Veteran Student Needs: A look into their visible and invisible needs and how they were approached by Baylor

Veteran Student needs: A look into their visible and invisible needs and how they were approached by Baylor

The era of the 1940’s marks a time of dramatic change in American history. This was a time when America decided to enter into World War II, which was focused on two fronts, the war in the Pacific and the war in Europe. Upon Americas entrance into the war in Europe the tides began to change and a strong push was made inland. With the soldiers continual push inland the war finally came to and end in 1945. This was a great victory for the Allies over the Axes. America was now seen to be a dominant world power and also out of its 10-year depression experienced a decade earlier.

With the ending of World War II, Baylor University was celebrating its centennial year of providing higher education to the American people. An education in which the university strived to uphold the Christian standards set forth by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. In the midst of Baylor’s desire to uphold the Christian standard the institution was experiencing dramatic growth in student population. In the years following World War II this growth peaked in the fall of 1949 with 5325 students, with the highest veteran population being in the fall of 1948 with just a few more enrolled than the previous fall (Baylor University Bulletin, 1950). During this dramatic influx of veteran students arriving on campus, Baylor University found ways to provide for the noticeable veteran housing need for this need was apparent to the University. Given Baylor’s focus was housing the veteran students, as a result the university overlooked providing specific avenues for veteran students to have their spiritual needs sufficiently meet.

Visible Needs of Veteran Students

The five years following World War II Baylor University experienced a large influx of student enrollment. Veteran students were enrolling in colleges and universities across the nation in order to become citizens who could impact the communities in which they would be inhabitants. With the inpouring enrollment of veteran students there was an salient need to house them and their families since many of the veteran students were not of the traditional college age, for many of the soldiers from World War II served at the enlistment age of 18 or older (Vets, 1946). Since this was the largest enrollment at Baylor University to date the university was not prepared to house this large veteran population. Ultimately, the University sought out new and creative ways of providing for the housing need of the veteran students. Meeting the veterans’ housing needs was the first step on Baylor’s agenda.

Scrambling to provide housing for the new veteran students who made up 50% of the student population by the 1947-1948 academic year, the university began by building a residence hall and apartments (Baylor Bulletin, 1947-1948). While building was in progress, the University was able to provide housing for veterans off campus at the Blackland Airfield using its barracks. The airfield was located 5 miles northwest of Waco on the northern side of Lake Waco. Upon arriving for the fall term of 1946, the barracks at Blackland Airfield were not ready for the veteran students, construction was still occurring to outfit the barracks for apartment style living. Since the barracks were not completed for the fall term as promised the “Waco citizens took in about 400 students and members of their families” (Waco, 1946). This act suggests that Waco citizens were in line with the University’s effort to provide for the housing need of the veteran students

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 11.31.05 PM
(A family examining their barrack apartment) (Waco, 1946)

Even in the midst of the delayed construction on the barracks, the facilities were still provided a short term solution while Baylor was constructing Kokernot, a men’s residence hall, and 540 apartments close to campus (Homette, 1947). In addition to the barracks, the University had recently acquired “50 homettes (pre-fabricated houses formerly used at the bluebonnet ordinance plant in McGregor, TX) and 100 trailers to provide immediate/emergency housing for veteran student with or without families” (Baylor press release, 1947, p.1).

The 60 apartment buildings on Ninth and Baylor streets were made possible due to building materials acquired by the federal government and given to Baylor. These 60 apartment buildings would provide the 540 two or three bedroom apartments for single veteran students and veteran students with families (Baylor press release, 1947). Baylor University provided the acreage for the 60 apartment buildings to be built, but was unable to receive rent funds paid by the students as the rent was paid directly to the federal government (Homette, 1947). This building frenzy the University was operating through demonstrates how Baylor was able to see the urgent and apparent need to house the veteran students and their families. Seeing this need, Baylor decided to take action and provide for the veteran students in this unique opportunity.

Invisible Needs of Veteran Students

Veteran students may have been a little older than the traditional aged college student, but they still had similar needs that the university would need to focus their attention towards. However, Baylor was not addressing these needs because they were not apparent until after the veteran students began seeking out ways to get their spiritual needs meet through pre-existing programs. The universities lack of recognition towards spiritual needs parallels, to the housing situation in which Baylor did not decide to provide housing for the veteran students until the need became overly apparent. The veteran needs discussed in this section that became apparent to the university during this time deals with spiritual needs, such as prayer, forgiveness of past transgressions, and refocusing of the heart. Veteran students sought out ways to meet this need before Baylor recognized, it was as important as housing the students. From 1944-1950 Baylor seemed to be playing catch up in providing for the full range of veteran student needs.

Starting in 1944 when World War II veteran students began entering the halls of Baylor University, there were only 13 men enrolled. This number began to climb as veterans began to be sent back state side after World War II. The population of veterans in 1945 was 159, in 1946 it was 1833, in 1947 it was 2295, and in 1948 it was 2316, which was the highest the veteran population reached (Baylor Bulletin, 1949-1950). Since veteran students made up half of the overall student population, therefore, it is extremely necessary for Baylor to examine all of the potential veteran needs coming into the University from an event that could have caused them a great deal of trauma. However, the veteran student sought out pre-existing initiatives/programs on campus to meet their wide variety of needs.

