Alcorta Elementary

Abilene ISD hosted Name Dedication Ceremonies for its three newly named elementary schools today. One of these campuses is now named Alcorta Elementary School. Some of you may recognize that name, having taken classes with a Dr. Alcorta.

Dr. Jose Alcorta Sr., also known as Dr. Joe Alcorta, taught Spanish at Hardin-Simmons University for 45 years. Prior to his tenure at HSU, Dr. Alcorta taught at Brownwood Jr. High School and Abilene High School.

From classrooms to community service, Dr. Alcorta was always dedicated to teaching his students and living by example, which is why it makes sense AISD selected to name a school for him.

Dr. Alcorta graduated from HSU in 1964, and then went on to HPU and Texas Tech for graduate work. His HSU senior photo from The Bronco is below.

In an editorial piece from the Abilene Reporter-News Dr. Alcorta shared, “From an early age, I was taught to work. I worked in fields, hoeing cotton, pulling cotton, picking potatoes and tomatoes, and planting onions. During high school, I worked in a clothing store and a printing/newspaper shop. … From the cotton fields to a college professor is my story.”

You can read the full piece below.

While a professor at HSU, Dr. Alcorta became the first non-white member and first Hispanic-member of Abilene’s City Council. He was elected to two terms from 1972-1978.

An article from the April 1975 Brand interviewed Alcorta on this role:

AISD’s decision to name the elementary campus is a testament to Dr. Alcorta’s story and an inspiration to the little ones who walk the hallways. It was said best in an Abilene Reporter-News story, “Joe is an American success story.” What an impactful name to grace the building of an elementary school where young, impressionable minds seek role models.

Check out AISD’s photos of the Naming Dedication:

Did any of you have Dr. Alcorta as a professor? Or did you attend classes with him in the 1960s? Tell us your stories!


Football Programs

A new academic year means many things: a return to classes, the arrival of a new batch of students, and of course, the start of football season.

This week, two separate individuals donated past football programs to the Research Center’s collections. If you’ve followed along with the Decade Box Series, then some of these covers may look familiar to you. Many, however, are new to us in the RC.

Each program provides beautiful artwork, photographs, and telling advertisements. Like the programs of today, these booklets contained photos and names of team rosters, statistics, and coaching information.

Continue reading to see a few highlighted items.

One of the older football programs is from 1928. It was from a Spring exhibition game against North Texas State Teachers College (now UNT). The program contained the upcoming Fall schedule, with opponents including Texas Tech, Howard Payne, and Southwestern.

Check out the joke in the center of the program, inside!

Check out this beauty from 1943. This program doesn’t highlight football, but instead the First Annual World’s Championship Rodeo.

A few interesting things about this cover. First, a HSU Cowgirl is riding the bronco. The iconic bandana, gauntlet, hat, and blouse were the uniform of the HSU Cowgirl. See the similarities below:

Next, Camp Barkeley is mentioned on the bottom of the cover. Created in response to WWII as a way to train men, Camp Barkeley was located 7 miles southwest of Abilene throughout the 1940s. The base’s proximity to town grew the population of Abilene during the war years.

Campus was probably packed those days (June 2-5) with men in uniform and their sweeties.

Another item that caught my eye with these programs was the use of tobacco ads. Under the Sandefer administration (1909-1940), smoking on campus was strictly forbidden. This rule, however, laxed after WWII. Returning students, matured by the war, smoked regularly, and the campus administration decided to not push against it.

In 1996, the program used a photo of the 1917 football team. Check out Dam It front and center:

A few more highlights:

To stay up-to-date with current football news, tickets, and schedules, check out the HSU Athletics’ website here.

Decade Box Series: 1985-1988

Decade Box Series: 1985-1988

About the Decade Box Series: The Research Center (on the 2nd floor of the library) is home to many different collections and materials. (See a sampling of these items here.) One of the most utilized collections is the Decade Box.

Decade Boxes contain any paper material, we’ve been able to get our hands on, produced by the school/faculty/board over the years. Items start in 1891 with original land deeds securing property for the new school and continue through the present.

This collection is titled Decade Boxes because the boxes were once organized by decade. Over the past few years, however, we’ve procured much more content, and the amount of boxes have expanded. Boxes are still organized chronologically; however they are no longer organized in 10-year increments.

The Decade Box Series highlights randomly selected items from these boxes for viewers to catch a glimpse into HSU history.

With eyes closed, Box 1985-1988 was chosen.

