Baylor University

The Stewardship of a 'Grand Jewel:' A Q&A with Dr. Kenneth Hall

Jan. 25, 2013

Dr. Kenneth L. Hall, president emeritus of Buckner International, joined the President's leadership team as senior vice president for University development and strategic initiatives Jan. 1.

Hall has served as a member of the Baylor Board of Regents and as chair of the board's Development, Marketing and Communications Committee. In 2009, Hall was appointed chair of the 10-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee that assisted with the successful selection in 2010 of Judge Ken Starr as Baylor's 14th president. Hall has also participated in a presidential task force to examine the advancement of the University's institutional interests and as a member of the Honors College Advisory Council.

BaylorNews sat down with Dr. Hall to discuss his decision to join the Executive Council at Baylor and what role faculty and staff can play in fundraising and development.

Q: After two decades at Buckner, you recently retired. What pulled you so quickly back into the workforce?

A: I'll always remember the phone call I got on a Sunday afternoon in February. Judge Starr said, "Ken, We need your help. Can you consult with us? We're launching a stadium initiative. We've got the scholarship initiative. There are so many important initiatives that we need our people to know about and help with. You have tremendous experience raising resources and helping people see how they can support an organization's areas of greatest need. Can you help us?" And I said, "Well, of course, Judge, I'll be glad to volunteer my time."

As a new regent, I started spending a lot of time in Waco helping Development and working with other constituency groups at the University. Immediately, I was named chair of the Development, Marketing and Communications sub-committee of the Board. Then in October, I was asked to consider a staff leadership role. I think Baylor University is one of the greatest assets of the Kingdom enterprise. This grand jewel that God blessed on the prairies of Texas has much to give to the world. It seemed important to say, "yes."

Q: You have been quoted many times describing your work as a calling. Can you tell us how Baylor fits into your life's calling?

A: I see Baylor as a unique laboratory for proving out the totality of the gospel. Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, relationally - this is a place and an entity that can deal with the whole of a being. And it's not just for students; it's for faculty, it's for staff, it's for our alums. It's for all of those with whom we relate. We use the terms "Baylor Family" and "Baylor Nation" a lot, and those really are very good description of what we are.

We are a people - not because we all have degrees and not because we all were here at the same time. There is something in our "connectedness" that allows us to impact the world, and I think there's a stewardship of that - that all of us as Baylor family have a responsibility to share this. There's a great Greek word called koinonia that talks about relationship and fellowship. What better place than the life of a Christian university to illustrate that relationship? It's not about location. It's not about buildings. It's about a state of being. It can be at a football game when we're running on the field because we're excited about beating Kansas State, or in the silence of a study carrel when a friend comes by and pats you on the back and you know you're not alone in that big test, or it can be an alum who remembers a friend who impacted their life when they were at a vulnerable moment and gave them direction and hope - to me, that's the beauty of what this University is - it's heritage.

Q: One of the key elements of Pro Futuris is the sustained and improved financial support from alumni and friends. How do we move forward in those efforts and what do we need from our alumni and friends?

A: I think it will be critically important for us to be unified around the cause of Pro Futuris. To move forward, it will take participation from all of us, especially our alumni base. Efforts to make a Baylor education affordable for every student who is academically qualified have been underway for several years. For example, faculty and staff have been very helpful by creating scholarship funds for deserving students. We must continue to tell our alums of the real and profound needs of our students and our University. We have to illustrate that we are good stewards of the gifts we receive. And we need to help each alum understand that their gifts, no matter the size, are important to the mission of Baylor University.

Q: As Baylor moves toward more robust development efforts, what role do you see faculty and staff playing?

A: As an organization, we will look at our efforts through the lens of a business model. First, we'll examine what our outcomes are. Our outcomes are centered in students and in the research of our faculty. Staff relationships are central to both outcomes.

Faculty and staff will have a distinct role in broadening our ability to gather resources to support our work. From the staff perspective, we're going to focus on coordination in our efforts. There's no room for silos in successful fundraising. Each of us will have an important part to play and we'll work together to reach our goals.

I have already been meeting with each of the deans and there's a sense of excitement as we try to clearly identify how University Development can be a specific help to the individual schools and colleges of the University. At first, we're going to be doing a lot of listening, a lot of learning, and in the end, we're going to be aggressive in promoting collaboration.

Fundraising is unique to an individual. There are those who enjoy encouraging people to give, and there are those who find it a very real challenge to their personality and skill set. So maybe their role is assisting at an event, it's being a volunteer, but I think all of us have something to contribute, both with time and with energy. And then, I do believe all of us, if we really love the University, ought to be contributing something of our personal resources, our financial wealth, our treasure, to the University.

Q: How can students contribute to development efforts?

A: I think university life is where a large percentage of the habits we make for life are born - good or bad. Thankfully, Baylor has a great history of impacting students for good. So, in my view, while students certainly have very limited resources, it should be during their time at the University that they start learning to give back. At first it may be service-centered, but they must grow into generosity with their resources. We share this campus with over 15,000 students. If every student, over the course of a year, gave an amount equivalent to what it cost for a couple of extra visits to Starbucks or Common Grounds, their gifts would provide tuition for several students to attend the University. Several scholarships could be created just out of that - just from two less trips to Starbucks.

We are blessed when we give sacrificially. In the Scripture, the widow didn't have much, but she felt that what she had belonged to others, and out of that, she was blessed and was noticed by the Lord. I think the quicker we learn that, whether we're 18 or 22 or 62, it imparts for us a greater joy in living our life. I hope our students feel a sense of responsibility to stewardship to the University and a desire to give. They may give through missions or through volunteerism - and those are important - but hopefully they give of their personal treasure as well.

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