In the course of life's journey, certain dates carry especially rich meaning. These special occasions are not only to be celebrated but to be honored. So it is that at Baylor University, each Feb. 1 provides a time to remember the founding of our beloved institution. This year, we observed the 170th anniversary of receiving our institutional charter from the Republic of Texas. Since that day back in 1845, many decades have passed into the mists of history; yet, the sacred mission envisioned long ago by our Founders has, by God's grace, endured through the ensuing generations.
Commencement ceremonies likewise constitute a significant milestone along life's journey. For more than 2,300 Baylor students, the weekend of May 15-16 will long be remembered as marking a singular moment in their young lives--the glorious day they received their Baylor diplomas. During those two days, and over the course of four separate ceremonies in both the Ferrell Center and at Truett Seminary (the latter held at the historic First Baptist Church of Waco), I was blessed to be able to congratulate each of our newest graduates. Their diplomas are not only certificates of academic achievement; they are also symbols of the transformational education on our campus--a lifetime achievement our recent graduates now share with more than 170,000 alumni around the world.
Celebrated in our beloved school song since 1931, "That Good Old Baylor Line" is far more than a concept. It is literally the unbroken line of graduates that began so long ago with Stephen Decatur Rowe and Mary Gentry Kavanaugh--Baylor's first male and female graduates in 1854 and 1855, respectively--and extending down the corridors of time to our entering freshmen who will form this coming autumn’s Baylor Line.
In pursuing the aspirations embodied in our strategic vision, Pro Futuris, one important initiative is Baylor Bound--a program designed to expand educational opportunities for young people pursuing a Baylor education. Through Baylor Bound, community college students who hope to earn a degree from Baylor are able to pay significantly lower tuition for two full years before then transitioning to our campus.
On May 11, Baylor formalized an agreement with Alamo Colleges (in San Antonio), bringing the total number of Baylor Bound partnerships to six. Our goal is to add four more community colleges to this statewide network during the coming years, as we seek creative ways of increasing accessibility to a Baylor education.
The lively topics of affordability and student indebtedness are prominent in unfolding conversations here on campus, just as they are among families across our state and nation. I am pleased to report that Baylor's budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which began on June 1, provides for an increase of nearly $18 million in institutional support for scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and professional students, as well as for graduate assistantships.
Such a substantial increase in financial aid is made possible, in no small part, by the generously broad support of our Baylor family. The immediate support of your gifts--in addition to planned giving through annuities and other estate gifts--is critically important to ensure access for future generations of Baylor Bears. Most essential within that framework of support are gifts made to Baylor's endowment. Regardless of size, every contribution to our endowment advances the mission of Baylor in the world and makes possible the realization of our students' noble dreams.
While our campus pauses briefly before welcoming students back for the fall semester, we are honored to be rolling out the proverbial red carpet for several new academic leaders.
I previously announced the appointment of Edwin Trevathan, MD, MPH, as Baylor's executive vice president and provost. Even prior to officially beginning his tenure as our chief academic officer on June 1, Dr. Trevathan became actively involved in preparing for his new responsibilities. In addition, Todd D. Still, PhD, has been appointed to serve as the fifth dean of Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary, also effective June 1. A well-known New Testament scholar, Dr. Still has served on the Truett Seminary faculty since 2003, most recently as The William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures. He also contributed significantly to the University's governance by serving three one-year terms as Faculty Regent on the Baylor Board of Regents.
Both well-known and highly respected leaders in their respective fields, two other incoming Deans joined the Baylor family on July 1. On that day, Michael K. McLendon, PhD, became dean of the School of Education, and Gary Mortenson, DMA, became dean of the School of Music. Dr. McLendon came to Baylor from Southern Methodist University, where he held The Harold and Annette Simmons Centennial Chair in Higher Education Policy and Leadership. Dr. Mortenson, in turn, served as director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at Kansas State University, where he was professor of trumpet. At its 2014 conference, the International Trumpet Guild named Dr. Mortenson as recipient of the organization's Award of Merit.
As we widen our arms to welcome these new servant-leaders to our beautiful campus, we are also celebrating the exemplary service of two administrators who have faithfully served Baylor in a variety of roles. After having served as interim president between 2008 and 2010 and most recently as interim provost, Dr. David E. Garland will return to full-time teaching following an eight-year tenure as dean of Truett Seminary. With the benefit of Dean Garland's wise guidance, the Seminary has recruited a remarkably talented faculty and enjoyed significant growth in enrollment. The University will continue to benefit greatly from Dr. Garland's outstanding service as professor of Christian scriptures and as a highly prolific author.
We deeply regret that, as a result of serious health concerns, Diana R. Garland, PhD, our beloved inaugural dean of the Baylor School of Social Work, retired from her administrative post effective June 1. Having served as dean since 2005, and in several other roles before that time, Dr. Garland is deeply respected by our entire University community. During her dedicated and tireless tenure of service to Baylor, Dr. Garland has raised more than $7.4 million in research and program grants, and helped establish an endowment of more than $14.5 million. In recognition of her historic contribution to the University, the Board of Regents voted unanimously in April to name the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work in her honor.
Those wishing to celebrate with us the remarkable and enduring service of Dr. Garland are encouraged to support generously the Diana R. Garland Endowed Scholarship Fund in Social Work by giving online at baylor.edu/give or contacting University Development at (254) 710-2561 or University_Development@baylor.edu.
As we recently observed the Fourth of July, through gatherings across America and through our earnest prayers for protection of the enduring light of freedom, we once again reflect upon, and remember, those who have given their lives to ensure liberty for future generations around the world. May God bless America--from sea to shining sea.
Our freedom--both as Americans and as members of the Baylor family--to live out our faith in openness and in accordance with the dictates of our own consciences is nothing short of a national treasure. At Baylor, our Christian faith both encourages us and empowers us to reach out to serve a hurting world. And it is likewise the legacy of the noble sacrifices of so many in serving our nation. This precious privilege has come at a great price. And thus, with thankful hearts, we humbly ask for God's grace and wisdom in preserving our legacy of liberty.
Looking back with profound appreciation for your continued dedication to the Kingdom calling of our University, and looking forward with eager expectation as we continue to build Baylor, all for the glory of God and in the fervent hope of all that we can accomplish together, I remain--
President and Chancellor