Baylor University and the Baylor Alumni Association reached a settlement on March 7 that includes an organizational name change and $2 million payment. The news comes just three weeks before their pending trial over the organization’s existence.
The BAA had served as the official alumni organization of Baylor since a recognition and license agreement was reached in 1994 as long as the BAA “[agreed] to support the purpose and goals of Baylor University.” Baylor and the BAA have been associated with each other for 157 years by the alumni association.
In December 2013, an attempt to merge the BAA with Baylor’s in-house alumni network was rejected.
The two entities began legal action after Baylor sued the organization in 2014 on account of the alleged misuse of Baylor’s name and trademarks. The BAA then countersued, claiming that Baylor had breached their contract and that the tearing down of the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center was unnecessary.
Both parties have been involved in litigation for nearly two years.
According to an official joint statement, the agreement reached will include the continuation of the Baylor Alumni Network in regard to outreach, events and programing for all alumni, parents and friends. The BAA will serve as an independent nonprofit organization and will undergo a change in title, most likely to the Baylor Line Foundation, but will not be considered an “alumni association.” The group will instead focus on the funding of student scholarships and events for fundraising.
Baylor will also pay the BAA $2 million for the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center that was demolished. The money may be used in any way that is charitable to the organization in return for the waiving of the rights to replace the building.
“This agreement, with its emphasis on cultivating strong relationships between all alumni and their alma mater and its firm commitment to support student scholarships, is the remarkable result of diligent work by a group of dedicated servant leaders, for whom we are deeply grateful,” President and Chancellor Ken Starr said in a statement.
The Baylor Line Foundation will continue to print the Baylor Line Magazine with a new, more solid licensing agreement. In a letter to the organization, BAA president Tom Nesbitt promises members who have life memberships continued benefits, including a lifetime subscription to the Baylor Line.
A new form of election will be introduced to the Board of Regents as part of the agreement. Alumni will be able to vote for three regents who will be placed on the board in staggered terms of one, two and three years. At the end of each of these terms, the alumni will be able to vote on either the re-election or replacement of the regents. Those elected will have full regent rights and duties and may serve three terms if eligible.
The agreement will be void if the two parties cannot agree on the initial regent members or if the BAA members do not approve of the BAA’s new title.
“With this lawsuit behind us, we look forward to ushering in an exciting new chapter for our members and for Baylor, an institution we all hold dear. We are eager to move forward together – united as one Baylor family,” Nesbitt wrote in his letter to members.
U.S. District Judge and Baylor Law graduate Ed Kinkeade was a major negotiator in the dispute, as well as Baylor regent and Baylor graduate J. Cary Gray. Judge Cary Coley presided over the lengthy case.