Inaugural Address: Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind

October 26, 2017
President Livingstone Inauguration

The prepared remarks of Dr. Linda A. Livingstone

  1. Introductions and Acknowledgements
    1. Thanks
      • Shelby – your father and I couldn't be prouder of you and the amazing woman of God you are becoming. I love you a million inauguration introductions.
      • To the First Gentleman, Brad, I am only able to do what I do because of your love, support and partnership in life – thank you!
      • To the Baylor Board of Regents, I sincerely appreciate the faith and trust you have placed in me to lead our great university at this most important time in our history.
      • To the elected officials here with us today, I am grateful for your partnership and support for Baylor. 
      • And finally, to our faculty, staff, and students: faculty, you are the backbone of our institution, the people who make the Baylor vision a reality on this campus. Staff, your steadfast support of Baylor's mission is crucial to our success as a university. And students, you are the reason why we are here today. Your warm welcome of me and my family is truly a blessing.
      • Thank you all for being here today and for your commitment to the Baylor Family.
    2. I am blessed to have several other members of my own family with us today. In fact, they decided they needed a name so they call themselves "All the President's Kin" – my mother, Charlotte Parrack, my sister Diane Mombani, my older brother David Parrack and his wife Rebecca, my younger brother Jim Parrack and his wife Desiree.  I must give special credit to my brothers for helping me develop resilience and patience as the middle sister between two strong-willed brothers!  Seriously, I am blessed with an amazing family – thank you all for being here today.
    3. I want to thank all of you in attendance for joining us as we celebrate this exceptional university that drew us together as family in homecoming last week and that draws us together again today to honor the many ways that Baylor has flung the green and gold afar for 172 years and that Baylor will light the ways of time in even more profound ways in the years ahead.
    4. I am exceptionally privileged and blessed to be here with you today. As I look back over my life journey, I can see how God used my family, my education, and my various academic roles to bring me to Baylor to rejoin the Baylor Family and to lead at such a time as this. I believe that we are in a key moment of transition as a university, and that as we commit together to fulfill our transformative university vision, we have the opportunity to build a transformational legacy that will impact students for generations to come in even more significant ways than it has impacted students in previous generations.
  2. Transforming Family
    1. My journey begins with my parents: my father Doyle and my mother Charlotte. Again, I am honored to have my mother here with me today. I am grateful to my parents for so many things, such as raising me and my brothers, David and Jim, and my sister, Diane, with a solid work ethic (and growing up on a farm with all the responsibilities that came along with that certainly helped, too!)
    2. My father, Doyle, played basketball at Oklahoma State University and in the NBA, and eventually became a college  basketball coach in Oklahoma. He came from a small farm in Southwest Oklahoma, where he grew up picking cotton. As the first person in his family to go to college, my father single-handedly established a legacy of higher education that now extends two generations, and will be multiplied for many generations to come. Because my father received a college education, I am able to stand before you today at this inauguration.  From my father, I gained a love of athletics early in life. He instilled in me the belief that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to, if I worked at it, and dedicated myself to it.
    3. My mother was a kindergarten and second grade school teacher. She is a true servant at heart. From her, I gained the desire to make a difference in the lives of others, no matter what I was doing.  This dedication to service, combined with my competitive nature, nurtured through athletics, led me to be involved in leadership roles from an early age.
  3. Transforming Training
    1. In college, I followed in my father's footsteps by playing basketball for OSU.  I also became involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Like many undergraduates, I was often undecided about my future profession, but I knew that I wanted to do something that would combine my love of athletics, my desire to make a difference, and my Christian faith. 
    2. As I considered my professional options, I had a personal encounter during my freshman year that proved to be life-altering. You may have read the story about Brad in Baylor Magazine where he shares the story of how his father, not knowing me at all, sent him an article with my picture circled and told him "this is the kind of young women you should be dating."  At the time, we both laughed it off, but then I started running into Brad at basketball practices and Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings. We started dating my junior year. In September of 1983, a day which coincided with an OSU football game, Brad and I were married. True to form, Brad and his groomsmen watched the game while getting ready for the wedding, and they cheered so loudly everyone in the church could hear them. Incidentally, the Cowboys beat those Aggies from down Highway 6 by 34-15. 
