Presidential News Conference Transcript

Nov. 4, 2005

Media Contact: Larry Brumley (254) 710-1964 or mobile (254) 709-9950

Today's news conference is available via streaming video at

Link here to Dr. John Lilley's bio.

Click here for quotes from today's news conference.

The Baylor University Board of Regents today unanimously elected Baylor Distinguished Alumnus and University of Nevada, Reno President Dr. John M. Lilley as the University's 13th president. Dr. Lilley was the 11-member Regent Presidential Search Committee's unanimous choice and will take office Jan. 2, 2006.

The following is a transcript from the Nov. 4 news conference held in the law library at Baylor Law School.

Will Davis, chairman, Baylor Board of Regents: Good afternoon. Thank you for being here today. My name is Will Davis and I serve as chairman of the Baylor University Board of Regents.

We're here to announce to you the 13th president of the university, but before I do so, I'm very pleased to recognize the chancellor of the university and the 12th president, Robert Sloan, and Sue. (Applause) I'm also very pleased to have you recognize the current interim president of Baylor University, Bill Underwood, and I don't know whether Lesli is here or not.

Bill Underwood: She's at school.


Will Davis: I'd go ahead and do the 11th, but he's in Houston. Dr. Reynolds is in Houston and could not get back here quick enough to be at this occasion.

As you know, for the past 10 months - seems like 10 years - Baylor has been engaged in a presidential search. Following an exhaustive process that evaluated candidates from across the nation, the 11-member regent search committee, led by regent Bill Brian of Amarillo and aided by an advisory committee chaired by Ambassador Lyndon Olson of Waco, this morning made its unanimous recommendation to the board of regents.

Over the course of the morning, the regents engaged in a wide-ranging conversation with the candidate and his wife, and following a thorough discussion, elected unanimously Baylor distinguished alumnus and president of the University of Nevada, Reno, Dr. John M. Lilley as the 13th president of Baylor University. You guys don't forget that I said unanimous recommendation from the committee, and unanimous from the regents themselves, not a single vote no.

Dr. Lilley arrived at Baylor as an undergraduate in the late 1950s - the son of a Louisiana Baptist pastor. He majored in music, earning two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree from Baylor before moving on to the University of Southern California, where he earned his doctorate in music. While a student at Baylor and USC, he served as a minister of music at two Baptist churches.

He began his academic career as a faculty member at the Claremont Colleges in California. In 1976, he moved into academic administration at Kansas State University, where he served as assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Following a distinguished 21-year tenure as head of Penn State's Erie campus, Dr. Lilley was in April 2001 elected the 14th president of the University of Nevada, a major research and land-grant university in Reno.

At every place of service in his career, Dr. Lilley has been known as a consensus builder. His collaborative approach involving governing boards, faculty, staff, alumni, students and friends has allowed him to lead the campuses he served through periods of dramatic growth and enhancement. He brings to Baylor University the energy, passion, vision, experience and leadership to guide this institution to greater prominence. Those traits, combined with a deep love for this institution that was cultivated during his years as a student here, Dr. Lilley will, I believe, be a great leader for Baylor University.

At this time it is my pleasure to introduce to you the 13th president of Baylor University, Dr. John Lilley.

Dr. John Lilley: What an extraordinary day, just extraordinary. I certainly want to thank Mr. Davis, chairman of the Board of Regents, and all the regents for their support. I particularly want to express my appreciation for Bill Brian who has been chairman of the search committee. He has been extraordinary and I want to express my appreciation to him as well. And also to the advisory committees, faculty and alumni. It has been an interesting group. This place does due diligence very well. Several conversations, in-depth conversations, lots of give and take and I am honored to be a part of that and for the regents to express their unanimous support.

That is what Baylor needs, is unity and moving forward and building on its tremendous history. When you think of its incredible history, back to 1845 Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana, this is the place. I am grateful to be here and look forward to working with all of you.

Analiz Gonzalez, The Baylor Lariat: We heard that your contract was renewed in April at UNR and your salary was recently increased. What motivated you to come to Baylor at this time?

Dr. John Lilley: As I said to the search committee, only for Baylor. Baylor is that special. This is not something I sought, not something I expected and it just happened and I am very grateful.

