by Joe Griffith, Graduate Assistant
Baylor University’s Student Foundation was born in a turbulent time.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, relations between college students and administrators deteriorated. On March 4th, 1970, as thousands of college students at Kent State University protested American involvement in the Vietnam War, members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire, killing four students and wounding nine others. When over 400 million student went on strike in the coming weeks, over 450 universities, colleges, and high schools shut down.
“We were dealing with a very unique situation at that time,” recalled Bill Harlan, one of the founders of Student Foundation.
Modeled after the 600-member Indiana University Foundation, Baylor University’s Student Foundation (aka “StuFu”) was founded in 1969 as a way to make Baylor University a better place. Its motto is straightforward and simple: “Students Serving Students.”
“We cannot express too strongly the importance of the Student Foundation to the future progress of Baylor,” Baylor University President Abner V. McCall wrote to the foundation’s charter members. After all, as Bill Harlan was fond of saying, the value of your degree is directly tied to the reputation of your university. (10.14.p.4)
To this day, Student Foundation members, 100 community-minded juniors and seniors in good academic standing, build goodwill among alumni and friends, recruit high-school students to matriculate to Baylor, host campus-wide events, and raise funds for student scholarships.
From 1971 to 2002, and again in 2009 and 2010, Student Foundation hosted an annual, 50-mile relay race on bicycles called Bear Downs. Each team had a maximum of four members (and one bike). Circling around the grounds of the Extraco Events Center, riders tagged out when they got tired.
And since 2003, Student Foundation has hosted the Bearathon, an annual half-marathon and five-kilometer race. Coursing through campus and up and down the hills of Cameron Park in Waco, Texas, it earns its name as “the toughest half in Texas.”
In some ways, StuFu has come a long way since its founding in 1969. (Bear Downs earned $1,000 in its first year, enough for four $250 scholarships. The Bearathon, in contrast, attracts about 2,000 runners every year and, in 2017, earned over $25,000 for student scholarships!) But one thing remains the same: the organization remains dedicated to making Baylor University a better place.
Those interested in Baylor University student life, donor development, scholarships, fundraising, Bear Downs, or the Bearathon will find The Texas Collection’s materials on Student Foundation fascinating.