Top 10 list defines university over century of existence

Release Date: January 30, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – In its 100 years of existence on the high plains of Texas, Wayland Baptist University has seen many historical events, milestones and special moments in the course of providing education within a Christian worldview.

 With so rich a history, selecting the top events of the century can be difficult. The following Top 10 list details the defining moments in Wayland’s history – those events that ultimately shaped who the university is now.

 “There are so many great things in our history, times we weathered many storms both inside and outside the university with God’s help,” said Hope English, centennial chair. “But we feel like these 10 things were really pivotal in terms of defining who we were and bringing us to the place we are now. When you look at our mission statement – which basically has not changed much over 100 years – you see that these ten things really stemmed from that and shaped that mission.”

Dr. and Mrs. Wayland1. The initial commitment of Dr. and Mrs. James Wayland: The gift of 25 acres of prime real estate and $10,000 really put feet to the dream of starting a Christian university in the high plains area. Though many in the Baptist churches had shared Dr. Wayland’s dream of such an institution, no one else stepped up to kick-start the effort with such a generous gift for that time period.

Over time, the Waylands would give more than $100,000 and countless hours of service to the university and its mission. But just as important, they shared a vision for what God could do through such an institution and put their resources toward seeing that become reality.

2. Wayland’s roots in faith and longtime commitment to that heritage: From the very beginning, Dr. Wayland wanted the university to be based on Christian principles, believing that education within the Biblical worldview had the power to transform lives in an even greater way than education alone could do. That heritage of faith has never wavered, as Christian principles have guided hiring practices, curriculum development and other major factors at Wayland.

While some universities in the nation have quietly dropped their Christian designation or denominational labels, Wayland has remained steadfast that their product has more merit than detriment. The Baptist heritage, and ties to the state Baptist convention, does not exclude students or employees but is a nod to the founding belief system and the timeless belief in the power of faith to change lives.

Wayland does not make apologies for its Christian environment or the requirement that all students earning a degree complete Old Testament and New Testament history courses. Countless stories of students whose lives are changed in the spiritual realm through such courses – particularly on the external campuses – keep the belief alive in the value of those classes.

3. The decision to begin distance and non-traditional education: From the first language institute in Mexico in 1948 to the current operation of 12 external campuses and one program in Kenya, Africa, Wayland has seen its reach expanded literally worldwide. The choice to begin campus locations in other cities – the first official campus opened in Wichita Falls in 1974 – gave Wayland a chance to offer its unique educational offerings to working adults and military personnel in particular in a flexible format that fit their needs and lifestyles.

Since then, those campuses have flourished, new ones have opened, and offerings have expanded at each location. The university sees many adults returning to finish a degree once started or start fresh on their higher education journey. With a median age of 36, adults in all WBU locations are finding Wayland a place to make their career and advancement dreams come true.

During his 30-plus years at Wayland, the late Dr. Bill Hardage was particularly instrumental in getting those campuses off the ground and supporting them as they flourished.

Annie Taylor4. The decision to integrate voluntarily: When the university allowed four black teachers from area towns to enroll in the summer of 1951 for a course they needed to continue certification, it made a bold statement about accessibility and doing the right thing. Then-president Dr. Bill Marshall – who just a year earlier had shook folks by initiating a smoking ban on campus long before that practice was considered a health hazard – called the integration decision “maximum Christianity, applied as well as advocated.”

From its tiny perch in West Texas, Wayland became the first four-year school in the former confederate states to voluntarily integrate, years before the law mandated that public schools do the same. The move opened doors to students from all over the world and the university benefited from the more diverse student body. The same continues today.

5. The gift from Mr. and Mrs. S.F. Flores: Received in 1959, the parcel of land deeded by the Tulia couple has provided more than $50 million in dividends over the past 50 years, ensuring the university’s sustenance and accounting for a large part of the school’s endowment. Originally valued at $2 million, the nearly 18,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle includes oil and gas leases, wind energy turbines and farm and ranch land still worked by outside parties under lease.

At the time, the gift was the largest single gift ever given to a Baptist university, and it remains the biggest in Wayland’s history in terms of value over time. The income from the Flores land has proved a great source of security for Wayland during some hard economic times, and no doubt it will continue to do so.

