On the heels of the Great Depression, university campuses began changing with the start of World War II. The effects of the war were felt across the nation, with a significant portion of the campus population enlisting in the war efforts. Baylor University was one such campus impacted by these events, and students had to find ways to flourish despite these challenges.
Optimism in the Midst of War: Baylor University’s Centennial Celebration by Sydney Shields- In the midst of war, Baylor President Pat Neff sought to maintain an atmosphere of optimism on campus via the Centennial Founders’ Day Celebration. The university chose to honor its past by erecting new memorial pillars for founders Tryon and Huckins as well as raising over fifty new memorial lampposts to honor the students who were killed in action. The campus landscape was revitalized with the planting of live oak trees along Founders’ Mall, representing the strength and resiliency of the student body. Lastly, a time capsule was created in anticipation of the next one hundred years of Baylor’s service.
Baylor Wings Club by Sierra Valdivia- Additionally, as Baylor students were going off to war, these individuals had to find ways to remain connected to the university. The Baylor Wings Club was an organization that was created during World War II by military students who were serving both in the United States and overseas. This organization succeeded in helping students maintain an identity to Baylor as a student through communications in newsletters and student initiatives. As a result of the Baylor Wings Club, students who lost their lives in the war were memorialized through lampposts that were erected around campus which were funded entirely through fundraising efforts of the members.
The Effects of Changes in Social Demographics and Campus-Wide Traditions as Related to a Student’s University Experience by Sarah L. Stair- Finally, Baylor traditions, such as Homecoming, and the social dynamics on campus experienced significant changes during the 1940’s as the United States exited the Depression and entered the World War II era. The effects of these national events are apparent in the memoirs and oral histories provided by alumni who attended Baylor during the 1940’s. Although World War II ended in 1945, student life did not return to its pre-war identity. Instead, the social dynamics and campus traditions were marked by the experiences that students brought back with them from the war years.
The entrance of the United States in World War II greatly impacted students at Baylor University. Many students were sent to serve in the war while others had to adjust to the changing atmosphere on campus. While Baylor students experienced changes during this time period, they thrived through campus initiatives and student programs.