Annie McCormick, KWTX-TV: I know that you have a Baptist lineage, but as of late, you were an usher with the Presbyterian church in Erie, Pennsylvania. I was wondering if you were still involved with the Baptist churches in Reno and in Erie as well.

Dr. John Lilley: At the church in Erie, Pennsylvania, where I was a member I was known in circles as a ruling elder, never an usher - not that there is anything wrong with being an usher. They take up the offering, so they're very important. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Presbyterian life, there is the preaching elder, who is the minister of the church, then there are the ruling elders, then there are deacons, and then there are trustees. A ruling elder is an ordained member of the Presbyterian church.

I was raised a Baptist and have always been a Baptist and Gerri and I will be joining First Baptist Church this Sunday here in Waco. That was my student church when I was here.

Mike Anderson, Waco-Tribune Herald: You come to Baylor following a period where there have been some divisions and disagreements here on campus. What do you bring here to address concerns that may have risen out of that? How do you plan to get started?

Dr. John Lilley: Well, I'd say, first of all, big ears. I think there needs to be a lot of talking. My view of Baylor has been from 30,000 feet. And as I get down and today is the start of that, then lots of conversation with lots of people. It has been interesting as I have gotten more involved and began to play a lot of attention, and Bill Brian, the chair of the search committee, has been very helpful in making available these certain documents, for example, the colloquy that Dean Toben organized with the help of the deans about two years ago. That gave me a wonderful insight on some of those issues.

My sense is that everyone in this whole discussion, whatever its dimensions, No. 1, loves this university and wants it to grow and prosper as a Christian university in the Baptist tradition. We also want it to be a top tier university. The regents have affirmed that and the Faculty Senate has affirmed that. The question is, how do we implement that? What is the balance needed? What is the touch needed? That is going to be a long series of conversations. That colloquy was very informative. Right now I only know those statements as the statements of individuals. I do not know to what extent they represent other people's thinking.

This university has made tremendous progress over a short period of time with tremendous challenges. You don't move to a top tier university and you don't deal with the intentionality of it being a Christian university in the Baptist tradition without Baptists, as we love to do, disagreeing. But Baptists also come together.

I think this is a time for us to build on Baylor's recent history as well as its very long history. The atmosphere that I experienced as a student, both in the classroom and out of the classroom, and particularly First Baptist Church, that meant everything to me. It was transforming for me and I want it to be transforming for every young person who comes to Baylor University. It is that profound a place. Frankly, that's why I'm here - only for Baylor.

Mike Copeland, Waco-Tribune Herald: What are your thoughts on Baylor 2012?

Dr. John Lilley: I have studied it. Its fundamental premise is that Christian universities in the Baptist tradition, or any Christian university for that matter, will remain so through great effort. We certainly know that nationally we have many private universities which historically were founded by various denominations that no longer have those affiliations. We know from history that it is easy to lose that affiliation or that focus. So the question is how to, not only maintain that focus, but to enhance it in a way that is inclusive and that the university is strengthened.

Father Hesburgh at Notre Dame said you can't be a great Christian university if you're not a great university. The push toward being a top tier university, another major theme of 2012, I find exceedingly important and am very comfortable with it.

Marv Knox, Baptist Standard: What is your feeling about Baylor's place in Baptist life in Texas and its importance to Texas Baptists, particularly the convention and its importance to Baylor?

Dr. John Lilley: It is extremely important and I will be at the Baptist General Convention of Texas gathering in Austin on the 14th and 15th and look forward to meeting a lot of people there.

Baylor has been the crown jewel of Texas Baptists, and I believe it still is based on the information I have and will do everything within my power to make sure it remains there. Our Baptist connections and the tradition of Texas Baptists is very important. I will do everything I can to strengthen that.

I will be joining First Baptist Church of Waco, but as I've said to the regents, I want to be with each of them in their churches. We'll try to strengthen that relationship.

Annie McCormick, KWTX: Who initially showed interest, you or Baylor, in this position?

Dr. John Lilley: I was nominated and then I was contacted by the search firm initially.

Annie McCormick, KWTX: Have you submitted your resignation yet to the University of Nevada?

Dr. John Lilley: I have talked to my chancellor and indicated to him that I will be resigning from the University of Nevada January 2nd.

Matt Pene, KCEN: Would you say it is one of your top priorities to become a unifier here at Baylor?