The missed opportunities of not meeting the needs of veteran students can be seen through examining the actions of President Pat Morris Neff before and after the arrival of the veteran students. President Neff on a number of occasions received letters asking if Baylor would like to have a universal military training program on campus. Upon receiving these letters, President Neff responded in this manner “I would not be in favor of a universal military training service. This however, is not for publication, but merely answer to your communication” (Mr. Herman, personal communication, August 31, 1944). This same answer occurred when President Neff received a letter and survey from the American Council on Education in 1944 expressing their interest and promotion of universal military training services on college campuses (American Council on Education, 1944). This information is fascinating for only a few years’ latter in 1947 Baylor implemented an air ROTC program on campus (Air ROTC, 1947). The need for the program was not apparent in 1944 therefore, leading President Neff to decline all inclinations of adding the initiative to the university. However, this changed once the veteran students were on campus and this need of a ROTC program became salient leading Baylor to play catch up. This was not the only instance of Baylor delaying or missing opportunities to provide programing for the veteran students in order to meet certain needs.

President Neff took a similar approach to veteran student’s spiritual needs. President Neff received a letter from the Christian Herald in January 1945 requesting “information dealing with the post-war programs of our major Protestant denominations, which certainly includes yours. I am writing you as a leader of your denomination in an effort to secure reliable information” (Frank S. Mead, personal communication, January 30, 1945). This was a chance for president Neff to respond in a strong manner, giving information on how Baylor was going to provide post-war programs for veteran students, these programs could have been focused around spiritual needs or physical needs, but it is unsure. However, president Neff’s response placed the responsibility on Dr. Austin Crouch, the executive secretary of the committee. Neff placed the responsibility on Dr. Crouch because Neff was unable to attend the committee meeting that was held some two months’ prior (Frank S. Mead, personal communication, January 30, 1945). This was an opportunity for president Neff to be out on the front lines of the veteran student’s spiritual needs. By passing on the responsibility to Dr. Crouch, and Neff not having inquired himself about the discussions held at the meeting some two months prior suggest Neff was not interested in thinking about providing post-war programs.

Despite these reluctances, veteran students were able to find other spiritual programs that were currently present at Baylor, even though, these programs were not specifically for veterans who were older and had potentially experienced traumatic events from their service. Some of the programs were not even held on campus. For example, there were prayer meetings and planning of a Baylor student led youth revival. The prayer meetings took place in the women’s dormitory and the men’s athletic dormitory (Baptist, 1946). This was an opportunity for the student leaders within the BSU [Baptist Student Union] to engage the students in a more informal manner by meeting them were they were living. There was another prayer meeting available to students held at the director of the BSU’s office in the spring of 1946. The students continued to meet there until the meeting grew so large they began to out grow the space moving the meeting to 7th and James Baptist Church (Wimpee, 1980).

Although, there were not many veterans attending the prayer meetings at first, they began accepting the fact they needed to relinquish the hurt and pain they had built up from war experiences, causing the prayer meeting to expand to 7th and James Baptist Church. BSU director W J Wimpee states

 it was only out of the prayer meetings that—where some of them were carrying a heavy    burden of guilt about being a part of killing people and they needed—they needed to be—they needed the assurance of forgiveness, that God understood that they were not relishing that or had no delight or joy and they had guilt about it. And they began to pray that the Lord would forgive them for having killed people, and some of them had done some things that they didn’t have the consent of their own conscience about, not only killing, but some other areas of their lives, and I have memories of agonizing prayers downstairs (1980, p. 52).

These prayer meetings were started in preparation for the Youth for Christ Revival Baylor students were planning and leading, but they spawned an opportunity for the veteran students to come and receive spiritual healing as well. Many of the veterans were carrying such heavy burdens from actions taken in World War II and had a desire to seek forgiveness. The veterans needed reassurance they were good people who could create a better world rid of turmoil and hate.

The growth of the Youth for Christ preparation prayer meeting became a place where veterans were able to appear and speak about the hurt and pain they experienced during World War II, this could of created heavy burdens for the veterans. In carrying these heavy burdens around, these veteran students realized how they had a deep spiritual need to relinquish the burdens to peers and seek forgiveness. By the time the prayer meeting out grew the BSU director’s office, it was predominantly lead by veteran students (Wimpee, 1980). These veteran students “would tell their friends who had similar needs and they would say, ‘I want to be a part of that’” (Wimpee, 1980, p. 53).

Another recollection of this event is from the experience of a veteran named Charles Wellborn who graduated in December of 1945, but was teaching a few entry level courses in political science at the time of the pre-revival prayer meetings (Wellborn, 1999). Wellborn states his own personal experience to be

they were having prayer meetings over in the basement of Seventh & James church every night, late night, you know. I’d go over there—finish everything else and then go over there 10:30, 11o’clock. And so they asked me to come along and I did for several nights, and it was in that kind of situation that I experienced what I have come to understand, and have never doubted, was conversion experience (Wellborn, 1999, pg. 8).

