Ryan and Karen Liles believe that the Baylor experience is so valuable that all aspiring education students should have the chance to gain their degree at the university. Based on their personal experiences with Baylor quality, the Lileses began the Ryan and Karen Liles Endowed Scholarship Fund. By supporting future teachers, they see a way for their support to reach beyond Baylor and into the classrooms of future Baylor-trained teachers.
Ryan graduated from Baylor with a BBA in accounting in 1977 and then his MBA degree in 1978. While Karen did not attend Baylor, receiving a BS in education from Stephen F. Austin University in 1977, she fell in love with the family-oriented environment and traditions of Baylor culture.
"Even if you didn't go [to Baylor], you still feel like you are welcomed as part of the family," Karen said.
Throughout their lives together, the couple has been constantly immersed in Baylor traditions, holding season tickets to football games and returning to see classmates during Homecoming. Karen was even designated a Baylor Alumna-by-Choice in 1989.
Naturally, it came as a thrill to them when their son decided to pursue his political science degree at Baylor as well. Although he wasn't able to get immediate acceptance into Baylor's fall semester, at that time, Baylor provided a challenge program allowing students to take a summer semester that included basic college courses. If they were able to maintain a high enough GPA, they would enter the fall semester like everyone else. For their son, it was a success.
"It's amazing that Baylor had that opportunity to give them a chance," Karen said. "They might have fallen through the cracks otherwise."
After their son graduated in 2006, the Lileses were inspired to begin a scholarship to help students in similar situations. While the Baylor program provided students a chance to get started on their college education, summer classes meant that students needed to pay for an extra semester's worth of books, supplies and tuition. The Liles scholarship was initially created to cover these extra costs.
When this challenge program was no longer offered, the Liles family decided to shift their scholarship to education students. They knew the value of a Baylor experience and wanted to help students achieve that if they couldn't afford it.
"We want good teachers, and we want them to come from Baylor," Ryan said. "We want them to feel like they can afford to be teachers."
As the Lileses learned more about the School of Education, they have also taken special interest in the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities (BCDD). The BCDD concentrates on addressing the complex issues of autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities through its cooperative research, educational and service programs. Karen especially has a passion for this area of education.
After touring the BCDD, as well as the Baylor School of Education as a whole, the Lileses had no doubt in their mind that they were supporting the right school. They have plans to continue supporting the School of Education in every way that they can and making sure that all students have the ability to gain that valuable Baylor experience.
"I want Baylor to represent a huge range of students with different skills," Ryan said. "Scores don't reflect a student's ability to thrive."—By Isabelle Perello