Why the world needs Baylor

September 30, 2011

When we asked readers in our last issue to answer one simple question -- "Why does the world need Baylor?" -- we really didn't know what kinds of responses we would get. We were pleased to hear from every part of the Baylor family: alumni (young and old), faculty, staff, parents and even current students. And while many referenced Baylor's distinct place as a university that combines strong Christian faith with rigorous academics and research, that wasn't the only message we heard. The following pages give you a glimpse into how some of your fellow Bears responded.

Our nation is in desperate, critical need of citizens and leaders who have integrity, moral strength, a life of faith, a lack of greed and the courage to act. Baylor has always produced (and should continue to produce) students with these attributes who go out into the world seeking to make a difference.

Norman L. Roberts Jr., BA '50, and Mary Karolyn Ball Roberts, BS '51

Little Rock, Ark. // ALUMni

I transferred to Baylor my sophomore year. When making that difficult decision, I visited Baylor around Easter time. I remember a Baylor guy carrying an Easter basket filled with goodies to his car. Where I was a student, I couldn't think of any young men I knew who would care about children or reaching out to the community beyond our school. At Baylor, students cared. Baylor nurtures and encourages her students to find God's call and listen to it.

This world needs a Christian Harvard. Very few schools can unashamedly research issues pertinent to the Christian world, like the effects of short-term mission trips on students who take part. As a nation that is moving away from its Christian heritage, Baylor shines as a beacon of light as an institution that proudly carries the torch into the future.

My own family's roots are strongly tied to Baylor. I was the 18th of my family to go to Baylor, and I want the same for my boys, ages 4, 4 (twins) and 2. I married an Aggie, so the competition is on to see the choice they'll make, but my family prays they'll make the right choice. And that they'll each marry a Baylor girl.

My life is better thanks to the influence of Baylor University. My prayer is that students for generations to come will find who they are in Christ and spread God's light into this world, flinging their green and gold afar.

Laura Bedwell Cummins, BA '00

Weatherford, Texas // ALUM

In a vast, flat landscape, there is little diversity. If instead the landscape is dotted with mountains and valleys, each of these isolated refuges allows for new species to develop, and the total level of diversity becomes far higher. Baylor has set a direction that differs from both the mass culture around us and from the culture found at the great majority of other universities. Our students get to experience the unique Christian community at Baylor at a critical time in their intellectual and spiritual formation. They find lifelong friends and perhaps a spouse in this wonderful community. They grow their roots before they move back into "standard" culture. I also think our faculty are able to benefit from this unique Christian place by developing new ideas that might not be valued elsewhere.

Dr. Christopher Kearney

Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences (Biology) // PROFESSOR

Baylor exemplifies the values of tradition and loyalty. Like many Waco High School graduates, I wanted to LEAVE HOME! That meant I broke the tradition of a family with 15 Baylor graduates in the past three generations. My husband and I ended up in Oklahoma, so our two children LEFT HOME and went to Baylor.

Baylor stepped up to the plate with excellent scholarships that enabled them to get a superior education. Our daughter received her master's in accounting, and our son is back at Baylor working on his doctorate in political science.

The pleasure and security given by reconnecting families for generations cannot be exaggerated. The Baylor tradition plays out in the loyalties of alums to each other, the university's support to its alums, and their alums' support of Baylor. Those entwining cords make a safety net for relationships, jobs and opportunities that few universities can match.

Judy Kimbriel Odom

Lawton, Okla. // PARENT

Baylor University can be significant for the world if it successfully accomplishes three things that it's been attempting ever since I studied there in the latter 1970s. It must continue its commitment to the goal of being a great teaching institution. It must strengthen its commitment to the goal of being a great research institution. It must maintain its commitment to the goal of being a great Christian institution. Holding to these three will not be easy, for the tendency of other Protestant Christian universities, as they have developed into significant, respected centers of education, has been to lose their focus as Christian institutions, eventually secularizing themselves. Some might say that the attempt to reach the highest intellectual levels while remaining Christian is like trying to square the circle, for intellectual inquiry is an open-ended search for truth, whereas Christian doctrine is grounded in an unchanging revelation of truth. If Baylor can manage to do this, and also continue as a great center of teaching, then it has something significant to offer the world.

