An Unbroken Line
From Independence to Waco, Baylor grads share a bond
By Todd Copeland, Editor of the Baylor Line magazine
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. (For more
on all the listening sessions, see the feature story "A Range of Views.")
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
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 this issue’s cover story (“Finding a Life’s Direction”).
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.