Baylor University’s search for a new provost ended Wednesday with an announcement that L. Gregory Jones is filling the position, effective May 16.
Jones was senior strategist for leadership education at Duke Divinity School and is no stranger to Baylor. He has been a senior adviser in Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning since October. At Duke, he was also the Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Jr. Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry.
“I’ve really come to have a deep affection and admiration for Baylor up close,” Jones said. “I’ve known the school for many years, friends who have taught here, and taught students who graduated from here in my roles at Duke, and I’ve always admired the people who comprise the Baylor community.”
Jones replaces Edwin Trevathan, who resigned in January after less than eight months at the post. Trevathan remains at Baylor as a neuroscience professor. Todd Still, dean of Truett Seminary, served in the interim role.
Jones has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in public policy and administration from the University of Denver. He also has a master’s of divinity and a doctorate from Duke University.
“Dr. Greg Jones is a prolific and distinguished scholar much admired in American higher education for his visionary leadership, creativity and wisdom,” President Ken Starr said in a statement. “His diverse experiences at a leadership level at Duke University provide him with exceptional insight into the challenges facing higher education, and we are delighted he will bring his extraordinary gifts of strategic and collaborative leadership and clear commitment to Pro Futuris to Baylor University and its academic enterprise.”
Pro Futuris is a five-point vision university officials adopted in 2014 focused on “transformational education, compelling scholarship, informed engagement, committed constituents and judicious stewardship.”
Jones also will be Baylor’s executive vice president, and his wife, the Rev. Susan Pendleton Jones, will join the university as senior fellow in the Institute for Faith and Learning.
‘Listen and learn’
“The first task I think is to listen and learn,” Jones said. “I want to listen to people and learn about the history, the stories, the hopes, the dreams and really get a sense of what is the heartbeat, or heartbeats, given the university’s size and scale.”
“One of the most important things for me is to learn what’s already been accomplished, what still needs to be worked on and how can I work collaboratively with people across the university to help further that really laudable vision, which is part of what attracted me to Baylor in the first place,” Jones said.
He also wants to continue Baylor’s recent goal of increased diversity, which Trevathan spearheaded as provost. The President’s Advisory Council has set a timeline for the task until February 2017, and Starr last week appointed Elizabeth Palacios, dean for student development in the Division of Student Life, as special assistant to the president on diversity.
“Diversity is a very important issue,” Jones said. “It’s important for a Christian university to articulate the framing of the question in ways that should make a university like Baylor frame it in a really important way rooted in the Gospel.”
Jones has written or edited 16 books and published more than 200 articles and essays. The provost leads all schools of the university, and he hopes his theological background can help animate all aspects of Baylor, Jones said.
“My background as a theologian is important in terms of Baylor’s identity as a Christian research university, and the way I understand the task of theology is to bring a theological perspective to all that I am and all that I do,” Jones said.