Horace Jeffery Hodges, BA '79

Seoul, South Korea // ALUM

After coming to Baylor for graduate school, I discovered that it offers the best of what I had previously experienced at other universities: a broad offering of academic disciplines, top-tier faculty, a beautiful campus with first-rate facilities, a large student body consisting of highly intelligent and engaged individuals, nationally recognized athletics, and a nucleus of Christ-centered staff, faculty and students.

Baylor is a place of honest inquiry; a place where faith and ideas converge; a place where one's head and heart can be, if one is willing, engaged together in the way, I believe, God intended. Why does the world need Baylor? Because Baylor is the only university in the country that offers the depth and variety of educational experiences one expects from a large research institution while fostering a vibrant Christian community one would expect to find only at a much smaller university. In the pursuit of excellence, I hope and pray that Baylor never loses its unique identity.

Jamie Duerksen, MM '04, MDiv '04

Waco, Texas // ALUM

Baylor is needed to instill the call of missional living with education, needed to be the catalyst for helping students understand God's call to serve others with their lives and careers.

Katie Sanders, expected BA '12

Forney, Texas // CURRENT STUDENT

What is Baylor's place in the world? It is a place where academics and religion do not merely coexist but support one another. The Spirit drives our inquisitive minds to seek out truth, and the truth we find illuminates more of God's character. Faith adds meaning and context to the knowledge learned in the classroom. Thus, knowledge is not an end in itself, but a means to allow us to more fully participate in God's work here on Earth. I hope that Baylor continues to be a place where the union of academics and faith is held in high regard.

Robert Kent, BA '09

Dallas, Texas // ALUM

Some will say Baylor is important to the world as a religious university. But my feelings about Baylor are much larger than religion. It has produced, sponsored and welcomed great thinkers, teachers and others who have and continue to share their many talents through the generations to those who are drawn to Baylor for so many varied reasons. I see the general atmosphere of Baylor as a big, friendly family whose members are comforting but not smothering. Some smaller schools can feel stifling in their attempts to be nurturing. Some larger schools can seem unwelcoming in their desire to be everything to everyone.

Alice Simons, BS '62

Corpus Christi, Texas // ALUM/PARENT

There is a very distinct sense of pride alumni feel as they walk on the campus, come back for Homecoming, or even listen to a performance by the Baylor School of Music. It is a special university, and there is nowhere else like it in the world. You instantly feel at home at Baylor even if you have only been there for a day. It is prestigious yet welcoming, and it invites people of all different backgrounds to learn and to succeed. The world needs Baylor because it is truly amazing in everything that it produces: the relationships, the hope, the faith and the love. Without Baylor, the world would not be as great of a place, and there would be thousands of people who would be lost without a place to call their home. Baylor is a necessary part of my life, and I know so many people who feel exactly the same way. Baylor University has the power to better the world. It already has, and it will always continue to do so.

Vanessa Custable, BA '11, MSW expected '13

Grapevine, Texas // ALUM // CURRENT STUDENT

Baylor is needed because the world needs a place of learning where true Christianity is presented in light of today's cultural challenges.

David Watts

Grapevine, Texas // PARENT

Baylor is a community that inspires growth spiritually, mentally and physically. It is a place that kids dream of attending with great anticipation and enthusiasm. It draws students in, nurtures and educates them, and sends them out into the world. They leave Baylor in a physical sense, but Baylor goes with them and remains a part of who they are. Relationships are continued that began on campus, and new ones are forged with the common denominator being Baylor. Our family is proud to have a daughter, son and son-in-law who have graduated; a daughter presently attending; and a daughter anticipating attending. Baylor defines so much of what our graduates do and who they are. They look forward to Homecoming and games. They raise their children to love and respect Baylor and its rich traditions. They even turn their parents who had no previous ties to Baylor into loyal fans! Sic 'em, Bears!

Kim Wink

Sioux City, Iowa // PARENT

As a professor of marketing at Baylor, I offer a marketing perspective: The world needs Baylor because it fulfills otherwise unmet needs for a research-tier academic program with the freedom and mission to express a relatively more conservative and Christian worldview within a marketplace that is overly-saturated with liberal secularism.

