A World of Good

On the occasion of her five-year anniversary as president, the Baylor Family celebrates President Livingstone's leadership and Baylor's growing impact on the world

“The world needs a place like Baylor,” Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., said Oct. 26, 2017, in her inaugural address during her installation as Baylor University’s 15th president. “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.”

That message powerfully resonated with the crowd gathered in the Ferrell Center for the ceremony to welcome the first female president in Baylor history, and it was a message whose words she immediately put into action.

Since her arrival at Baylor on June 1 of that year, President Livingstone has demonstrated that she, in turn, was exactly what Baylor needed as a leader.

During the course of her subsequent five years as president, she has steadily and selflessly guided the University through a variety of challenges — including the disruptions of a global pandemic — to a present-day position of institutional strength that is both unique in Baylor’s history and inspiring for the future.

A World Of Good

Her signature initiatives have been the Illuminate strategic plan and the Give Light philanthropic campaign. Joined together — a guiding star and the resources necessary to pursue it — they already have enabled Baylor to achieve unprecedented milestones toward becoming the preeminent Christian research university.

First, in December 2021, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education notified Baylor that the University had earned Research 1, or “R1,” status, thereby joining the circle of the nation’s elite research institutions. Only a few months later, campus leaders announced that the Give Light campaign had exceeded its initial goal of $1.1 billion. With more than 85,000 donors making gifts and pledges, the campaign had become the largest and most successful fundraising effort in the University’s 177-year history.

A Plan for Growth

Joel T. Allison, B.A. ’70, remembers seeing the promise in President Livingstone from the very beginning. Now retired, Allison was president and CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas in June 2017, when President Livingstone began her tenure as president and when he was starting the first of two terms as chair of the Baylor Board of Regents.

“There was no question in my mind that Dr. Livingstone was most qualified to be chosen as Baylor’s president and that she would be successful,” Allison says. “During her inaugural speech, she spoke with sincere and authentic enthusiasm for Baylor’s Christian mission and heritage.”

Allison believes President Livingstone’s prior experience in academic leadership and her expertise as a scholar of organizational behavior provided her with all the tools necessary to guide the University during a crucial period in Baylor’s history.

“Dr. Livingstone faced many challenges in assuming the presidency at a very difficult time,” he says. “It began with restoring trust in the leadership of the University and reuniting the Baylor Family. She clearly understood organizational dynamics and the respective roles of governance and day-to-day operations and the importance of the relationship between the chair and president.”

“I believe President Livingstone responded to the invitation to be Baylor’s President and continues to give her all to the University out of a deep sense of God calling her to this work.”

Rev. Mary Alice Birdwhistell, M.Div. ’13

In taking the reins of Baylor University, President Livingstone was returning to a place she knew well. She had invested 11 years at Baylor at the beginning of her academic career, serving as a tenured faculty member and eventually associate dean of graduate programs in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

From Waco, she had gone on to develop leadership skills in academic posts across the country, including dean and professor of management at The George Washington University School of Business and dean and professor of management at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management.

As she stated in the weeks following the announcement of her return to Baylor, she considered Baylor’s Christian mission to be an empowering and freeing force in the world of higher education. “One of our principles at a faith-based institution is the belief that all truth is God’s truth, and that truth is open to inquiry,” she said. “That gives you freedom as a scholar in a Christian institution to ask difficult questions, to investigate them and not be afraid of the answers you get.”

President Livingstone quickly began work turning her appreciation of Baylor’s distinctive mission into a plan for the University’s growth as a Christian research university at the forefront of discovery and innovation. That plan was Illuminate, which she presented to the Board of Regents in May 2018 with a promise that it would “amplify and expand our Christian commitment and position Baylor for leadership in fields of national importance.”

Illuminate, she said, would provide the framework to build on Baylor’s historic strengths and strategically invest in new areas of research and service.

Those individuals who personally knew President Livingstone could easily see the foundation of her personal faith informing her principles and priorities as Baylor’s leader during those first months on the job, as well as over the subsequent years.

“I believe President Livingstone responded to the invitation to be Baylor’s President and continues to give her all to the University out of a deep sense of God calling her to this work,” says Rev. Mary Alice Birdwhistell, M.Div. ’13, who from 2017 to 2020 served as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, where the Livingstones are members. “Even on weeks when I knew she was carrying heavy responsibilities and navigating complex situations at the University, she continued to remain centered and at peace about the work God is calling her to do at Baylor.”

Putting Christ First

To appreciate the manner by which President Livingstone has shaped Baylor’s scholarly enterprise and campus life — adding her contributions to those of preceding leaders — one need only consider the four pillars she established as foundational to the goals of Illuminate.

The first pillar, reflecting the vision of Baylor’s Baptist founders, is to foster an unambiguously Christian educational environment on campus. Baylor’s stance that a Christian worldview strengthens scholarly discovery and the preparation of students to serve as leaders in their professions and communities can be viewed as running counter to the history of many private universities that, over time, abandoned their Christian identity in pursuit of greater research activity and prestige.

