Image: George Washington University

Baylor University has elected Linda Livingstone, a veteran dean and business professor, as its 15th president and the first woman to lead the school, founded by Texas Baptists in 1845.

Livingstone received unanimous support from Baylor’s board of regents after being recommended by a 12-member presidential search committee, the university announced April 18. She will assume the office June 1.

She succeeds Ken Starr, who lost his job almost 11 months ago in the sexual assault scandal that rocked Baylor, and particularly its football program, the past two years.

Livingstone is dean and professor of management at George Washington University’s School of Business. Previously, she was dean of the business school at Pepperdine University. Before that, she was an associate dean and associate professor in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. She has specialized in studying and teaching organizational behavior, leadership and creativity.

Back where she started

“It is an honor to return to Baylor where I started my academic career,” Livingstone said. “I chose to begin … at Baylor in significant part because of Baylor’s Christian mission.

“To return to Baylor to partner with the exceptional faculty, staff, students and administrators to fulfill the university’s vision to be a top-tier research institution, committed to excellence in all aspects of university life, while strengthening the Christian mission is an opportunity I look forward to with enthusiasm.”

“Dr. Livingstone brings an accomplished academic career to Baylor, combined with a strong appreciation and support of Baylor’s mission,” noted Ron Murff, chair of the Baylor board of regents. “A longtime Baptist and former Baylor faculty member, she has a passion for the distinctiveness of Baylor’s Christian mission in higher education.”

Although Livingstone broke the gender barrier by becoming Baylor’s first female president, that was neither the search committee’s nor the regents’ goal, Murff noted.

“We understand this is a significant moment in Baylor’s history. Our goal was to make history by hiring Baylor’s next great president. Our goal was not specifically to look for a female,” he said.

“We were looking for a leader who had impeccable credentials and the ability to bring the Baylor Family together—to reach Baylor’s potential, to build on its Christian foundation and to reach its Christian mission. We believe we found that person in Dr. Livingstone.”

Livingstone noted she appreciates Baylor’s history and the significance of being the university’s first woman president. “But it’s not the first time in my career I’ve been ‘the first woman,’” she said. “I think I can take that on.”

She comes to Baylor as an ongoing controversy over sexual assault raises questions of student safety, particularly for female students.

“Regarding sexual assault and the vulnerability of women, obviously, I take those issues very seriously,” she said. “They affect the entire community.

“At Baylor, we’re going to do the right things. … We’re going to do everything we can to provide a safe and healthy environment for all our students. I’m committed to that, and I know the board is committed to that.”

Affirmation and support

Drayton McLane, a Baylor regent emeritus and member of the presidential search committee, noted Livingstone’s longstanding Baylor connection in citing her qualifications to lead the university.

“We began with Baylor’s mission in mind and based our search on the Christian values that Baylor stands for. That set the criteria for the type of individual we were looking for,” McLane said. “Dr. Livingstone met all our requirements. She, her husband and their family are outstanding, committed Christians.

“Dr. Livingstone has taught at Baylor and understands the Christian heritage, which is so important to the university. I am very pleased with the outcome of our search and the strong leadership Dr. Livingstone will provide Baylor University.”

Livingstone came to Baylor out of a process that began last fall and generated 400 recommendations for the presidential search committee, Murff said. The committee and its consulting firm, Heidrick & Struggles, conducted about 150 screening conversations and 61 first-round candidate interviews.

“We had strong interest in the position from accomplished candidates both inside and outside of academia,” Murff said. “Candidates admired Baylor’s significant growth over the past decade and saw tremendous potential in elevating the university’s academic profile even further while staying true to our Christian mission.”

Livingstone topped a talented, crowded field, reported Bob Brewton, chair of the search committee.

“The presidential search committee had a very strong candidate pool coming from the traditional academic fields as well as nontraditional candidates from government, military and corporate life,” Brewton said. “In the end, Dr. Livingstone’s experience uniquely fit the profile of the dynamic faith and transformational leader which Baylor needs at this point in time in our history.”

“The range of Dr. Livingston’s experiences—including her expertise in the area of accreditation and commitment to preserving the timeless values of Baylor’s founders—will be critical to helping the Baylor Family navigate through these challenging times,” said Fred Norton, president of the Baylor Line Foundation, successor to the Baylor Alumni Association and publisher of The Baylor Line.

“We welcome her return to the Baylor Family—many of whom already know her and respect her—and we look forward to supporting her efforts to rebuild Baylor’s reputation and standing in a spirit of transparency and accountability.”

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SOURCE: The Baptist Standard
Marv Knox