Dr. Brennan Davis

Baylor's Hankamer School of Business (Marketing) // PROFESSOR

The world needs Baylor because it has abundant resources to support relationships that reach around the block to around the globe. Schools few and far between are full of encouraging, Christian professors and staff who make it their mission to develop each student. Each person associated with Baylor in any way is provided with initiatives and opportunities that have a positive impact and reshape our communities, businesses, personal relationships, religion and morals. The world needs Baylor because anyone who walks through its doors will not leave unaffected.

Krista Friedman, BFA '08

San Antonio, Texas // ALUM

Baylor offers a variety of diverse options within a well-defined and practiced set of Christian core values. Very few colleges have the strength to offer both.

Don Horner

Honolulu, Hawaii // PARENT

The world needs Baylor because so many people love to call Baylor their "home." I vividly remember the day that I first called my apartment at Baylor my home. Baylor is such a unique place and differentiates itself from other schools by providing a loving and friendly atmosphere while also incorporating strong academics and learning opportunities.

Emily Fuller, expected BBA '12

Orlando, Fla. // CURRENT STUDENT

The world needs Baylor because the world needs major Christian research universities. The world needs major Christian research universities because important issues confronting the world such as poverty, war and peace, human rights, environmental sustainability, gender roles and family structure ought to be approached, at least in part, from Christian vantage points. Economics and sociology can tell us much about how we should respond to poverty, but so can the Sermon on the Mount.

While we often employ Christ's teachings to motivate good works for the poor, our faith seldom motivates considerations of tax rates, subsidized housing and migrant worker policies -- poverty-related issues that seem better left to experts, experts well-trained at the finest universities in the world, experts who typically see little connection between religious faith and academic learning. University of Virginia Professor James Davison Hunter recently spoke on the Baylor campus and noted that while most Americans claim to be Christian, the demonstrable influence of Christianity is negligible. I regrettably agree with Professor Hunter. If our faith has meaning, then surely it ought to have meaning for issues that affect so much of humanity.

The banishment of Christianity from the elite universities of the United States is a well-documented historical fact. For example, Brown and Chicago were once Baptist universities. Those of us who believe a Baptist heritage can inform a Protestant, free-church approach to life should also recognize that it can also inform the life of the mind. The world needs a top-tier research university that is not only unapologetically Christian, but one that demonstrates to the world that being Baptist or Protestant or Christian does not mean an institution that is academically mediocre, but demonstrates conclusively that a Christian commitment requires scholarship at the highest levels of quality. If Baylor does not do this, there is no other Protestant university that can.

The notion that Christians can love God with their minds, that we can be actively engaged in the world of ideas -- the essence and witness of Baylor -- is enhanced each time one of our faculty publishes an article in a major journal, receives a prestigious award, or wins a competitive grant -- each time Baylor proves, by the criteria of the academy, that faith and learning can reinforce one another. My fellow deans' work with their Baylor colleagues provides compelling examples of our potential. Arts and Sciences Dean Lee Nordt's study of hunter-gatherers living in Texas over 15,000 years ago was recently published in Science and makes it difficult for critics to claim a Christian university can't do important scientific research. Social Work Dean Diana Garland has pioneered the acceptance of religion in social work and continually receives national coverage for her research on churches, showing the relevance of a research university to Christian outreach. Honors College Dean Tom Hibbs regularly reviews books and movies for major newspapers and magazines, demonstrating that being a Christian can add to one's cultural relevance rather than subtracting from it.

Though it is desperately needed now, we have a long way to go if we want to give the world a true Christian research university -- a university that will help educate a new generation of leaders who see no need to separate their faith from their decision making -- a university whose Christian scholars will create new science, art and literature recognized as excellent by secular standards. It will take time, sacrifice and commitment. If it were easy, there would be many Christian research universities, and the singular importance of Baylor to the world would be neither as singular nor as important.

Dr. Larry Lyon, BA '71

Vice provost and dean of Baylor's Graduate School // ALUM // PARENT // PROFESSOR

The world needs Baylor because it is a unique and remarkable university. It combines impressive academics with tons of fun-filled college life and a true Christian background. I cherish my time at Baylor and brag about my alma mater to anyone who will listen. I am so proud to say that I attended a university as impressive as Baylor, and I hope that students will continue to be "Baylor proud" for generations to come!

