Thanksgiving Blessings from Baylor

November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from the beautiful campus of Baylor University! This week, millions of Americans will gather together to renew a hallowed national tradition launched almost four centuries ago on the shores of Cape Cod at Plymouth Colony. Two centuries later, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” On the eve of what will soon be the 150th anniversary of that historic Thanksgiving proclamation, we pause to give thanks.

Counting our Blessings

At Baylor, we have myriad reasons to be thankful - a remarkably talented and diverse student body; a caring faculty energetically engaged in the lives of our students; active alumni flinging their green and gold afar; and our magnificent athletic programs.

Our Students

Our enrollment trends continue to demonstrate that Baylor’s national profile has never been higher, nor have more families sought the distinctly transformational experience of a Baylor education. We have once again attracted a talented and diverse student body of great character, as young men and women are drawn to Baylor for a superb education in a caring Christian community. Let’s start our blessing-counting with these encouraging points of celebration:

  • In fall 2012, Baylor enrolled 15,364 students, the University’s largest overall enrollment in our storied 167-year history.
  • We enrolled a near-record freshman class of 3,254 freshmen.
  • The academic quality of the freshman class continues to be stellar, averaging 1234 on the SAT and 26.9 on the ACT.
  • Our university-wide focus is by no means limited to welcoming new members of that Good Old Baylor Line, but also encompasses encouraging our students to stay their educational course. We give thanks for a rapidly-rising retention rate among Baylor’s freshmen (from fall 2011 to fall 2012) to a record 86.6 percent - an increase of almost five percentage points in the last two years.

We are also thankful that the University’s minority enrollment increased yet again this year - to 33.4 percent. Just this month, The Chronicle of Higher Education analyzed fall 2010 enrollment and diversity data at more than 1,500 American colleges and universities. The report was very encouraging. The Chronicle reported that in 2010 Baylor’s overall minority enrollment was 29 percent - topping minority enrollment at Texas A&M (24 percent), Texas Tech and SMU (both at 23 percent), and TCU (18 percent). Consistent with the tenets of our faith, a diverse campus community adds immeasurably to the richness of the conversation among our students.

As Baylor seeks to attract, retain and graduate new generations of that Good Old Baylor Line, we understand the considerable difficulty that so many families and students face in affording a Baylor education. The President’s Scholarship Initiative is a vitally important way in which the Baylor family is responding to this challenge. With an exemplarily generous initial gift from Baylor Board of Regents Chairman Richard Willis (BBA ’81, MBA ’82) and his wife Karen (BBA ’85), The President’s Scholarship Initiative has catapulted in recent months to a total of $81 million. No fewer than 9,500 members of Baylor Nation have contributed to this very worthy cause. As we move steadily toward reaching our goal of $100 million, you can learn more about the truly Extraordinary Stories behind The President’s Scholarship Initiative at

Our Faculty, Staff and Servant-Leaders

In writing to you at the beginning of the fall semester, I enthusiastically welcomed the 55 new faculty members who had recently joined our academic community. As a shining beacon in American higher education, Baylor is continuing to attract truly outstanding faculty and staff. Whether serving on the Executive Council here at Pat Neff Hall or joining the University’s professional staff, or pursuing their important research in the sciences or the humanities, these recently-arrived members of the Baylor family demonstrate the powerful appeal of a University situated at the exciting crossroads of academic excellence and Christian commitment.

We are especially thankful that Dr. Ken Hall, president emeritus of Buckner International, who most recently served on our Board of Regents, is joining our servant-leadership team as Senior Vice President for University Development and Strategic Initiatives. Among his other responsibilities, Dr. Hall will lead the essential fundraising efforts to propel Baylor forward under Pro Futuris, the University’s recently-launched strategic vision.

We are pleased to announce Marjorie Ellis as our new Executive Director of Career and Professional Development in the Paul L. Foster Success Center. Ms. Ellis will help increase our support of students and alumni in searching for employment opportunities and enhancing their career satisfaction.

We also welcome outstanding faculty members attracted to Baylor’s distinctive community of teacher-scholars. In the sciences, for example, Dr. Marlan O. Scully has joined us as a Baylor University Distinguished Researcher. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Scully was recently named the 2012 recipient of the Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus Quinn Prize, the highest award conferred by The Optical Society, for his groundbreaking research in quantum optics. In the humanities, Dr. Alan Jacobs will leave his prestigious post as Clyde S. Kilby Chair Professor of English at Wheaton College next fall to join the Honors College as Distinguished Professor of the Humanities. These new colleagues are drawn to the Baylor of the 21st Century - a comprehensive research university that resolutely embraces its Christian identity.

Our Baylor Alumni Network

Engaging Baylor alumni is both a high privilege and weighty responsibility. To that end, the Baylor Alumni Network continues to perform magnificently in providing programs connecting our alumni and friends all over the nation and around the world. If you were able to visit campus earlier this month during Homecoming, you could not miss the Baylor Alumni Network’s remarkable efforts, organizing celebratory and capacity-reaching Reunion Dinners, co-laboring alongside the Baylor Chamber of Commerce to produce the incomparable Baylor Homecoming Parade - the oldest and largest collegiate Homecoming parade in the country - and honoring this year’s extraordinary class of Baylor Meritorious Achievement Award recipients, including the Reverend Billy Graham.

Even more exciting is the ever-expanding outreach of the Baylor Alumni Network. Under the inspired leadership of the beloved Tommye Lou Davis, the Baylor Alumni Network is uniting and engaging 165,000 Baylor alumni across the globe on behalf of the University. In 2012 alone, the Network has hosted no fewer than 829 events. The venues included over 140 cities in 25 states and the District of Columbia. More than 33,000 Baylor family members and friends were in attendance. Never in Baylor’s rich history has there been such a robust, vibrant outreach to each and every alumnus and alumna. And this is only the beginning.

Our Athletics

Finally, in this Thanksgiving season, we continue to be grateful for our marvelous athletic programs, highlighted by Baylor’s dramatic gridiron victory at Floyd Casey Stadium this past Saturday night over previously top-ranked K-State. The Bears are marching! We eagerly look forward to an enormous (and enthusiastic) gathering of Baylor Nation on Saturday, November 24, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington as the Bears take on the Red Raiders of Texas Tech in our great Thanksgiving weekend rivalry. Meanwhile, our basketball teams - the defending National Champion Lady Bears under Coach Kim Mulkey and the highly-ranked Baylor Bears under Coach Scott Drew - are off to strong starts. And we are immensely proud of Coach Marci Jobson and her record-shattering soccer team that won the Big 12 Soccer Tournament Championship and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen with a dramatic win over Georgetown University. Their historic season ended on Sunday afternoon in a closely-fought match-up with perennial powerhouse North Carolina. Speaking of historic, this past Saturday our national championship equestrian team toppled previously top-ranked South Carolina 9-8 in a thrilling match-up at Baylor’s Willis Family Equestrian Center. We are tremendously proud of our 500 student-athletes on all 19 intercollegiate teams.


In closing, in this special season of Thanksgiving, it is good to give thanks and praise. And so, with abiding thanks for all that is good, we at Baylor wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. May the Lord’s favor continue graciously to rest on you and yours, and on Baylor University.

Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana. And now, Pro Futuris - for the future.


Ken Starr

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