Story by Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer, Video by Christina Soto | Broadcast Reporter
Dr. Linda A. Livingstone made history as she was officially inaugurated as Baylor’s first female president on Thursday. Livingstone is the 15th president in Baylor’s 172-year history as an institution.
The inauguration ceremony held at the Ferrell Center was not only a time for the Baylor family to celebrate the university’s heritage, but also to reflect upon the future of Baylor as a significant Christian research university under Livingstone’s leadership.
Several members of the community were also present at the inauguration ceremony, including Sen. Brian Birdwell, Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson and City of Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver.
“As I look back over my life’s journey, I can see how God used my family, my education and my professional experiences to bring me to Baylor to rejoin the Baylor family at such a time as this,” Livingstone said.
Livingstone rejoins the Baylor community after serving as dean of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management and most recently dean and professor of management at The George Washington University School of Business.
“In retrospect, I realize how formative my combined experiences at Pepperdine and GW were to my development as a leader. I went into difficult situations at both institutions and sometimes wondered if I had actually made the right choice. Brad [Livingstone] always had faith, however, and many times told me that God was preparing me for something even more significant,” Livingstone said.
When Livingstone received a call earlier this year informing her she had been selected as the 15th president of Baylor, she said she knew it was the moment God had been preparing her for all along.
“I believe we are in a key moment of transition at the university,” Livingstone said. “As we commit ourselves to fulfill our transformative university mission, we have the opportunity to build a transformational legacy that will impact students for generations to come in even more significant ways than it has in past generations.”
While Livingstone recognized she was returning to the university at a difficult time, she said she accepted the call not in spite of institutional difficulties, but because of them.
“Every crisis is an opportunity to learn and to rebuild and I truly believe that God wanted me to assume that task at this particular point in Baylor’s history,” Livingstone said.
In her speech, Livingstone emphasized Baylor’s commitment to both the Christian faith and strong academics. At the beginning of her tenure as president, Livingstone initiated a plan to bring Baylor to the forefront as a “Tier One” research institution. Her academic strategic plan includes several “Strong-Secure-Strategic” objectives designed to advance Baylor’s Pro Futuris vision.
“If any university is compelled to engage in research that offers solutions to complex problems and shapes ideas at the highest levels of the academy and society, it’s a Christian institution like Baylor,” Livingstone said. “When critics charge that our vision for achieving top tier Tier-One research status is impossible, I believe they underestimate the power of Baylor and the power of God.”
Shelby Livingstone, daughter of Linda and Bradley Livingstone and Rice University senior, gave a heartwarming speech to introduce Livingstone. As her daughter, Shelby said she wanted to give the audience a behind-the-scenes look at Livingstone. Not Linda Livingstone the professor, the scholar, the dean, and now, the president of Baylor University, but the Linda Livingstone few get to personally know.
The first attribute Shelby highlighted was Livingstone’s ability to embrace fun. When she was in middle school, Shelby said her family dressed up in matching Halloween costumes. The first year they were “The Flintstones,” with Livingstone as Wilma, and another year characters from “The Wizard of Oz.” Shelby said Livingstone was the Wicked Witch of the West, green face and all.
“Looking back at these times I don’t think I appreciated how awesome it was that my mom was so carefree and didn’t take herself too seriously when it was time to have fun,” Shelby said. “She continuously instilled in me this idea that there is, of course, a time to work and when it is that time, work with all of your heart, doing nothing halfway. However, there is also a time for fun – to just let loose and simply enjoy your life.”
Secondly, Shelby said Livingstone is fully committed to education and the betterment of those around her. Beginning when Shelby was in elementary school, she said her mom would sit with her and read before she went to sleep every night. They read books like Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” and Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights.”
Livingstone’s consistency to read to Shelby, even after a full day of meetings, travel and work, testified to Livingstone’s love for education, Shelby said. Some nights after Shelby fell asleep, she said her mom would continue to read because she was so engrossed in the book.
Shelby said her mom is 100 percent committed to family, which now includes the Baylor family. When Shelby tore her ACL last spring during volleyball practice, she said she was completely devastated. Shelby said her mom immediately came to Houston on a layover from Washington, D.C. to California for a work trip. Livingstone spent a couple days with Shelby to make sure she knew she was loved and supported.
“The thing that’s crazy about this is that this behavior is not uncommon with my mom. This is the woman you get all the time, no matter the circumstances or what else is happening in her life. She is always ready to stop what she is doing to help those in her family,” Shelby said. “To our Baylor family, you guys are in store for some amazing things in the near future because my mom is not only strong and powerful, but also has such a huge heart for all of you.”
Board of Regent chair Joel T. Allison said he believes Baylor’s best days are still to come.