Students can find pictures of themselves displayed across the purple and gold walls of the newly repurposed Musick Alumni Center and Museum at the Parker House. Along with photos of current and past Crusaders, historical artifacts like a diploma on sheepskin and a class ring from the 1920s will be on display for years to come.
Previous university President Dr. Jerry Bawcom and first lady Vicky Bawcom spent many hours entertaining students, faculty, staff and community members in their home. The Parker House, located behind Presser Hall, was constructed for university President and Mrs. Bobby Parker in 1989.
More than 20 years later, the Parker House is no longer a home used by its residents to entertain guests. Instead, the house will serve as the alumni offices, alumni welcome center on the first floor and university museum on the second.
Now Executive Chancellor Jerry Bawcom said, “Mrs. Bawcom and I have many fond memories there … but for several years we have been having conversation about the need for a museum.”
The opportunity was an open door for the university to display and preserve its heritage.
“I think it’s a great thing to take place.” he said. “It will be a memorable thing for students and alumni to be able to see and touch items of our history.”
New University President Randy O’Rear said the opportunity to “incorporate a facility where our alumni can enjoy fellowship and remember the rich history of the university is a very great thing for Mary Hardin-Baylor.”
When the board of trustees voted to build a new president’s home, they left the administration with the choice of how to use the Parker House. University leaders decided the gifts previously received for a museum could be used to renovate the existing facilities.
O’Rear said, “It was not something we expected or had been planning for, but it was certainly an opportunity when all the pieces fell into place.”
The interior walls, painted various shades of purple, accent the 14 university traditions displayed on the first floor.
Alumni Relations Director Rebecca O’Banion said, “For years and years the school has had a dream of having a museum for alumni.”
Large photo displays depict both previous and current students taking part in everything from the dubbing ceremony, and Miss MHB Pageant to Stunt Night.
The downstairs will be used as the alumni offices and traditions displays, while the upstairs will serve as the university museum. With the first floor complete, Museum Curator Betty Sue Beebe is looking forward to the completion of the second.
Some of the museum artifacts have been in storage portables behind Townsend Memorial Library since 1993.
“I think the alumni are going to be very excited. If those that were at Homecoming Weekend are any indication, they were very pleased and excited about the potential.”
Senior education major Kimberly Jones walked into the building and was surprised by the changes.
“This looks so good,” she said. “It’s … purple and gold. I love that right when you walk in. It screams UMHB.”
As Jones ventured through the rooms that represent various Crusader traditions, she recalled moments that made her college career special.
“I loved walking through the first floor and just reminiscing…all the memories of attending, planning or being a part of these tradition events,” Jones said.
As part of Search Cru, an organization that helps recruit new students, junior business management and marketing major Lewis Simms served ice cream to prospective students in the front yard, but never before ventured inside.
He said, “I’ve always been outside the house doing something.”
But Simms recently went into the renovated house with fellow Student Government Association member Jones.
“This building is amazing,” he said. “They have really captured the essence of everything UMHB is. Walking through the first floor is like walking down memory lane.”
The Alumni Relations Department hurried to put the final touches on the building to prepare for Homecoming Weekend (Oct. 23-24), the debut of the new repurposed house. The upbeat reaction from alumni and students alike
reaffirmed their efforts.
O’Banion said, “For us, it was worth every bit of the rush and everything that we’ve been through just because people walked in and just smiled.”
She said the wall-to-wall university traditions on display serve as conversation starters for visitors.
“Even if they didn’t know each other, they would walk up to one of the panels and start talking about what it was like … when they were here,” O’Banion said. “I think it really created unity among everyone in the room.”
In addition, the exhibits display the welcoming nature for which the university is known.
Jones said, “It’s a great tool to use for incoming students to get a glimpse of the spirit of UMHB.”
“The point is school spirit, to be able to walk in and just feel at
home,” O’Banion said. “And hopefully see things you were involved in when you were a student, things that spark that emotion, ‘Hey this is home’.”