President Livingstone tells all

President Linda Livingstone reflects on her experiences as president of Baylor University. Kenneth Prabhakar | Photographer

By Rachel Royster | Editor in Chief

What are your and your husband’s favorite things to do around Waco?

“We, of course, love doing things on campus, whether it’s theater or music or athletic events or things that we get to watch our students perform and show off their giftedness and skill. We also love some of the outdoor things you can do here. We don’t do them as often as we would like, but biking or walking along the river. We love Cameron Park. It’s an amazing city park — kind of a hidden gem in Waco. We’ve always really loved the Cameron Park Zoo, and part of that is because we were here in Waco [when] Shelby was born. Some of our earliest memories with Shelby in particular after she started walking were going to Cameron Park Zoo. It’s a really wonderful zoo for small children. We even have a brick in front of the lion habitat at the zoo that we gave a donation when they were building that. It’s a really wonderful zoo, but also because it has such great memories from when Shelby was a little girl.”

“Shelby was born in April, so she started coming to Baylor athletic events when she was like 5 months old. So we took her to football games that next fall, when she was a tiny baby. We have lots of pictures of her when she was just a little girl, baby and toddler at basketball games at Baylor. So those are great, fun memories — lots of good memories of her childhood here in Waco.”

Describe your perfect Saturday.

“Let’s assume there’s not a Baylor athletic event, because if there’s a Baylor athletic event, that’s what we’re going to be doing. We have a place out on the Brazos River, so a perfect Saturday would be being at our place at the river. We have a boat and we have jet skis, so it’s probably some combination of being out on our boat on the Brazos River or on our jet skis. We love being out there. It’s very relaxing, and it’s quiet.”

Where is the farthest place you’ve traveled to by car?

“The longest road trip we’ve ever taken was when I moved from Pepperdine to George Washington University. Pepperdine is in California; George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Our daughter, Shelby, was going to her freshman year at Rice, so we drove to Rice in Houston and dropped her off. And then we drove the rest of the way to Washington, D.C. We did a cross-country trip.”

What is your go-to snack for road trips?

“For drinks, I’m a Coke Zero fan. Although we’re a Pepsi school, I’m a Coke Zero fan. I also love iced tea. For snacks, I’m a chocolate fan — pretty much anything that’s chocolate. Something with chocolate and caramel is even better. I do like crunchy snacks like chips and stuff. Brad loves nuts, so he always has nuts with him. And Brad’s really the snacker on our trips. It doesn’t matter how far we’re going; he will have a snack bag for trips.”

What has given you the drive to pursue more leadership positions throughout your career?

“I think I’ve always liked to be challenged, and whether it was academically or athletically to try to be the best at whatever it was I was doing and then to be willing to take on new opportunities and new challenges. I think whatever the direction I would have gone, it would have been, ‘What’s the next challenge I can take on? What’s the next opportunity where I can have an impact?’ I think given where I went and academics and then began leadership, that was kind of the driver of wanting to continue to grow and develop myself and then saying, ‘How can I have an even more significant impact on whatever organization I’m a part of?'”

What would your younger self (early college, high school) say or think about where/who you are today?

“I certainly would have never thought I would be a university president, and I don’t know that I even then would have thought I was going to be anything like a professor at a university. I really didn’t start thinking about that until I was in graduate school. So I think I would be really surprised … I would understand that I loved education, but I don’t think I would have ever thought that this is where my career would have led me or where my life would be right now. I think I’d be really happy though that that’s where I ended up, and probably proud of myself for that’s where I ended up.”

I heard that you sewed your own wedding dress. How long did that take you, and what prompted you to do it?

“Brad and I got engaged in May of 1983, and our wedding was in September. We’d been dating for three years. So I would say, probably two or three months that summer … It was kind of a joint project between me and my mom. It was really special to do with her.”

“I learned to sew when I was quite young. In second or third grade, I started sewing for myself. I was quite tall when I was young, and particularly [in] middle school [and] high school, it was much harder to find clothes to fit taller girls and women. It was just easier to make my own clothes. I did that really until I went off to college and certainly haven’t sewn hardly any since then. It’s actually much easier to find clothes now for all different types and sizes of people, so I really appreciate that.”

What excites you about basketball? What do you miss about playing on a team? Do you have any guesses as to what this season will look like for the Bears?

“My dad was a college basketball coach, so I grew up in the gym on a university campus around college basketball. I kind of grew to love the game of basketball and then of course, had the opportunity to play it. There’s something going on all the time, so I love that about it. The fact that Brad and I played basketball, you know the game. That’s good and bad. Because you know the game really well, you’re probably a little bit more of a critical observer of the game. But I think it also makes you appreciate the skill level at which women and men participate, because you know how hard it is to do it at that level. You just love that there’s just really talented young athletes out there performing at a really high level. I would say that about any of our athletic teams — and frankly, even our music and theater kids, because really, they’re so talented, and I know how hard it is to be really good at whatever it is you do.”

“I’m well past the time of knowing that I could play like that or at that level, and there are parts of it you miss. But the game is so much better and faster and higher now than it was when Brad and I played it. I’m really fortunate because I have lots of opportunities to continue to work with teams. So I have a leadership team that I work with regularly. It’s just in a different setting in a different environment. But I do think having been on a team, as a student-athlete, helps prepare you for those other kinds of teams that you’re on later in life.”

“Both our women’s and men’s teams have a lot of really talented players on the team, but they also both have quite a few new players. I think that there’s this process of them kind of learning how to play as a team and how to adapt and grow as a team. Both teams, you’ve seen really great talent and great performance. You’ve also seen times they haven’t probably performed at the level that you know they’re capable of. I have great confidence in how they’re going to progress and grow as teams as the season goes on. I think they’ll be unbelievably competitive in the Big 12. Of course, I love Coach Collen and Coach Drew; they’re both amazing. We’re thrilled to have them, and the men and women on those two teams are just wonderful young people and really proud of having them represent Baylor.”

Who is your mentor, and what is the best advice they have given you?

“I’ve had different mentors or colleagues that have kind of spoken into my life at different points in time that were all, for different reasons, really significant. People think there’s some model of what a leader should be and look like and sound like, act like. And if you’re trying to be and do and act like something that’s not authentically you, people figure that out, and it’s not going to be effective in a leadership role. I think that has stuck with me. I also try to encourage others that whatever you’re doing, you’ve got to be authentically who you are, and you’ve got to truly live out your values and stick to those values so that you can look back on your life and feel good about what you’ve done in a way you’ve influenced people and the impact you’ve had.”

What do you want people to remember about you (not just as Baylor’s president, but also as a person)?

“I hope that they see kind of an authenticity and genuineness in me — that I really care about people and I care about the organizations I’m a part of and really want to do everything I can to help, whether it’s the people or the organization to be better. And that hopefully, I leave a place better than it was when I got there. I hope they see my deep personal Christian faith as well and know that that’s actually a really significant driver of why I do what I do and the way in which I engage with others.”