    3. I will be forever grateful that Brad's father sent him that copy of OSU Magazine, even though it produced one of the worst pickup lines I've ever heard. My husband is a true partner with me on life's journey and also my best friend. He has transitioned into the role of Baylor's first-ever First Gentleman with grace and skill. I am also very proud of Brad's work as a teacher at Vanguard College Preparatory School, along with his work with veterans, particularly World War II veterans. In light of my husband's work with veterans, would all of the active duty military and veterans in the audience please stand?  Let's give them a round of applause and thank them for their service.
    4. After finishing my bachelor's degree, I decided to pursue an MBA at Oklahoma State University. During that program, one of my professors asked me if I had ever considered getting a Ph.D.  I really hadn't, but that one comment planted a seed that stuck with me over the next few years, eventually motivating me to go back to Oklahoma State University to earn a doctorate in business administration. This experience constantly reminds me of how influential faculty can be in the lives of students!
  4. Transforming Journey
    1. I loved working on my Ph.D. I was exhilarated by the prospect of spending a career facilitating people's learning and knew I'd finally found my professional calling. Fortunately for me, Baylor had an opening in my field when I graduated, and we moved here in 1991. It was a perfect fit. The Christian environment was stimulating, the academic environment was challenging, and I was able to continue my involvement in athletics via the Faculty Athletics Council.

      In fact, my opportunity to serve on Faculty Athletics Council came in part because of my skills as a basketball player. In my second or third year at Baylor, the university hosted a faculty free-throw shooting contest as part of the Midnight Madness festivities to launch basketball season.  As I arrived that night and lined up along the baseline in this very arena for the competition, I looked down the baseline and noticed I was the only woman along with 20 or so male faculty members in the competition.  Brad was in the stands and overheard some fans commenting, "Why in the world did they allow a girl in the competition." As luck (and maybe a little talent) would have it, I won that free throw shooting contest.  The next year I happened to win the contest again and for some reason they cancelled the competition. I wonder if they would be interested in bringing it back now that I'm President… It was amazing how much visibility on campus winning that first competition gave me and how many opportunities I then had for involvement and leadership, including serving on Faculty Athletics Council.

      Shortly after receiving tenure at Baylor, I was asked to serve as Associate Dean for Graduate Programs in the Business School, launching my career into university administration. Just as significantly, I was able to witness the transformative impact of a distinctly Christian approach to higher education in the lives of students, and as a result I began to develop a passion for faith-based models of academic research and teaching.

      I owe a special thanks to Dr. Don Edwards, our Mace Bearer today, who was my department chair for several years and encouraged me to consider academic administration, and may have been the first person to suggest I should be a dean or maybe even a president someday.  And a thanks to Dean Terry Maness who gave me my first administrative leadership opportunity as Associate Dean for Graduate Programs in the Hankamer School of Business.
    2. Our daughter Shelby was also born during our time in Waco. Brad and I are so proud that Shelby grew up to continue our family's legacy of student-athletes by playing volleyball at Rice University, and we are thrilled to see how her experiences as an athlete are shaping her into a Godly woman of character and grace.  Having met her today, you can see why we are so proud of Shelby. Going to sporting events remains one of our favorite family pastimes, although lately, given we have so few new challenges and changes in our lives, we've also been spending quite a bit of time with our new "first puppy," BU (spelled BU of course!).
    3. But let me return to the narrative. My first 11 years at Baylor were happy ones, and we had no intentions of leaving.  However, a colleague of mine, Dr. Blaine McCormick, nominated me for the Dean's position at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management. This nomination was unexpected, and Brad and I knew it would be a major change for our family. In fact, Brad's initial reaction was, "Why would we want to leave Baylor?  Where is Pepperdine anyway?"  When I told him Malibu, CA he said, "Well we should at least go check it out."  As Brad describes it, we then "bathed this decision in prayer," and ultimately felt God leading us to Pepperdine.  Word of advice here, if you are ever "called" to Malibu, CA – just know people take that calling with a grain of salt...or a grain of sand.
