Baylor University Officially Dedicates Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center
Ribbon-cutting ceremony opens spectacular “front door” to campus, honors gift from Hurd family
WACO, Texas (Sept. 8, 2023) – Under bright blue Texas skies, hundreds of special guests and members of the Baylor Family gathered for a significant moment in Baylor University’s history – the official dedication of the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center, the University’s spectacular new “front door” to campus at the corner of Interstate 35 and University Parks Drive.
The dedication recognized the Hurd Welcome Center’s namesake and lead donors, Paula Hurd and her late husband, Mark Hurd, B.B.A. 79, and their daughters, Kelly, B.B.A. ’14, and Kathryn. Mark Hurd was CEO of Oracle and vice chair of the Baylor Board of Regents when he passed away in 2019. Paula Hurd was elected as a Baylor Regent in May 2020 and continues her dedicated service on the Board.
“Mark was a visionary and leader on our Board of Regents, and Paula has continued the couple’s legacy of service to Baylor,” Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone said. “It is because of Mark and Paula’s unbelievable generosity and Mark’s vision of what the corner of I-35 near University Parks could become for Baylor that we are here today, enjoying this gorgeous facility. On behalf of the Baylor Family, I extend our heartfelt gratitude to Mark and Paula Hurd for their unwavering support and generosity.”
The 136,000-square-foot Hurd Welcome Center – with its four striking columns that extend 96 feet high through the building’s roof – has been available for the Baylor Family to explore since early August. However, the center will reach an important milestone on Sept. 12 when prospective students and their families begin campus tours and meet with dedicated undergraduate admissions staff from the Hurd Center. All of this reflects the Hurds’ vision to create interest and enthusiasm in the University through a unique technology-rich and interactive experience for future students extending to the entire Baylor Family.
“Our family is absolutely thrilled with the Hurd Welcome Center,” Paula Hurd said. “When we made this gift, Mark had a vision for how a welcome experience could transform this corner of campus, and the outcome has by far exceeded our expectations and dreams. I know he would be proud of not only what has been built but the way in which others in the Baylor Family rallied around the Give Light Campaign to generate more than $1.39 billion in gifts to support the University he loved.”
The Hurds’ lead gift to the welcome center – which remains one of the largest gifts in University history – was announced in 2018 in conjunction with the public launch of Give Light, the University’s $1.1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. More than 30 families made naming gifts throughout the facility, and more than 1,200 others have Baylor Bricks surrounding the building, and all their generosity fueled the construction and design of the many capital priorities of the Give Light Campaign.
Designed by global firm Populous, which has created some of the world’s most iconic venues and arenas – including Baylor’s McLane Stadium – and built by Vaughn Construction, the Hurd Welcome Center serves as a central hub for prospective students, families, alumni and visitors, as well as current students, faculty and staff. In her dedication remarks, President Livingstone noted the building’s warm and inviting space that showcases the unique distinctives of Baylor, highlighting the University’s academic programs, campus culture and rich history.
Citing Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” President Livingstone said students’ lives are transformed during their time at Baylor, and the Hurd Welcome Center will serve as a gateway to those transformative opportunities that await them.
“This is where many prospective students will realize they belong at Baylor. It will play a pivotal role in fostering connections within the Baylor Family and beyond,” President Livingstone said. “It will be a place where future students and their families can connect with current students, faculty and alumni, and this is where alumni will rekindle their love for Baylor and strengthen their connection to the Baylor Family.”
In addition to the Hurds, President Livingstone also extended her gratitude to the McLane Family for their leadership and continued investment in projects that bring the Baylor Family together, including the McLane Family Alumni Center located on the second floor of the Hurd Welcome Center. There, Baylor Alumni staff serve the University’s more than 160,000 living alumni, and visitors to campus have another place to reconnect.
“Their investment in education and their belief in Baylor's mission will continue to impact generations of students and scholars,” President Livingstone said.
The Hurd Welcome Center's features include an expansive multi-use ballroom, the Baylor Spirit Shop, Varsity Coffee & Soda and the four lighted columns that provide high-tech, interactive experiences for visitors, as well as symbolic touches such as white crossbeams in Carlton Hall that represent Baylor’s Live Oak trees, an inlaid brass strip that runs the length of Carlton Hall representing “That Good Old Baylor Line,” and a gold metal map of downtown Waco on the ceiling inside the Varsity.
To conclude the dedication ceremony, Paula Hurd and her daughters, along with Drayton and Elizabeth McLane and Drayton III and Amy McLane, joined President Livingstone, Baylor Board of Regents Chair Bill Mearse, B.B.A. ’78, M.B.A. '79, representatives from Baylor Admissions and Baylor Alumni and Student Body President Nick Madincea, for the official ribbon cutting. The Baylor Golden Wave Band performed the University’s alma mater, “That Good Old Baylor Line,” and the festivities ended with a raucous “Sic ‘em, Bears!” led by Paula Hurd.
Baylor will extend the grand opening celebration for current students with HOWDY at the Hurd, presented by Pi Beta Phi and Baylor University. The outdoor student festival on the facility’s south lawn features local food trucks, line dancing, a Ferris wheel and more, and concludes with a free concert by rising country star Bailey Zimmerman and a dazzling 300-unit drone show over campus.
READ MORE: Hurd Welcome Center’s special features and symbolic surprises throughout the building.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.