This week, HSU welcomed graduates from 1968 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their walking across the stage of Behrens Auditorium. Luckily, I was invited by the alumni office to offer a campus tour and spend the afternoon with this group.
This was the first time many in the group had returned to HSU since graduation. Needless to say, there have been many changes since then.
For comparison, check out the campus map students received at the start of the 1967/68 academic year:
And here is today’s map:
See, lots of changes!
We cruised the campus in an air conditioned bus. I pointed out buildings; gave dates, figures, and histories; and then excitedly asked, “Do you have any fun stories to share about this place?”
Here are a few of my favorite stories from that bus ride:
Girls were not allowed to wear shorts around campus. Whenever one of us walked from our dorm to the tennis courts, we had to wear raincoats to cover up our legs. Can you imagine? Wearing a raincoat across campus because we were in shorts to excerise? So, I went out and bought a clear raincoat.
A clear raincoat!!! Can you imagine the moxie she had pulling off that stunt??!!
I can’t wait to see the new art building! When I was a student here, it was literally a shack. A shack with a dumpster next door. (A commentator then added: I bet the dumpster came in handy…throwing away all of that “art.”)
Hahaha! Everybody had a good laugh.
Ms. Cul was a strict dorm-mother. My parents wanted to pick me up at 6:00 am to get on the road for a trip. Ms. Cul, a staunch rule-follower, told my parents, “The dorm does not open until 6:30 am. You can pick her up at 6:30.” Ms. Cul would not bend the rules, not even for my parents! So, my parents had to check me out the night before (while the dorm was still open) so we could leave on time the next day.
The rules students follow today aren’t nearly as strict. There were audible gasps as we noted men and women are allowed to visit each other in their respective residence halls (that was not allowed in 1968).
Taco Bell (I think it was Taco Bell) opened in town when I lived in Behrens Hall. Since us girls had a curfew and couldn’t leave our dorms after dinner, we would pass money out our window to the boys (since they didn’t have curfew!) to bring us back food!
Another fun comparison, tuition in 1968 was $23 per semester hour!
It was a fun afternoon.
I can’t wait for next year’s Golden Reunion group to return to the 40 Acres, and to hear their stories!
Mary Frances Hall was a female-residence hall, opened in 1916. Over its 64-year life on campus (it was razed in 1980), it was home to hundreds of female students, and later used as office-space for faculty and staff.
The building was named for the wives of the building’s two largest donors, Mary Paramore (married to J.H. Parramore) and Frances Merchant (married to C.W. Merchant).
Mary Frances Hall was built and furnished for ~$50,000
After the completion of (original) Abilene Hall in 1913, the Board of Trustees set their sights on remedying the over-population of residence halls. Per the 1915 BoT minutes, overcrowded halls were a significant issue:
Name of Hall
Girls Industrial Home
That year, Col. J.H. Paramore offered $10,000 towards the construction of a female residence hall, if the citizens of Abilene could raise $30,000.
That challenge was met.
According to an article written by Lucile Sandefer in The Abilene Reporter-News:
November 23, 1915: President J.D. Sandefer petitioned the town to contribute to the building fund.
November 25, 1915: $20,000 had been raised with a significant contribution by C.W. Merchant.
November 16, 1915: Faculty gave $1,000.
December 7, 1915: $23,450 total funds raised.
February 28, 1916: A benefit performance was given to raise funds.
February 29, 1916: Abilene Chamber of Commerce raised the remaining balance of $2,000.
August 11, 1916: It was announced Mary Frances Hall would open September 19, 1916.
September 10, 1916: New furniture was installed.
September 16, 1916: Grace Sandefer and E.T. Compere were married in the building.
The support the citizens of Abilene directed towards this project and the students of Simmons College was a trend in the school’s earlier days. For example:
Financially, if it were not for the people of Abilene, the original funds to open Abilene Baptist College (now Hardin-Simmons University) would not have been raised.
If it had not been for the people of Abilene, the amount of prayer and sacrifice that guided this fledgling school and the people who operated it would not have existed.
The people of Abilene opened their homes to the students and faculty of Simmons College, providing them a place to live while working and studying. President Thatcher (second president, 1894-1989) first convinced the town to house students and this tradition continued through WWII.
The fact that J.D. Sandefer and J.H. Parramore went to the people of Abilene was no surprise; and with hindsight, the fact that the town raised the funds came as no shock.
Mary Frances Hall was not only home to female students. The Sandefer family resided there, as well, until the completion of Compere Hall in 1924. Gilbert Sandefer, youngest son to J.D. and Lucile, introduced Dam-It to the campus as his pet and school mascot; Dam-It called Mary Frances Hall his home, too.
