There are six candidates in the running for this year’s Alumni Elected Regent election. We had the honor of interviewing each candidate in an effort to better understand their desire to become a Baylor University Regent, as well as their experience at Baylor as both a student and alumni.
From my earliest childhood memories, Baylor University has been an enormous part of my life. I have fond memories as a child traveling to and from my home in Henderson, Texas to Baylor Football games, Homecoming events, and tennis matches. My parents bled green and gold and they passed their affection for Baylor down to me. To say that I love Baylor would be an understatement.
My grandfather, Bruce Clark Phenix, started our family journey with Baylor in 1911. My mother, Corneil Phenix, and my father, James N. Phenix, both were awarded degrees from Baylor University. My father also earned a degree from Baylor Law School and later served on the Baylor Board of Regents from 1988 to 1996. I earned a degree from Baylor University and Baylor Law School, BAJD ‘84. My wife, Devon Woods Phenix, received her undergraduate training from Baylor and degree from Baylor School of Nursing, BSN ‘83. I have two daughters who received degrees from Baylor University as fourth generation Baylor students. I am a third generation Baylor tennis letterman. I have many immediate and extended family members who are proud graduates of Baylor University.
I would encourage you to take a moment to examine Baylor’s Core Convictions, Mission, Christian commitment and Strategic Vision. You can find Baylor’s values and vision online here. Who would not want to be a part of an organization formed to educate men and women for worldwide leadership, integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community? This is what makes Baylor extraordinary. It is certainly my call to give support and, if elected, to give leadership to this great institution that has given so much to so many.
Because I am passionate about Baylor and its unique mandate, long ago I made the commitment that if I were ever called to serve as a regent, the answer would be yes. I would be honored and humbled to serve and give back to an institution that has given so much to my family. I certainly do not feel worthy or equipped for such an important assignment; however, it’s my belief that God does not call the equipped, but he equips the called.
How is the mission of Baylor University unique?
Baylor’s undying commitment to academic excellence and Christian education sets it apart from most every institution of higher learning and academic advancement. Baylor separates itself from all other institutions by holding strong to its founding principles that were established in 1845. Baylor’s dedication to the advancement of the cause of Christ and its Baptist heritage allows it to equip its many students to live impactful lives in the workplace, in their communities and around the world. When many institutions with similar beginnings have strayed from their founding principles, Baylor continues to drive into the future, clinging to its core values and advancing the cause for which it was established. I am convinced that the best years for Baylor University are those years which lie ahead. I believe that Baylor’s influence and impact locally, statewide, in the United States, and abroad is continually expanding. It is Baylor’s matchless mission and kingdom purpose that inspires me to serve.
Recently, Baylor’s mission has impacted the life of my daughters and my family. Both of my daughters, Macy Phenix Davis and Madison Phenix came to Baylor with a heart for world missions. During their time at Baylor their spiritual gifts and callings were encouraged, nurtured and fanned into flame. Through the unique Baylor experience they have participated in mission endeavors in South Texas, Niger, Haiti, Uganda, India, Mexico, Indonesia, Greece, and Peru. My wife and I have followed them to Uganda and Greece to take part in those life changing endeavors. We saw firsthand how Baylor students selflessly served being the hands, feet and voice of Christ in some very dark and destitute circumstances. We were amazed at the depth of commitment, servanthood and courage exemplified by the young Baylor students and graduates with whom we were privileged to serve. We were amazed at how these young people utilized their skills, training and talents that were instilled and refined at Baylor.
In Greece while working with Syrian refugees, we were privileged to labor alongside Maxey Parrish, BA ’78, MSEd ’93, a professor of journalism at Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences. Maxey Parrish acted as an imbedded journalist with this group of gifted Baylor students to write about their selfless service to Syrian refugees. Mr. Parish joined hands with the students ministering to Syrian refugees who were displaced from their homes by war and who were living in squalor in crowded refugee camps. If you will take the time to read the article written by Maxey Parrish about what those brilliant Baylor students did, it will make you even more proud of what Baylor is doing. You can find this article online in the winter 2017 edition of Baylor Magazine here. This kind of service was not common when I graduated from Baylor. It is now. Baylor is training a host of young people who are focused on making positive changes for Christ.
