Endowed Chair in Religious Freedom Established

February 10, 2015
Thanks to a $2 million gift from Jerry and Susie Wilson, Baylor University established an endowed chair in religious freedom to support the University’s educational mission and its Institute for Studies of Religion.

“Baylor University is deeply grateful to Jerry and Susie Wilson for this visionary gift that addresses a vitally important issue in our world today — the protection of religious freedom for all persons, everywhere around the globe,” Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr said.

Jerry C. Wilson, a retired senior executive and former owner of Titan Specialties Ltd., and Susie Johnston Wilson met and married while students at Texas Tech University, where Jerry earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting and Susie earned a Bachelor of Music Education and master of Education. In 2006, she earned a doctorate in choral conducting from the University of North Texas.

“We are deeply concerned about escalating attacks on religious freedom, a tenet on which our great country was founded,” the Wilsons said. “Rather than cower or despair, we choose to join the defense of this precious freedom.”

Longtime U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf has been named the initial holder of Baylor’s Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom. Wolf will lead Baylor’s efforts on Capitol Hill and throughout the world to address the significant issues of freedom of conscience and worship and, in particular, Christianity’s enduring role in promoting human freedom.

“I am looking forward to working with colleagues at Baylor University to advance the case for religious freedom,” Wolf said. “I have been involved in promoting religious liberty for many years in Congress, and now I look forward to collaborating with scholars, religious leaders and the laity in what I believe is one of the most important struggles of our time.”

A Philadelphia native, Wolf recently concluded his 17th term in the United States House of Representatives. He had represented Virginia’s 10th congressional district since 1981 prior to his retirement earlier this year.

“One of the true foundational freedoms in the great American experiment is that of religious liberty for all people,” Starr said. “Congressman Frank Wolf has been widely recognized as the ‘conscience’ of the Congress and a champion of religious freedom in both U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

“This appointment represents a remarkable opportunity to advance the study and protection of the essential right of religious freedom and to vigorously address the profound issues of religious liberty and Christianity’s contributions to human flourishing throughout the world,” Starr said.

In addition to strengthening and affirming congressional support for the preservation, protection and defense of religious freedom in Congress, Wolf will collaborate on critical projects involving international religious freedom through diplomatic engagement and integrating religious freedom into broader foreign policy. He also will focus on fostering and facilitating the understanding of Christianity as a liberator of pressing social issues, such as human trafficking, women’s rights, rights of refugees and human suffering both domestically and internationally.

While in Congress, Wolf was a vocal human rights advocate. He is the author of the International Religious Freedom Act, which created the International Religious Freedom Office at the State Department. He authored legislation to create a special envoy at the U.S. State Department to advocate for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia, and he founded and served as co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan organization that works to raise awareness about international human rights issues. Wolf has been honored numerous times for his work on human rights and religious persecution, including the Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.
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