Baylor University has selected pediatric neurologist and Saint Louis University dean Dr. Edwin Trevathan as its new executive vice president and provost.
Trevathan, professor of epidemiology and dean of the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University in Missouri, will begin his duties as Baylor’s chief academic officer in June, the university announced Monday.
“I was so impressed with Baylor’s uncompromising commitment to being a great Christian university, and specifically the excellence to scholarship that cuts across all disciplines that improves the lives of people and communities,” Trevathan said in an interview.
“Whether I was speaking with students, faculty, deans, vice presidents . . . they all understood the university mission. They all really seemed to be on board with working together collaboratively, and that sort of united spirit is not always present in this day and age, and I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Elizabeth Davis stepped down from the provost position in July to become president of Furman University in South Carolina. David Garland, professor of Christian scriptures at Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, has been serving as interim provost since then.
Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr in March appointed a 14-person search committee made up of faculty and staff, plus former Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy, to seek a replacement. The committee sorted through 20 initial applicants, selected in cooperation with executive search firm Storbeck-Pimentel, and chose Trevathan from a finalist pool of four candidates.
“Notwithstanding his remarkable success and experiences as a researcher, as a practicing physician, as a leader in the science of medicine, he is all in for the students,” Starr said.
“I was so struck in our conversations at how eager he has been and continues to be to connect with the students, so he’ll be a towering leader of our academic enterprise and move us forward in very important ways, but he remains fully committed to the students and the educational process that results in transformed lives.”
Todd Still, professor of Christian scriptures at Truett and chair of the search committee, said faculty members also were impressed with his work in recruiting high-achieving faculty members and researchers to Saint Louis University, which in turn helped draw bright students and helped revitalize the program.
Still said Trevathan’s background will be an asset to the university’s Pro Futuris strategic visioning plan, which has an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math fields as the university works toward being designated a very high research institution as defined by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Trevathan holds a master’s degree in public health from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and earned his medical degree from the Emory University School of Medicine.
Prior to his post at Saint Louis University, Trevathan was a professor of neurology and pediatrics in the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as the director of both the university’s Pediatric Epilepsy Center as well as the Division of Pediatric and Developmental Neurology.
Trevathan was also neurologist-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
He served as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities from 2007 to 2010. He was also the strategic lead for the pediatric response to the H1N1 “bird flu” epidemic of 2009.
“He will clearly be able to help us strengthen our sciences, he can assist us in knowing how and where to secure grants, and will be a strong advocate for our university along such lines,” Still said.
Trevathan said his interest in academia is rooted in family tradition. Trevathan’s father was a political science and history professor at Lipscomb University, the small Christian liberal arts college in Tennessee where Trevathan earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and also taught at what is now Faulkner University in Alabama as well as the University of Maryland. Trevathan’s uncle was a vice president at Abilene Christian University.
“The environment at a Christian university, where people are really pursuing truth as a manifestation of faith and service to the poorest of citizens, is something that really sort of brings all parts of life together,” Trevathan said.
“Speaking as a product of Christian higher education, I think one of the things that has made me have whatever measure of success I’ve had as a physician and a scientist is that I had education that really educated me as a whole person,” he said.
Trevathan said he plans to spend his initial months on the job listening to input from faculty and staff to decide how to guide Baylor toward its research activity goals. But he said he also believes in investing in other academic programs at Baylor, from business and fine arts to social work, an approach he said will strengthen the university overall.
“He has a firm commitment to liberal arts education,” Starr said. “He speaks eloquently of the liberal arts as the foundation of the entire enterprise, so while his own background and professional training is in medicine and academic medicine, he is fully committed to the great Baylor ideal of the university at its best.”
Eventually, Trevathan wants to be able to teach a course at Baylor as well, an experience he said he wants to continue to better understand the challenges faculty members face.
Trevathan also said he wants to connect with Waco’s medical community in some way, including strengthening and expanding partnerships the university has with local hospitals and physicians and possibly assisting in research.
“Being a physician, a pediatric neurologist and a public health researcher is sort of who I am, so I have to do a little bit of that so that I don’t drive people crazy,” Trevathan said.
He added, joking: “My wife doesn’t like it when I start examining children on playgrounds because I’m bored, so I have to have other outlets for that.”