Faithful Steward

June 16, 2010

He has a million things to do, but for now, he's not in a hurry. As he moves through campus on his way to the next of countless appointments during a typical day, he is recognized -- and stopped -- practically every few steps of the way. From faculty to students to staff, he pauses for a moment with each, giving full attention to the conversation at hand, personally engaging with every question, comment and concern, and not once glancing down at his wristwatch. Such have been the last 21 months under the leadership of Interim President Dr. David E. Garland who, on June 1, returned to full-time duties as the dean of Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
Those who've had a chance to visit, live or work on Baylor's campus during the past two years tell of a long-missed and much-welcomed aura growing there, and it's widely attributed to his leadership. It's a unity, a genuine sense of caring and a deeply-held love of the university, all brought to life and infused by Garland throughout the Baylor faithful, and beyond, during his tenure as chief administrator.
"He didn't worry about being 'presidential,' but at the same time, just coasting along until permanent leadership was chosen was never something he embodied," says Interim Provost Dr. Elizabeth Davis, BBA '84. "Unity and calm don't come from always doing what everybody likes. They come from making the best decisions you can with the information you have and considering all the perspectives, without causing any harm. You can do that when you have a spirit of listening, of valuing colleagues' recommendations and, finally, knowing at the end of the day you have made the right decision for Baylor and have helped people to understand it."
Garland's unflappable character and unquestioned integrity, earned through a pastoral and theological career spanning decades, made the Truett Seminary dean a perfect choice for the vacancy in the president's office back in 2008. Baylor Board of Regents Chairman R. Dary Stone, JD '77, said the only surprise he encountered from Garland was the "seamless and effortless" relationships that became immediately defined, both with the Regents and the faculty, as Garland took over his new post.
"He did not have to go out and develop a reputation," Stone says. "He brought that, basically, from day one. It was well-understood on campus and with the Board as well. There was never, ever, any time in two years, not for a moment, when there was any tension, any raised eyebrows or any concern over how [Garland] was dealing with a critical issue. There was always a presumption of faith among all those with whom he interacted at Baylor."
Having served as interim pastor to more than 60 congregations during his career, Garland, in his own words, had "no doubts" about accepting Baylor's highest administrative position after a period of thoughtfulness and prayer. He called his interim presidency "not terribly different" from interim pastoring, just "on a larger scale."
Coming from within their own ranks, Garland was a familiar face among faculty, and the experience he brought as Truett's dean made him no stranger to helming an academic enterprise. Still, he would face his share of large-scale challenges as president. But Garland trusted the calling and committed himself for however long he would be asked to serve.
"It became very clear to me what the priorities needed to be and the tasks that were set before me, but I don't think it's the job of an interim to set the course," he says. "The university has a wonderful vision in Baylor 2012, and there was no reason to change that. My priority was to attempt to implement it as much as possible, and I believe Baylor has made enormous strides in fulfilling that vision."
His colleagues would agree, practically unanimously. It's almost palpable, many have said, the unity of purpose Baylor now embraces in moving forward. Garland's presidency has provided refreshing proof of what can be accomplished when the first priority is focused on people.
"He is one of those great servant-leaders on campus," says Chief of Staff Dr. Karla Leeper, who went on to describe Garland's enthusiasm for heading weekly executive council meetings and the Dr Pepper hours he attended regularly to meet, interact with and hear the concerns of students. "He's a great scholar, a great teacher, a great administrator. He's one of those unique people with skills that translate across a variety of contexts."
Dr. Dennis Myers, BA '68, Faculty Senate chair and associate dean in Baylor's School of Social Work, echoed the servanthood Garland personifies, along with his ability to touch all levels of Baylor's constituencies.
"When a person has a deep sense of fairness and truthfulness, it's a part of who they are," Myers says. "Their decisions, in general, will flow out of the value base that's there, that empathy and heart for people, particularly those beyond the margin. [Dr. Garland] is aware, pays attention and genuinely listens to all people his decisions affect, even those who are not necessarily in power."
Myers, who works alongside Garland's wife Diana, herself the dean of Baylor's School of Social Work, also credited David Garland with a very measurable form of success as university president.
"Peace, alone, doesn't necessarily go very far in evaluating a leader. Where we are economically in the life of the institution is, in my opinion, the number one accomplishment from a faculty perspective," he explains. "You don't have to go very far to hear or read about what's happening to many of the academic institutions in the country regarding the elimination of faculty positions and budget cuts. Our enrollment is full; we have a waiting list. This year we're giving pay increases. Where does credit for that belong? In my view, it belongs to the office of the president."
Confidence in the president's office grew around Garland, flourishing all over campus and even across Waco. Garland navigated difficult issues with patience, made hard decisions with grace and, ultimately, set a course for the continuation of Baylor's vision to "...integrate academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community."
"The university is like our sister, our closest relative," says former Waco Mayor and Baylor alumnae Virginia DuPuy, BA '56, MA '62. "Under [Garland's] leadership I have seen a huge commitment to our city through both financial support and encouragement of the Greater Waco Education Alliance, support of our summits with various [university] departments and an overall interaction that is just very healthy, positive and confident right now. He has been an intelligent, wise leader during a critical juncture in Baylor and Waco's history."
Garland's interim term was marked by great strides of relationship-building, surviving and thriving amid a recession, and the bringing together of campus and community. But it didn't arrive there through any lack of future-altering decisions, thanks to the leadership coming out of Pat Neff Hall.
