Occasions for Celebration

May 1, 2014
On this first day of May, with spring in full bloom, please accept my warm greetings from Baylor's stunningly beautiful campus.

For a number of important reasons, May 1 is a highly significant day. First, it marks the 63rd annual National Day of Prayer. Across campus and in communities spanning the continent, millions of Americans will gather as one to pray. Here at Baylor, we will bow our heads in humility and thanksgiving.

The theme for this year’s National Day of Prayer is “One Voice, United in Prayer.” Anne Graham Lotz, honorary national chair of the event, has authored a special prayer to be read simultaneously across the nation. The daughter of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, Anne has deep connections to Baylor. Her three children – Jonathan Lotz, BA ’94, Morrow Lotz Reitmeier, BSEd ’96, and Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright, BSEd ’97 – are all proud alumni. From 2005 to 2008, Anne herself served with distinction as a member of Baylor’s Board of Regents. Her prayer, which you can find in full here, speaks powerfully to the human heart:

“In the darkness, You are our Light. In the storm, You are our Anchor. In our weakness, You are our Strength.”

On this special day, I heartily encourage you to join Anne – and millions of fellow Americans – in prayer.

Our American Freedoms

We also celebrate May 1 in another important respect. In 1958, President Eisenhower first proclaimed May 1 as Law Day. This iconic hero of World War II (and former university president himself) wrote: “In a very real sense, the world no longer has a choice between force and law. If civilization is to survive, it must choose the rule of law.”

From its Cold War beginning, this now-annual observance was intended to serve as a counterpoint to what others around the world – particularly in Communist countries – were celebrating as May Day. Three years later, in 1961, Congress by joint resolution officially designated May 1 as Law Day. In Congress’ words, May 1 is to serve as:

“A special day of celebration by the people of the United States in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law in their relations with each other and with other countries; and for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.”

Well said. Today, we join our fellow Americans in celebrating (in President Lincoln’s elegant formulation) a government of laws, not of men.

Pro Futuris in Action

Days of prayer and reflection, such as today, provide a welcome occasion to lift up our beloved University’s noble ambitions, described in Pro Futuris, Baylor’s strategic vision adopted in 2012. As we continue to focus on the bold aspirations articulated in that unifying vision, your Baylor servant-leaders have been rolling up our sleeves to identify specific goals that will, by God’s grace, bring great dreams to living reality.

In February, we presented Baylor’s Board of Regents with a set of specific institutional goals to undergird implementation of Pro Futuris during the next five years. In the several months that followed, we received a wide range of invaluable input. Aided by this helpful guidance, we intend to bring forward later this month a final set of proposed goals for review and official action by the Board of Regents.

These Five-Year Goals represent a high-level set of detailed “acts of determination” developed specifically to advance the University-level aspirations unifying our Pro Futuris vision. Informing how we channel institutional resources and guide our energies in the years to come, these goals also will allow us to demonstrate, with specificity, our progress as we all continue to build Baylor.

In our role as stewards, we are called upon to pursue the path forward that will most effectively propel our mission – Pro Ecclesia, for the church; Pro Texana, for the world; and Pro Futuris, for the future. We will have more to say about these goals as we continue to move forward in the months ahead.

A Student-Centered Campus

The month of May also brings a time that serves as the capstone of Baylor student life – the cherished walk across the graduation stage. On Friday and Saturday, May 16-17, we will hold four commencement ceremonies in the Ferrell Center and Truett Seminary. Just two days from now, on Saturday, May 3, the Baylor Law School will hold its commencement ceremony. During these joyous occasions, several thousand undergraduate, graduate and law students will receive diplomas, which serve as emblems of their transformational Baylor education. It’s a very special time of both celebration and thanksgiving.

On the second day of University-wide graduation (May 17), we will bid a temporary farewell and Godspeed to our first group of students participating in faculty-led, discipline-specific summer mission trips around the globe. With destinations ranging from Haiti to Zambia and Ghana, from Peru to Greece, more than 250 students will represent Baylor on summer mission experiences. These inspirational mission trips create tangible opportunities for students to understand how to employ the knowledge and skill sets gained at Baylor to minister to and serve “the least of these” around the globe.