Jenn Allen, BSN '06

Kingwood, Texas // ALUM

At its best, Baylor supplies the world with well-rounded, informed, equipped professionals who carry the love of Christ into that world through their actions as well as their words. Like no other training ground, Baylor has the potential to raise up leaders, world-changers, who serve God with all their heart, mind and strength. It has the potential to teach them not only in the classroom, but through community, mentorships and practical experience. I learned as much through my time one-on-one with professors, leading student organizations, presenting and debating my area of research with my peers, gaining real work experience in my career field in student publications and actively participating in my church's college ministry as I did in lectures or exams. Those are the moments that Baylor changed my life, strengthened my faith and helped me fulfill my calling.

Jenna DeWitt, BA '11

Hoover, Ala. // ALUMv

Baylor offers a variety of diverse options within a well-defined and practiced set of Christian core values. Very few colleges have the strength to offer both.

Don Horner

Honolulu, Hawaii // PARENT

Baylor is the premier Baptist University in the world. It is the leader in equipping students to not only excel in their career fields, but to do so in an ethical manner that honors God. The world needs more men and women who stand strong in their Christian faith and use it as motivation to change the world with their gifts, talents and training. The world not only needs Baylor University, but needs more Christian institutions of higher learning like Baylor.

Baylor is unique because it is one of the few schools that offer the medical humanities major. This major integrates the science of medicine with the practice of medicine. It goes beyond the diagnostics and treatments to the relationships with people and holistic impact in their whole lives. This major offers prospective health care professionals a well-rounded education, in agreement with the mission of Baylor University. As a medical humanities student, I am grateful to Baylor for this unique major and the training I have received from its courses, in preparation for becoming a medical doctor and for fulfilling my calling to be a medical missionary.

David Lau, expected BA '12

Orinda, Calif. // CURRENT STUDENT

Our instruction manual (the Bible) informs us as believers in Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Many academic organizations may prepare a student for a career, but Baylor's charge along with that should be a foundation and source for life and the hereafter. To be a part of a university that encourages faith, prayer and fellowship will nourish souls through possible hard times when education alone may fall short.

In these days there has become more of a need to pray, but fewer folks willing to do so. We must stand strong and proud of the fact that we reside in a country that constitutionally guarantees freedom of religion, and we must celebrate through our witness by loving all and judging none... With this responsibility in mind, as a Christian university, the world needs Baylor.

Rhonda King

Office manager, Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences (Biology) // STAFF

These days, it's a round of car horns blaring six floors below that act as my morning alarm. On my way to class, I scurry past government officials, Musee d'Orsay visitors and street vendors. Just a few blocks from school, I catch a glimpse of La Tour Eiffel. I am most certainly not at Baylor anymore.

I knew after graduating from Baylor in May 2010 that I wanted something big. My four undergraduate years at Baylor had filled my heart and life to the brim, and it was this fullness that now pushed me to go somewhere else. I often liken moving to Paris to jumping off a cliff. I couldn't see exactly where I was going, but the thrill of the possibilities was enough. My Baylor experience, together with my family, friends and faith, were what helped me find my footing when I reached that Parisian ground.

I've always understood that growing up in the Bible Belt meant being surrounded with a greater ratio of Christians. However, it wasn't until I moved out of the belt that I saw with clarity the reality of the situation: the world can be a dark place. At my current university where I am studying for a master's degree in communications, there are no campus-wide worship services, no real acclamations of faith, and no mentions of Jesus Christ -- unless you're counting swears. What my experience abroad has given me is a vast appreciation for the environment Baylor provides.

The world needs Baylor because there is no other place quite like it. I suspected this in my time as a student, but now know it to be truth. For me, Baylor was a sanctuary -- a place to guide me from home into the great wide world. In a world where many people think Christianity is a joke, a university full of creative, bright, engaging young people willing to live for Jesus is a precious rarity.

Paris has been called the "City of Light" for centuries, but for me, Baylor is a true place of light. Baylor unashamedly places its beliefs center stage for the world to see. For better and for worse, Baylor doesn't skirt around its identity as a Christian university, and that is exactly why the world needs us.

Caitlin Rodgers, BA '10

Fort Worth/Paris // ALUM