In 1985, the campus offered a program called, Elderhostel. In order to participate, attendees needed to be a minimum of 60 years old and have an interest in learning about the West.

Elderhostel was a week of experiential learning. Led by former faculty, Dr. Rupert Richardson, Dr. William Beazley, and Dr. Lawrence Clayton, participants would sit in lectures and go on field-trips to enhance learning.

The three “classes” were:

  • The Place That Was, led by Richardson
  • The Cowboys and the West, led by Beazley
  • Literature of the Old West, led by Clayton

Participants spent the week on campus, living in Hunter Hall and eating at the dining hall.

Study abroad programs first showed up in course catalogs in the the 1970’s and continue to today.

If you’re unfamiliar, study abroad programs allow students to travel internationally to enhance their learning. Programs vary in length from weeks, a single semester, to years. Destinations include Australia, Spain, UK, China, and more.

Yes, there’s fun and cultural immersion, but there’s also classroom learning and a continuation of degree plans.

In 1985, there was a summer program to Great Britain. The brochure below provides highlights of the program, along with the faculty who would travel with the students.

The Polk-Key City Basketball Tournament has been a tradition since 1952. Founded by Dr. Otho Polk, former professor of Physical Education and Recreation, the tournament invites high school women’s basketball teams, from around the Big Country, to compete.

In 1987, the tournament took place December 3-5, with students competing from Cleburne, Abilene, Sweetwater, Wall, Coppera Cove, Lubbock Estacado, Comanche, Mineral Wells, Big Spring, Wylie, Burkburnett, Weatherford, Pampa, Wichita Falls, and Stamford.

New Student Orientation in 1987 was called “P.R.E. School.”

According to the brochure, the acronym stood for:

  • P= Putting
  • R= Real
  • E= Excitement …in School

Like orientation today, the schedule was full of fun events to engage the latest crop of students.

Per usual, athletic programs were in this Decade Box. Men’s basketball and men’s soccer are featured below:

In the Fall of 1986, HSU offered evening and weekend classes.

For comparison to today’s offerings, HSU offers online classes to accommodate students who may work full-time or whose lifestyle doesn’t fit schooling Monday-Friday 8:00am-3:00pm.

Stay tuned for future installments of The Decade Box Series


As usual, summer flew by and a new school year is about to begin! A tradition we look forward to at the start of each school year is New Student Orientation, or as it’s called nowadays, Stampede.

Incoming students get the luxury of moving on to campus a full week before upperclassmen. In this week, students are given a crash course in HSU traditions, familiarized with the campus and its offerings, and are helped with the transition to college-living.

Wouldn’t you agree, the best way to combat homesickness is to be so busy you don’t even realize you miss home?! The Student Life department, along with their team of student workers, put in countless hours during Stampede (and the weeks leading up) to ensure each new student immediately connects to HSU and feels comfortable here.

Check out this year’s Stampede calendar so you have an idea of what the students will be up to.

New Student Orientation (NSO) has been around since the school’s early days. Now, these orientations were not always officially sanctioned. Throughout the 1910’s and 1920’s, orientation and hazing were interchangeable to upperclassmen. Check out the definition of “freshman” in the 1917 Bronco: “Uncultured savages bent upon the destruction of all that is cultured and refined.” As you can imagine, there was a sort of status quo kept up…

A tradition that can be found throughout the years of NSO, continued through present-day Stampede, is the Beanie. You can read all about the Beanie here. Or if you’d rather watch a video, watch that here.

Where Stampede diverges from past beanie traditions is that we encourage students to preserve their caps as a memento of their college years. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, though, freshmen burned their beanies as a way to symbolize the end of their “isolation” and start of their official initiation into the HSU family. The Beanie Burn took place at the All-School Picnic during the Fall Semester.

While wearing the beanie, students had to follow various rules. These rules changed over the years and were enforced by the upper classmen. Here’s an example from 1971:

Since the late 1980’s, NSO/Stampede has been a week of high energy. In teams, students compete against each other in various games, trivia pursuits, and more.

This engagement before the semester begins often leads to the creation of first-college-friends, an important relationship that leads to a sense of home for our newest students.

Since 1996, alumni have been involved with Stampede by hosting a homemade ice cream social. The ice cream social allows our alumni to meet the newest crop of students, and bring them into the HSU fold.

Check out NSOs throughout the years below:

Have you participated in Stampede or participated in a Beanie Burning? Tell us about it!

