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Judge Starr Takes Center Stage

This article was published in the Spring 2010 issue of The Baylor Line.

Selected to become Baylor’s fourteenth president, Judge Ken Starr was introduced to the Baylor family in mid-February prior to taking office.

AFTER ALMOST A YEAR, the search for Baylor’s next president is over. 

The process began in March 2009, when fourteen members of Baylor’s Board of Regents were appointed to the Presidential Search Committee and ten representatives of various constituent groups were appointed to the Presidential Search Advisory Committee. 

Those committees then spent April and May holding a series of listening sessions with Baylor faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other groups. Their members spent a good deal of time on campus and traveled around the state, from Fort Worth and Dallas to San Antonio and Houston. Baylor regent Joe Armes ’83, MBA ’84, who chaired the search committee, said in June that the listening sessions had revealed a “virtual unanimity in the desire for Baylor’s next president to be a committed Christian who has a clear understanding of and a passion for Baylor’s mission and vision who models true servant leadership.” 

Armed with this input, committee members set to work through the summer and fall. The committees did their work in private, vetting and selecting final candidates while observing a code of confidentiality, although occasional updates were issued about how the process was being conducted. 

And then came the big news. On Monday, February 15, the regents announced that they had selected Judge Ken Starr, currently the dean of Pepperdine University’s School of Law, to become the institution’s fourteenth president, effective June 1. (See news story on page 9 for more.) 

The next day, Starr was introduced at an event held in the afternoon in the Bill Daniel Student Center’s Barfield Drawing Room. It was the Baylor family’s first chance to meet him face to face. As a national figure, he had been involved in of one of the nation’s biggest political controversies, and his choice surprised many. The hundreds of people packed into Barfield Drawing Room and overflowing into adjacent hallways had a vari-ety of questions and concerns, but a common interest ran through the crowd—a desire to hear what Starr would say about the kind of president he intended to be, as well as what others would say about him. 

The Line’s staff, having attended the event, is pleased to give readers the following virtual front-row seat on the proceedings, providing a series of images and excerpts from the statements made by those who were on the program. 



Chair of the Baylor Board of Regents 

Vice Chair, Cousins Properties Inc., Dallas 

IT’S A GREAT DAY for Baylor University. I don’t think I’ve seen a concentration of happy faces like this in the Baylor family in a long time. It’s an answer to prayer—an answer to a lot of hard work and, I think, a blessing for our whole Baylor community. 

Kenneth Starr embodies all that characterizes Baylor University with his commitment to his faith and his family and the style of leadership that he has shown in all areas of his life, which all of you are going to come to appreciate pretty quickly. He’s not only a great, strong, tough-minded leader, but he does so with a servant leader’s heart and manner, and you cannot help but like Judge Starr if you spent more than twenty seconds with him. 

Through his commitment to excellence in all things, his vision and creativeness, and his burning desire to leave all things better than he found them, Judge Starr has absolutely touched and improved everything he’s ever come in contact with in his professional and personal life. He’s going to be a fantastic president for Baylor University. 

“I don’t think I’ve seen a concentration of happy faces like this in the Baylor family in a long time.” 

JOE ARMES ’83, MBA ’84 

Chair of the Presidential Search Committee 

Chief Operating Officer, Hicks Holdings, LLC, Dallas 

APPROXIMATELY ONE YEAR AGO, we began our quest to identify and recruit Baylor’s fourteenth president, and at that time we com-mitted to an open, honest, and inclusive process. Through the diligence, perseverance, and prayerful discernment of my colleagues on the advisory committee, on the search committee, and on the regent board, we sought to attract a person with the academic vision, professional experience, leadership style, and personal attributes necessary to successfully lead Baylor in the pursuit of her aspirations of being a leading, comprehensive research university, while remaining unapologetically committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

As you know, we are all unanimous in our belief that we have found that person in Ken Starr. Dean Starr has a distinguished record of accomplishment in the legal profession and the academy and in public service. Throughout his career, Dean Starr has been an articulate advocate for Christian ideals in the public square. 

Dean Starr has the intellect, the experience, and the Christian commitment to lead Baylor and, in doing so, to inspire all of us committed to Christian higher education in America to considering the synthesis of faith and reason that is the Christian intellectual tradition. 

“Throughout his career, Dean Starr has been an articulate advocate for Christian ideals in the public square.” 


Chair of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, representing Texas Baptists 

Chief Executive Officer, Buckner International, Dallas 

I WHOLEHEARTEDLY COMMEND the regents for the manner in which they conducted this exhaustive search. They allowed us to operate freely, to offer opinions that oftentimes were not easy opinions. They allowed us to be independent, and they allowed us to offer what we consider to be an enthusiastic endorsement of the selection. 

I was asked to participate in this process because of my ties to the Baptist community of faith in Texas and around our country. Looking at the choice of Kenneth Starr through that particular prism, I can tell you that our new president brings to this task an uncommon and even uncanny understanding of Baylor’s unique and distinct mission as a national Christian university with historic Baptist ties. 