The Youth for Christ Revival was taking place in 7th and James Baptist Church before the actual revival even started due to the urgent spiritual need of the veteran students. Because of this pre-revival, the prayer meeting grew and continued to grow across campus, affecting the lives of many students. Charles Wellborn is just one example (Wimpee, 1980).

The prayer/revival movements occurring on campus gave president Pat Morris Neff great joy, seeing them to be great for the spiritual growth of the Baylor family and it was great promotion for the Baptist denomination (Wimpee, 1980). President Neff agreed to walk with students from the University campus west to First Baptist Church of Waco, Texas for the first night of the Youth for Christ Revival. Wimpee states “and he did, he marched right down there with them” (Wimpee, 1980, p.53). Dr. Courtney, a faculty member at the time, showed support by encouraging the students through this small statement “this is fine work you’re doing” (Wimpee, 1980, p.54).

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 2.33.19 PM
(Mr. and Mrs. Wimpee) (Round up, 1946)

With the Baylor student led youth revival beginning many Baylor veteran students were attending the revival in search of an environment where they could ave their spiritual needs meet. As noted above, the pre-revival prayer meetings grew and many veteran students were attending, but of course not all came to the meetings. Therefore, the veteran students who were still looking for programming to provide for their spiritual needs could attend the Baylor student led youth revival. The spiritual decisions document outlined all of the students who made decisions with no church affiliation and a number of them were veteran students (Decisions, 1946). Furthermore, not every student who attended the revival was a veteran but it is clear some were based upon their place of residence being in a Baylor homette or residence hall (Decisions, 1946).

[Photo Citation (List of decisions) (Decisions, 1946)]
(List of decisions) (Decisions, 1946)
 Veteran students were able to pursue ways to engage their spiritual needs, but President Neff did not get involved until the veteran students began taking their own initiative. Prior to the arrival of veterans to Baylor’s campus, President Neff seemed to have no interest in spiritual programming for veteran students. Spiritual needs were invisible at the time, therefore President Neff was not focused on those needs, but once the need was express and pursued by the veteran student’s president Neff decided to join in.


Baylor University experienced a large influx of students between the years of 1944-1950. By the year 1947, over 50% of the student population were veteran students (Baylor University Bulletin, 1950). Veteran students came to Baylor in order to receive a degree which was paid for by the US. Government through the GI bill. Veteran students came in mass numbers to Baylor during this time period and because of the population growth Baylor focused on providing for the most apparent need of the veteran students, which was finding a place to house them and their families. Baylor did the utmost it could to see veteran students and their families had a safe place to live. Even though the university was delayed on a few fronts they were still able to put forth resources and time to make sure the veterans had a place to live and take care of their families.

Since Baylor was focusing so much attention on the most apparent need of the veteran students, the University overlooked opportunities to provide for the veteran student’s spiritual needs. These spiritual needs were invisible until the veteran students began engaging in the pre-revival prayer meetings and the Youth for Christ revival. Both of these programs/intitaitives lead the veteran students to realize the hurt they here carrying from their traumatic service experience during World War II. President Neff had a chance to lead Baylor in being proactive in providing for the veteran student spiritual needs, but he decided to focus his attention elsewhere until the need became visible to Baylor University. Therefore, leaving the veteran students in a place to search for pre-existing initiatives/programs to engage their spiritual needs.


Baptist Student Union, (1945) Youth Lead Revival Decisions 1946. BU records baptist student union (#IJ13) The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, Waco, TX. Baptist Student Union, (April, 1946) Activities Account of

Baptist Student Union. BU records baptist student union (#3EI33) The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, Waco, TX. Baylor University Bulletin. (1949-1950).

Baylor University Bulletin. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, 3-17. Waco, TX.

Baylor University Press Release. (1947, January 14). Baylor University Press Releases. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Baylor University annuals. (1946).Baylor University Round up 1946. The Texas Collection of the Carroll Library, pg. 190. Houston, TX.

Air ROTC. (1947, September 18th). Baylor University Press Releases. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Homette rent set by US-Mcknight. (1947, May 2). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections, 48(55). Waco, TX.

Pat Morris Neff. (1945, January 30th). Letter too and from Frank S. Mead. Pat Morris Neff Collection (box 84, folder 8, & call #0463) The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, Waco, TX.

Pat Morris Neff. (1944, August 31st). Letter too and from Mr. Herman G. Nami. Pat Morris Neff Collection (box 84, folder , & call #0463) The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, Waco TX.

Vets will swell enrollment to new record. (1946, August 15th). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections, 47(70). Waco, TX.

Waco citizens come to aid of roomless baylorites. (1946, September 27th). The Baylor Lariat. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collection, 48(3). Waco, TX.

Wellborn, T., Charles. (1999, March 24th). Oral Histories. Oral memoirs of Charles Wellborn, The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Wimpee, W. J. (1980, May 1-1994, July 24). Oral Histories. Oral memoirs of W. J. Wimpee. The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, the Digital Collections. Waco, TX.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *