Baylor University

Our Common Life

May 13, 2008

I love Baylor! I say it often, but it's true every time. Baylor is an incredible university, but more than that it is an amazing community, powerful to us because of the opportunity we have to share life together.

Completing my 20th year at Baylor (four as a student and 16 on staff), I am more and more grateful for what we have, what we are called to do and who we are called to be. We know well our mission and vision, but it is also instructive to me to occasionally consider the foundational assumptions upon which these are built. One of the presuppositions that undergirds Baylor 2012 states, "Human beings flourish best in a functional and beautiful physical environment and among colleagues who respect, love, forgive, and support one another; and a university can be such a physical and social environment." That is true, isn't it?

No doubt the beauty and functionality of our campus environment has never been better. Time and again prospective students and their families comment on the beauty of this place. They are drawn to a built environment that is not only useful but uplifts the spirit as well. Alumni return astounded at the difference in the facilities (and lamenting that all of this wasn't available when they were students). They walk the familiar sidewalks and marvel with pride at the advancement of their alma mater. And even though it can be so familiar to us that we take it for granted, we've no doubt all enjoyed the magnificent spring days which seem to bathe the whole place in a soft light that makes it all the more beautiful and dear to us.

The construction we see continuing around us as we reach further for our aspirations reminds us that we will ever be improving Baylor's physical environment. This academic year alone we opened Brooks Residential College, Robbins Chapel, Brooks Flats, the Paul L. Foster Success Center in a remarkably improved Sid Richardson Building, and we dedicated the Immortal Ten Memorial. Each space enhances our ability to achieve our mission and vision.

But just as important as the functional and beautiful physical environment is the community of colleagues who respect, love, forgive, and support one another. The social environment, not evident to the human eye, is readily apparent to the human heart. I confess that I sometimes don't live up to this standard. Further, I know that sometimes I am tough to love, difficult to forgive, and not worthy of support. But in those moments a colleague extends grace, forgiveness, and love and God uses that to continue His redemptive work in my life (and by extension, our community). We must ever be about living life together that reflects our Christian commitment.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us in Life Together that God gives us community that we might indeed be respected, loved, forgiven and supported. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, implores them and us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (4:32). Let's commit in our common life to be a social environment just as beautiful and functional as our physical environment.

Dr. Samuel W. "Dub" Oliver

Vice President for Student Life

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