Lucile Sander also laid the first brick of Mary Frances Hall during construction.
Sara (Elkins) Sikes moved into Mary Frances Hall September 1925. In the attached document, she describes the shenanigans that took place while living there, including when she fell down the elevator shaft.
Aileen Culpepper was dorm mother of Mary Frances 1945- ~1956, her first placement while working at HSU. Her legacy with HSU spanned over 60 years. She had an impact on hundreds of alumni, and many can tell stories about her.
Today, The Johnson Building stands where Mary Frances Hall did. The Johnson Building acts as a memorial to Mary Frances Hall: it copies the white pillars and interior staircase that set Mary Frances Hall apart from the rest of the buildings on campus.
Pauline Mayes Richardson will be inducted into HSU’s Hall of Leaders this year. Like her husband, Rupert Richardson, Pauline’s life was dedicated to Hardin-Simmons University.
Pauline Mayes Richardson, 1892-1965
Her legacy became intertwined with the school’s as soon as she registered as a student in 1909. Pauline played the role of student, faculty, sponsor, and first-lady throughout her time at HSU and remained an active member of the community until her death in 1965.
Pauline was born to John and Julia (Hunt) Mayes April 17, 1892 in Eastland County. She had a younger sister, Lila Mayes Hardy, who graduated from Simmons College in 1914.
Hailing from Hamlin, Pauline entered Simmons College in 1909 as a member of the academy. She graduated from the academy in 1910, with a diploma in piano. The Bronco claimed she moved “her audience to tears with her wonderful touch.”
During her time as a student, Pauline was an active member of many social clubs, including: the Pope Society, Student Council, Prohibition League, YWCA, Chafing Dish Club, Tennis team, K.K. Club, Mandolin Club, and Pope Orchestra.
In 1912, Mrs. Richardson graduated with an AB in modern languages. According to her senior biography in the 1912 Bronco, Pauline was “very fond of Music, Language and the Class President.”
Pauline met her husband, Rupert Richardson (aka the Class President) while attending Simmons College. He referred to her affectionately as “one of the girls from Anna Hall” and his “sweetheart” in Famous Are Thy Halls.
Note from Rupert asking to Pauline on a date
After graduating from Simmons College, Pauline returned to Hamlin to teach. Over the next three years, she would split her time teaching in Hamlin and Lubbock, with visits from Rupert, who during that time earned a graduate degree from Chicago University and taught in Caddo, TX.
Pauline and Rupert married December 28, 1915 and lived together in Cisco, where they both taught, until moving to teach in Sweetwater.
Pauline and Rupert returned to HSU in 1917, where they lived in Cowden Hall and were the equivalent of today’s Resident Directors. From Famous Are Thy Halls: “We were not enthusiastic about the task but we complied with the President’s request. The assignment proved to be most interesting and it was fortunate for us that we were permitted to have such an experience. Save for a few more scars, a few more boys, who were a little more sophisticated perhaps, Cowden Hall was as I had left it in 1912.”
The Richardsons had one child, Rupert Richardson Jr., born in 1920. Rupert Jr., like both of his parents, attended HSU, and graduated in 1940. He enlisted in 1942 to serve during the war. When he returned, most likely due to PTSD, he was no the longer happy, charismatic young man we see pictured below, but rather a ghost of his previous self.
Along with mentoring and, at times, mothering, the young men of Cowden Hall, Pauline furthered her education. She studied at Madrill University in Montreal, Canada and the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago for her postgraduate work. After she earned a Masters from the University of Texas in 1926 she taught French at HSU.
Pauline continued to teach French at HSU for over 30 years, up until her death.
1958 teaching contract
1958 teaching contract
Pauline ushering students into class
Mrs. Richardson passed away at the age of 73 on April 28, 1965.
Eleven years later, in 1976, The Rupert and Pauline Richardson Library opened on campus. Along with the preservation of her name through this building, the Richardson Research Center, located on the 2nd floor, houses papers, photographs, and memorabilia pertaining to her and her family.
In 1951, The Bronco was dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Richardson. The words written by the students are as applicable today as they were then:
No other two people have identified themselves more completely with Hardin-Simmons University during the years than have these two.
PAULINE MAYES RICHARDSON, M.A.
RUPERT NORVAL RICHARDSON, Ph. D., Litt. D.
To two who have dedicated themselves to us, we gratefully dedicate the 1951 BRONCO.
Before the development of Simmons College, J.B. Simmons, (who we get the “Simmons” from in Hardin-Simmons University), was already responsible for the creation seven colleges in the United States. The purpose of these schools was to educate and serve the recently emancipated population of the Civil War.
Simmons was an abolitionist who fought for the rights and education of all.