6. The decision to offer classes online: Wayland has always prided itself on the low student-to-teacher ratio, making for good interaction in the classroom and more personal attention. So the move to online education was a challenge at first to translate that same feel and Christian atmosphere into the technological realm. But that move in 2001 opened the doors to an additional student population and aided the growing system student population in obtaining their degrees.

The flexibility of the online format has proved beneficial especially for the working adult and military service personnel deployed overseas in the middle of their educational journey. Many have been able to seamlessly transition into the Virtual Campus for a few terms in order to stay on track. The online master’s degrees have also opened additional doors for those seeking to continue education from whatever location they call home.

Through it all, Wayland maintains the Christian atmosphere with instructors who share faith and take that same approach of personal attention into the Web world, replicating the environment for which WBU has been known.

Dr. George McDonald7. Weathering the Depression and World War II: In 100 years of existence, no entity can have smooth sailing at all times, and Wayland is no different. By weathering the storms through faith in God and strong leaders, the university has proved persistence and fortitude.

The Great Depression was a particularly difficult time when area and local banks closed one after the other, eventually leaving all the university’s cash assets dried up. Faced with a dismal future, university trustees recommended closing as other similar schools had. But then-president Dr. George McDonald approached the faculty about working without pay, pledging that any food or money that came in would be used to pay bills, then split among those on board. They agreed.

By the time World War II hit, the financial situation has improved at the university. But the draft and subsequent drop in enrollment of young men hit the WBU pocketbook heavily. For a while, the situation was bleak; the university responded with creativity, opening its campus to military training needs, and tightened its belt until the war ended. The returning soldiers enrolled again, bolstering the enrollment and financial situation and rescuing the small college from the brink of closure.

8. The rescue by Dr. Glenn Barnett: Hired as interim president in 1987, Dr. Barnett came to Wayland during a tough time when finances were rough – due in part to the economic downturn of the ’80s – employee morale was low and the university’s reputation in the community was strained due to both situations. Though he stayed only two years, Barnett brought his university administrative experience in and helped patch up Wayland in preparation for the next president.

He trimmed the budget, renegotiated the school’s debt load and used his considerable people skills to truly listen to the employees and building confidence that the university would survive after all. Upon reviewing the annals of Wayland history, University Historian Dr. Estelle Owens counts Barnett as one of the most influential people in the life of the school. Without him, she says, Wayland might not be around to celebrate 100 years.

Matt Johnson9. Starting of the women’s basketball program: In the 1940s, while few schools fielded competitive women’s athletics, Wayland’s Harvest Queens basketball team started its ascent into that arena. With the sponsorship of local businessman Claude Hutcherson and his wife Wilda in the early 1950s, the team changed its name to Flying Queens, flew Hutcherson’s planes to their contests around the country and began a winning tradition that impacted many young women.

The team went on a 131-game win streak from 1953-58 and garnered several national championships in the Amateur Athletic Union. Longtime coach Harley Redin not only led the team to numerous victories but was instrumental in implementing several changes in the women’s game worldwide, including the unlimited dribble and five-on-five, full-court play.

With the strong women’s programs across the country, the Flying Queens are not as spotlighted as in the past. However, they remain the winningest women’s program in the nation with more than 1,400 wins, the only college program to amass that many wins.

10. Starting a relationship with the military: Initiated with the start of external campuses, particularly those housed on military bases, the relationship with the U.S. Armed Forces has been a positive one on both sides of the equation. Wayland has been able to expand its Christian education and influence literally around the world as service personnel often continue their studies online if deployed overseas.


Through this partnership, thousands of our nation’s military personnel and their dependents have been able to seek a college degree in a positive environment while serving their country. At one time, nearly 15 percent of all Air Force and Army personnel who received bachelor’s degrees did so from Wayland. And with the armed forces raising their tuition assistance package, that number is likely to be on the rise.

These stories in greater detail, as well as many others about the life of Wayland Baptist University, will be available in a coffee-table book format titled The Wayland Century, due on campus by mid-February. The 168-page book is filled with colorful design, hundreds of historical photos and mementos as well as anecdotes from former students and employees. It will sell for $40.