Setting the Stage: The First Graduates of Baylor Business
Baylor’s School of Business, established in 1923, has evolved over the years, producing notable graduates who made significant contributions to the field and supported the University.
By Justin Walker
When Baylor University’s Board of Trustees—now the Board of Regents— officially approved the formation of the School of Commerce and Business Administration in March 1923, things looked very different than they do today. Dr. Charles Johnson from the Department of Public Discourse was named the head of the Business Department—another name for the School at the time—and four full-time professors were hired to teach. The faculty were officed on the ground floor of Carroll Library, where the classrooms were also located.
In the fall of 1923, more than 200 students began courses at the School, reaching an average enrollment of 290 for each semester in 1925. Among those enrolled that year include the first seven graduates of the School: Frank Creasey, Maurice Frazier, Wortham Renfro, W. Frank Smith, C.H. Tarrant, Ben H. Williams and Alba McCreary. While the others graduated in May 1925, McCreary graduated in August of that year and became the first female graduate of the School.
Not much is known of many in this cohort outside of Ben Williams. Prior to graduation, Williams worked as a clerk and salesman for various businesses. After receiving his BBA, he went to work for Southwestern Engraving Company, becoming the manager of the company’s plant in Houston. In 1928, Williams co-founded his advertising agency, Brennan-Brown-Williams, with offices in Houston and Dallas.
In 1932, Williams received an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. Soon after, he began a career in life insurance, working for companies in Des Moines, Iowa, and Dallas. In 1941, he became director of Sales and Management Training at Mutual Life Insurance Company in New York City.
By 1950, Williams once again started his own business, this time in sales training consulting for various advertising agencies and life insurance companies. He stayed in this role until 1960, when he semi-retired. Williams passed away in 1982.
Williams was an avid supporter of Baylor. In the 1950s, Williams established the Ben Williams Foundation to support University faculty seeking terminal degrees. In 1971, he started a second foundation to provide financial support to the now-named Hankamer School of Business, which assisted the Business School in funding several professorships, including James A. Roberts, the current Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing. The foundation also helped establish the Ben H. Williams Distinguished Speaker Series in 1999.
In 1970, Williams was named the Outstanding Alumnus of Baylor University. While honored to receive the award, Williams believed the people who benefited from his contributions were making the actual impact.
“I personally am not going to make any great contribution to mankind,” he said. “But at least one of the professors or their students probably will. And that’s what’s important.”