Lilley Begins Baylor PresidencyJan. 9, 2006
by Lori Fogleman (254) 710-6275
Streaming video of Dr. Lilley's news conference with local media can be viewed here.
Baylor University's 13th President, Dr. John M. Lilley, officially began his Baylor presidency on Jan. 1, with a busy week that had Baylor's leader traveling from coast to coast on behalf of his alma mater.
Once fully settled in the President's Office on Jan. 9, Lilley took the opportunity to meet with local media about his first week on the job, his goals and aspirations for Baylor, as well as his participation in the University Presidents Summit on International Education in Washington, D.C.
A 2005 Distinguished Alumnus, Lilley earned three music degrees at Baylor in the early 1960s. Although very familiar with the university from his days as a student, Lilley said his immediate priority is getting to know the Baylor of the 21st century.
For the moment, Lilley is spending most of his time on campus, meeting with various groups of faculty, staff, students and alumni. "I enjoy and need their advice on lots of issues. That doesn't mean we'll always agree, but it means that we have a chance to learn from each other," he said. "I'm always looking for good ideas and ways of doing things more effectively."
While involved in listening sessions around the Baylor campus, Lilley said he speaks most often about two overarching goals.
"It is important for us to be intentional about the fact that we are a Christian university in the historic Baptist tradition. That's No. 1," Lilley said. "And the second major goal is that while being mindful of the importance of inspirational teaching and mentorship, we will engage increasingly in more research and creative endeavors as is appropriate to a particular discipline. Those are the two primary goals, and those are two I believe in very strongly."
Lilley was unanimously elected to serve as Baylor's president by the Board of Regents on Nov. 4, 2005. He spent nearly 30 years at public universities, including the last 26 years leading two institutions - Penn State Erie from 1980-2001, and the University of Nevada, Reno, from 2001-05. Lilley said the major difference in coming to Baylor is a return to higher education in a private, Christian setting. That Baylor is reaching toward greater research and creative endeavors, he said, is common to each university he has served.
"Neither of these two goals is entirely new to Baylor. Baylor meant everything to me in both of them," he said. "In the music school, we had top-notch performers and composers, and we also had people at Baylor who were wonderful Christians of major influence. So there are some things about Baylor that haven't changed, although it's a very different era in which we live."
Lilley also was one of 125 university and college leaders out of nearly 4,000 - and one of only six from Texas - who was invited to attend the University Presidents Summit on International Education held Jan. 5-6 in the nation's capital. Convened by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and organized by the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the meeting focused on strengthening U.S. international education, while emphasizing its importance to the national interest. President Bush addressed the group on Jan. 5.
"It was the most impressive Washington meeting I've ever attended," Lilley said. "I've gone to Washington for lots of meetings, but I have never been to one where you have the President, the First Lady, and several Cabinet Secretaries and Under Secretaries in attendance."
Lilley said the political and higher education leaders had a "good exchange" about the importance of preparing students for the challenges of a global economy with its political impact.
"Wherever our alumni choose to live, they are going to be affected by the global economy and the global political scene," Lilley said. "It's very important that we prepare our students to be successful alumni in our rapidly changing world."
Lilley said his administration will continue Baylor's emphasis on international education, foreign languages and world cultures. He also supports providing more opportunities for students to study overseas.
"Every student can't go for a year, a semester, or a summer, but just two or three weeks can make a difference," he said.