Efforts of civic leaders in the late nineteenth century to provide greater educational opportunities established Waco as the “Athens of Texas.” This reputation was later preserved in the early to mid-twentieth century through the dedication of educators such as Gladys Allen, whose research and charitable giving left a lasting legacy in the city.
Gladys Allen was born on June 2, 1897, to Sam L. and Florence (Morehead) Allen at Crawford, Texas. After going to Crawford public schools throughout her childhood, she attended Mary Hardin-Baylor College and Baylor University. Following her graduation from Baylor University in June of 1918, she served as the principal of a three-teacher school at Delia, Texas, in Limestone County for a year. Allen then moved to McLennan County in 1919 and joined the Waco school system and taught English. However, when her mother passed away in 1934, she resigned from the teaching profession in order to take over the management of the family home for her father.
Although she officially resigned from educational work in the 1930s, Allen did not leave the field entirely. In 1941, she became a member of the Baylor Board of Trustees and served her first term until 1947. She later served a second term from 1951 to 1953. During that time, she conducted research in order to disprove notions concerning perceived gender inequalities at Baylor University. This work played a large part in the university reclaiming admittance to the national chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), an organization which promotes educational opportunities for women and girls.
In addition to her educational efforts, Allen was highly involved in the Waco community. She attended Seventh & James Baptist Church while residing in Waco, where she also taught college students and Sunday school classes from 1928 to 1947. She served as president of Waco Young Women's Christian Association for ten years. She was also an active member of Waco Garden Club, Waco Garden Council, and the local branch of AAUW. During her many years of service to Waco and Baylor University, she resided at 1917 South Ninth Street (as indicated on map). She passed away on May 18, 1953, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
Allen’s will furthered her desire to make a lasting difference on the Waco community. She bequeathed assets to Seventh & James and established three endowed scholarships at Baylor University: the Sam L. Allen Scholarship for business majors, Florence Morehead Scholarship for home economics majors, and Gladys Allen Scholarship. In order to honor her commitment to the university, city, and community, Baylor University named Gladys Allen Hall on the Baylor campus in her honor in 1956.