In February 1947, Bruce Hall opened its doors for the first time, becoming the largest female dormitory in the Southwest. It kept that distinction for many years thanks to its eleven wings and over four hundred co-eds. Bruce remained a single-sex facility well into the 1970s, and until that time it was administered by a series of dorm mothers known only by the feared moniker of “Ma Bruce.”
Each incarnation of “Ma Bruce” was there to enforce the strict and sometimes unfair morals which society demanded of women. These included obedience, respect for authority, and above all, no hanky-panky with men anywhere in the building. Violations guaranteed a trip to the dreaded Dean of Women, who legend says was called many things but never merciful. Most people did what they could to avoid and possibility of working up this chain of command.
In these early years, there lived in Bruce a resident named Wanda that ended up getting into significant trouble during the 1950s. She became pregnant during the era when legalized abortion wasn’t an option in Texas. Ashamed of her condition and not wanting anyone (including “Ma Bruce”) to find out, she hid the truth for as long as possible. Soon, she couldn’t get away with simple concealment, so she began hiding out in the A-wing attic.
This attic, perched atop the A300 wing, was accessible via a short steel door barely tall enough for a petite girl to walk through. Wanda practiced her secret routine for months, until finally came her labor. Locking herself inside the attic, she shuffled along a narrow catwalk, through a web of pipes and wires, until she reached the far end of that cavernous space. At the far end of the attic where she stood, a round window let in pale light reflecting off of the nearby chemistry building. And it was there that she died.
How Wanda died is speculation. Some believe that she died during childbirth, while others say that she passed away from despair. Those with a vivid imagination are sure that she suffered from complications from a self-administered abortion. Regardless, her spirit remains in the A-wing attic to this day, and anyone that honestly believes can experience her.
Over the years, students walking along the north side of Bruce Hall could spot that same round window at the eastern end of the A-wing attic. And many of them are sure that someone stood inside that window staring down at them. They remark that although the details are hard to discern, the person’s shilloutte was unmistakable. It was that of a young woman.