When Simmons was approached by O.C. Pope and board members of the fledgling Abilene Baptist College in 1891, it is no surprise that Simmons took interest and joined the endeavor to open a Christian college.
Simmons presented a Foundation Agreement to the board, where he listed the following as the school’s mission:
To bring young men and women to Christ
To teach them of Christ, and
To train them for the service of Christ
It was also written, “no religious test shall ever hinder any person, even though he be an idol worshiping Hindoo or a heathen Chinaman, from entering and receiving instruction.”
Simmons’ Foundation Agreement
With Simmons’ background of tolerance and acceptance, it is no surprise Simmons College was founded on the basis that both men AND women were invited, along with all faiths and denominations.
However, there was no wording in any school documents singling out Black (both African and African-American) students as welcome or not.
This writer can assume Simmons saw his namesake open to all students, not just White; due to the location of the school, though, we won’t see a Black student attending HSU for many years.
The first reference to a Black student can be found in a 1925 edition of the Brand, with the headline: “African Applies for Entrance to Simmons.”
The article goes on to inform the reader that Ajoa Junior, a young man from Nigeria, is the first African to apply to Simmons University.
There is no follow-up article to indicate Ajoa Junior was admitted into the school, and there is no record of his attendance.We can safely conclude Junior did not enroll at Simmons.
The next time a university publication mentions a Black student is in the 1962-1963 Bronco (more on that later).
HSU officially integrated in the Fall of 1961.
According to Hardin-Simmons University: A Centennial History, two Black students enrolled in the spring semester of 1962, and fourteen enrolled the next fall. “The students had full rights in the cafeteria, lived in residence halls, and participated in intercollegiate sports. Previously, there had been a limited enrollment of blacks involved in ministerial study, primarily men from overseas.”
I want to focus on that last sentence:
Previously, there had been a limited enrollment of blacks involved in ministerial study, primarily men from overseas.
At the point of this post being published, no official paper trail has been found that details the names and numbers of those Black students who were on campus prior to 1960. However, we can assume from various books:
there was a population of Black-mission students on campus, probably African, not African-American
extension courses in ministry from Bishop College were offered on campus to Black students (these students were enrolled with Bishop College, not HSU)
there were African-American students who were enrolled prior 1961, but these students are not pictured in the yearbooks until after integration
I believe the social setting at the time kept African and African-American students from being mentioned in publication; that being said, just because there were no photos of Black students in the yearbook prior to the 1962-1963 school-year, it does not mean there were no Black students on campus.
The Abilene Reporter-News ran an article in 2008 (check it out on microfilm at the Abilene Public Library), stating the first Black student at HSU was Ray Max Williams.
According to the piece, Mr. Williams enrolled in the summer of 1956 and graduated in 1963. The school’s registrar confirms Mr. Williams’ enrollment during this time.
Was Mr. Williams the first African-American student officially enrolled at HSU?
Negative. Mr. Williams is White.
This was a tough one to track down. Mr. Williams was not pictured in the yearbooks, which one could have inferred meaning he was Black. However, the university’s registrar was able to track his application down to his attendance at Abilene High School, and from there we concluded him to be White.
Through a phone conversation with Mr. Williams he was
According to Hardin-Simmons UniversityAthletics First Century, HSU ‘s first Black athletes were Nathaniel Madkins and Arthur Haynes. They transferred in as juniors from Okolona, Mississippi to join the 1962-63 basketball team.
This is partially true.
Madkins and Haynes were actually enrolled in 1960, one year before the school officially integrated. According to the Registrar, they did not graduate.
Although Madkins and Haynes were enrolled in 1960, they don’t appear in the yearbook until 1963 as members of the basketball team.
They are not pictured as members of the junior (or any other) class and are only represented on the pages dedicated to the basketball team.
The first Black student to be pictured in the yearbook, along with his class was Ambros Kirk, Jr.
Kirk enrolled at HSU in 1960, and like Madkins and Haynes made his first yearbook appearance in 1963. Unlike Madkins and Haynes, Kirk is pictured with his class.
Kirk did not graduate.
Kirk Ambros, Jr., Arthur Haynes, and Nathaniel Madkins were the first Black students to be enrolled at HSU (with paper evidence).
But, who was the first Black student to graduate?
At the time of publication, the paper trail points to: Richard David Dean. Dean enrolled in the Fall 1964 as a transfer student from Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, TX (historically black college), and graduated from HSU in May 1967.
Richard Dean, Junior Year
Richard Dean, Senior Year
New research shows Henry Marvin Peacock graduated with a BS in Physical Education with a minor in History on August 19, 1965.
Like most origin-stories, the Richardson Library came from humble beginnings.