What was your experience like as a student at Baylor?
I had a blast. I was overwhelmed. I adapted. I was discouraged. I was encouraged. I was challenged. I endured. I was nurtured. I grew. I was fulfilled. I overcame. I am proud. I am honored.
Baylor is family. You have to be a part of the Baylor culture to really understand this unique connection. From the bond that is formed from professor to student to the brotherhood and sisterhood of those linked in common struggle, there is so much about Baylor that defies explanation. It must be experienced. Presently, when I meet another Baylor graduate, there is an instant kinship. It is a relationship and a common bond that never ceases.
Baylor changed the course of my life. It prepared me holistically to better serve my Lord, family, community and church. I am a better person because of my experiences at Baylor University.
What have been the most encouraging changes at Baylor over the last few years?
I am encouraged by the increased global influence of the Baylor mission over the last decade. It seems that Baylor is doing a fantastic job of inspiring its students to be globally minded and to take their talents and the message and cause of Christ to all parts of the world. The growth in the diversity of the student population gives evidence of this commitment. Baylor is doing an excellent job of encouraging its students to be servant leaders and to take full advantage of the opportunities that they have to help others, both in the workplace and in their communities.
I am impressed with the improved commitment of Baylor University to create a better climate for community with the transition of its football stadium and other athletic facilities to locations on campus. This allows the alumni and students of all ages to reconnect like never before.
I am delighted with Baylor’s commitment to excellence in the area of educational facilities and educational programs. Baylor continues to advance its national ranking and reputation. The campus is beautiful. It is so much better than when I attended, and it was great then. The educational facilities and programs at Baylor are first class.
I feel that the diplomas I received from Baylor University and Baylor Law School continue to appreciate in value as Baylor grows in the areas of academic reputation and global influence. I am more proud of my Baylor heritage than ever before. Baylor is a special place that continues to improve with each passing year.
What strengths would you bring to the table as an alumni-elected Regent?
If I were given the honor of serving as an alumni elected regent, I would hope to bring to the table the following strengths:
The Spirit of Unity: There have been so many things that have happened over the past few years that have challenged the unity of the Baylor community. I believe that my life experiences have prepared me to be a peaceful and unifying presence. I spend a large part of my life dealing with and resolving conflict. I am convinced that by striving and working together, we can accomplish so much more than if we are divided. I am committed to doing all that is within my power to be a unifying influence in the Baylor community. In unity, there is power. In unity, we can achieve our objectives. In unity, we can do what we are designed to do.
History and Commitment: Baylor has been a foundational part of my life for as long as I can remember. From the past under the leadership of Dr. Abner McCall to the present under the direction of Dr. Linda Livingstone, I have continued to run with Baylor. I am committed to carry on in my journey with Baylor. It is that history and commitment that will equip me with a vision toward the future. We must, “become all things to all people so that by all possible means, some might be saved.” We must always be prepared to change or alter our methods to be more effective, but we must never compromise the message. I believe if chosen for this role, I will continue to promote the rich heritage of Baylor University with an unquestionable commitment to its mission and values.
Integrity and Wisdom: I believe it is very important to bring people together and to allow the expression of different thoughts and opinions. It is fundamental for leadership to respect different opinions while exploring for common ground. I also believe it is important that, in making decisions moving forward, that we focus on the present while thoughtfully considering all possible future consequences of the choices we make. It is extremely important in charting the course of this great institution that we hold true to its founding principles, its mandate and its core values and vision. We must keep Baylor on the course that furthers God’s purposes and His kingdom while providing the finest Christian educational experience available. I believe that my life and vocational experiences have uniquely prepared me to be a vital part of this process. It is my passion for this great organization to excel in all of its endeavors and for Baylor to become the greatest institution of Christian learning this world has ever known.