"It is paramount for the president of a major university to recognize how much of an economic and cultural influence the campus has on the city," explains Waco Tribune-Herald editor Carlos Sanchez. "Dr. Garland gets it. He has always been accessible to the community-at-large, and the culmination of the BRIC [Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative] agreement will be part of his legacy, a testament to the fact that he understood the importance of the town-and-gown dynamic."
Indeed, history will shine most brightly on Garland when asked who was in office when the BRIC became a reality. As many, including Garland himself, will point out, the project was in the works years before his term began, but the ushering in of possibly the most significant Baylor-Waco initiative since the university moved its home to the heart of Texas in 1885 falls at Garland's feet.
Vice Provost for Research and Professor of Physics Dr. Truell Hyde, MS '80, PhD '88, largely the architect and mastermind behind the BRIC, remembers the short-lived uncertainty he felt when the new president took over midway through the BRIC's research and discovery process.
"When you're an interim, it's risky to go out on a limb and allow large projects to continue," he says. "Anything of this magnitude takes a multitude of people to make it happen, but it is always the president who is the ultimate decision maker -- he can make it or break it. The fact that [Dr. Garland] was willing to step up to the plate and allow it to go forward; well, that's a big deal. He entrusted us with his support and let us know we wouldn't have to start over, shut down or change our direction."
Garland is repeatedly lauded for his insight into the balance between delegation and oversight. Fulfilling a dual role since 2008, he guided the university as a whole while not losing sight of his role as dean of Truett Seminary. And while his initially-frenetic pace of maintaining a weekly presence at the seminary's chapel services was forced to let up in light of his presidential responsibilities, he was able to turn over much of his day-to-day involvement to a trusted and capable group of colleagues there.
"He remained deeply involved at Truett," says Dr. Dennis Tucker, the seminary's associate dean. "One of the things we decided very early on was that he would remain fully informed about everything going on at the seminary. The reason it went so well is that we have a great faculty and administrative staff, and he has a great trust in them. The only thing we lamented during this time was the absence of his collegiality, which as a tight-knit staff, was greatly missed. The fact is, as interim president he was required to frequently step back and think about the big picture. Those kinds of abilities have been enhanced because of his experience, and I think we'll be the beneficiaries of the skills that he's continued to develop."
Garland, as president, possessed ultimate responsibility for countless areas within the university, but he proved himself anything but an absentee leader. In addition to her roles as vice president for information technology and dean of university libraries, Pattie Orr also heads up the university's sustainability program, relying on a small paid staff and a volunteer force of hundreds. Under her supervision and, ultimately, the support of the president's office, Baylor has increased its recycling efforts by more than 200 tons per year in less than three years.
"None of it could have happened if we didn't have someone from every key group [on campus] participating, and that participation doesn't happen without the support and encouragement of our highest campus leadership," Orr says. "Dr. Garland does a huge amount of work behind the scenes, and he's shown me that sustainability is something that's very important to him. He demonstrates a real interest in what we're doing, what we're focusing on, and that is so encouraging to faculty, staff and students."
Outgoing Student Body President Jordan Hannah, BA '10, says Garland fulfilled well the expectation of a university president to be in "constant dialogue" with students. From monthly meetings with student body officers to speaking engagements at Student Senate, Hannah noted a special accessibility to President Garland.
"Students often comment on how they see Dr. Garland walking across campus to and from meetings, and that he takes time to stop and speak to students," he says. "From the student body perspective, Dr. Garland has been an advocate for increased student influence in university decision-making. He understands the importance of making sure different groups at Baylor are properly represented and heard."
As the annals close on Garland's presidency, the enormous accomplishments of one student group in particular will appear in bold on the list of successes under his watch. The winning performance of both the men's and women's basketball programs at an NCAA level turned the nation's eye on Baylor and, if only for a moment, its president-turned-superfan.
"You couldn't ask for a better and more supportive president than David Garland has been for our team. I'm proud to share the credit for our success with him," says head men's basketball coach Scott Drew. "His basketball IQ is off the charts," Drew adds with a laugh, "and from what I've been told, even the officials sometimes got to hear what he thought. I hope he knows that if he ever gets bored at Truett, there's always a spot on the bench with our coaching staff."
Garland turned over his office (and, regrettably he says, his front-row parking space at the Ferrell Center) to incoming president Judge Ken Starr in June. The transition began after Starr's appointment was announced in February, and as Leeper, Garland's self-described point guard, noted, Garland's presidency has left Baylor in a very good place for its 14th president to begin a game plan of his own.
"The first big task of the next president is to figure out what comes next in the university's vision," Leeper says. "[Dr. Garland's] work in creating a great environment on campus is the first step in making that possible. A campus that's united and moving in the same direction, sharing a vision and excited about the future, is exactly the kind of environment in which new leadership can be successful in having those important discussions."
In the meantime, Garland is preparing not for a vacation but, according to him, a "change of work venue" before coming home to Truett, refreshed and re-energized...and with no shortage of supporters, old and new.
"It is his relationship with Jesus Christ that has molded and shaped his attitude, his maturity and his heart," Stone says. "That's where we really benefited as a university. Everything you can think of biblically that would describe a leader -- slow to anger, discerning, committed to service -- he is. And his leadership is still needed, perhaps from a different pulpit, but he will remain an important person within the Baylor family for a long, long time to come."