New Buildings, New Technology: Growth at the Hankamer School of Business

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

The designs for the new Hankamer School of Business (HSB) building reflect a state-of-the-art facility that will provide the latest in technology to advance student learning and innovation. The school has outgrown its current facility across the street from us on 5th Street, but back when it was conceived and built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, that building, too, was a high-tech place.

Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, early image after construction is completed, photo by Windy Drum Photo, 1961.
Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, Windy Drum Photo, 1961.

Yesterday Baylor announced the naming gift for the new campus. With hopes for construction to start in December 2013, soon business students will attend classes at the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation. And Paul Foster follows in the footsteps of other leaders who have helped to make innovation possible for the School of Business.

Earl Hankamer/Baylor business school
Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business Groundbreaking: Earl C. Hankamer breaks ground at the event on March 11, 1960.

Although Baylor’s School of Business was established in 1923, it didn’t really have a proper home until the late 1950s—classes were held all over campus, including in the Student Union Building. A gift of more than half a million dollars from Mr. and Mrs. Earl C. Hankamer on March 20, 1959, changed that. Their donation was added to an existing amount previously raised to build the new $1 million business school building. The first classes in the new building, with the school now named after Hankamer, were held on May 5, 1961.

Hankamer and Paul Foster have more than generosity in common—they share the oil business too. Earl C. Hankamer was one of 13 children and was from the town of Hankamer (named after his pioneering family), in Chambers County, Texas. After working his way through school at various jobs, he completed his bachelor of arts degree from Baylor in 1915. He then went on to be a prominent Texas oilman. As noted in his obituary, he was known as “an unpretentious businessman who gave millions to various educational and medical programs while insisting his efforts should go without praise.” Mr. Hankamer also gave of his time, serving on the Baylor Board of Trustees for 41 years, and 15 years as chairman of the board for the Baylor College of Medicine.

Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, under construction, photo by Windy Drum Photo, 1960.
Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, under construction, Windy Drum Photo, c. 1960.

So the Hankamers laid the groundwork for the current facility, but in 1962, it got another boost in the form of a gift from Baylor trustee and businessman, Carl Casey. This would enable the purchase of a historic campus first: an IBM 1620 Data Processing System.

Baylor University, Hankamer School of Business, Casey Computer Lab, IBM 1620 Data Processing System, September 13, 1967
Baylor University, Hankamer School of Business, Casey Computer Center: IBM 1620 Data Processing System, the university’s first computer, acquired in 1962.

Not many universities had computers at this time or taught computing courses. This was the first computer at Baylor available for student use and would be housed at the HSB campus. The unit carried a price tag of nearly $100,000 but was discounted to $40,000 after an educational grant. To house the new computer as well as the existing punch card devices in the business school, Baylor added the Casey Computer Center to the business school building.

But how to use this new technology? Dr. Helen Ligon, who would later become a professor in the Information Systems department, received specialized training in Dallas to operate the new IBM 1620. Dr. Ligon had started teaching at the business school in 1958 as an instructor in shorthand, report writing, and letter writing, so this was quite a shift for her. However, it was not long before Dr. Ligon and others at Baylor would see the benefits that the computer could have to the department and the entire university.

Baylor University, Hankamer School of Business, Casey Computer Lab, IBM System 3, 1974
According to the press release accompanying this photo, Helen Ligon, Louis Pisaturo, and Loren Decker examine a printout from the new IBM System/3 computer installed in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business in 1974. This computer replaced the IBM 1620…and the computers have been getting smaller ever since!

The acquisition of this IBM computer would help lead to the development of the Management Information Systems courses taught at the HSB today. Dr. Ligon saw the potential of the computer for teaching, research, and business operations applications, and courses based around the use of the IBM 1620 began. The computer not only served the HSB, but also those doing research in education, math, science, psychology, or any department at Baylor University that needed this type of specialized equipment. As Dr. Ligon noted, the machine could perform in hours calculations that would take a human months or years to complete.

Of course, many others have continued to support the development of learning spaces for Baylor business students, from the Cashion Academic Center to specialized classrooms like the Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center. These contributions, and now that of Paul L. Foster, follow in the footsteps of the gifts from the Hankamers, the Caseys, and the faculty and staff like Dr. Ligon who helped to bring these spaces to life with learning opportunities for students. As the new building begins to take shape, we look forward to seeing how future Baylor business leaders will make the most of their new home.

View our Flickr slideshow below to explore the construction of the current business school building and the evolution of technology at Baylor, from typewriters and adding machines to personal computers.

Read more: