Spring at Baylor

March 21, 2012

Here on the banks of the Brazos, spring has arrived. Winter rains have nourished flowering trees recovering from a harsh summer and fall, while seeds visible only to the eyes of God have burst underground silently spreading roots that promise a vibrant future. At Baylor, we are the beneficiaries of all this goodness as our campus comes alive with the colors of another spring season. If you are able, we encourage you to visit Baylor and once again walk these storied grounds, rich in beauty and history. In the meantime, we have created a photo gallery that captures a sense of the beauty that is captivating us in Waco. Please take a moment to view these wonderful photographs captured recently by our Baylor photographers.

While the seasons may change, the season of the Bear continues. Will we ever grow weary of saying it? What a great time it is to be a Baylor Bear! Today, coaches and scouts from the NFL have descended upon our campus to evaluate firsthand the talent of Heisman winner Robert Griffin III as he and his teammates participate in pro-day workouts. We are honored that Robert has chosen to invite these guests here to his home -- and to our home -- for this important event so that they might see him and see Baylor. What a wonderful ambassador Robert continues to be for Baylor.

In the NCAA tournaments, our women's and men's programs are continuing to shine a powerful spotlight on the green and gold of Baylor (sometimes in neon or platinum shades) as both programs are headed to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Basketball Championships! The men will play Xavier on Friday in Atlanta, while the Lady Bears will play Georgia Tech Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. We are so proud of the leadership of our head coaches, Kim Mulkey and Scott Drew, and the way in which they and their student-athletes represent the University. The national exposure created by our athletic success has provided an international platform from which we have been able to share evidence of Baylor's academic and research excellence and our Christian mission. In recent months, news reports on our sports programs have recounted stories of players impacted by caring faculty, scholar-athletes who are pursuing excellence on the field and in the classroom, and the place of Christian commitment in the pursuit of academic and athletic excellence.

Speaking of academic excellence, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni recently released their own version of March Madness. In a bracket of its own making, the ACTA compared the strengths of the core academic programs offered at colleges and universities represented in the NCAA Tournament. When the rounds of competition were completed, the ACTA named Baylor its national champion! I invite you to read the Baylor Proud entry that reports these championship results: Does Baylor prepare its students better than any other March Madness competitor?

With the ongoing support of our loyal and visionary alumni and friends, we continue, in faith, to pursue our dreams, including last week's exciting announcement about the new on-campus football stadium. We are blessed to have such wonderfully loyal and generous friends in Elizabeth and Drayton McLane and their family, who have stepped forward to encourage all of us to take hold of a rare opportunity for our football program. With this significant naming rights gift, the McLane family has asked that the stadium be named Baylor Stadium.

As a Baylor alumnus, Drayton has consistently demonstrated his profound love and support for Baylor through his distinguished service as a Regent and as Chairman of the Board. Previous expressions of generosity by the McLane family can be seen across our campus. We are humbled by this most recent gift which will help secure Baylor's position among the nation's elite collegiate athletics programs, while providing fans a game day experience like none other in Baylor history. We are encouraged by ongoing conversations with other alumni regarding support for the on-campus stadium effort. The University has many needs, and we will continue to move forward on a variety of fronts. At the same time, we recognize that we are experiencing a singular moment in the history of our football program. Thus, we are heeding Drayton's wise admonition that now is the time for Baylor Nation to boldly seize the moment and return the proud historic tradition of Baylor football to our campus.

Among the responsibilities we embrace wholeheartedly on the Baylor campus is the high calling we have to spread Christian love and care throughout our hurting world. Baylor has a long and cherished tradition of equipping young people for lives of service and leadership in the name of Christ. Hundreds of our students devoted their spring break to a variety of mission experiences from locations nearby and throughout the world. Among those setting out to make a difference was Baylor's American Medical Student Association, which spent their recess in Guatemala. These pre-med students, interested in working with underserved and indigenous populations, partnered with a host organization in an effort called Community Health Evangelism, offering free medical care for Mayan Indians of the Quiche and Mam tribes in surrounding villages. This summer, many more of our students will head out on specifically focused mission trips from Belize to Uganda, as they employ the knowledge and skills they gain at Baylor to love, serve, and equip people around the world. We are so grateful for these, and all of our students, who have responded enthusiastically, and in great faith, to the Lord's invitation that they be good and generous stewards of the gifts they have been given, wherever they find their professional, service, or ministry calling.

When they are not sharing their knowledge during a vocational mission experience, many of our undergraduate students are active researchers in our laboratories, working alongside our faculty and graduate students in the sciences, engineering, humanities, and elsewhere. On March 26-30, the Baylor community will celebrate these students' academic and research achievements during Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) Scholars Week. We are so proud of these students and their outstanding faculty mentors, whose scholarly involvement beyond the classroom is a transformative hallmark of the Baylor undergraduate experience.

Indeed, in the classroom and in related academic pursuits, Baylor students continue to excel, reflecting the high quality education our faculty provide as well as the outstanding caliber of the students we enroll. The examples are plentiful, and we learn about them daily. In competition with peers across the nation, student journalists responsible for the Lariat student newspaper and other publications recently earned a record 133 journalism awards. Our debate team, ranked among the nation's very best, has received a prestigious at-large invitation to the 2012 National Debate Tournament later this month, while we've just learned that Baylor's first-time pass rate for the most recent CPA exam exceeds that of all other Texas colleges and universities. At the recent National Trumpet Competition, two ensembles from Baylor advanced to the finals with one taking the third place prize, just behind student musicians from Northwestern University and the Juilliard School of Music. When we travel to the nation's capital later this week to meet with elected officials of the Texas delegation, our student ambassadors -- remarkable students with an interest in government -- will provide the strongest evidence of the distinct quality of a Baylor University education.

One of the most honorable of all Baylor traditions is the manner in which we recognize the sacrifices of our men and women serving in the Armed Forces. With scores of alumni who have proudly served our nation at home and abroad, many of our faculty and staff have also dedicated portions of their lives to serving our country. Today at Baylor, we have about 100 student veterans, with many having recently returned from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. That's why it is so fitting that one of Baylor's newest chartered student organizations is Veterans of Baylor, which has a stated goal of connecting Baylor student veterans with faculty and staff who are either veterans themselves or who have a family member currently serving in the military.

Finally, let me take a moment to remind you that we are nearing the end of the review period for our university's new strategic plan. We have made remarkable progress in the development of our plan, and we have been so pleased by the active, enthusiastic, and thoughtful participation among Baylor alumni, students, faculty/staff, parents and friends of the university as we move forward in implementing plans, by the grace of God, for Baylor's next decade of remarkable progress. We are receiving feedback on the plan through the end of the month. If you are interested in providing input to the plan, please plan to do so very soon. You will find information about our strategic planning effort here: www.baylor.edu/strategicplan.

In a few short weeks Christians around the globe will recognize the profound and completely sacrificial gift of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ as we conclude the Lenten season with the celebration of Easter on resurrection Sunday. What a privilege it is for us to be part of a university family that celebrates the community into which we have come as followers of Christ. Once again we humbly and with joyful hearts join all Baylor Nation in the powerful declaration of faith: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Best wishes for a joyous Easter season,

Judge Ken Starr

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