September 30, 2010
Greetings from Baylor University, which continues to stand proudly as a powerful beacon of hope in a hurting world. With our 15,000 students now on campus preparing for lives of worldwide service, we give thanks for the many blessings of this rapidly-unfolding fall semester. A wonderful freshman class - and outstanding transfer students - joined us for the academic year 2010-11. They represent various ethnicities and backgrounds; indeed, we enrolled the most diverse incoming class in our history. And what a magnificent opportunity lies before them. Baylor continues to offer a small- school atmosphere with large-school opportunities. With more than 150 areas of study and over 60 study abroad programs, a Baylor education can take our students - who come from all 50 states and 73 countries - anywhere they want to go.
In these early months of my own service at Baylor, I am personally deeply thankful for the countless expressions of encouragement and support from throughout this mighty Baylor nation of 152,000 alumni, tens of thousands of parents and loved ones, and our honored retired faculty and staff members who have in years past taught and labored in love on this beautiful campus.
As the academic year unfolds, it is ever clearer that Baylor has a particularly important role to play in this second decade of the 21st Century - and far beyond. In an era which our inaugural speaker, Professor Stephen Carter of Yale, aptly described as "The Culture of Disbelief," Christian higher education has an increasingly compelling role to play. To draw from columnist Carlin Romano, we are "one university, indivisible, under a coherent idea." To be sure, wide-ranging opinions on a rich variety of important issues swirl throughout Christian higher education. To put it mildly, Baylor is no stranger to debate. And may that always be so. But at Baylor, with its rich Baptist history which we treasure, a happy consensus exists on what we call our foundational assumptions, our core convictions and our unifying academic themes. This is good.
As we count our many blessings and honor Baylor's call to be that metaphorical "city on a hill," we recognize that our beloved University has not been immune from the winds swirling around American higher education. In particular, rising costs have deeply affected our extended Baylor family. So much has been accomplished over the generations as Baylor has grown, but in recent years - including this year - tuition levels have continued to rise. We give heartfelt thanks that Baylor is recognized in national college guides as a "Best Buy." Rightly so. But that is small comfort to so many caring families and deserving students whose dreams include coming to our beautiful campus for the transformational experience that is Baylor University. As a moral imperative, we must address the fundamental question of rapidly escalating costs.
As I foreshadowed in my first communication to the Baylor family on June 1, we have launched - as my inaugural initiative - "How Extraordinary the Stories: The President's Scholarship Initiative." We are reaching out to the entire Baylor family - alumni, parents of alumni, and friends around the country and, indeed, around the world. There must be a new way.
My proposition is simple and direct: The entire Baylor family needs to 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 Baylor's highest priorities in the decade now unfolding.
Other priorities will be laid out in the weeks and months to come. But along with addressing the cost of higher education, we have another overriding call to action - to engage the entire Baylor community in our planning for Baylor's future. It is now time to celebrate our achievements and begin to shape our future. A commitment to shared governance within our university community summons forth faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends to participate in this important process. You will be hearing more on this overarching initiative in the weeks to come.
Let me close by recalling the blessings of this past summer: the preservation - and strengthening - of the Big 12 Conference; the recognition of Baylor's core curriculum as one of the finest in the nation; the sacrificial service of our faculty and students in summer mission trips around the world; and the gracious welcome extended by the wonderful Waco community that we are abundantly blessed to call home.
May God continue to bless each of you and your dear families.