Why We Give to Baylor

April 28, 2011
By Davin Allen
Baylor University Development

Just six months after President Ken Starr announced "How Extraordinary the Stories: The President's Scholarship Initiative," the $100 million, three-year drive to fund endowed scholarships is rapidly approaching the $25 million milestone.
Among the growing number of donors to the Scholarship Initiative have been many of Baylor's faculty, staff and retirees, continuing a long tradition of giving that dates from the University's earliest days.

In some cases, faculty and staff have chosen to rally around specific scholarship funds, such as the Endowed Scholarship Honoring Baylor Staff, a fund begun by Staff Council that has collected more than $13,000 in donations with an additional $6,000 of pledges to date.

When asked why they chose to support scholarships, faculty, staff and retirees cite the transformational power of the Baylor experience and their desire to do more to empower students.

"When we support Baylor, we better position our institution to support our students," Shelton Lewis, program coordinator for Leader Development and Civic Engagement, said. "I've had students tell me that without their scholarships, they wouldn't be at Baylor. Supporting the scholarship effort helps great students come to Baylor and stay here."

Cynthia Chavez, a counselor in Financial Aid, said she and her colleagues hear the stories of students who are challenged to find the money they need to attend college.

"Those stories pull your heartstrings and make you want to help every student. That's one reason I support scholarships," Chavez said. "If more faculty and staff members would give to the University, it would make a big difference. It's a satisfying feeling knowing that I am helping someone get an education here at Baylor."

Elisa Dunman, director of new student programs, said expanded scholarship funds could help the University realize one of her personal dreams -- to make it possible for every Baylor student who desires an out-of-country missions experience to be able to afford it.

"Ever since I joined the team here in Student Life at Baylor, I've heard stories about students and staff who go on these trips and have amazing experiences, both for themselves and for those they are serving," Dunman said. "The call for supporting The President's Scholarship Initiative and my friendships with staff members involved with missions at Baylor made me want to designate my gift in this area."

Dr. William D. Hillis, The Cornelia Marschall Smith Distinguished Professor of Biology and a former vice president of student life, said he and his wife Argye believe in providing scholarship funds so each generation can enjoy the benefits Baylor provides.

"It seemed to us that the most logical place to give was to where our hearts are," Hillis said. "I thought about all I owed Baylor for giving me the opportunities that I've had -- I would have never found the right direction for my life if it had not been for Baylor. I want students who receive our scholarship to experience fulfillment in their lives and have some expectation of giving back."

One of the biggest proponents of giving back to Baylor was retired home economics professor Sadie Jo Black, who died last year. Creative as she was generous, Black funded wonderful projects across campus, including the Sadie Jo Black Gardens in Founders Mall -- a true tribute to one of her favorite quotes: "May all your weeds be wildflowers."

"It seemed natural to want to create more beauty here on Baylor's campus," Black said. "Founders Mall is an area of campus with a lot of traffic flow, so I hope those walking back and forth can stop and enjoy the gardens."

Black's generosity to Baylor did not stop with gardens, however. She funded several scholarships, and in response to President Starr's challenge she wrote, "May I join you in this endeavor? The scholarship is to be given to any student the University deems worthy, providing more people the opportunity to fling the green and gold afar."

Like Black, Hillis, Dunman, Chavez, Shelton and many other Baylor colleagues, we hope you will rally around The President's Scholarship Initiative with your annual gift. The truth is, Baylor students need your support. The support of Baylor faculty, staff and retirees is invaluable.

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