Savannah Cooper | Staff Writer
Interim Provost Michael McLendon, President Linda Livingstone and head football coach Matt Rhule might have different titles, but they share a commonality of a wave of change in Baylor’s leadership.
President Livingstone hired McLendon as Interim Provost on July 1, succeeding Executive Vice President and Provost L. Gregory Jones, who resigned to return to Duke University.
The seventh-generation Texan and third-generation Baylor-ite, McLendon told his family that he’d be back in Texas no longer than six months after graduating and moving to D.C. for an internship. His time away lasted much longer than six months and 25 years later McLendon returned to Baylor as the dean of the School of Education in 2015.
Prior to Baylor, McLendon worked as the academic associate dean for the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University.
McLendon said he is excited to be a part of Baylor during a time of effective change.
“It’s the right time in Baylor history where my talent and interest could best be used,” McLendon said. “It’s a very exciting and momentous year and I’m grateful and privileged to be a part of it.”
In Baylor’s Media Communications announcement of McLendon’s hiring, Livingstone also highlighted how important his expertise will be fully utilized.
“We are blessed to have such a noted higher education scholar on the Baylor campus who can immediately step in and serve the university as interim provost during this important time of transition,” Livingstone said.
The role of provost is a dated term that inflicts confusion among students, faculty and staff members alike. From McLendon’s perspective he wants to use his position to recreate the experiences he had as an undergraduate student.
“I was here as an undergraduate and Baylor changed my life,” McLendon said. “I view the role of provost as providing me to do the same thing in the lives of others.”
Thomas Hibbs, Dean of Baylor’s Honors College, has worked with McLendon and said he knows that McLendon is the right person for the job.
“He will engage all the constituencies of Baylor to get their input and learn from them,” Hibbs said. “He’s also a person who has been involved in leadership at top-ranked universities, so I think that combination is exactly what we need.”
As a chief academic officer of a university, the provost wears several hats to ensure the productivity of a university.
“It provides for those who want to play that role,” McLendon said. “It is the individual who has the ability to parcel talent and be able to fund important initiatives and be able to at a very high level lead the university.”
McLendon’s leadership style will play into his role as provost, and Hibbs noted how his personality and hobbies converge into his work.
“He’s a voracious reader, he’s a great film buff, so he likes ideas, he likes talking about ideas,” Hibbs said. “He likes talking about the culture, both high and low, he’s also got a voracious appetite as well for conversation.”
Throughout the academic year, McLendon plans to implement change across campus to better serve the community.
“At the last Board of Regents meeting…developing a plan which we’re calling an academic strategic plan,” McLendon said. “A plan that will drive the university’s investments and help direct it toward tier one university status.”
During his 25-year gap from Baylor, McLendon said Baylor has made great strides while still staying firm in its Christian values and beliefs. As an alum and now provost, he said is proud of Baylor’s efforts.
“Baylor could do what virtually no one else in the country has done, which was to remain a place where teaching is highly valued and where excellence and teaching is expected upon the faculty,” McLendon said.
McLendon said that as a world-class Christian research university, Baylor has a distinctive role to play among all colleges and universities in the United States, which he looks forward to working with this upcoming academic year.
“The most exciting part of the role for me is try to do for others what was done for me, unbelievable almost thirty years ago,” McLendon said.