The Olympics

After postponement, the Summer Olympics are finally here! I don’t know about you, but I love watching the Olympics. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent glued to a TV over the years, keeping track of each country’s medal count and stuffing my face with snacks, (I have no regrets).

In the spirit of the upcoming Games, let’s see how HSU has been connected to the Olympics over the years.

Alton Terry, HSU’s one-man track team (at the time), competed in the 1936 Olympics in the javelin throw. Check out his official Olympic bio here.

1937 Bronco

This summer, HSU graduate assistant, Tanner Wright, was named to the 2020 (21) USA Paralympic Team for track and field. You can see his official Team USA profile here.

While a student at HSU, Wright competed nationally as a part of a 4×400-meter team in 2019.

The 2021 Olympics will take place in Tokyo. Wright has qualified for the 100, 400, and the long jump. At the time this blog was posted, his designated event was not yet determined.

From 1999-2004, HSU graduate Denise Daffron served as the Senior Manager of Corporate Development for the Special Olympics.

According to a 2001 Range Rider (see below), Daffron was responsible for creating the branding “Inspire Greatness.” This message was incorporated into all Special Olympics’ marketing and advertising over four-years.

HSU has a history of partnering with the Special Olympics in various ways.

Beginning in 2012, as a part of Division III Week, the HSU Athletics Department hosted a field day with the Special Olympics of West Texas. HSU athletes and Special Olympic athletes spent the day participating in various track and field events, like the long jump, shot put, relay events, and more.

Beginning in 2019, University Recreation (UREC) built upon the tradition. Through a unified league, athletes from Special Olympics Texas were paired with HSU students to compete in flag-football games every other week.

UREC continues to support Special Olympics Texas through its Polar Plunge Fundraiser.

Not connected to the official Olympics organization, but sharing the “Olympic” name, HSU participated in the Border Olympics from the 1950’s through the 1980’s.

The Border Olympics is an ongoing, international event dating back to 1932. Highschool and college teams throughout Texas and Mexico would (and still) compete in Laredo, TX.

HSU’s track, golf, and tennis teams participated in the Border Olympics throughout the years.

Have you ever been connected to the Olympic Games?

Cowboy Songs

National Day of the Cowboy is celebrated the fourth Saturday in July. The day is meant to commemorate the imagery of the American West: sweeping landscapes, pioneers, romantic adventure, and the rugged cowboy traversing dangerous prairies with his cattle.

The day also recognizes the present-day cowboy. While these people aren’t driving cattle across the country like years past, they still spend much of their lives in tune with the land, caring for their animals, and herding cattle across large swaths of land.

National Day of the Cowboy was first recognized in 2005. Currently, there have not been any events where HSU has officially celebrated the day. BUT every day the campus links back to its western roots, so essentially we celebrate National Day of the Cowboy every day.

Hardin-Simmons University’s history is steeped in western heritage. Our founders were frontiers-people and ranchers; our mascot is a Cowboy; we have an active horse barn and riding program; our school song cries, “Fair daughter of the WEST, we love and honor thee. Hardin-Simmons’ fighting cowboys! Yeee-haw!”

It’s only fitting with National Day of the Cowboy around the corner, we dive in to another form of western heritage: Cowboy Songs.

The Richardson Library is always working to make its diverse resources accessible. One ongoing project is the digitization of an oral history collection. We are in the final steps of uploading the interviews (both video and sound) to the Portal to Texas History, along with our other collections. They aren’t available, yet, but below you’ll get a sneak peek.

In this lecture, former HSU faculty, Dr. Clayton speaks on the history of traditional cowboy folksongs, and later on about the history behind the songs themselves.  Dr. Clayton focuses on 7 songs: Whoopie Tie Yie Yo, The Old Chisholm Trail, The Dying Cowboy, When the Work’s All Done This Fall, Little Joe the Wrangler, The Ballad of Jesse James, and The Streets of Laredo.

Enjoy the tunes and the lecture!

About Dr. Clayton:

Dr. Clayton was a Professor of English at Hardin-Simmons University, and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.  His primary interest was in cowboy folklore and history. He published, edited, and authored many books and articles on the subjects.  He earned his bachelors’ degree from Stephen F. Austin University in 1960, and his M.Ed. in 1964, he earned his M.A. in 1967 from the University of North Texas, and his Ph.D. in 1974 in English from Texas Tech University.  He was named faculty member of the year for 1987-88. 

