Baylor University Inaugurates Ken Starr As University's 14th President

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Sept. 17, 2010

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Since 1902, Baylor University has introduced its new presidents in public ceremonies. On Friday, Sept. 17, before a welcoming and celebratory crowd in the Ferrell Center, Baylor University Regents officially installed Kenneth Winston Starr, JD, as only the 14th president in the university's storied 165-year history. The ceremony, which was held on Constitution Day, highlighted a week of academic, commemorative and community events relating to the inauguration and the United States Constitution.

Friday's ceremony featured musical presentations from Baylor's combined choirs, Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, the Inaugural Procession that included representatives from 119 learned societies and educational institutions, and addresses from keynote speaker Stephen L. Carter, The William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School, and Starr, who received Baylor's traditional symbols of authority - the Presidential Medallion and Chain of Office - prior to delivering his inaugural response.

The ceremony also featured a scripture reading by Carolyn Starr Doolitte, daughter of Ken and Alice Starr, who recited Micah 6:8:

    He has showed you, O man, what is good.
    And what does the LORD require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

A New York Times best-selling author, Carter is well known for his works of fiction, as well his non-fiction books about religion and civility in American society. One of those books is The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion, in which he argues that religious faith can and must be a significant element of public life, even as citizens affirm the importance of the separation of church and state.

In his address on "The Future of Democratic Debate," Carter praised Baylor for bringing Starr to Baylor, describing him as "a man of vision, of brilliance, of energy, of enormous personal warmth and of a deep devotion to his faith," who exemplifies the "great virtues of democracy: tolerance, patience, dialogue, and respect for others."

Following Carter's well-received address, Starr was presented with Baylor's traditional "symbols of authority." After changing from his personal academic regalia for the Juris Doctor degree earned at Duke University to Baylor's presidential regalia - a distinctive green robe with four chevrons on the sleeve, a symbolic element used only on presidential regalia - Starr was presented with the Presidential Medallion and Chain of Office.

Baylor symbols of authority

The Presidential Medallion is symbolic of the President's custody of the official Baylor seal and the authority and responsibility to use it wisely and judiciously. The medallion bears the likeness of the official University mace in the center, ringed with laurel. The words "Baylor University" and "Presidential Medallion" encircle the mace.

The obverse side of the medallion features the Baylor seal which has three concentric circles. The inner circle features a single star with the words Pro Ecclesia and Pro Texana (For Church and For Texas). The center circle bears the words "Chartered in 1845 By the Republic of Texas" and the outer circle bears the words "Baylor University."

The medallion is attached to a Chain of Office. The names of all previous presidents of the university and their dates of service are engraved on a series of small tablets within the chain, which also incorporates two small medallions featuring the star and motto from the Baylor seal.

The Baylor President wears the medallion with the chain of office at commencement ceremonies and other formal academic functions of the university.

Following several standing ovations, Starr delivered his Inaugural Response.

Celebrating Baylor's 'living' heritage, while addressing today's challenges

While acknowledging America's historic focus on education, from its very beginnings as a "constitutional republic blessed with a government - in Lincoln's immortal words at Gettysburg - 'of the people, by the people, and for the people,'" Starr said Baylor is part of the story of America. Starr spoke of the university's beginnings, when the university's namesake, Judge Robert Emmitt Bledsoe Baylor, joined with two pioneering pastors to create an institution of higher learning in the newly independent Republic of Texas.

"To Academy Hill and Windmill Hill on that original campus they came, the children of Texas pioneers. From Independence, on which our beloved four columns continue to stand and through which march new members of that good old Baylor line, onward they came to the banks of the Brazos in our welcoming hometown - the City of Waco," Starr said. "We celebrate today this living heritage of Texas' oldest continuing institution of higher learning. By God's grace, it has grown, it has prospered. But its mission has never changed. Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana. For the church, and for Texas. We reaffirm that mission today."

Baylor's 14th president also focused on the challenge of the rising cost of higher education. "As a moral imperative, we must address the fundamental question of the rapidly escalating cost of higher education. This is our highest priority in the decade now unfolding," he said.

On Sept. 15, Starr announced his first fundraising priority: a $100 million, three-year scholarship fundraising initiative officially titled How Extraordinary the Stories: The President's Scholarship Initiative. During his inaugural response, Starr encouraged the support of the extended Baylor family - alumni, parents of alumni, and friends around the country and around the world.

"There must be a new way. Let's make it the Baylor Way. That way is characterized by our mission - one of creating and fostering 'a caring community,'" he said. "My proposition is simple and direct: The entire Baylor family must come together to address this crisis. It is no longer an issue simply for families, struggling alone in an uncertain economy, or for governments grappling with budgetary challenges of the highest order. This is about our 152,000 living alumni, our countless friends, and members of our immediate community here in Waco. This will remain among our highest priorities in the decade now unfolding. I humbly invite your support."

Looking 'above and beyond'

Starr also focused on what he called "this time of great challenge for higher education in America," where he asserted that Christian education has an increasingly compelling role to play. He pointed to the words of Harry Lewis, Dean Emeritus of Harvard College, in his book Excellence Without A Soul, in which he charged that "universities have forgotten their larger educational role for college help them grow up, to learn who they are, to search for a larger purpose for their lives, and to leave college as better human beings."