    4. I was similarly happy and fulfilled in California. But I started to wonder about next steps in my journey after several years at Pepperdine and as I had calls to consider other opportunities as deans, provosts and even presidents.  I began to sense that the leadership skills I was honing as a dean, along with my growing passion for a distinctively Christian approach to education, might one day lead me to yet a higher level of administrative service, possibly even returning me to Baylor. 
    5. But first, I took another crucial step in my journey by going to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. to serve as the Dean of the School of Business in 2014. In retrospect, I realize how formative my combined experiences at Pepperdine and GW were to my development as a leader. I went into difficult situations at both institutions, and sometimes wondered if I had made the right choice. Brad always had faith, however, and many times told me that God was preparing me for something even more significant.
  5. Transforming Calling
    1. That something, of course, occurred earlier this year when I received the call informing me that I'd been selected as the 15th President of Baylor University. I felt that, once again, God was asking me to take a leap of faith. As with every other move we'd made up to that point, Brad, Shelby, and I understood that accepting this position would be a major change for our family. I also knew that I would be returning to Baylor at a very rough time, given the issues of sexual violence confronting the university. Even from a distance, I was fully aware of the pain that you, the Baylor family, was experiencing due to incidents of interpersonal violence on our campus. I also understood that we would continue to deal with ongoing investigations about these issues for the next 18-24 months.
    2. So Brad, Shelby, and I once again bathed this decision in prayer. It soon became evident to all of us that God was bringing us back home to Baylor. I was excited by the opportunity not only to return to a university that I loved, but to a place I felt God had been preparing me to lead. I accepted the call not in spite of recent institutional difficulties, but because of them. Every crisis is an opportunity to learn and rebuild, and I truly believed that God wanted me to assume this task at this particular point in Baylor's history. But most importantly, I wanted to return because of the university's mission. I knew that Baylor was one of the most visible, ambitious Christian universities in the nation, and I wanted to be a part of this distinct academic vision. As I re-introduced myself to the Baylor family over the past few months, I have been struck by how many people on this campus share a similar sense of calling to our Christian academic mission.
  6. Transforming Mission
    1. And Baylor's mission is indeed compelling. Our aspiration to integrate academic and teaching excellence with an uncompromising Christian identity positions this university to have a transformative impact on our students, on higher education, and on the world. Higher education is in a time of significant change and challenge. Colleges and universities are criticized as being disconnected from society, lacking coherent values or applicability to real life. There is also growing disagreement over how higher education should shape leaders of character.
    2. Baylor's Christian commitment equips us to address these challenges in significant and meaningful ways. We have said that our goal is to achieve pre-eminent research status, what we in academics call Tier 1 status. This goes beyond achieving what the Carnegie Foundation defines as "highest research activity" or R1 status. Our strategic plan outlines a vision for achieving R1 status, but also encompasses much more than that. At Baylor, we want to produce leading scholarship in every major field while simultaneously providing high quality undergraduate and graduate education. And we want to do all of this from an uncompromising Christian identity.

      Here, achieving pre-eminent research status means bringing our intellectual energy, institutional resources, and Christian values to bear in addressing global conversations about crucial issues, including human rights, economic growth, diversity, social responsibility, healthcare, and ethics. We aspire to cultivate leaders who devote their training and talents to generating innovation and discovery in every field, from the sciences to the humanities, politics to education, business to the arts.
    3. Baylor is one of the few Protestant universities in the nation pursuing this particular vision to be a top-tier research university. The challenge of bringing critical research and excellent teaching alongside committed Christian principles, allowing each of these elements to inform and animate the others, is the defining feature of our identity in a way that few other institutions can claim. For this reason, I believe we can have a unique voice within higher education, and the culture at large.
    4. That's great news, because the world needs a place like Baylor.
      • Micah 6:8: "do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
      • the Garland School of Social Work.
