylor Press Release, September 15, 1950).  The expansion of both missions and foreign language courses following World War II demonstrates curricular changes at Baylor in response to the war and American involvement.  Moreover, these expanded course offerings underscore Baylor’s responsiveness to and support for the second World War, as well as the university’s focus on international topics and needs.


The curricular changes at Baylor University during the 1940s highlight the institution’s patriotism and responsiveness in the face of global conflict: through the implementation of the Army Specialized Training Program and the Navy V-12 Training Program, the introduction of defense courses for faculty, staff, and Central Texas residents, and the expansion of curricular offerings for undergraduates, Baylor provided trained men and women for both governmental and military war efforts during World War II.  The explicit motivation behind these curricular changes was singular: aid America in winning the war. Perhaps a more implicit motivation, as articulated by President Neff, was to fulfill the university precedent of war-time involvement.  Most notably, a number of Baylor students and trainees fought and aided in the victory at the Battle of the Bulge (Class Notes, 1946).  Baylor’s efforts, then, directly influenced the American war effort.

Baylor’s curriculum-centered adjustments succeeded in providing the United States with both soldiers and specialists, and the effects of these changes on Baylor’s campus were both physical and symbolic.  In the physical sense, barracks and buildings were built in order to support the influx of military trainees; departments were also expanded to accommodate growing interests and governmental demands.  Symbolically, the students, faculty, staff, and Central Texas residents enrolled in various training programs and courses instilled on campus a spirit of patriotism, service, and sacrifice.  As the war came to an end, many of these enrollees returned to Baylor: “Students of all kinds left the Baylor campus to become soldiers of all kinds, and now these soldiers have returned, and along with them come many more soldiers who want to become students of all kinds” (The Baylor Lariat, March 15, 1946).  This excerpt from The Lariat highlights Baylor’s and other colleges’ and universities’ formative role in the turbulent 1940s, namely educating students to be soldiers, and soldiers to be students.


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