I’ve also noticed in Kenneth Starr an unusual grace and humility. He is inclusive by nature and is the epitome of what is means to be a Christian servant leader. My prayers are with Baylor University and with its president, Kenneth Starr, in these unbelievably critical days that we face in our world and in our culture. I believe with all my heart that with our new leader at the helm and under the divine guidance of almighty God, Baylor is poised for an unparalleled and unprecedented future. 

“Baylor is poised for an unparalleled and unprecedented future.” 


Member of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, representing the Faculty Senate 

Chair of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Baylor University 

AS FACULTY, THERE ARE certain ideals that we hold dear—that we maintain are instrumental in the life of the university. We recognize there are many, but chief among those are academic freedom and shared governance. 

You can imagine, from our perspective, how important it was for us to find the right person. I believe that we have found that person in Judge Starr. Along with his vibrant intellect, his academic credentials, and his administrative experience in academia, he has a continued track record of success. 

Our enterprise is one I like to call a balance. We balance a lot of things on this campus, and this is what makes us unique. 

His thoughtfulness, his ability to sit and listen, and, again, that vibrant intellect are going to serve him and us well as president of the university. 

“We balance a lot of things on this campus, and this is what makes us unique.” 


Member of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, representing the Baylor Alumni Association 

Retired Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, Current Partner with Baker Botts, LLP, Austin 

I’M CONFIDENT FOR SEVERAL reasons that Ken Starr will be one of the giants of Baylor University. First is the record he brings to his position. He is known all over this county and all over this world as someone who has always given 110 percent to any effort in which he engages and who has succeeded brilliantly as a scholar, as an author, as an administrator, and as a lawyer. 

Secondly, for the last six years he’s been doing just what he’s going to do here, but on a smaller scale, as dean of Pepperdine University School of Law. I had the honor of going out to Pepperdine and being a judge of a moot court and spending an evening with the Starrs and talking with a lot of the students. And it truly was a vibrant, alive milieu there. Judge Starr made this little campus perched precariously on the edge of the world—about to fall into the Pacific Ocean—a world-center as those students were engaged in global projects to use their legal talent to eradicate poverty, to bring justice, to bring fair-ness to the world. He was at a school that shares in many ways the mission that Baylor has—a goal to be a truly first-class, world-class institution of higher learning, while never forgetting our faith-based center, and a denial that you have to sacrifice one in order to excel at the other. 

Finally, there’s just Judge Starr’s personality that I think makes him the ideal choice for this time and this place. It is very hard to know Ken Starr and not really like him and, more importantly, not to feel that he really likes you, because indeed he does. He is a people per-son perhaps without peer. He is an excellent listener. He is a good decider. And he is a marvelous communicator. 

“It is very hard to know Ken and not really like him.”


Regent Emeritus of Baylor University 

Chair of the McLane Group, Chair and CEO of the Houston Astros 

JUDGE STARR, WE ARE VERY EXCITED about you accepting this responsibility. We are all a product of our past, our family, and the environments that we have had. But our real responsibility as we go forward is to hand things off to the next generation in better shape than we found them. 

Baylor University has done this for over 160 years. We are really in complicated times today. Life is not easy. I remember when I was a freshman here in the 1950s; we thought it was tough then. That was easy. Life is different today. We need stronger leadership. And what you all [search committee members] have done for Baylor is unparalleled. Thank you for what you did. Judge Starr, we are very excited about your leadership. 

“Judge Starr, we are very excited about your leadership.” 

“Our Lord said, ‘I have come to serve and not to be served.’ We are to mirror that.” 


Fourteenth President of Baylor University 

BAYLOR’S PURSUIT OF KNOWLEDGE is strengthened by the conviction that truth has its ultimate source in God and by a Baptist heritage that champions religious liberty and freedom of con-science, which includes academic freedom. Freedom of all. All voices are welcome to the community. We ask only that the voices treat one another with dignity and respect and that we have a conversation and not a shouting match. 

We need to learn—as those who have been called to be servant leaders—from our faculty and to support and encourage the faculty. My vision of the role is very simple; it is to be like Barnabus in Acts of the Apostles. It is to be an encourager. Now tell me how can I encourage, how can I help? Maybe I can help form a vision, but it will be a collaborative process. Let’s implement it together. 

The faculty come together to be in conversation and to dis-cover. And those who are called staff, I call colleagues. We’re col-leagues. We’re encouragers, fellow encouragers of the faculty and students. At Pepperdine, we simply say, “For the glory of God, it’s all about the students.”

Today I had lunch with individuals whom you have chosen as students to represent you. And one of the most eloquent things said at the table was by one of your representatives, students: “Baylor fosters a sense of calling.” It doesn’t surprise me that in myriad ways, great and small, students are engaged in lives of service, which is part of mission statement. What I want to say as we go forward in living those lives and in preparing those lives for genuine service worldwide is to remember that our Lord said, “I have come to serve and not to be served.” We are to mirror that. 

Baylor has a magical name. When you go around the country and say, went to Baylor, that has a great and powerful meaning. I pledge to you my energy and effort in carrying that Baylor message, in carrying the mission that those who came before us framed. We are blessed by our families and by the institutions of which we are a part and that shape us and frame us. Thanks be to God. Thank you for your kindness, for your friendship. I am proud to be in that long and ever-growing Baylor Line. 

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