HSU Cartoonists

You may have seen the Abilene Reporter-News article that featured HSU graduate David Reynaud the other week. If not, check out a digital copy here. Or view images below:

David Reynaud graduated from HSU in 2020, with focuses in design and drawing. His passion is in book illustrations. Currently, Reynaud has written and illustrated a book of his own, Oliver’s World, and is working towards publishing it.

Seeing Reynaud’s artwork reminded me of another HSU cartoonist, Roy Crane.

Even with over 100 years between them, both Reynaud and Crane stepped in Marston Gym at some point in their academic career and they both have a passion for drawing. (Marston Gym was in full use when Crane was a student. Marston is still on campus and used today. It isn’t a standalone building anymore, but bricked over and fused into Fletcher Fitness Center.)

When Crane enrolled in Simmons College in 1918, the Student Army Training Corps. was in full swing, the High School Academy was still in progress, and WWI was coming to an end.

As a freshman, Crane was active on campus. He was a member of the Brand Staff, Bronco Staff, Press Club, and Philo Club. He was also a member of the Sweet H20 Club, since he graduated from Sweetwater High School.

Crane was enrolled at Simmons College for only one academic year, 1918-1919. In that short time, he made his mark on the campus, literally and figuratively.

Crane was a cartoonist. He provided illustrations for The Brand, The Corral, and The Bronco. Crane also wrote comics detailing campus life. These comics were featured in various student publications, and also used as marketing materials, like this ad for 1919 Homecoming.

Here is a sampling of his work from the 1919 Bronco.

The library has digitized more of his content. Check it out here.

After leaving Simmons College, Crane worked for various publications, attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the University of Texas, and had a peppered career path where various jobs took him in and out of the country.

While working and living in New York City, Crane was able to publish his first comic strip in 1924. His work was then syndicated, and continued to be published after his death in 1977.

Notable comic strips are Wash Tubbs, Captain Easy, and Buz Sawyer.

Did any of you keep up with the adventures Crane wrote and illustrated? Tell us in the comments below!

Decade Box Series: 1911-1919

Decade Box Series: 1911-1919

About the Decade Box Series: The Research Center (on the 2nd floor of the library) is home to many different collections and materials. (See a sampling of these items here.) One of the most utilized collections is the Decade Box.

Decade Boxes contain any paper material, we’ve been able to get our hands on, produced by the school/faculty/board over the years. Items start in 1891 with original land deeds securing property for the new school and continue through the present.

This collection is titled Decade Boxes because the boxes were once organized by decade. Over the past few years, however, we’ve procured much more content, and the amount of boxes have expanded. Boxes are still organized chronologically; however they are no longer organized in 10-year increments.

The Decade Box Series highlights randomly selected items from these boxes for viewers to catch a glimpse into HSU history.

With eyes closed, Box 1911-1919 was chosen.

The Girls Industrial Home was a residence hall on campus for female students that opened in 1910. Residents paid a more affordable rate (when compared to the other dorms) that was subsidized by physical labor. Students were responsible for the upkeep and cleaning of the building, along with their regular school work.

In 1911, girls paid $5/month, or $25 per semester, to call the Girls Industrial Home their home. By 1913, they paid $7/month.

The goals of the Industrial Home were two-fold:

  1. To give the opportunity of more affordable on-campus living to young women, who otherwise would not have be able to live on campus/attend Simmons College.
  2. Those who lived in the Girls Industrial Home received hands-on experience in home economics and would leave better prepared to manage their future homes, making them more marketable in the workforce and husband-finding.

The first recorded Homecoming took place May 30 and 31, 1917, coinciding with graduation. Highlights included a large BBQ and gala. Homecoming in 1919 (shown below) followed a similar timeline, with commencement ceremonies responsible for setting the date.

As Homecoming solidified into a yearly tradition, the campus would host the event around a sporting event. You’ll see from the 1919 program, baseball and basketball games were played. Similar to today’s homecoming festivities, in 1919 there was a carnival for attendees to enjoy.

Read more about Homecoming history and traditions here.

The campus produced a publication called The Bulletin for many years. The Bulletin morphed from a pseudo-supplemental yearbook (which is shown below), to an alumni mailer (check out an example here), and most recently, a course catalog (check out an example here).

Below is a volume from 1915, with various pages on display. Notes written by current students, staff, and faculty were published alongside photos to highlight semesters’ work and memories.