      • The world needs a Baylor that engages scholars and ministers from Truett Seminary or the Institute for the Study of Religion to shape the future of the evangelical life of faith, in this country and beyond.
      • The world needs a Baylor that provides stellar education in music, theater, art, and literature to cultivate beauty and creativity, which contributes to human flourishing and celebrates the fullness of God's creation.
      • The world needs a Baylor that demonstrates the richness of the Christian life of the mind through programs such as theology and biblical scholarship, philosophy and history.
      • Biology, Psychology, and Sociology to address the grave challenges facing society.
    5. Ultimately, our vision affirms, "the world needs a preeminent research university that is unambiguously Christian - where such a commitment does not imply a lack of scholarly inquiry, but rather requires scholarship and creative endeavors at the highest levels of quality to complement and inform its teaching and service." Baylor exists to demonstrate that faith is not a deterrent to scholarship. Rather, it is the very motivation for discovering the richness of Creation. It compels us to engage with issues spanning the intellectual and ideological spectrum, combating provincialism and prejudice by fostering productive dialogues that ultimately bring our discoveries to bear in tackling the most complex problems of today.
    6. There are certainly high stakes involved in pursuing such a mission. There are many critics who argue that it's impossible to achieve status as a distinguished research university while also maintaining a Christian identity. We are also mindful of times when we have faltered in this vision. Yet these experiences should give us even more incentive to redouble our pursuit of the vision outlined in Pro Futuris.
      • If any university is called to exhibit caring community and to raise the bar in the area of student wellbeing, it is a Christian institution like Baylor.
      • If any university is compelled to engage in research that offers solutions to complex problems and shapes ideas at the highest levels of the academy and society, it is a Christian institution like Baylor. Thus, when critics charge that our vision for achieving top-tier, Tier 1 research status is impossible, I believe they underestimate the power of Baylor and the power of God.
  7. Transforming Legacy
    1. Looking to the future, then, I am inspired by the message of Romans 12:2: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will." Given our distinct institutional mission, our progress toward transformation and renewal as a university family may be different from other institutions. Baylor certainly has tremendous tradition to draw upon, but we also embrace innovative ways to address new challenges and cultivate new opportunities in light of our faith.  
    2. As we work to achieve pre-eminent research status, Baylor will maintain its emphasis on transformational undergraduate and graduate education. We will continue to prioritize excellent teaching and the formation of students as whole people, shaping learners intellectually, physically, and spiritually in a safe and secure campus environment. We will also maintain a steadfast commitment to a caring Christian culture that celebrates the diversity so vividly represented on our campus. Baylor's dedication to fostering and nurturing the diversity of our students, faculty, and staff makes us stronger as a community, with each person contributing his or her perspectives and enriching wisdom gained from a unique path through life.

      By providing students with academic and professional training of the highest caliber, we equip them with values-based leadership that makes a positive difference in the world.  We have already seen this happen many times in the state of Texas alone, where alumni have served and continue to serve as innovative statewide leaders in areas like technology, finances, biomedicine, and politics (many of whom are here today). This impact is multiplied with our alumni around the country and across the world.  Inspired by these examples, we will continue to produce graduates dedicated to leadership and service.
    3. We will also continue building a nationally competitive athletics program that is consonant with Baylor's Christian mission. As a former student-athlete, married to a former student-athlete, the mother of a student-athlete, and the daughter of a student-athlete, I know firsthand just how transformative top-notch athletics programs can be, and how vital these students are to our university culture. We will develop athletic programs that also adhere to our academic standards and Christian values. We haven't always done this as well as we should. But we can, and we will, build a model of athletic achievement that produces student-athletes who also succeed academically and who exemplify character that reflects our Christian commitments and is a source of pride for the Baylor family. 
    4. Most significantly, as we look to the future, we will build out the next phase of our strategic plan and expand efforts to support our academic enterprise. We will work to ensure that Baylor gains a seat at the table in the area of preeminent research, producing renowned scholarship that, in the words of our vision statement, "illuminates solutions to significant challenges confronting our world." At the same time, we will integrate this academic excellence with strong Christian commitment. We will foster an institutional context in which faith animates research, providing the moral impetus and creative energy to produce scholarship of the highest quality.
