Robert B. Sloan

Baylor University Press Conference

Announcing Leadership Transition to Chancellery at Baylor University

delivered 21 January 2005, Waco TX


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Thank you, Mr. Davis.

I normally would not read remarks, but I want to make sure that I employ every word that has been chosen for the occasion; so I will read my remarks on this occasion.

There's a time and an appointed season for every purpose under heaven. During my student days, just like the thousands of young people at Baylor here today, and the many wonderful young people who are Baylor student leaders and who are here on this occasion, I came to love this place, and it has touched every season of my life since.

I have a long history with Baylor. I've been a Baylor student, a freshman athlete, a professor, a parent of students, and the first dean of Truett Seminary. Being named President a decade ago was the surprising culmination of a series of opportunities to serve Baylor. It's been a great privilege to lead this wonderful institution that has -- has meant so much to the church, to the state, and to the nation.

Baylor has a storied past full of great deeds and memories. Every President inherits that strong foundation and honors it as he accepts the challenge of taking the university into the future. In the dynamic field of higher education, the focus must always be on the horizon.

What I see looking ahead for Baylor is tremendously compelling. Our commitment to the 2012 Vision, which sets forth the goal for Baylor of ascending to the top tier of American universities while maintaining our firm commitment to a uniquely Baptist and distinctively Christian identity, ensures that there is no more exciting place to be in American higher education than right here at Baylor University.

For years, observers have proclaimed that secularization, in America and in the Academy, is inevitable. Thanks to our Board of Regents and their twice unanimous endorsement of Baylor 2012, our ten-year vision, Baylor is proof that the story of the Christian faith, linked with the story of the American University, is still being written. Integrating the best of the Christian tradition with the finest standards of scholarship and teaching is Baylorís special vocation.

During these last few years, Baylor has raced ahead, determined to build on our historical foundations. We have maintained our traditional teaching excellence, added strong research capability with new faculty, attracted excellent students, made massive improvements to our campus, and seen our athletic programs and facilities reach unprecedented levels of excellence, with a trip to the Sweet 16 for last yearís Lady Bears, a national championship in Menís Tennis, and Olympic gold for several of our athletes.

But the natural side effect of change is conflict. We moved quickly and boldly to implement the Vision and found that Baylor is not immune to the discomfort and insecurity generated by change. My leadership has often been a lightning rod for that discomfort.

But the focus should always be on the vision, not on the President. Though I have worked hard to cultivate mutual understanding with those who disagree with various decisions or even my management style, the reality is that my role as President has become a distraction from the main goal of fulfilling the Vision. The Vision is more important than any one person. No one is indispensable. Changing situations often require new leaders with different gifts and the benefit of a clean slate.

It's been my privilege to launch Baylor upon this exciting journey of Baylor 2012 and lead the university beyond the inertia of the status quo. Now that the voyage is well underway, it's time for someone new to navigate these sometimes choppy waters, while continuing to aim for the carefully charted destination ahead.

For that reason, the Board of Regents and I have mutually agreed that I will leave the Presidentís office to become Chancellor at the end of the current semester. The Regents and I remain firmly committed to the Vision. From the post of Chancellor, I will focus on fundraising, recruitment, and promoting Baylor 2012 every way I can. This university and the vision for its future remain my passion and my calling.

I would like to thank some of the people who aided me tremendously in doing the job of President: my office staff, who are like a second family to me -- Pam and Judy and Rita. It's been a privilege over these years also to work with Executive Council members like Don Schmeltekopf, Harold Cunningham, Clif Williams, Steve Moore, Bill Underwood, Stan Madden, Tom Stanton, Guinn Morris, Jerome Loughridge, Larry Brumley, David Brooks, and other former members of my Executive Council team. Current Executive Council members are some of the finest leaders I have ever known, leaders like Richard Scott, David Jeffrey, Tommye Lou Davis, Noley Bice, Eileen Hulme, Marilyn Crone, Van Gray, Reagan Ramsower, Ian McCaw, and Kim Gaynor. We've faced some adversity -- well, a lot of adversity, together -- but it just makes the friendships and the clarity of mind even stronger.

I want to reference especially today an unbelievable array of students, an array of students that I've had the privilege to work with for the last ten years, and today as well; students represented by -- and I wish I could call many more names -- but students represented by a person like our current Student Body President, Jeff Leach, and truly thousands of others who, like me in my student days, have learned to love this place.

I want to thank my wife, Sue Sloan, and our seven children, plus now two children-in-law, for their love and support: Charissa, Bryan and Amy, Eraina and Bryan Larson, Michael, Alathea, Sophia, and Paul. They have sacrificed much for me and for Baylor. Only heaven can keep that account.

I would also like to extend a special thanks to Will Davis for his statesmanlike leadership as Chairman of the Board of Regents during the last several months. His common sense, commitment to the truth, calm demeanor, and dedication to fairness are invaluable to accomplishing the work of a deliberative body like the Board of Regents of Baylor University. I thank him for his wise counsel and his friendship. I trust Will Davis and I am grateful for his leadership. I have great confidence in his leadership and in the future of our Board and its decisions. Baylor will continue to benefit from Will Davisís passion for excellence which manifests itself in Will's strong support of Baylor 2012.

There are so many others that I would like to thank. There are so many members of the staff of Baylor, individual faculty members ,and others with whom I've had the privilege to work. And the coming 130 days as Baylor's President will give me the opportunity to, as well as the years ahead as Baylor's Chancellor, to thank these other individuals for their significant work. To the faculty and staff of Baylor University who have committed themselves with our students, to what has come be known as Baylor 2012, I thank you for your unstinting labor and your commitment to the call of Christ, which has kept you at this place, brought you to this place, and inspires you, I hope, under Christ to do all that you can do to fulfill Baylor's destiny as a Christian institution of higher learning.

There are undeniable challenges still ahead. They come with the territory. But I'm convinced that the Board of Regents and the Baylor family will welcome a new President and give their all to achieve both unity with purpose and continued progress.

Now, as President, and beginning June 1st as Chancellor, I will continue to dedicate myself as well to those ends, for the good of Baylor and for Baylorís destined role in the Kingdom of God.

Thank you.

Research Note: For an historical overview and analysis on the Baylor 2012 Vision, see Balmer's article in Christianity Today. See also: Baylor Twelve Imperatives Assessment and Baylor Strategic Vision.

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