Baylor Announces Interim Administrative Appointments

  • News Photo 2940
    Baylor Interim President William D. Underwood
  • News Photo 2930
    Professor Michael Morrison, chief of staff to the president
  • News Photo 2939
    Dr. J. Randall O'Brien, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs
  • News Photo 2885
    Dr. Paul W. Powell, special assistant to the president for denomination relations
June 1, 2005

by Lori Fogleman (254) 710-6275

Baylor University Interim President William D. Underwood today announced three interim administrative appointments to take effect immediately.

Professor Michael Morrison will serve as Underwood's chief of staff. Morrison holds The William Boswell Chair of Law at the Baylor School of Law, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1977 and was designated an Outstanding Professor in 1997. Morrison served two terms as Mayor of Waco from 1996-2000 and continues to be actively involved in civic and community affairs.

"Professor Morrison has been a highly respected and effective member of the Baylor faculty for nearly 30 years," Underwood said. "He is a trusted colleague and has impressed me throughout the years as an individual of unquestionable integrity and uncommon common sense." Underwood added that he is "grateful for Professor Morrison's willingness to accept significant additional responsibilities as chief of staff to the president."

Morrison succeeds Tommye Lou Davis as chief of staff to the president. Davis has accepted the position of chief of staff to the office of the chancellor and will continue to serve Baylor in the office of Chancellor Robert B. Sloan Jr. Before joining the administration, Davis was an associate professor of Latin in the department of classics at Baylor and is one of Baylor's Master Teachers.

Dr. J. Randall O'Brien has been appointed interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. O'Brien currently serves as professor and chair in the department of religion at Baylor, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1991. O'Brien served in several different administrative roles under Sloan, including his current responsibilities as religion department chair, as well as service as executive assistant to the president and acting dean at George W. Truett Theological Seminary. During his tenure as a faculty member at Baylor, O'Brien has been honored with numerous teaching awards, including his selection as Outstanding Faculty Member by the Baylor Student Congress for 1996-97 and the Carr P. Collins Outstanding Faculty Member in 1995-96 chosen by vote of the Graduating Class. O'Brien has authored five books, including Set Free by Forgiveness: The Way to Peace and Healing published by Baker Book House earlier this year. He also has written more than 70 articles and essays. O'Brien is a Vietnam War veteran, who was awarded the Bronze Star as a paratrooper assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He also is an ordained Baptist minister, who has served as senior pastor of four churches, including Calvary Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark. He has served as interim pastor at more than a dozen Baptist churches located in Texas and Arkansas, including Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, where he currently serves.

"Dr. O'Brien will be a powerful proponent of Baylor 2012, which articulates our shared aspirations for Baylor University," Underwood said. "As one of our finest classroom teachers, Dr. O'Brien is committed to ensuring that our students continue to receive the finest quality teaching available anywhere in higher education. He is also a fine scholar and appreciates the relationship between quality scholarship and outstanding teaching. Randall is also devoted to the integration of faith and learning at Baylor."

A number of the most notable recent achievements in scholarship at Baylor, Underwood added, have been by members of the faculty in the department of religion under O'Brien's leadership.

"Dr. O'Brien is an individual of unparalleled integrity, whose respect and trust among faculty across campus will be instrumental in facilitating needed healing among the deep divisions that have existed in recent years."

O'Brien succeeds Dr. David L. Jeffrey, who has served as provost at Baylor since June 1, 2003. Underwood expressed his appreciation to Jeffrey for his service as provost and said, "Dr. Jeffrey has served the university ably during a difficult and tumultuous period. Perhaps his most significant contribution has been to challenge our faculty to achieve even higher standards of excellence in research and teaching."

Underwood added, "I have enjoyed working with Dr. Jeffrey and look forward to many years of continued close association, consultation and friendship with Dr. Jeffrey as a leader on the Baylor faculty."

Jeffrey will return to his position as Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities at Baylor, where he is recognized as an outstanding scholar and classroom teacher.

Dr. Paul W. Powell has been appointed special assistant to the president for denomination relations. Powell has served in numerous offices of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, including a term as president from 1985-87. A former chair of the Baylor Board of Regents, Powell is president of the board of advisers for Texas Baptist Leadership. He has served as pastor at a number of Texas Baptist churches, including 17 years as pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler. Powell was named the third dean of Truett Seminary by then-President Sloan in 2001, and he will continue to serve as dean. The author of 36 books, Powell has received Baylor's Distinguished Alumnus Award and the Herbert H. Reynolds Award for Exemplary Service to Baylor. Last month, Powell received the George W. Truett Distinguished Church Service Award, presented annually by the Baylor Alumni Association to the individual closely associated with Baylor whose record exemplifies the life and career of George W. Truett, the renowned Baptist minister and seminary namesake.

"No individual is more respected among Texas Baptists than Paul Powell," Underwood said. "I am pleased that Dr. Powell will work with me to enhance our already close relationship with Texas Baptists, including the Baptist General Convention of Texas."

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