      • As we move into Phase II of our strategic plan, Baylor will take concrete steps to realize this academic vision, including further expansion of our graduate and professional degree programs, generating additional forms of revenue that strengthen our academic enterprise, and enhancing institutional infrastructures that facilitate success. These are the goals we have been working toward in recent years, and we have made remarkable progress in the areas of teaching, student success, scholarship, and research.
      • But there is still much work to be done. We are entering a key transitional moment in the life of our university, when we must dedicate ourselves to finishing the race we have started. Such work will not be easy, yet that is the essence of transformation. As Poet Laureate Philip LeVine [pronounced Leh-VEEN] writes, transformation "is the time to strain – to pull at yourself until you assume the shape you want to become. God knows what that is."
      • Many universities aspire to achieve top-tier research status. But few pursue this goal with the intent of maintaining a Christian identity that informs and motivates scholarly ambitions. Baylor embraces this challenge. We have the opportunity to work together, as the Baylor Family, to ensure that this vision continues to become a reality, and thereby transform Baylor's future.
  8. Conclusion
    1. To close let me illustrate the power of Baylor's distinct mission by sharing with you the story of Dr. James Chang, who graduated in August with a Ph.D. in chemistry.  James shared these words in a devotional to our regents in July:
      • I was raised in a Presbyterian home.  But what I really believed in was professional success.  I dreamt of becoming a scientist, and I got my BS and MS from secular schools in California.  In my mind, faith and science couldn't coexist.
      • I decided to come to Baylor because I was given an opportunity to help a professor start a new lab.  When I first met him – Dr. Sung Joon Kim – I was surprised by how he treated me as an equal, not as a subordinate.  This was so contrary to what I experienced (in California) while I was doing my masters.  But it wasn't just my advisor.
      • I came to know many more believers here at Baylor, especially the undergrads.  And through my interactions with them, I came to know how little I understood about my faith.
      • Two years ago, one student asked me how I knew that I was saved.  That question led me to a very lengthy self-examination, and through the grace of God I discovered my faith and dedicated my life to serving God.
      • I now had a purpose for doing science.  Before I was doing science for myself.  Now, I do it to bring glory to His name.  When scientists read my journal articles, they see Baylor under my affiliation.  Some will know that we are a faith-based institution that exalts God.  They will see that we do world-class research, and that faith and science can successfully co-exist.  That reason is what drives me.  That's how I became so productive in publishing articles the last two years, and one day it would be wonderful if my career brings me back here to continue that calling.
      • Faith has given me purpose here at Baylor.
    2. It is because of the James Changs that our aspirations to be a Tier 1, pre-eminent Christian research university are so important.
      • James' life was transformed at Baylor.
      • James will glorify God through his research.
      • James will influence hundreds and thousands of lives for Christ in his years as a scholar and teacher.
      • That happens because we are a Christian research university.
      • That happens because we are Baylor University.
    3. The calling before us is challenging, yet significant. We must be bold in our aspirations. Because the world needs a place like Baylor.
      • The world needs a Baylor that raises the bar in the area of Christian higher education, combining the riches of undergraduate, professional, and graduate education with rigorous research, high-quality athletics, and unwavering faith commitment.
      • The world needs a Baylor that brings our religious identity, institutional resources, and human talent to bear in generating creative solutions to complex problems.
      • The world needs a Baylor that is committed to finishing the race we have started, striving to achieve pre-eminent status as a research university that is unambiguously Christian. When we can accomplish this goal, we will articulate and embody an exceptional vision for 21st-century Christian higher education and produce graduates with the wisdom, innovation, and leadership skills required to make a difference in the world. 
      • The world needs Baylor University!
    4. I am grateful that God brought me to this place, at this time, to pursue this mission with you, the Baylor Family. Thank you and God Bless You.
    5. And now, to share a closing blessing, it is my distinct pleasure to bring up my husband, and best friend, the First Gentleman of Baylor University, Brad Livingstone.
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