Remarks by K. Sarah-Jane Murray

October 13, 2003

Dear friends, faculty members, staff and alumni of Baylor University,

Over the past few weeks, a number of questions and concerns have been raised about the hiring and interview process at Baylor, in particular, under the leadership of President Robert B. Sloan. My purpose today is not to debate the merits or the unworthiness of such allegations. I would, however, like to share with you just a little of my own Baylor experience, as limited as that might yet be.

I'm now a new Baylor (junior) faculty member. I just completed by PhD in the Department of Romance Languages at Princeton University last April. It's a real exciting time in my life: I finally get to share with my students my passion--and, I hope, pass a little of it on to them. By the first of January last year, I had been called to six interviews. In the months that followed, I traveled to five university campuses throughout the U.S. My interview at Baylor was both pleasant and intellectually stimulating. In many ways, it set the standards by which I was to judge all of my other interviews. Everyone I spoke with here was eager to learn more about me and my work. At all times, I sensed that here, on this beautiful campus, I would be encouraged to be me. It was what I, as Sarah-Jane, had to offer--in all my complexities--that interested Baylor. You see, I was born in Northern Ireland. I was baptized Methodist, raised Episcopalian (on my father's side) and, for the better part of my childhood, I was educated in private (i.e. Catholic) school in France. I have often attended--and been welcomed by--my husband's Baptist church in Columbus, GA. I respect the preacher of that church so much that last summer, my husband and I asked him to perform our marriage ceremony (in the interdenominational--once Presbyterian--chapel on Princeton's campus). I have not yet been able to resolve how I fit with that "one particular kind of person" Baylor is supposedly trying to hire. I try to imagine what the box or pigeonhole might look like .... It would surely be a very large box, and I suspect that it couldn't have any corners.

This semester is off to a great start: my students are engaging, intelligent (like all of us sometimes in need of a little push), but they're working hard, and we're having so much fun exploring medieval poems and narratives. The aged, oft-forgotten books are coming to life: for me and for them. It's because of those students that I'm sharing these thoughts with you today. I believe that we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. We're all here for the same reason: so that out students are prepared to go out into the world and make a difference, because of their time here at Baylor. These times will surely test all of our characters. May we emerge strong, united, and even more firmly committed to our lives as scholar-teachers. So I thank the vision--a vision--actively articulated by Robert B. Sloan, yet prepared at the request of Baylor's Board of Regents, and in consultation with the faculty, alumni and students of Baylor University--for bringing me to this great place. I shudder to think of how much I would have missed out on if I had not come to Waco, TX and met the Baylor Bears.

You can probably tell that I am excited to be at Baylor. But why, you wonder, did I come here? I chose to come to Baylor because of the vast potential this great institution has to offer, and the motivated leadership demonstrated by Robert B. Sloan, David L. Jeffrey, and Baylor's Board of Regents. A year ago, I didn't know where Baylor was. I couldn't have pointed it out on a map, and I had never considered applying for a position here, Waco,TX. I thought to myself, where is that? BU then, something caught my eye: a vision ... a vision for excellence ... a vision seeking to offer our Baylor students they very best education we can give them whilst taking into account the ways in which the 21st century world rapidly changes and evolves. All of this without negating, or even ignoring, our Christian heritage. Baylor's vision certainly does not negate the past, nor suggest that the future will somehow be "better than" or "superior to" the Baylor that was here long before I set foot upon the steps of Pat Neff Hall. Let me explain. The great 12th century teacher, Bernard of Chartres, had an analogy he urged his students in the Cathedral School of Chartres to understand. I would now like to share his words with you. He said that we, the moderns, are dwarves compared to the giants of the past. But we are seated on their shoulders. And thanks to those great shoulders, we can hope to see just a little bit further than the giants ever could. To be sure, the past is indispensable to Baylor's future; just as Baylor's future will commemorate, and continue to celebrate, Baylor's past. Rest assured, the Baylor you love--the Baylor I am growing to love and beginning to be a part of--is alive and well. I am honored to have joined this great Christian university under the leadership of President Robert B. Sloan.

With very best wishes,

K. Sarah-Jane Murray, Assistant Professor of Medieval Literature and French.