However, it’s an argument Baylor is winning, according to Shirley V. Hoogstra, J.D., who serves as president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), a higher education association of more than 185 Christian institutions around the world based in Washington, D.C.

“Baylor is proving that Christian higher education is not second rate because it integrates faith and learning, but it is first rate because it allows students and faculty to inquire about the existential aspects of life, to ask the thorniest questions in the academy and to serve in the hardest spots on the planet — because of our faith not in spite of our faith,” Hoogstra says. “A Baylor education is the embodiment of what the world needs at the highest level of the American educational system — excellence without limits.”

A Place to Thrive

Baylor’s commitment to provide undergraduate students with a truly transformational education — the second pillar of Illuminate — has produced measurable results on several fronts. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Baylor’s first-year experience as number 15 in the nation, one of only three schools in the top 25 with an undergraduate enrollment greater than 10,000.

Baylor also has become well known for developing students into outstanding leaders in their academic and professional fields, with increasing numbers receiving some of the most prestigious — and competitive — scholarships, fellowships and internships at the national and international levels.

Over her career, President Livingstone has embodied such a commitment to excellence, and today she provides an inspiring example to the students she serves at Baylor, according to Kayse Shrum, D.O., who as president of Oklahoma State University has worked alongside President Livingstone on a number of issues related to the Big 12 Conference.

“If you look at her list of accomplishments in higher education, she has been decisive, bold and has made a difference as a scholar and a university leader,” says Shrum, who became the first woman to lead a public research institution in the state of Oklahoma. “I believe our roles as president of our respective institutions have made the path broader for any young girl or woman who is dreaming of leading a university.”

Dr. Shrum also happens to be at the helm of President Livingstone’s alma mater. After playing varsity basketball at OSU and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics and management, President Livingstone remained in Stillwater to earn a master’s degree in business administration in 1983 and, later, a doctorate in management and organizational behavior in 1992. She also met her future husband, Brad, when the two were fellow student-athletes there. Over the years, OSU has demonstrated its pride in President Livingstone. She was recognized in 2015 with the OSU Distinguished Alumni Award and inducted into OSU’s Hall of Fame in 2020, among other awards.

Creating a welcoming and nurturing environment in which all members of Baylor’s faculty, staff and students can thrive — and especially the more than 15,000 undergraduates who call Baylor home — has been a priority during President Livingstone’s first five years in Pat Neff Hall. That focus has expressed itself across a broad spectrum of programs and initiatives, including increasing the diversity of the student body and Baylor’s faculty.

An essential part of a supportive environment, of course, is Baylor’s physical campus. During her tenure, President Livingstone has overseen the restoration of facilities that are central to the undergraduate experience. In addition to an ongoing schedule of renovations to Baylor’s historic residence halls, in August 2021, the University celebrated the opening of the newly renovated Tidwell Bible Building, home to Baylor’s history, sociology and religion departments.

Even more conspicuous to anyone driving past the University on Interstate 35 are the ways in which the Baylor skyline is being reshaped with the support of transformational philanthropic gifts. The 120,000-square-foot Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center, whose opening is expected within a year, is a new, multi-purpose facility at the corner of I-35 and University Parks Drive that will provide an exciting new entry point to Baylor’s campus.

That landmark building soon will be joined, on the other side of the highway, by the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion, a $185 million, 245,000-square-foot facility to be located along the Brazos River. Work on Foster Pavilion, the future home of Baylor’s championship men’s and women’s basketball programs, is underway.

Bold Aspirations

“I am overjoyed to share with you some wonderful news we learned this morning,” President Livingstone wrote to the Baylor Family on December 16, 2021. “We have received notification from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education that Baylor University has achieved Research 1 status. . . . Our R1 aspirations have represented an incredible opportunity — one given to us by God — to do what very few, if any, universities have achieved: maintaining our foundational Christian mission while reaching R1 status as a top-tier research university.”

“The imprimatur of Research 1 is an automatic indicator of excellence within the higher education community.”

Ronald A. Crutcher, D.M.A. // Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education

It was a banner day for Baylor, celebrated across campus and noted by leaders in academia around the nation.

“The imprimatur of Research 1 is an automatic indicator of excellence within the higher education community,” says Ronald A. Crutcher, D.M.A., who currently serves as chair of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education (ACE), the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities.

Baylor’s achievement of R1 status can be seen as resulting from decades of dedicated work and, in particular, from the progress gained during three years under Illuminate, particularly the third of the strategic plan’s four pillars — research and scholarship marked by quality, impact and visibility.

Crutcher points to Baylor’s focus, under President Livingstone, on strengthening the quality of the faculty, as measured by scholarship and teaching excellence, and on expanding students’ academic experiences to include more research opportunities as being key elements of the University’s success.

“In my opinion, these are precisely the most significant emphases if Baylor is to become a world-class university,” says Crutcher, whose career includes serving as president of the University of Richmond and Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

As the 2021-22 academic year neared conclusion, the University had already significantly exceeded its goal for new research awards secured by faculty members, with a total of more than $56 million. In addition, the University anticipated a significant increase for the year in the number of Carnegie-recognized doctoral degrees awarded, rising from 131 last year to more than 280 by the end of May.