"We lament this sense of loss and hollowness. As it turns out, the forces of relentless secularization have not truly triumphed. Nor has the reductionist thrust embodied in the statement adorning the office of one departmental chair of an Ivy League institution: 'If you can't quantify it, it's not worth talking about.' Quantification is vitally important to scientific inquiry and human progress, but it does not provide ultimate answers to life's enduring questions. For those answers, we must look, in the words of one of our favorite Baylor phrases, above and beyond," Starr said.

As wide-ranging opinions on a variety of important issues swirl throughout the Christian academy and at Baylor as well, Starr noted that "Baylor, with its rich Baptist history which we honor and treasure, a happy consensus obtains on what we call our foundational assumptions, our core convictions and our unifying academic themes. In all our differences, there remains e pluribus unum - out of many, one.

Discovery of new knowledge

The president also spoke about Baylor's growing international reputation as a research university that continues to care deeply about undergraduate education. "Baylor is poised to have an increasingly global impact. Baylor's commitment to research and inquiry is ever more compellingly needed. Baylor scientists are making important contributions in areas such as cancer research, water quality and avionics. Their faith is informing both the questions they explore and the way in which their knowledge is being employed to help our hurting world. By demanding that good research inform good teaching, we are actively involving our students in the discovery of new knowledge."

The president concluded his remarks by hearkening to the immortal words from Baylor's founding 165 years ago: "May God bless America on this Constitution Day 2010, and may God bless Baylor University both now and - as our Founders envisioned in 1845 - for 'all ages to come.' Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana. This motto has endured for 165 years. It inspires us now, this day, and may it inspire all those in that ever-growing good Old Baylor Line in the ages to come."

Following the installation ceremony, Starr and Baylor's First Lady, Alice M. Starr, greeted well-wishers at a reception on the Ferrell Center grounds.

Constitutional focus

Friday's inaugural events began with a Presidential Symposium on "The Role of the Supreme Court in American Society" in Waco Hall. Starr served as moderator, with distinguished panelists Judge Jennifer Elrod, BA '88, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals; Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, Texas Supreme Court; Thomas R. Phillips, BA '71, former Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court; and Stuart Taylor, Contributing Editor, Newsweek, and Nonresident Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Following the symposium, attendees took part in break-out sessions that focused on the hotly debated topics of gun control and the Second Amendment and immigration. Both sessions were led by Baylor Law School professors David M. Guinn, The Olson Professor of Local Government and Constitutional Law, Brian Serr, professor of law, and Michelle Saenz-Rodriguez, adjunct professor of law. Guinn and Serr led the session on "Packing Heat and the Second Amendment" in the Kronzer Appellate Advocacy Courtroom at Baylor Law School, while Saenz-Rodriguez led the session on "Immigration in America - Who's Really in Charge" in the SBC Theater, Jeanes Discovery Center, Mayborn Museum Complex.

With Starr's inauguration occurring on Constitution Day, the more than 4,000 people who attended the symposium, break-out sessions and inauguration ceremony also received a pocket copy of the Constitution.

Since he began serving as Baylor president, Starr has kept a busy schedule that has included negotiating Baylor's future in the Big 12 Conference, meeting alumni and students across the United States and joining incoming students at Baylor Line Camp ceremonies in Independence.

About President Starr

Immediately prior to coming to Baylor, Starr served six years as The Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean and Professor of Law at Pepperdine University. He was elected Baylor's president in a unanimous vote of the Board of Regents Feb. 12, 2010, and took office June 1.

Starr has had a distinguished career in academia, the law and public service. Prior to coming to Baylor, he served for six years as the Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean and Professor of Law at Pepperdine University, where he taught current constitutional issues and civil procedure. He also is of counsel to the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where he was a partner from 1993 to 2004, specializing in appellate work, antitrust, federal courts, federal jurisdiction and constitutional law.

As Solicitor General of the United States from 1989 to 1993, Starr argued 25 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He also served as United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1981 to 1983, as law clerk to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger from 1975 to 1977 and as law clerk to Fifth Circuit Judge David W. Dyer from 1973 to 1974. Starr was appointed to serve as Independent Counsel for five investigations, including Whitewater, from 1994 to 1999.

Starr previously taught constitutional law as an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law and was a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University School of Law and Chapman Law School. After graduating from San Antonio's Sam Houston High School, he earned his B.A. from George Washington University in 1968, his M.A. from Brown University in 1969 and his J.D. degree from Duke University Law School in 1973. He is admitted to practice in California, the District of Columbia, Virginia and the U.S. Supreme Court.

He is the author of more than 25 publications, and his book, First Among Equals: The Supreme Court in American Life, published in 2002, was praised by U.S. Circuit Judge David B. Sentelle as "eminently readable and informative...not just the best treatment to-date of the Court after [Chief Justice Earl] Warren, it is likely to have that distinction for a long, long time."

He has received a multitude of honors and awards, including the J. Reuben Clark Law Society 2005 Distinguished Service Award, the 2004 Capital Book Award, the Jefferson Cup award from the FBI, the Edmund Randolph Award for Outstanding Service in the Department of Justice and the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service.

Starr was born on July 21, 1946, in Vernon, Texas, and was raised in San Antonio. He and his wife Alice have three children and four grandchildren. The Starrs made their home in Malibu, Calif., from 2004 to 2010, and lived in McLean, Va., from 1978 to 2004. He has volunteered many hours teaching in the inner city and assisting disadvantaged students with summer internships, after-school programs and guidance for financing a college education.

For complete information on the inauguration activities at Baylor, visit

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

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