Introductory Letter from the President
Among the many notable facts about Baylor is our long and rich history as the oldest continuously operating university in Texas. Since 1845, the vision of Baylor’s founders has inspired and guided us. It now informs the direction of our new strategic vision.
Abiding faith, courage, and conviction — these are the characteristics that guided Judge R.E.B. Baylor during this University’s formative years. Judge Baylor oversaw courtrooms by day and, in the evening, preached in crowded churches and revival tents. William Milton Tryon, missionary to Texas and chaplain of the Texas Congress, ministered to the spiritual needs of leaders in the halls of the young Republic’s capital. James Huckins, the first Baptist missionary to the new Republic, traversed hills and plains, attending to the needs of townspeople in the rough-hewn Texas territory. Together, these courageous founders shared a vision of a future university where young people would be educated and nurtured — both academically and spiritually — by outstanding and dedicated faculty members. Indeed, the foresight of these visionary leaders — to establish a university “susceptible of enlargement and development to meet the needs of all ages to come” — made possible the Baylor University that is recognized today for academic excellence and Christian commitment.
As the years scrolled by, other University leaders accepted the heavy mantle of the Founders’ vision and built upon it. Before taking office in 1851, Rufus Burleson, Baylor’s second president, reached out to educators around the nation seeking counsel as to the framework for developing a modern university. This invaluable input guided Dr. Burleson in crafting what was likely Baylor’s first “strategic plan.” That plan took the form of eight “guiding policies.” These policies were destined to inform the University’s growth over the long course of the Burleson administration. We know from a manuscript — published in 1901 — that Dr. Burleson brought to the Baylor presidency “much learning and enthusiasm.” It is not surprising that this seminary graduate would develop an educational plan for Baylor in which teaching is designed “to arouse thought, and develop the habit and faculty of thinking rapidly, profoundly and correctly.” Additionally, Dr. Burleson determined that Baylor should fashion an inspirational motto to articulate with crystalline clarity the University’s overarching purpose. That motto has stood the test of time. We honor it still today.
“Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana” represented an emphatic declaration that Baylor University had a distinct mission. In Dr. Burleson’s words, Baylor would educate students “so as to fire the soul with love for God, home and native land.” Today, it is this abiding love of God that propels our students to excellence in all that they do. That love likewise propels our faculty to understand all truth as God’s truth, worthy of study, artistic expression, and discovery.
As the sun was setting on the Nineteenth Century, the youthful Samuel Palmer Brooks arrived on campus as a student. He would go on to serve as president of Baylor from 1902 until his death in 1931. Dr. Brooks’ passion for Baylor, and his profound belief in its mission, inspired him to envision a “greater Baylor.” Accordingly, during Dr. Brooks’ long tenure, the University grew significantly in size and stature. It has been said of Samuel Palmer Brooks that he “stood above the limitations of reality and took the long look, dreaming visions of what Baylor could be.”
Penned only days before his death, Samuel Palmer Brooks’ 1931 “Immortal Message” to “seniors of all years,” has echoed in the hearts of Baylor alumni for more than 80 years. In that message, Dr. Brooks exhorts Baylor graduates to care for the University, in light of what this storied institution has meant to them in the past and what it will mean to them in the future. He also encourages and challenges those who love Baylor to think beyond our present and to embrace our future:
“Do not face the future with timidity nor with fear. Face it boldly, courageously, joyously. Have faith in what the future holds.”
The future is now. The enduring challenge set forth by these visionary leaders of yesteryear stands before us as we now undertake our new strategic vision. From our three Founders, Baylor, Tryon, and Huckins, we are called upon to defend and extend the distinct role that Baylor occupies in American higher education. Whatever we do, we do it “Pro Ecclesia” — for God — and “Pro Texana” — for Texas and beyond to the world around us. Our Founders’ voices call us to care for Baylor, dreaming big dreams as we powerfully envision its future.
With this rich history, Baylor University has now come to the end of a 10-year plan resulting in one of our institution’s most significant periods of growth and development. We celebrate a decade of remarkable progress. And we move forward.
As we stand at the threshold of a new period in Baylor’s storied history, we understand the profoundly significant work to which we have been called: we are to be “salt and light” to a hurting world, and in so doing, “to light the ways of time.” We must impact the world from Baylor’s position at the crossroads of academic excellence and Christian faith. That is our calling as an institution. During the coming years of our new vision, we will celebrate the 175th birthday of this magnificent University. We certainly will face challenges, but we also will celebrate achievements that we cannot now imagine. By God’s grace, Baylor’s progress will continue; indeed, it will accelerate.
The two-year development of our new strategic vision has called for the commitment of many in the extended Baylor family. We are indebted to our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community of friends and supporters for their faithfulness to this important task. Our future success will require continued dedication on the part of the Baylor family, both near and far.
For our new vision, we have fashioned the name Pro Futuris. Pro Futuris envisions a future in which our unyielding Christian faith undergirds a deep sense of responsibility to the world, and in which our faculty’s scholarship is heralded not only for its contribution of new knowledge, but for its lasting impact on humanity. Pro Futuris portends a growing academic enterprise dedicated to the search for new knowledge, not simply for the sake of knowledge, but for the love of all truth illuminated by our Christian faith.
Pro Futuris gives clear direction, but without suggesting that we can predict the future. Pro Futuris reflects a deep-seated commitment to Baylor’s core principles and convictions, while liberating us to dream big dreams and imagine future possibilities. This strategic vision is rooted in what we at Baylor have always considered non-negotiable — educational excellence, the pursuit of new knowledge, a caring community, and a vibrant Christian faith. These characteristics will continue to sustain us for the duration of Pro Futuris — and “for the ages to come.”
As we journey together into the next phase of Baylor’s unfolding history, we pray for God’s continued blessings on Baylor University.
Kenneth Winston Starr