In 1978, during Brad Livingstone’s first week at Oklahoma State University (OSU), where he played basketball for four years, the six-foot, 10-inch starting post player received a rather prophetic letter from his father.
“My dad clipped an article from Oklahoma State’s magazine—now called State,” Brad says. “In the letter, he said, ‘Brad, I just want you to know I clipped out this story from the OSU magazine and these are the kinds of girls I think you should be dating.’ My dad hadn’t been pleased with my choice of dates in high school. I opened up this article and, lo and behold, there was a picture of Linda.”
The article profiled a selection of outstanding incoming freshmen that year, including an all-state basketballer and economics and management double-major named Linda Parrack.
Brad recognized the young woman in the photo since the men’s and women’s basketball teams practiced on the same court. But, he got to know her through their involvement in Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
“I still remember this, and she does, too,” Brad says. “I saw her in one of the classroom buildings, and I walked up to her and said, ‘Hey, Linda.’ We barely knew each other at that time. I said, ‘I just want you to know that my dad sent me a letter and he says I should start dating you.’ We both laughed and thought it was hilarious. Much later on, she told me that was the worst pickup line she had ever heard.”
“I know it's a cliché, but every major decision that we've made, we bathed in prayer and said, 'OK, God, this is yours.'”
This year, the Livingstones celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary, a testament to their mutual and abiding, love, respect and, most importantly, Brad says, friendship.
“You marry your best friend and you keep it that way; you keep your friendship a priority,” he says. “That’s what I tell young people. Also, and I know I’m biased, but Linda is the smartest, wisest, most humble, most godly person that I’ve ever known.”
The success of their union stands as a testament to their shared Christian faith and the Livingstone family’s dependence on prayer in times of uncertainty.
“We’ve never made a decision that would affect our family without first a lot of personal consultation and discussion, and then, we just bathe it in prayer,” Brad says. “I know it’s a cliché, but every major decision that we’ve made, we bathed in prayer and said, ‘OK, God, this is yours. If you want this to happen, let it happen. And if not, shut the door.’”
This shared faithful discipline has brought unexpected adventures and countless blessings. These include addresses in the Oklahoma panhandle, Waco, Southern California, and Washington, D.C., and a daughter, Shelby, who is a senior volleyball player at Rice University.
The Livingstones’ return to Waco in June represented a homecoming in many respects. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, Linda taught courses in organizational management and served as associate dean of the Hankamer School of Business.
Meanwhile, Brad has returned to Waco’s Vanguard College Preparatory Academy as a history teacher and has relaunched his much-lauded World War II course in which veterans visit the classroom to share their stories with students.
“I started the course well over 20 years ago at Vanguard, and I’ve taken it with me to Southern California and to D.C.,” he says. “It’s an incredible experience when I get to welcome World War II veterans into my classroom.”
Brad says many of the veterans are sharing their stories for the first time. He says it is usually a moving experience for all in attendance.
“These men are between 90 and 97 years of age, but they were only 17 or 18—the same age as my students—when they went to war,” Brad says. “I just sit back and watch the engagement. I honestly believe I have the greatest job in the world.”
He requires his students to take notes in a journal as veterans speak about their experiences. The journals serve as part of the students’ final grades and as something for them to share with future generations.
“I tell [my students], ‘You’re going to forget about this time. You’ll put this journal in a box or on a shelf and forget about it. One day, when you have kids of your own, you’ll find it again and open it up. There will be no more World War II vets left on planet earth,” Brad says. “You’ll open up this journal, and you’ll remember that you met these men and sat and listened to them. And you’ll be able to tell your kids who will never have a personal experience with a World War II veteran about meeting these men.’”
He believes his passion for history and giftedness in teaching are God-granted. Brad says the flexibility of his vocation has allowed him to be entirely supportive of Linda throughout her career.
“When I went back [to OSU] for my master’s degree in education and Linda went back for her PhD, that’s when I realized I can get a job pretty much anywhere,” he says. “There are schools everywhere we go. It has allowed us the freedom to move wherever we needed to move.”
Of course, in addition to teaching history at Vanguard, Brad is Baylor’s first-ever First Gentleman—a position for which the full job description is still under construction.
“I don’t really know what that means yet, but I’ll be spending quite a bit of time at Baylor. Previously, First Ladies have hosted teas among other events and projects, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that,” Brad says with a laugh. “Maybe I could host barbecues instead.”