Text of Appreciation Proclamation For Bill Underwood

Feb. 3, 2006

The following text is from the Baylor University Board of Regents' "Proclamation of Gratitude and Appreciation" for William D. Underwood, who served as Baylor's Interim President from June 1 to Dec. 31, 2005:

Baylor University

February 3, 2006

Proclamation of Gratitude and Appreciation
Presented to
William D. Underwood

Baylor University and the Board of Regents have the distinct opportunity to commend William D. Underwood for his service and dedication to the oldest institution of higher learning in the State of Texas and the largest Baptist university in the world. Earning his bachelor of arts degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1982, Bill Underwood's path in academia continued as he graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois College of Law in 1985. At the University of Illinois College of Law, he was a member of the Board of Editors of the University of Illinois Law Review, a member of the Order of the Coif, and he graduated at the top of his class as salutatorian. Following law school, he completed a prestigious federal judicial clerkship with the Honorable Sam D. Johnson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He came to Baylor University following a term practicing civil trial law in Dallas at the elite litigation firm Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal.

Bill Underwood has faithfully served Baylor University since 1990, when he joined the Baylor Law School faculty. As holder of The Leon Jaworski Chair in Practice and Procedure at Baylor University, he directed the Practice Court program, which has garnered accolades from the Princeton Review, Litigation News, The New Jersey Trial Lawyer, and The Advocate. Under his direction, the program is described as arguably the best training ground in the nation for practical lawyering and is one of the most labor-intensive trial programs for both faculty and students.

While serving Baylor University in the classroom, Bill Underwood was also committed to scholarly research and represented clients in a variety of civil and criminal cases, which further enhanced his excellence in the Practice Court program. Many of his articles led to significant changes in federal and state procedural law. In 2004, he obtained a finding that a client on death row is mentally retarded and thus, under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, cannot be put to death. Bill Underwood worked extensively on this pro bono case for fifteen years and this finding was the high point of his professional career. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute, the American Bar Foundation, the Texas Bar Foundation, and has served as Reporter to the Civil Justice Reform Act Advisory Group to the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. In 2004, Bill Underwood was designated a Baylor University Master Teacher--the highest honor granted to Baylor faculty members and an honor that has only been bestowed upon sixteen faculty members since its inception in 1982.

In addition to his outstanding work inside the classroom, Bill Underwood was dedicated to serving the Baylor administration as well. In 1997, he took a two-year leave of absence from the faculty to serve as General Counsel to the University, gaining experience in handling the complex legal issues facing any institution of higher learning. He also has represented Baylor University in proceedings before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on three occasions, including obtaining a rare finding of "no violation" in response to charges brought against Baylor's football program. Bill Underwood was a member of and spokesperson for the committee that spearheaded an investigation into allegations of misconduct that surfaced following the death of men's basketball player Patrick Dennehy.

On the first day of June 2005, Bill Underwood took office as the Interim President of Baylor University after being unanimously elected by acclamation by the Baylor University Board of Regents on April 29, 2005. In the six months that followed, he boldly led the University during a time of transition. He began building bridges and restoring unity that paved the way for the thirteenth President of Baylor University. Many of his successes are evident in the steps he took to begin the re-building of the Baylor community through his openness and transparency that fostered healing for the Baylor Family. He encouraged others at Baylor to focus less on their differences and more on finding common ground with one another. He sought to calm the waters by creating a renewed sense of shared purpose among alumni, faculty, staff, and students.

During his tenure Baylor University enrolled the largest, most accomplished and most diverse freshman class in the University's history. Bill Underwood's administration went above and beyond taking much-needed steps to accommodate the large freshman class that entered Baylor University in fall 2005. Under his direction, Baylor made every effort to ensure that these incoming students had an excellent first-year experience. Bill Underwood cultivated an environment of healing within Baylor's faculty by emphasizing a balance between teaching and research and encouraging discussion on the integration of faith and learning at Baylor University.

Bill Underwood's successes at Baylor University led to his selection as the eighteenth President of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, another highly-respected Baptist institution. On December 2, 2005, the Mercer University Board of Trustees unanimously elected Bill Underwood as President to take office on the first day of July 2006. Bill and his wife, Lesli Pearson Underwood, represented Baylor University with the utmost dignity for the past fifteen years, and they will be sorely missed at Baylor University.

In recognition of the accomplishments and distinguished service William D. Underwood has bestowed upon Baylor University and her students, Baylor University wishes to express gratitude and appreciation by recognizing him with this official proclamation from the thirty-six member governing board of the University on this third day of February in the year of our Lord two thousand six and in the one hundred sixtieth year of Baylor University.

Will D. Davis
Chair, Board of Regents
Baylor University

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