Baylor Students, Faculty and Staff:
I am excited for the start of the spring semester on Monday, as 2019 already is shaping up to be noteworthy for Baylor. Give Light, the University’s $1.1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign has been received enthusiastically by our alumni, parents and friends. And here on campus, faculty and others in the academic community continue the buildout of Illuminate, our academic strategic plan, which will chart our path as a preeminent Christian research university and impact Baylor for generations to come. I look forward to our collective engagement on these key initiatives and updating you on our progress throughout the year.
And students, be sure to monitor Baylor social media for a couple of special welcome back opportunities on Monday.
Here are several updates to start the spring semester:
- As we talk about Illuminate, one of the more frequent questions I am asked by the Baylor Family is: “Why is research important to Baylor?” Our Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Lee C. Nordt, Ph.D., penned a column answering this very question in the latest issue of Arts & Sciences Magazine. Dean Nordt also explains what research rankings mean, particularly in the context of maintaining Baylor’s commitment to an unambiguously Christian educational environment.
- Speaking of research: A study by Baylor political scientist Patrick Flavin, Ph.D., has found that Americans are happier in states where governments spend more on public goods, such as libraries, parks, highways and natural resources. Public goods make communities more livable, and they generally boost home values, Flavin said. He analyzed 30 years of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the General Social Survey for the study, published in the journal Social Science Research. He also found that public goods spending tends to be less politically controversial than poverty assistance or unemployment benefits.
- This past Sunday, Baylor’s Mayborn Museum completed its final day of “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.” This national traveling exhibit spent the past seven months delighting Mayborn guests. In fact, a record 53,166 visitors from across Texas, more than 47 other states and several countries enjoyed the exhibit. Congratulations to Mayborn Museum Director Charles Walter and his entire team for their success and for bringing this blockbuster exhibit to Waco.
- Over the next five months, we will be hearing a lot of news coming out of Austin as the 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature is underway. Even as a private university, Baylor is actively involved in monitoring legislation and working with our colleagues within the Independent Colleges & Universities of Texas. Our top legislative issue is to maintain, if not increase, funding to the Texas Equalization Grant (TEG) program, which has allowed tens of thousands of bright, deserving students to pursue their education dreams at private universities across the state.
- Also on the Legislative front: Congratulations are in order for Baylor graduate Sen. Kirk Watson, B.A. ’80, J.D. ’81, who was unanimously voted president pro tempore of the Texas Senate. Watson would serve on the Senate dais if Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is unavailable, and the appointment puts him in the line of succession for governor. He has represented the Texas Senate’s 14th District in the Austin area since 2007.
I apologize for ending this week’s email on a sad note. Our Baylor Family is remembering one of our beloved faculty members, Dr. Robert Packard, who passed away Saturday. His “Packard Physics” class was an institution itself, and it’s estimated that he taught nearly a quarter of our alumni during almost 60 years in the classroom. In fact, hundreds of his former students have shared their stories on social media about the impact Dr. Packard and his wife, Joyce, had on their lives. Services for Dr. Packard will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joyce and the generations of alumni and friends who deeply loved and appreciated Dr. Packard.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.