Eckert Speaks

Copple Chair in School Leadership

Jon Eckert, EdD (pictured above at the inaugural Academy for Transformational Leadership in 2019), joined the Baylor School of Education faculty on Aug. 1, 2019, as the inaugural holder of The Lynda and Robert Copple Endowed Chair in Christian School Leadership. The installation was part of the Academy for Transformational Leadership, a continuing education and leadership training conference hosted by Baylor’s Center for Christian Education.

The newly established chair was made possible through a gift from alumni Lynda and Robert Copple of Frisco. The Copples are long-time supporters of Baylor University and members of the National Campaign Steering Committee for Give Light, Baylor’s $1.1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign.

“We are truly grateful for the investment of Lynda and Robert Copple, which has allowed our School of Education to attract a noted scholar, teacher and leader in Dr. Jon Eckert,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “We look forward to Dr. Eckert’s contributions to the academy through his research and his leadership. Baylor University is, foremost, a Christian institution. He will work with the Center for Christian Education to help ensure that Baylor continues to support our Christian educators across public and private school sectors. The Copples have made a visionary investment through this Chair, and we give thanks for their generous support through this transformational gift.”

Reflecting Baylor’s Christian mission to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service, the Center for Christian Education (CCE) is dedicated to advancing evidence-based approaches to educational improvement and values-driven leadership through a range of programming and resources. The CCE exists to equip leaders for impactful, innovative, mission-minded service promoting excellence and effectiveness in faith-based schools in the United States and around the world. The primary way the CCE will accomplish this mission is through the Copple Chair. As it scales toward its aspired national and global leadership role, the CCE is working to launch a series of professional development “academies” tailored to help cultivate leader effectiveness through the sharpening of leaders’ knowledge bases, skill sets and professional identities. This week’s Academy is the inaugural professional development conference resulting from these renewed efforts.

As the inaugural Chair, Eckert will help lay the academic foundations of the CCE and serves as the intellectual cornerstone for many of its programs. In his first function as the Copple Chair, Eckert delivered a keynote address during the Academy’s welcome dinner on June 23.

“Dr. Jon Eckert is a compelling, leading voice in Christian education, and we are excited for his vision for the Center for Christian Education and the opportunities the School of Education has to provide critical support and resources to Christian educators,” said School of Education Interim Dean Terrill Saxon, Ph.D. “We are grateful for Lynda and Robert Copple. Their generous decision to provide lasting, sustaining support for Christian educators through the prestigious Copple Chair gave us the resources needed to bring the caliber of faculty needed to help shape a bright future for the School of Education.”

Eckert previously served as Professor of Education at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., where he has taught as a member of the faculty since 2009. Prior to his career in higher education, Eckert taught at the primary and secondary levels and served a year appointment as a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education. As a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education in both the Bush and Obama administrations, Eckert worked on teaching-quality issues. This grew from his doctoral work at Vanderbilt University and his desire to elevate and advance teaching. Eckert holds an Ed.D. in educational leadership, policy and organization from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. He received his master’s degree in education from Benedictine University, and his Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Wheaton College. Eckert currently works with schools across the country to improve policies and teaching practice.

“Thank you… to the Copples for their generous gift that has made it possible for us to be here,” Eckert said. “This is so important that we are here to do this work. Because Christian school leaders are what my best hope is for our country. That’s where the hope is.”

The 2019 Academy for Transformational Leadership hosted more than 150 educators from public and private schools, focusing on the essential role that leadership plays in the Christian school. This foundational year explored topics such as: collaborative leadership, Christian education and its purpose historically and in the present, developing the next generation of leaders, managing institutional change for greater faithfulness, the primary role of the Christian school leader, effective board leadership, and development and fundraising.

The inaugural Academy coincided with the School of Education’s celebration of its 100th anniversary as a separate academic unit. For more than 100 years, Baylor graduates have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to Texas classrooms and beyond — as teachers, superintendents, psychologists, health education and sport management professionals, scholars and more.

Copples and EckertLynda and Robert Copple’s intent in establishing the Copple Chair was to provide resources to help leaders in education access avenues to help them excel in their roles. The Copples (pictured, left, with Dr. Eckert) hope these leaders include college deans, headmasters, principals, school board members and other significant supporters who are critical for teachers’ and students’ greatest success. The Copples anticipate that by investing in quality leadership training, and supporting educational leaders, that students, teachers and communities will all benefit.

As a graduate of the School of Education and a former educator, Lynda Moore Copple joins a rich tradition of alumni creating legacies of generosity to support their alma mater and the future teachers who follow their path to education. Lynda earned a B.S.Ed. in elementary education from Baylor in 1979 and an M.A. in education from Texas Wesleyan College in 1985. She served the Arlington Independent School District (AISD) for 14 years as a teacher in every elementary grade, from kindergarten through sixth grade. She taught as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in AISD’s formative years of the program and served as a contributor to multiple district curriculum writing committees, as a teacher mentor and as a district-level teacher trainer.

Robert Copple graduated from Baylor with a B.B.A. in 1980 and an M.P.A. in 1981, both in accounting. After beginning his career working with clients in the tax practice at Deloitte and Touche, he spent 20 years at Cinemark Holdings, a Plano-based theater chain with more than 500 locations in the United States and 14 Latin American countries. He served Cinemark as CFO until 2014 and then as president and COO until 2016 when he left to pursue personal interests. He is the former director and chairman of the board at Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco, where the Copples’ children, Lisa and John Michael, attended school. Their son, John Michael Copple, is a current Baylor student.

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