Behind the scenes of Baylor Alumni Awards selection

Some of the Alumni Award winners this year include (from top left) David Hardage, Richa Sirohi, Dr. John Cheng, (from bottom left) Marie E. Chiles, Maj. Gen. Joel Carey and Allison Dickson. Photos courtesy of Baylor University

By Julianne Fullerton | Reporter

Each year, Baylor recognizes a handful of outstanding and accomplished alumni with its Alumni Awards. Long before the winners are announced, there is an extensive selection process that takes place behind the scenes.

Baylor’s Alumni Board of Advocates has several committees, including the Alumni Awards Committee. This committee is responsible for reviewing and narrowing down the sizable number of nominations each year before picking the winners.

Ann Holden, chair of the Alumni Awards Committee, said nominations are accepted online and everyone has the opportunity to submit a nomination.

“We started in early September, reviewing all the applications and starting to narrow down the field of those nominations,” Holden said. “Some just rise to a certain level above others based on who’s being considered.”

In the 2022-23 school year, the award categories included Alumni of the Year, Young Alumni of the Year, Pro Ecclesia Medal of Service, Pro Texana Medal of Service, W.R. White Meritorious Service Award, Distinguished Achievement Award and Merrie Beckham Alumni by Choice of the Year Award.

“Everybody we’ve looked at has big responsibilities in their careers, but they’re continuing their loyalty and their devotion to Baylor in different ways,” Holden said.

Holden said it’s around an eight-week process to discuss nominations and put them into an appropriate award category. The committee then looks at the list of candidates in each award category and narrows it down to the top three, following what’s written in its bylaws to determine who qualifies.

“We submit our final slate — who we feel are the top applicants from our committee — to the board,” Holden said. “We also met with them on Zoom, highlighted each candidate and why we were in favor of the top three in each category. Then the board as a whole actually does a vote on those, and that’s how we come up with the winners.”

Holden said the winners were notified in January and are honored throughout the year.

“Baylor Marketing and Advancement teams work to coordinate time with them to produce a video and get to know their area of expertise,” Holden said.

The Alumni Awards ceremony was held on Feb. 24. Holden said this ceremony is another way the university honors the winners and showcases their expertise.

“Everyone that attends will get to see their video and learn more about the amazing things they’ve done in the world, using their Baylor degrees and foundation that was laid at the university,” Holden said.

Heather Beck, senior director of alumni events, said publishing their stories in Baylor publications and inviting them back to speak at events are other ways their legacies live on. Beck said because of their personal and professional achievements, people are excited to hear from them.

“Publicizing them and their stories through Baylor Proud and Baylor Magazine are some of the ways that we honor them throughout the year too,” Beck said. “We have outstanding alumni that shine their light throughout the world. It’s a great opportunity to put them on a platform to do that even further.”

Holden said she wants everyone to know if they know an outstanding Baylor alumnus or alumna, they have an avenue to honor them by submitting a nomination. She said one nomination could be the future recipient of one of the university’s greatest awards.

“I think it’s important for the Baylor community as a whole to be aware of the amazing contributions that Baylor graduates are giving to the world every day,” Holden said. “How distinguished they are, how they’re carrying out Baylor’s mission and how they’re living out the foundation that they received at the university in their careers, in their professional life and in the world.”

Beck said she considers the whole process to be fulfilling for everyone involved, especially because the work of the Alumni Board of Advocates normally remains hidden to the public view.

“The Alumni Board of Advocates committee really spends a lot of time; they take a lot of thought into and discernment into this process,” Beck said. “It’s a really gratifying process, I think, for them — being able to learn more about outstanding alumni such as themselves and learn more about their stories helps them tell their stories too.”

More information about the 2022-23 winners can be found here.