By Todd Copeland
Editor, The Baylor Line
I have a confession to make.
Before this spring, I had never been to Independence, the small town near Brenham where Baylor University began back in the 1840s and where the Baylor Alumni Association (BAA) was founded in 1859. Baylor alumni and current students make regular pilgrimages there, but I had never been among their number. As such, my Baylor credentials could have been viewed as somewhat suspect.
I finally rectified the situation on May 6 during my drive back to Waco after attending the listening session held in Houston the previous evening by the presidential search and advisory committees. Like many before me, I walked across the land of the former male campus, now turned into Baylor on Windmill Hill, where the traces of Tryon Hall and other buildings are documented. And I visited Old Baylor Park, where the four iconic columns of Baylor Female Building still stand.
On my drive back home, I mulled over the impressions generated by what I had seen and the implications of what Baylor has meant to Texas and generations of students. Granted, what remains in Independence is only a ghostly presence upon the landscape. The buildings are gone, and the students and professors of Baylor’s early years are no longer among us.
But the past has not been erased. The Baylor we know and love today has been bequeathed to us, a legacy created out of harsh circumstances that has endured times of great challenge, such as the Civil War and the Great Depression. The vision of Baylor’s founding fathers and the work of countless faculty members, board members, and administrators remain with us in the ongoing life of the institution.
Similarly, as former students we carry the legacy of learning and discovery that our Baylor professors granted to us. It informs our daily lives even today, no matter how far we are removed from our days at Baylor. We carry their lessons in our hearts.
And, through our loyalty and support of our alma mater, we pass that legacy down to today’s Baylor students. We keep the institution strong. We move forward most effectively and with the greatest amount of integrity, as a Baylor family, when we endeavor to improve our Baylor while honoring the past, by extending the life of the legacy we’ve inherited. By staying true to the institution’s historic core values, we pass them along to younger generations.
These meditations lead me to Juan Yaquian, the subject of our upcoming summer issue’s cover story. He is a direct recipient of this legacy, as are all of today’s Baylor students, which now include one of my nieces and one of my nephews. And he is the embodiment of one of the BAA’s core values, which we have been exploring in the Line for the past year and a half. The particular BAA core value in this case is one that states, “We believe in the power of higher education to change the world.”
When I began casting around for a student who would “flesh out” this core value, I asked Betsy Vardaman, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, for suggestions. I told her I was looking for a current student whose access to higher education at Baylor has truly been a life-changing opportunity. She immediately nominated Yaquian, who at the time was a fifth-year electrical and computer engineering student from Temple. “None of my other students have had to scale the kinds of barriers Juan has had to scale,” she said of him.
Yaquian is the latest in a long, unbroken line of students whose lives have been lifted up for having been a beneficiary of the Baylor experience. It is our duty, as alumni, to help extend that line far into the future by staying vigilant in defense of Baylor’s best interests and serving today’s students with the gifts with which we have been blessed.