An Upward Trajectory

Four years ago, in May 2018, I presented a strategic plan to the Baylor University Board of Regents that promised we would work across the University to “amplify and expand our Christian commitment and position Baylor for leadership in fields of national importance.” To provide the resources necessary for achieving the plan’s objectives, I added, we would launch a multi-year comprehensive philanthropic campaign that fall.

That strategic plan’s name is Illuminate. In complementary fashion, the fundraising effort was given the name Give Light.

Today, due to the dedication of our faculty and unwavering support of the Baylor Family, tremendous progress has been made on our goals. We are poised for even greater impact on the lives of our students, our community and the surrounding world.

Remarkable Achievements

Allow me to briefly recount how our progress unfolded.

In December 2021, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education notified Baylor that we had achieved Research 1 status. This was the result of a strong commitment among our faculty, much strategic planning and collaborative work across the University to join the nation’s top research institutions as a doctoral university with very high research activity and as a preeminent Christian research university.

Being one of 146 R1 universities nationwide, only 39 of which are private institutions, Baylor now shines as a place where faculty can combine their Christian faith with their top-tier research aspirations, and where they can work alongside undergraduates and graduate students to prepare the next generation of leaders and scholars. Additionally, our R1 status elevates the institutional opportunities to join others across the country and around the world to bring a Christian voice to the table as leading universities tackle societal challenges.

As the new year dawned, we had even more exciting news to share.

In early February, Baylor announced that gifts and pledges to the Give Light campaign had exceeded our initial goal of $1.1 billion, establishing this campaign as the largest and most successful fundraising effort in the University’s 177-year history.

And Counting …

Everyone knows that a plan means precious little unless it is embraced by the community within which it is rooted.

It is abundantly clear that the Baylor Family embraced both our Illuminate strategic plan and the Give Light campaign. Consider that more than 80,000 donors participated in making a pledge or gift. That is the size of a proper city!

It is certainly true — and offers a great reason for celebration — that these two achievements are unprecedented in our history.

It is also true that they are just the beginning of what we can achieve together.

Reaching R1 status and raising $1.1 billion are milestones on an even greater journey — one that will continue toward new horizons as the Baylor Family grows ever stronger. Our full potential remains to be discovered.

That is why we are building upon the momentum of recent achievements as we adopt the mindset of “Give Light ... and counting.” Our challenge is to remain focused on such priorities as the Illuminate Chair Matching Program and scholarship support through the Hord Scholarship Challenge and the Trailblazer Scholars Program.

In addition, the framework for the next five years of Illuminate envisions continued growth, including the hiring of 100 new faculty over this time, further accelerating the University’s academic enterprise.

The Baylor Family’s Strength

God has truly blessed Baylor over the decades and especially during recent years. The greatest of those blessings, of course, is the spirit of the Baylor Family. It is our people — the students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents and friends — who make Baylor a Christian institution and the collective vision and passion of our people that allow the University to achieve excellence.

In Hebrews, we are reminded that we should “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” [10:24-25 ESV].

Every person throughout the Baylor Family is called to encourage one another. This mutual encouragement is key to our success, with each of us forming an essential component of our collective endeavor to shine our light ever brighter and to change the world for the glory of God.