May 1, 2012
Today is Law Day — established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 and recognized annually to honor the role of law in the creation of the United States of America. How appropriate, then, that we at Baylor University bade farewell this very Law Day morning to former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
This historic figure in American law spent three days on our campus meeting faculty, staff, students and members of our community. Most notably remembered as the first woman appointed to the nation's highest Court, Justice O'Connor has enjoyed a long and distinguished legal career. Since retiring from the Court, the Justice has turned her attention to an issue of national significance — the promotion of civics education for young people. Through her iCivics project, Baylor University is partnering with local public school districts to assist Justice O'Connor in her call for a return to a strong foundation of civics education in American classrooms.
Yesterday, there was scarcely an empty seat in Waco Hall here on campus as Justice O'Connor shared with us personal anecdotes about growing up in Arizona, seeking work as a female attorney in 1950's America, and her 25 years on the United States Supreme Court. I invite you to view the "On Topic" conversation with Justice O'Connor
in its entirety. At this same website
you will also find of interest a video produced by the Waco Independent School District which describes Justice O'Connor's iCivics initiative and its implementation in our local schools.
Baylor University has thus honored Law Day in a very special way. And we have been deeply honored by Justice O'Connor's visit. Baylor University has a long tradition of cultivating the respect for law so vital to our democratic way of life. Baylor's storied law school, with its tradition of producing outstanding practitioners with a heart for public service, is but one example of our commitment to enriching the rule of law. Each day, Baylor faculty, staff, students and alumni provide additional examples of individuals actively engaged in the pursuit of equality and justice for the purpose of human flourishing worldwide.
As we look ahead on this special day, in just two weeks, Baylor's Class of 2012 will walk across the stage of the Ferrell Center and become our newest alumni. Many of these graduating seniors initiated their freshman year with a Line Camp trip to Independence, Texas — beginning their own Baylor experience on the hallowed hills of Washington County where Baylor's history began. Participating in a new tradition launched just last year, many of our graduating students returned to Independence this past Sunday afternoon. On those historic hills of Baylor's ancestral home, our seniors reflected on how they have been impacted by their time at Baylor and how their alma mater will influence and inform the personal histories they will author, by God's grace, as they leave our campus as proud Baylor graduates.
From coast to coast, as Baylor's athletics programs continue their winning ways, people are excitedly talking about the historic Year of the Bear
. Our men's basketball team reached the Elite 8 for the second time in three years, while our magnificent Lady Bears captured their second national championship — finishing the season at a nationally unprecedented 40-0. Before the confetti dropped in Denver, our beloved Coach Kim Mulkey had been named Coach of the Year, while Brittney Griner took home Player of the Year honors. One week later, we added another national championship to the trophy case as our equestrian team, under Coach Ellen White, defeated Texas A&M to win the Hunter Seat title at the National Collegiate Equestrian Association Championship. And the Baylor baseball team — currently ranked No. 3 — is 18-0 in Big 12 play and has clinched at least a share of the conference championship. With six conference games remaining (against Oklahoma and Texas), Coach Steve Smith's Baylor Bears need to capture only one more victory to win outright the Big 12 regular season title.
Baylor University has indeed been blessed in many ways throughout this academic year now drawing to a close. But to whom much is given, much is required. We are called upon to continue to build on Baylor's myriad successes on the playing field, in the classroom, in the research laboratory and in our service to communities near and far.
Later this month, we will launch the University's new strategic vision. The vision will establish a course to propel Baylor forward for years to come. As the vision translates into specific goals, opportunities will abound for all of Baylor Nation to be actively involved in promoting our University's progress. In so many ways, Baylor's success will depend on energetic engagement by alumni, parents and friends. We eagerly look forward to promoting that enthusiastic partnership in building Baylor together.
May the goodness of the Lord continue to shine on you and on Baylor University.