The growth in scholarly activity and external sources of funding for research has occurred across all of Baylor’s 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. One particular initiative, launched under President Livingstone’s leadership, has proven to be a powerful engine for such development.

Initially known as the Baylor Academic Challenge (BAC) and established in 2019 as part of a $100 million gift from Paul, B.B.A. ’79, and Alejandra Foster of El Paso — the largest current gift in University history — the initiative created a dollar-for-dollar matching program to fuel the University’s efforts to generate high-impact research and scholarship. Through the program, donors were incentivized to make gifts of $1.5 million that would then be matched to create an endowed research chair with which the University could recruit elite scholars whose research and leadership would advance Illuminate’s goals.

“I applaud Baylor and President Livingstone’s achievement,” Shrum says of the University’s R1 designation. “This distinction enhances the University’s ability to attract the very best faculty and leaders with national reputations, which spills over to the ability to recruit top graduate students to become tomorrow’s research leaders. The benefits continue down to the undergraduate level.”

A Steady Leader

The fourth of Illuminate’s pillars is “Nationally Recognized Programs in Human Performance through the Arts and Athletics.” Despite the pandemic’s effect on the performing arts and intercollegiate sports in recent years, President Livingstone has guided Baylor’s continued growth in support of artists, performers, creators, musicians and designers.

Recent achievements range from the Baylor Symphony Orchestra and Baylor’s A Cappella Choir winning The American Prize, the nation’s most comprehensive series of contests in classical arts, in 2020 to the women’s and men’s basketball teams winning NCAA championships in 2019 and 2021, respectively. During the past year, Baylor advanced 14 of 17 possible teams to NCAA postseason competition as of May, including the Big 12 Champion football team’s Sugar Bowl win to complete the best season in program history.

“President Livingstone has been a tireless worker on behalf of student-athletes and on behalf of the members of the Big 12 Conference.”

Bob Bowlsby // Commissioner of the Big 12 Conference

President Livingstone’s most prominent role has concerned NCAA governance and the University’s membership in the Big 12 Conference. As is the case within the world of higher education, Baylor’s Christian commitment distinguishes the University among top-level intercollegiate athletics. In fact, Baylor stands as one of only four faith-based universities — and the lone Baptist-affiliated school — among the 65 institutions of higher learning that comprise the Power Five conferences of the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.

In recent years, President Livingstone has become a leading figure in determining the shape of collegiate sports through her membership on several boards, such as the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and the NCAA Board of Governors. Her service as vice chair of the Big 12 Conference’s Board of Directors placed her in the spotlight during the recent speculation regarding the future health of the conference.

“President Livingstone has been a tireless worker on behalf of student-athletes and on behalf of the members of the Big 12 Conference,” says Bob Bowlsby, who has been the conference’s commissioner for a decade. “Service within the NCAA is time-consuming and highly political, and President Livingstone has quickly established herself as a strong leader on national issues and a trusted strategic analyst within the highly litigious and complicated environment of intercollegiate athletics.”

Focused on Student Success

Bowlsby attributes much of President Livingstone’s success to the work ethic she developed playing basketball. “Dr. Livingstone brings an athlete’s tenacity and perseverance to her work as Baylor’s president, in her participation in the governance of the Big 12 Conference and in her service at the national level,” he says.

Perhaps it’s that same competitive spirit that continues pushing President Livingstone forward as she guides Baylor toward new achievements. “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,” she recently wrote. “Our full potential remains to be discovered.”

“We can be very thankful Dr. Livingstone answered God’s call to come to Baylor.”

Joel T. Allison, B.A. '70 // Former Chair, Baylor Board of Regents

Building on the successes of her first five years, President Livingstone has established several priorities for the immediate future as the University enters the next phase of Illuminate. One of those is hiring 100 new faculty members over the next five years
to strengthen the University’s academic enterprise.

According to Jerry K. Clements, J.D. ’81, — who served on the Baylor Board of Regents for several years, including a term as chair from 2019 to 2020, and is chair emeritus of Locke Lord LLP in Austin — President Livingstone’s focus on the success and well-being of Baylor students and her personal genuineness have formed the cornerstones of her success.

“I have always been so impressed with the way Dr. Livingstone treats people,” Clements says. “I have walked across the campus with her many times and watched her interact with students, faculty and staff. Her kindness is evident and she communicates from her heart.”

Clements and her fellow former Regent chair Allison agree that Baylor has thrived under President Livingstone’s leadership in a truly remarkable manner.

“She cares deeply about Baylor and the Baylor Family,” Clements says. “When you combine that quality with her extraordinary leadership skills — a rare combination in my experience — her success over the last five years is not surprising.”

Allison echoes those sentiments. “Baylor is blessed to have Dr. Livingstone as our president. She is truly a servant leader in every way,” he says. “We can be very thankful Dr. Livingstone answered God’s call to come to Baylor.”