On Saturday, a historic vote yielded a unified alumni outreach program for Baylor University. For many years, the university’s alumni engagement effort was divided between two houses. That division not only spawned inefficiencies and confusion, it generated conflict and rancor. The two houses have now become one in unity of purpose — to support and build Baylor University while preserving an independent voice.
This happy result has aligned Baylor with literally every major private university in the nation. Now, more than ever, pressures on tuition call all alumni to work collaboratively together to address the ever-rising cost of higher education. This nationally pressing issue is of paramount concern to Baylor. While our university remains a “best buy,” we recognize that as hard as we try, there are families who yearn for their students to attend Texas’ oldest continuously operating university but simply cannot make the finances work. We also are keenly aware of the burden of student debt. We must make every effort to ensure a Baylor education is affordable. This is what Baylor needs and what the Baylor family should now celebrate.
And so, from this newly realized unity of purpose, we build for the future. Above all, the Alumni Association’s wise decision to embrace the name “The Baylor Line Foundation” symbolically demonstrates the new entity’s determination to honor Baylor’s cherished history, while devoting the reconstituted foundation’s energy to raising much-needed funds for scholarships and in preserving an independent voice.
It has been said, “Victory has many fathers, but defeat is a lonely orphan.” This great victory for Baylor Nation has literally thousands of “fathers,” namely loyal and caring alumni around the country and the world who said in effect, “It’s time to pull together.” From the university’s perspective, Baylor regents labored long and hard to help fashion a fair and just resolution and then voted unanimously to approve this forward-looking arrangement. For their part, voting alumni were virtually unanimous. Of the 3,548 votes cast, 98 percent voted “aye.” For any other organization or association contemplating a fundamental structural change, that stratospheric number would be wildly out of reach. Not so for Baylor. As with our nation itself, e pluribus unum — out of many one.
Press reports of this historic accord have mentioned Judge Ed Kinkeade, but his informal, extrajudicial role in this peace-achieving process needs to be more fully understood and applauded. It was this distinguished federal judge, who graduated from Baylor and Baylor Law School, who played the early role of facilitator and encourager. His friendship with servant-leaders from all points across the Baylor spectrum led promptly to a fertile culture of trust. Early on, Judge Kinkeade connected with Baylor Law School’s outstanding dean, Brad Toben, who likewise is universally admired and respected for his integrity and ability. And thus the process began, soon expanding to the Baylor Board of Regents’ leadership, who skillfully carried the proverbial water on behalf of the University. For the regents’ leadership — especially to Chairman Richard Willis and to Regent Cary Gray — all of Baylor Nation owes a deep debt of gratitude.
Baylor has sailed through stormy waters before. In the wake of the Civil War, the struggling university’s assets were put up for sale at a sheriff’s auction in Washington County. Then, after the move to Waco near the close of that tumultuous century, a young future leader — George W. Truett — proved to be a first-class fundraiser even before he entered Baylor as a student. Although financial ruin threatened, Baylor’s doors were kept open in very hard times. Additionally, in the throes of the Great Depression, Gov. Pat Neff steered the university through yet another most trying and difficult period in our nation’s long journey.
While less dramatic than these epic events in Baylor’s storied history, the New Day for Baylor, ushered in by Saturday’s decisive vote, is one that we now honor and celebrate in the enduring spirit of Pro Ecclesia – for the church – and Pro Texana – for Texas – a vibrant metaphor for a world that needs a comprehensive research university that is unambiguously Christian. Baylor Nation, inspired by a new and unwavering unity, is charting a new course. For that, we are deeply thankful.
Ken Starr is president and chancellor of Baylor University, a private Christian university of more than 16,000 students.