By Julie Copenhaver
The Baylor Alumni Association (BAA) presented two awards during a luncheon on Saturday, December 19, at the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center. The Price Daniel Distinguished Public Service Award went to State Senator Kirk Watson ’81, and Melissa Rogers ’88 received the Abner V. McCall Religious Liberty Award.
The Price Daniel Distinguished Public Service Award is presented annually to an individual closely associated with Baylor whose record both exemplifies the spirit of selfless dedication to public service represented by the life and career of the late Governor Price Daniel and reflects the true meaning of Baylor’s official motto, “Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana” (For Church, For State).
The Texas state senator for District 14, Kirk Watson graduated first in his class from Baylor Law School in 1981, only one year after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Baylor. He served as editor-in-chief of the Baylor Law Review and, upon graduating, clerked for the Fifth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 1994, Watson was named Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas by the Texas Young Lawyers Association and was elected president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association. He was named Young Baylor Lawyer of the Year in 1996 and was selected by his peers to be listed in the publication Best Lawyers in America.
Watson started his political career in 1997 when he ran for mayor of Austin. Winning the race without a runoff, Watson served the city of Austin for four years. In 2006, Watson announced his candidacy for the State Senate in District 14, winning the race and becoming state senator in 2007.
Watson continues to thrive in the political arena, leading the debate on such issues as greenhouse emissions, health care, and transportation. He was named to Texas Monthly‘s list of “The 10 Best Legislators” in 2009, and he continues to focus on legislation for the improvement of the state. He is married to Kim McDaniel Watson, and they have two sons, Preston McDaniel and Cooper Kyle.
The McCall Religious Liberty Award honors alumni or friends of the university who, by their lives and actions, have exemplified the courage and dedication of the late Baylor President Abner V. McCall to the belief in and commitment to religious liberty.
A Class of 1988 Phi Beta Kappa from Baylor, Melissa Rogers has authored numerous book chapters and articles about the religion clauses of the First Amendment and other religious liberty issues. In 2008, she co-authored Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court, published by Baylor University Press, and in 2009 President Barack Obama appointed Rogers to his Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Rogers earned a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was a member of the National Moot Court Team. She led and assisted coalitions pertaining to Religious Land Use and First Amendment rights. She served as general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty and was the founding executive director of the The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
She currently serves as director of Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs and as a nonresident senior fellow within the Governance Program of The Brookings Institution. She is married to Stan Fendley and has two children, Adam and Carter.
Jeff Kilgore, executive vice president and CEO of the BAA, presented the awards on behalf of the organization.