One year into her reign as Baylor University president, Dr. Linda Livingstone shows no signs of slowing down. President Livingstone came to Baylor at a tipping point — on the cusp of a major sexual assault scandal. Despite all of the negative press spinning in the public’s head, Livingstone and her family rolled into town fearless and encouraged, ready to make a difference in their own way.
The process of settling in to the new position and blazing a trail as the university’s first female president presented some challenges for Livingstone.
“When you come into a new role like I did, honestly in your first year one of the biggest challenges is just learning about the institution. Getting your arms around what the opportunities are and what the challenges are,” she said.
The way the Livingstone family approached this issue was by making connections within the student body.
“We really try to pay attention across campus to all the activities that students are engaged in and we can’t be at everything, but we really do try to engage as much as we can across a broad array of activities on campus,” Livingstone said. “There’s so many different students on our campus with so many diverse interests and we want to engage with as many of those as we can.”
From attending basketball games to appreciating the Baylor music school’s performance, the Livingstones made their presence known last year, and intend to do the same this year. For the first couple, living in the Albrighton House has been an adjustment, but a welcome one. First gentleman Brad Livingstone is known to walk the “first pup” Bu around campus, and to even interact with students from time to time on social media. Brad Livingstone used Twitter to reach out to students and invite them to the couple’s home church, Calvary Baptist Church.
Despite having major responsibilities as educators and leaders, the Livingstones still seem to have time to find community in their church as well. Senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Mary Alice Birdwhistell, praised the Livingstones on their involvement in the community.
“Today, even with their busy schedules and commitments at Baylor, the Livingstones continue to invest themselves in the Calvary community,” She said. “They are active in both Sunday School and worship, and Brad even mentors students with us at West Avenue Elementary School each week. When they walk in the doors of Calvary, they aren’t Baylor’s president and first family. They are Linda, Brad, and Shelby, some of the most genuine, kind-hearted, and faithful people I know. I consider it such a gift to share life and ministry with them at Calvary.”
The Livingstones’ involvement in Calvary Baptist extends past simple churchgoing — President Livingstone’s faith also extends to her work life. Although notable research institutions such as Yale and Harvard have dropped their religious affiliation in favor of diversifying their academic programs and their student body, Livingstone feels confident that Baylor can maintain its Christian mission while striving for research excellence as well.
“Our faith-based heritage as a Baptist institution is critical to who we are and it’s critical to the values that underlie our institution,” Livingstone said. “I think that that’s a tradition and is also really important to our aspirations. I mean if you really think about it, you know that all truth is God’s truth and what higher calling could you have than to work and research? It helps reveal God’s truth and then helps apply that in a way that helps solve problems in the world.”
Livingstone’s personal faith has also helped her stay sane in a demanding job. She praised her staff and her family as ways she manages her work-life balance. “There’s certainly difficult circumstances that we have to deal with at an institution, especially one as large as this and as complex as this, and so there are days that are much harder than others to handle,” she said.
As a leader in the Baylor community, and one that came into power during a difficult time, Livingstone has had many hoops to jump through, but she has always had a clear focus in her goals as head of Baylor. As she looks to the future, the first and foremost goal she has in mind is the continued implementation of her Illuminate initiative. “I’m really excited about the directions and the opportunity that we have to really continue to grow and build a reputation academically and in other ways, in a unique way that no other institution really has that opportunity to do,” she said.