Student clubs and events were in full swing at Simmons College during this time. This Decade Box housed many flyers and programs advertising concerts, theater performances, club debates, and more.

Check out a sampling of those events:

Lastly, have you ever wondered what was served at an Alumni Breakfast in 1918? Look no further!

Stay tuned for future installments of The Decade Box Series

World UFO Day

Did you know July 2 is World UFO Day? While Abilene isn’t known for UFO-sightings or other extraterrestrial occurrences, that hasn’t stopped students from writing about other-worldly encounters.

In celebration of Friday’s upcoming UFO Day, let’s take a look at various HSU publications over the years that discuss alien matters.

In September 1967 an unexplained event in Colorado swept headlines and imaginations. A horse, named Snippy, was found dead. Cause of death: perplexing and unknown, with public opinion believing UFO involvement. Since the details are a bit graphic, the reader can decide whether or not to continue on to the Denver Public Library’s account of the event, complete with images and newspaper clippings.

This story reached Abilene, and was covered in the October 13, 1967 edition of The Brand, with an article titled Hungry UFOs.

In the 1970’s, Sid Richardson was home to the Planetary Quarantine Research Laboratory, a NASA-granted program, headed by HSU professor of microbiology, Dr. John Brewer. In conjunction with other labs across the globe, their goal was to understand whether or not bacteria from Earth could survive a trip on a probe and accidentally grow on Mars.

Why does this matter? Even though every item launched into space is thoroughly cleaned to prevent any dust, bacteria, or microbe from possibly affecting extraterrestrial ecosystems, nothing is 100% guaranteed.

For this particular mission, if a germ unintentionally hitched a ride into space and survived the trek, then as probes scanned and collected samples of Mars, scientists would have received false positives that Mars supported life.

During Founders Day in 1983, E.T. made a special appearance.

E.T. premiered the previous summer in 1982. 1982/1983 alumni, answer this: was there a campus-wide obsession with this movie???

In 2008, The Brand ran an Aliens in Pop Culture segment across two months, along with other UFO-inspired pieces.

Go celebrate World UFO Day by watching an out-of-this-world movie or searching the skies.

With our country’s birthday this weekend, it only seems appropriate to suggest watching Independence Day to commemorate both holidays at once.

West Texas Baptist Sanitarium

The West Texas Baptist Sanitarium, now Hendrick Health System, opened to receive patients September 15, 1924.

From the very beginning, the story of Hardin-Simmons and Hendrick Health was woven together through an early vision to coordinate “ministering to the needs of humanity” by “training young men in the field of medicine.”

The vision and development of the hospital are linked to President J.D. Sandefer, Judge C.M. Caldwell, and Pastor Millard Jenkins. These men saw the need for a medical center due do the growing population of Abilene and West Texas; they also saw the potential to develop medical training programs and certifications for Simmons College students.

As early as June 1919, mentions of a Baptist Sanitarium are found in Simmons College Board minutes.

In November 1919, President Sandefer began to solicit funds for a new hospital.

Simmons College and the Sanitarium were even further entwined, according to February 1923 Simmons College Board minutes when the Building Committee of the West Texas Baptist Sanitarium asked the Simmons College Board to select the hospital’s board. One month later, land was donated by Judge Caldwell and construction soon began.

The West Texas Baptist Sanitarium opened in 1925. Below is the first brochure produced by the hospital.

You’ll see an overlapping of Simmons Board Members with Hospital Board Members:

A few years later, during a trip to Odessa, Dr. Sandefer struck up a friendship with rancher, oil man, and philanthropist Thomas Hendrick and his wife, and eventually persuaded them to move to Abilene. 

Once in Abilene, the Hendricks became fast benefactors to Simmons University and the West Texas Baptist Sanitarium.

During the Depression years, Sandefer spoke with T. Hendrick about the financial hardships the school faced and the sacrifices he and his staff had made to stay afloat. Hendrick, moved by the dedication of Sandefer and his staff, wrote a check for $100,000. This money helped keep the school afloat during those hard years.

In 1931, Simmons University and the hospital collaborated, again, to train nurses to help provide patient care. This relationship continues today with the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing.

West Texas Baptist Sanitarium was renamed Hendrick Memorial in 1936 due to the Hendrick’s generosity and interest in the hospital over the years.

The long-time partnership between Hardin-Simmons and Hendrick Health continues today through curriculum enrichment, hands-on training, and career development.  And most recently, through the Day Nursery of Abilene childcare project and COVID-19 response initiatives.