Wayland Baptist University, a coeducational liberal arts institution in Plainview, Texas, was chartered by the state of Texas on August 31, 1908, under the name Wayland Literary and Technical Institute. The name was changed to Wayland Baptist College in 1910 and to Wayland Baptist University in 1981. The proposal to establish a college was made at the annual meeting of the Staked Plains Baptist Association in 1906. The project was officially launched the following year, when the association accepted from Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Wayland an initial gift of $10,000 and twenty-five acres of land with the provision that the association and citizens of Plainview would raise an additional $40,000 and support the college. The Waylands were the guiding spirits, as well as major donors, during the early years and made other significant gifts of land and money. The cornerstone for the administration building was laid on July 13, 1910, and attracted a crowd of 1,000. Boarding facilities and classrooms were ready in time for the opening session in 1910, when 225 students, ranging in classification from primary grades to college, enrolled. After the public school system was well established, the elementary grades were discontinued, but some college preparatory courses were offered until 1941. Wayland was admitted to membership in the American Association of Junior Colleges in 1926 and approved as a senior college by the Texas Department of Education in 1948 and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1956. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Texas Education Agency for teacher education and veterans training. It is affiliated with the Association of Texas Colleges and Universities, the Texas Association of Music Schools, the American Association of University Women, the American Association of Colleges, and the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools.
Wayland became a part of the system of institutions supported by the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1914. The BGCT elects the thirty-nine members of the board of trustees, who determine the general policies of the university, and makes an annual appropriation for operating expenses, which constitutes about 11 percent of the school's total income. Other sources of income include student tuition and fees, 41 percent; auxiliary enterprises, 16 percent; endowment, 14 percent; government appropriations, 8 percent; and other, 10 percent. School properties, valued at $19,576,466 in 1989, include twenty-three permanent buildings on the main campus, one off-campus center, and seventy-four other housing units. Except during periods of crisis, there was a gradual but steady growth in enrollment, physical plant, and academic standing. In 1951 Wayland was the first college in Texas to be integrated voluntarily and through the years has attracted many students from abroad and from all faiths and religious denominations. During the decade 1978–88 enrollment for the fall semester averaged 1,656 and included representatives of five racial groups and ten foreign countries. In addition to the main campus, classes are held in off-campus centers in Lubbock, Amarillo, Wichita Falls, San Antonio, Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, and Hawaii.
Students may pursue traditional bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in education, science, and business administration. The university also offers a bachelor of science in occupational education or interdisciplinary studies and associate degrees in arts and applied science. In 1990 the Van Howeling Memorial Library holdings included 100,000 volumes, 750 subscriptions, and 50,000 microprint and 20,000 non-print units. A $3 million structure under construction in the center of the campus will allow accelerated expansion of academic support services, collections, technology, and personnel. The Llano Estacado Museum, on the campus, houses exhibits illustrating the development and the cultural heritage of the Panhandle-South Plains region. The skull and tusks of an Imperial Mammoth, a well-preserved specimen of the Pleistocene Epoch unearthed near Hereford, Texas, in 1988, is one of the permanent exhibits. Other museum-sponsored digs have yielded artifacts from the nomadic and early-settlement eras. Museum publications include Hale County History, 1976–87, and research reports. Wayland's athletic program has received wide-spread recognition and acclaim. Basketball and track teams have won several national championships. Individual athletes have been awarded All-American status and have performed with distinction in Olympic and other international competitions. Isaac Edgar Gates, the first president of Wayland, served from 1909 to 1915. The administration building, Gates Hall, was named in his honor. Other presidents include Orren Lucio Hailey, 1915–16; Robert Elijah Lee Farmer, 1916–18; Elmer Bugg Atwood, 1918–24; George Washington McDonald, 1924–47; James Wilborn Marshall, 1947–53; Albert Hope Owen, 1953–63; Roy Cornelius McClung, 1963–81; and David L. Jester, 1981–87. Glenn Barnett served as interim chief executive officer from July 1, 1987, until January 15, 1989. Lanny Hall was inaugurated as Wayland's tenth president on April 28, 1989. He was succeeded in 1991 by Wallace Davis, who served until 2000, when he became chancellor. Paul Armes became the university's twelfth president in 2001. Enrollment at the Plainview campus in that year was 1,019, with a faculty of seventy-one.