Commencement Final Ceremony For Baylor President

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Elizabeth and Jess Kelly will be one of the first married couples in recent memory to graduate with their Baylor Ph.D.s at the same time.
May 13, 2005

Baylor University President Robert B. Sloan Jr. will preside over his final commencement this Saturday in ceremonies that will include several firsts for a Baylor graduation.

More than 1,800 students will receive their Baylor degrees, including a record 283 graduate students who will complete their degree requirements.

Glenn Gentry, who resides in Mart, will receive Baylor's first doctorate in philosophy. Cathy Early of Riesel and Jess Kelly of McGregor will earn doctorates in biology, becoming only the second and third students to receive that advanced degree.

Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of the Graduate School and senior vice provost, said the growing number of advanced degree programs and graduates reflects the success of Baylor 2012, the university's 10-year vision.

"Baylor 2012 calls for enhanced graduate education at Baylor as a way of strengthening the entire university," Lyon said. "As Baylor graduate programs grow slightly in enrollment and considerably in complexity, the academic visibility and reputation of the university grows as well."

Jess Kelly's wife, Elizabeth, also will earn her doctorate in sociology on Saturday. The Kellys are believed to be one of the first married couples to graduate with Ph.D.s at the same time from Baylor.

The couple met as undergrads at Baylor in 1985 and have lived in Waco and worked on their terminal degrees for about half of their 17 years of marriage. They accomplished the double feat while working full time and raising 14-year-old twins, Justin and Donovan, and 18-month-old Noah.

Jess Kelly, who also works at Baylor as an environmental health and safety manager, completed his dissertation - "Trophic Resource Partitioning Among Nine Sympatric Congeners in an Ancient Tropical Lake" - under the guidance of Dr. Darrell S. Vodopich, associate professor of biology. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Elizabeth Kelly teaches adjunct sociology courses at MCC and Baylor, while working full time as the membership director at KWBU-TV and FM. Her dissertation on "Courting the Presidential Library System: Are President George Walker Bush and Baylor University a Match Made in Heaven?" was directed by Dr. Thomas L. Charlton, professor of history and director of The Texas Collection. She received her bachelor's degree from University of Texas at Tyler in 1992 and a master's from Baylor in 2001.

Gentry's dissertation, "Beyond Augustine: The Ethical Structure of Community," was directed by Dr. Carl G. Vaught, distinguished professor of philosophy. Before joining Baylor in 1998, Vaught was on the philosophy faculty at Penn State, where he directed 30 dissertations, none of them any better, he said, than Gentry's.

"He has written clearly and forcefully about issues that matter; and in focusing on the problem of love in the thought of St. Augustine, has written about a problem that stands at the heart of the Christian tradition," Vaught said. "It has been a great privilege for me to work with him."

Gentry earned his bachelor's degree in 1987 from Multnomah Bible College and his master's degree from Baylor in 2000.

Early focused her research on a Texas nuisance - fire ants - and how they affect small animals in particular. Her dissertation, "Response of Small Mammals in Native Tallgrass Prairie to an Invasive Species, Red Imported Fire Ants," was directed by Dr. Kenneth T. Wilkins, professor of biology and associate dean for graduate studies and research.

Early earned her bachelor's degree from Howard Payne University in 1998 and her master's degree in 2002.

Baylor will hold two spring graduation ceremonies May 14 in the Ferrell Center - at 9:30 a.m. for the College of Arts and Sciences, and at 2:30 p.m. for the Schools of Business, Engineering and Computer Science, Education, Music and Nursing and Truett Seminary.

Sloan will transition to chancellor on June 1.

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