Finding the Heart of Baylor in San Antonio
By Ashley Kim
What is the spirit of Baylor? Is it the shiny, golden top of Patt Neff or the fountain on fountain mall? Is it watching the parade as floats go by on Homecoming day? Is it celebrating Dia Del Oso as people come together to sing at concerts, eat food and play games on the green? Or, is it supporting the Baylor bears on the court, field, or track?
These things may seem like the spirit of Baylor, but it’s actually the people—students, faculty, alumni and friends—that make those places and events so important, and that connection with those people to Baylor is where the heart of Baylor can be found.
The Army-Baylor Graduate Program in Health and Business Administration is located at Joint Base–Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, almost 200 miles away from Baylor. That’s 200 miles from the main campus, from Lady, the University's retiring mascot, and Baylor athletics. So, how does the Army-Baylor program draw out the Baylor spirit?
The Army-Baylor program aims to inspire, educate, train, and develop graduates for management, administrative, and leadership positions within the federal healthcare sector, thereby enhancing the readiness of U.S. military forces and improving the health of active-duty service members, family, retirees and veterans.
Kevin Broom and Lee Bewley know the heart of Baylor can be found in the Army-Baylor Program. They know because they worked hard to cultivate that within the faculty, staff and students in the program.
“What I wanted, to the fullest extent possible, is to get the spirit of being a Baylor student in San Antonio, in Fort Sam Houston,” Bewley said. Bewley, MHA ’99, served as the program director and associate dean of the joint MHA/MBA graduate program at Baylor from 2008 to 2014. He is now associate chair and director of Health Management Programs at the University of Louisville.
Broom served as an associate program director and MBA coordinator at Army-Baylor from 2006 to 2011. He is now the MHA program director and vice chair for Education at the University of Pittsburgh.
Some of the pair’s previous initiatives included having Baylor t-shirts to help market and promote the program, having mixers at basketball or football games, decorating the rooms with banners, and even making lapel pins for alumni events. Bewley even went so far as to paint his office the Baylor green and gold.
"We really put a big emphasis on building Baylor spirit. We wanted people to enjoy their experience,” Bewley said. “We wanted them to be a part of it and feel the spirit of belonging at a national University that has an international reputation of excellence.”
When Broom was stationed in San Antonio, he and his wife used to go to an auction house just about every week. This auction brought Irish antiques one week, German the next and later, even Danish items. One day, Broom saw a large, taxidermied bear at the auction. His immediate thought was how cool it would be as a part of the Army-Baylor Program’s collection. Broom emailed Bewley, the director of the program at that time, and asked if he was interested in splitting the cost of the bear to donate to the program. Despite being halfway around the world deployed to war, he still had the Army-Baylor program on his mind. Both Broom and Bewley were set on acquiring the bear and succeeded in 2011.
Bewley and Broom wanted to leave a legacy that would be there forever and give them a connection back to the program even after being gone for so long. Little did they know the strong impact Gazpacho the bear made on faculty, alumni and current students.
At first, the bear served as decoration in one of the program’s classrooms. A few years after its introduction, a few students decided to name it Gazpacho, after the classic Spanish cuisine. Not long after, a student placed a sombrero on the bear, followed by fiesta beads the next day. A semester later, the cohort decided to give Gazpacho his own birth certificate. It slowly became tradition for each class to contribute something new to Gazpacho, each reflecting that cohort’s personality.
Tiara Walz, a graduate and now assistant professor for the program, was involved in decorating the bear with her classmates. They adorned Gazpacho with beads, sunglasses and different outfits.
“Gazpacho represents a shared sense of camaraderie from class to class. Each class had its own relationship with Gazpacho, and I just always liked seeing it,” Walz said. “Being so far away from Baylor down here in San Antonio, it’s kind of cool to have a memento.”
Even though Baylor’s main campus resides in Waco, Walz found a way to feel associated with the school.
“We view it as our connection to Baylor and even though we can’t be in Waco, Gazpacho helps us remember who we are and our identity as part of the bigger Baylor University family,” Walz said.
Katharine Adams, a current student in the program, said Gazpacho means something different to each student. For her, the bear reminds her of home and her connections with her classmates.
“I’ve never been to Waco, but I do feel like it connects me with the other classmates and the program,” Adams said. “When I see it, it brings a familiar feeling to me. I came from Alaska, so it just felt like home.”
Bewley and Broom never expected for Gazpacho to have the impact that it did.
“People that went through Army-Baylor that never knew me, because I'd long since retired, were like, ‘Oh, you're the guy that brought the bear,’” Broom said. “It is something that's kind of tied classes together over the past 12 years.”
While it was never intended to have special meaning, Broom said the faculty and students that go to Army-Baylor really do identify with the university and being a Baylor bear thanks to Gazpacho.
“I thought it was just something to drive home the point that they're all a bear and they're part of the family,” Broom said. “It's kind of like a mascot that's front and center and visible for them every day when they go to class. It was just a way of trying to deepen the connection between the students and the University.”
Both Broom and Bewley love that a large taxidermied bear purchased at an auction has provided more than just the Baylor spirit, but also a sense of connection and belonging.
“The Baylor spirit is the common tie that bonds us because of our time in the program,” Bewley said. “I want them to have that spirit, and Gazpacho is a major part of that experience of being at Army-Baylor, and that carries the spirit through future generations of alumni.”