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Baylor Alumni

Tradition Keepers

Chamber celebrates its ninetieth year of service
By Eric Doyle

For nearly a century, the Baylor University Chamber of Commerce has supported, guided, and, at times, coaxed along the traditions of Baylor University. With each generation, a fresh corps of dedicated men and women has been willing to give of themselves so that Baylor students can participate in the living legacy of their predecessors. Each year, a new class of chambermen prepares to take the torch from their forerunners and live the words that have echoed through the years: "Anything for Baylor."

Most Baylor folks know that Chamber cares for the bear mascots, but few stop to consider what else the organization  has taken responsibility for through the years--slime caps, the old card section at football games, the sale of football programs, Parents Weekend and Premiere, Homecoming, pep rallies, Diadeloso. And the list goes on and on.

In February of 1919, a group of Baylor students interested in business careers founded an organization they called The Baylor Business Men's Club, the purpose of which was to promote Baylor student activities and athletics. Under the leadership of its first president, Henry Craig of Olney, the group quickly became more than just a club. Its first project was to help organize Waco's contribution to the national post-World War I Victory Loan Drive. Quickly recognizing their organization's similarity to a city's chamber of commerce, the club changed its name to the Baylor University Chamber of Commerce the following year.

Within a few years, Chamber had firmly established itself on campus and began to take on more administrative responsibilities. In 1923, Chamber was instrumental in the formation of the Baylor School of Business. The following year, the club instituted intramural sports on campus to increase student morale and help spot talent for Baylor athletics. The organization put on the first annual football banquet, inviting players, coaches, and special guests to attend. According to documents in Baylor's Texas Collection, chambermen sponsored the first "Good Will Week" prior to the Homecoming game of 1927.

From the late 1920s through the 1930s, Chamber performed an eclectic variety of tasks. They provided outfits for Baylor Yell Leaders and the famous uniforms that earned the Golden Wave Band its name. They founded a Student's Employment Bureau and instituted an annual all-men's show benefiting Baylor athletics. (Members of the 1938 show are pictured above.) They began the annual publication of the Freshman Guide and took over the planning of the Homecoming parade. They sold spirit ribbons, organized pep rallies, and formed a national collegiate chamber of commerce, with its headquarters located in Waco.

In 1940, Chamber sponsored the campaign for a new Baylor fight song composed by Fred Waring, a popular bandleader and radio host, which was broadcast on his national show. It seemed that Chamber was unstoppable. But the advent of World War II nearly destroyed the organization, leaving it with only a single returning member in 1944; all the other chambermen had gone home or off to war.

Chamber, of course, survived and adapted to changing times. They gave some of their duties to other organizations in order to focus on specific traditions. But the biggest change happened in 1993, when members voted to become "gender neutral," reporting in their fall 1994 newsletter that the change was made "to continue this service to Baylor which the club was founded upon." Mike Harper '95, the group's president at the time, told the Lariat  ". . . in the future, the Chamber will be faced with a female rushee, and I strongly believe that the Chamber will review her application as equal to any other applications and maintain the Chamber's high standards of excellence."

That rushee was Roxanne Wilson '00, who in 1997 became Chamber's first female member. She would eventually serve as their first female president. A look at the group's current officer list shows that nearly half of those on the roster are women.

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