Belton, Texas – University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s spring commencement ceremony on May 5 was unlike any that had come before it. Along with celebrating the school’s 162nd graduating class, the university paid special tribute to the first male graduates of Mary Hardin-Baylor, some five decades ago when the school was officially still a college for women.
In September of 1967, the Board of Trustees voted in favor of allowing men to earn degrees, and the school, then called Mary Hardin-Baylor College, began the process of becoming co-educational. Though the school began allowing men to complete their degrees at MHB, the decision was not a popular one among the alumni and students.
“As with most change, there was resistance,” President Randy O’Rear told the thousands in attendance at Crusader Stadium May 5. “I think the phrase on some of the ladies’ protest signs explains just how the females felt,” O’Rear said. “Their signs read, ‘Better Dead Than Co-ed.’”
Because of this resistance, male graduates were not allowed to walk the graduation stage with their female classmates until the fall of 1972.
“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first male graduates of UMHB,” O’Rear said, “and I cannot think of a more fitting honor for these gentlemen than finally allowing them to walk the stage.”
All male graduates from the classes of 1968 through 1971 were invited to return to campus this spring for the special recognition at commencement, and eleven men came and participated in the ceremony. As they walked across the stage in their black robes and mortarboards, they were treated to the cheers and applause of both the crowd in the stands and graduating students on the field. Of course, each of the men had already received his diploma, so each was presented a Bible engraved with his name and class year, instead.
“After all,” O’Rear told them, “the Bible has better instructions than a diploma.”