While this origin-story doesn’t involve the death of a parent-figure (i.e. Bruce Wayne’s parents; Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben; Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru; Bambi’s dad…), it does include an orange grove.
Quick interruption: Wow. The male protagonist tends to lose his father figure at the start of the story. Other than with Disney princesses, does this trend continue with female protagonists??
Back to the orange grove.
While the need and desire for a fire-proof library consumed the campus since the 1890’s, space and, mostly, money prevented a standalone building from coming to fruition until the 1970’s.
Fundraising for the Rupert and Pauline Richardson Library began with the students.
In 1972, after the annual student orange-picking-trip down in the orange groves of Edinburg, TX students sold their haul.
Earning $20,000, this kick started the campaign to raise funds for the construction of a new library.
60 STUDENTS, over the course of 2 DAYS, picked 11 TONS of oranges, transported in 500 BOXES, to sell, raising $20,000 for a new LIBRARY.
Also in 1972, President Skiles and the Board of Trustees launched the Profile for Progress Campaign. A new library was the main focus of this capital campaign, with a goal of $1.5 million intended for construction and $500,000 for equipment.
Staff and faculty pledged $100,000 towards the goal.
The L.E. Mabee Foundation offered a challenge gift of $500,000 if $1 million was raised.
The school reached its financial goal for the library, and the architectural firm of Tittle, Luther, and Loving drew the plans of the 3-story, 48,642 square foot building.
Groundbreaking for the new library took place Thursday, April 18, 1974.
What’s in a name?
Rupert Noval Richardson (1891-1988)
Beginning his relationship with the school in 1907 as an undergraduate, Richardson spent the majority of his life dedicated to his alma mater.
Over the years, he played the role of student, professor, dean, president, and advisor to Hardin-Simmons University.
Richardson lived through the highs and lows of the 20th century, experiencing HSU’s rich history firsthand.
Though physically gone, his spirit remains in all that he contributed to the campus and community, most noticeably with his namesake, The Rupert and Pauline Richardson Library.
The Rupert and Pauline Richardson Library was dedicated November 6, 1976.
On February 18, 1891 Abilene Baptist College was officially chartered.
Hardin-Simmons University has gone through a handful of name changes over its 125 years (read about that here), and its first name was Abilene Baptist College.
The fact that this school was opened in 1891 is a huge testament to the people and priorities of this area.
The city of Abilene was incorporated in 1883, just 8 years before this school was established.
That means eight years before the school was opened, there was no city of Abilene.
Let that sink in for a few moments.
Taylor County, the county in which Abilene resides, was organized in 1878. By this year, the Native American population had been driven out, white cattlemen ran their herds across the land, and Buffalo Gap was named county seat. The town of Abilene did not exist yet.
This was cow country: no paved roads, simple houses made from local rock or reused wood (lumber was in scarce supply), and more cattle than man.
Fast forward to 1880 and we find the Texas and Pacific Railroad beginning to expand its tracks westward. A local group of cattlemen and landowners from Taylor County petitioned the railroad lay its tracks and build a station in Taylor County. These cattlemen knew that if a rail line ran through their land they would prosper immensely for multiple reasons:
They would make money either leasing or selling their land to the railroad to lay track
They would make money moving their cattle north on the railroad, rather than on foot
They would have access to more and better goods transported via train
The population (of people and basic goods) of the area would grow, building up the county and its economy
And so in January 1881 the railroad was laid just north of Buffalo Gap, and with it, the money, people, and goods came streaming in.
The land where the railroad came through was named Abilene, after the successful cow market and rail station in Abilene, KS.
Abilene began as a tent town. Just think, the train brought in a sudden influx of people to a land where there weren’t houses to purchase, no lumber shops to buy building supplies, and no official land lines to know who owned what property.
That is until March 15, 1881.
On March 15, 1881, Abilene held a town lot sale: an auction, essentially, where new community members had the ability to purchase different lots in town. An estimated 2,000 people gathered for the sale and at the end of the day, 178 lots were sold for a total of $27,550.
Shortly after the sale ended, the trains came in, hauling building supplies and other goods to turn Abilene from a tent town into a state of the art city.
Ten years later, the citizens of this new town saw the need to establish a Christian college.
Pretty fascinating, right? In what feels like the blink of an eye, Abilene grew out of dust and rail, leading to the development of the college we now refer to as Hardin-Simmons University.
Quick Timeline Recap:
1878: Taylor County organized
1880: T & P Railroad agrees to lay track in Taylor County, just north of Buffalo Gap. The train stop is called Abilene, named after the cattle town Abilene, Kansas.
1881 (January): Railroad is opened, bringing new inhabitants