Dr. John Lilley: I think that's every president's wish. Every president wants to have an intellectual community that pulls together. All universities have moments when those divisions might be minor or develop into something major. But while we don't seek intellectual uniformity, in terms of the spirit of the place and in terms of the trust, I think that's very important. Any president would want that.

Jennifer Kent, KXXV: How did the University of Nevada feel when you put in your resignation? Since you recently renewed your contract, what was the feeling there that you would be leaving the University of Nevada?

Dr. John Lilley: Gerri has been checking the phone messages at our home, and word got out this morning. We have several regents and a senate majority leader of the Nevada legislature and some dear, wonderful people who are not very happy right now. But I'll have a chance to talk with them and tell them how special all of this is, and they will certainly understand and be supportive.

Will Davis: Tell them about your son, the comment he made about why you should consider this.

Dr. John Lilley: Which one, there's so many. Our youngest son, Benjamin, came with Gerri and me to the Distinguished Alumni activity this past winter. What a grand moment that was, just visually. I hadn't realized there was a room, Will, that when you looked west, you saw the towers and all the Baylor that was and still is so beautifully restored, and you look east and see all the Baylor that has been created since I've been here. And then a sunset to go with it. And Benjamin, who is a very sophisticated young man, just said, "Wow, you can just feel this place." And his mother was talking to him, and he said, "Hey, Mom, it's Baylor, it's special." And all the children feel that.

Angela Brown, AP: How important is it for Baylor to become the home of the new presidential library and will you be doing anything in particular to make sure that happens?

Dr. John Lilley: I have a nearby choice of going to the BGCT or going to Washington, D.C., and I've chosen the BGCT. I think the Baylor library presentation is in good hands, based on all the information that I have. I think it will be a wonderful opportunity for the university to have that, and in terms of this entire region of the country, to have the Clinton Library, then coming down to the Bush Library and splitting off to the Johnson and H.W. Bush Library, I think it will be a really wonderful thing for this region, and it would be a wonderful thing for this university. The university has many friends who are both Democrats and Republicans, and I'm sure everyone's pulling for it. The group going to Washington we hope will be very successful.

Once they are former presidents, it becomes pretty much a non-partisan issue, and so I think it's very appropriate.

Marv Knox, Baptist Standard: You mentioned Notre Dame and Father Hesburgh. Notre Dame, particularly around here, has been mentioned a lot, particularly in the last several years discussing that integration and balance in faith and learning. Is that achievable and how will you help Baylor to do the best at both of those?

Dr. John Lilley: Notre Dame is a wonderful example because Notre Dame took itself out from under control of the Vatican for what they thought were good reasons, just as Baylor made the change in its governance structure. I think the intentionality of Baylor to make it an ever finer Christian university in the Baptist tradition, I think I just lapsed back into my Southern accent, (laughter) Bab-tist, did you hear me? Bap-tist. It's one of the many parts of the conversation that we have to have. Clearly looking at the information in the Colloquy, there was a wonderful spirited disagreement about how to do it, but as I read it, in complete agreement that it should be done, so the question is how to do it, and it may vary from discipline to discipline, college to college, but it must be done.

Analiz Gonzalez, Lariat: Dr. Lilley, ever since Dr. Underwood resumed the interim presidency, he's been really open with the media. I know I'm biased in asking that. (laughter)

Dr. John Lilley: Good for him.

Analiz Gonzalez, Lariat: He's been meeting with us and different media from outside the campus as well. Faculty Senate for example is also starting to open up to faculty. It used to be closed. So I was wondering what policy you had regarding transparency in the university and how you felt about talking to different media sources.

Dr. John Lilley: My fundamental premise is that communication builds trust and lack of communication builds mistrust. So working with Larry Brumley and others, we will do our very best to be transparent to make sure you have the story, make sure that you trust us to work with you and we trust you to work with us. We can't, I can't do my job as president, the regents can't do their job, none of us can unless we have the public media that's really helping to tell that story.

Larry Brumley, associate vice president for external relations: Any other questions?

Dr. John Lilley: No, I have to recognize someone first. (Applause) Now this will be emotional. This is man who launched me right here. Dr. Robert Young, yes, faculty emeritus.

Looking for more news from Baylor University?