Former Baylor President Judge Ken Starr dies at 76

Former Baylor University President Ken Starr died Tuesday. Lariat File Photo.

By Caitlyn Meisner | Staff Writer

Judge Kenneth Starr, the 14th president of Baylor, died at 76 on Tuesday. Starr served as president from 2010 to 2016 and was given the title of chancellor in 2013.

The Associated Press reported that Starr had been hospitalized in an intensive care unit at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston. He died of complications from surgery, according to the family statement.

President Linda Livingstone spoke on Starr’s death in an official Baylor statement. Livingstone and Starr served together as deans at Pepperdine University in the 2000s before their individual times at Baylor, she said.

“Judge Starr was a dedicated public servant and ardent supporter of religious freedom that allows faith-based institutions such as Baylor to flourish,” Livingstone said. “[He] had a profound impact on Baylor, leading a collaborative visioning process that placed Baylor on the path to where we are today as a Christian Research 1 institution.”

Many were upset to hear of Starr’s death, including U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade of Dallas. Kinkeade and Starr knew each other personally and professionally, as they were both lawyers and judges. Kinkeade also said Starr was a faith-based man who thrived on relationships.

“We both depended on our faith through good times and bad times,” Kinkeade said. “He was such a gentleman. He was very self-effacing and disarming [to the students]. He would remember you. That was a part of his faith.”

Rebecca Malzahn Mellos graduated from Baylor in 2014 and worked for Starr as his special assistant before transitioning into his deputy chief of staff. Mellos said his memory and honor are important to her.

Baylor mourns the loss of former university president Ken Starr. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Malzhun Mellos.
Baylor mourns the loss of former President Ken Starr. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Malzhan Mellos.

“Ken was such a resilient man, and he always evoked the sense that nothing could bring him down,” Mellos said. “It’s shocking to hear that he’s gone, but I find so much comfort that he’s free and that he is with Jesus.”

Mellos said the first time she met Starr was on her move-in day when he personally came to her residence hall. She said Starr had a gift to remember names and faces, as he recognized her at the football game days later and greeted her by name.

The former president often attended Dr Pepper Hour and ran the Baylor Line at home games.

Former Baylor University
Former President Ken Starr could often be spotted in his Baylor Line jersey, as he ran the line with freshmen on many occasions. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Malzhun Mellos.

Starr oversaw and accomplished monumental projects at Baylor, including the construction of the Paul Foster Campus for Business and Innovation, McLane Stadium and East Village Residential Community and Dining Commons; the renovation of North Russell Hall, South Russell Hall and Penland Hall; and the establishment of the Baylor in Washington and Baylor Bound programs.

Another one of Starr’s initiatives as president was “On Topic with Ken Starr” — a series of contemporary discussions that invited people like Rudy Giuliani, Condoleezza Rice, Os Guinness, Joseph Lieberman and David Brooks to Baylor’s campus.

Starr was president of Baylor during the sexual assault scandal involving 15 current and former female students. This ultimately led to the dismissal of Starr by the Board of Regents in 2016. Starr remained chancellor of Baylor after his dismissal.

Starr had served as a dean and a professor of law at Pepperdine University. He taught constitutional law at Pepperdine University and was an adjunct professor at the New York University School of Law.

Starr argued 36 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, 25 of which were during his time as solicitor general of the United States under former President George H.W. Bush.

“[Starr] was a brilliant litigator, an impressive leader and a devoted patriot,” U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said.

Starr also served as an independent counsel for the Whitewater scandal and investigated former President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s. Starr then joined the defense team of former President Donald Trump for his first Senate impeachment trial in 2020.

Starr is survived by his wife of 52 years, Alice Starr, along with his three children and nine grandchildren.

His family’s statement said they were deeply saddened by the loss of Starr, who they admired for his work and his commitment to their family.

“The love, energy, endearing sense of humor, and fun-loving interest [Starr] exhibited to each of us was truly special,” the family statement said. “He is now with his Lord and Savior.”