In being “salt and light” to a hurting world, these students and mentors carry Baylor’s banner into the global community in a powerful way. Among the goals reflected in our proposed Five-Year Plan is one of increasing the number of students annually participating in Baylor-sponsored mission trips to 700. This is Baylor at its best.

Athletic Achievements

Our dedicated student-athletes, who represent Baylor as members of our nineteen intercollegiate athletic teams, provide Baylor Nation with numerable occasions for celebration during the year. So too, this spring has witnessed a remarkable number of great accomplishments and memorable moments.

First, the men’s and women’s basketball teams made deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, with the Big 12 champion Lady Bears making their fourth Elite Eight appearance in the last five years and the men reaching their third Sweet 16 in five years. Then, for the third straight season, a Baylor Lady Bear became national player of the year, when senior Odyssey Sims won the coveted Wade Trophy – often referred to as “the Heisman of women’s basketball.”

More recently, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams won regular season Big 12 titles, confirming Baylor’s standing as the conference’s most dominant program. These outstanding teams now head – with great momentum – into NCAA tournament play the weekend of May 10. In addition, our nationally ranked softball team and nationally ranked men’s and women’s track and field teams (which also will compete in the NCAA Outdoor National Championships in mid-June) are vigorously vying for their respective conference titles.

Baylor’s storied track and field program marked the end of a truly remarkable era when Baylor hosted the Michael Johnson Classic on April 19. In the final collegiate meet at Hart-Patterson Track and Field Complex (prior to the program’s move into the on-campus Clyde Hart Track and Field Stadium next year), more than 150 alumni and friends took a final ceremonial “Last Lap” around that famed track. Over the years, Baylor’s track and field teams have produced an astonishing nine Olympic gold medals, 36 NCAA championships and more than 600 All-America performances, leading the track world to dub Baylor as “Quartermiler U.” Fittingly, the concluding race – the men’s mile relay – in Hart-Patterson Track and Field Complex produced yet another Baylor victory. An era ends, a new chapter begins.

Because of You

As mentioned in my last communication, in fiscal year 2013, no fewer than 24,000 donors – including more than 6,200 first-time contributors – generously gave nearly $174 million to programs, faculty support, student scholarships, facilities and other essential areas of University life. This outpouring bears eloquent testimony to Baylor Nation’s abiding love for our University. We recently celebrated this record-shattering philanthropy at an on-campus gala, the Chairman’s Dinner, which unveiled a video entitled “Because of You.” I invite you to click here to discover the significance of every gift so graciously provided to Baylor. For that, we are most deeply thankful. Serving as a beautiful reminder of what makes Baylor University so special, this video deserves to be viewed by the entire Baylor family.

Bountiful gifts of alumni, parents and friends are both an indispensable key to Baylor’s success today and a light illuminating our path for tomorrow. While Baylor has been on its Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana journey of service to the church and the world since its founding in 1845, certain foundational characteristics of the University remain unchanged. Chief among these is Baylor’s steadfast commitment to providing a transformational Christian education in the context of a caring community. This noble vision was beautifully described by the late Samuel Palmer Brooks, when he wrote (in 1925) of his own time as a Baylor student: “Baylor opened up to me a new respect for law and order, not only in the realm of government, but of God.... [Baylor] revealed to me the beauty and glory and power and majesty of the life of Jesus as I had never known before.”

By virtue of the generosity of its alumni, parents and friends, and the selfless service of our faculty and staff, the revelation that then-President Brooks so eloquently captured still unfolds each and every day on our campus. May God continue abundantly to bless these efforts.

With heartfelt gratitude for your support, encouragement and prayers, and in abiding love for Baylor University, I remain

Yours sincerely,

Ken Starr
President and Chancellor
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