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Those Who Stayed On

By Judy Henderson Prather ’73, DMin ’02
BAA Communications Coordinator

On Saturday, we will present what is quite possibly my favorite of the alumni association’s awards–the Herbert H. Reynolds Retired Faculty-Administrators Award. Retired faculty members who are being honored include Drs. Robert Collmer (English), Elmer Duncan (Philosophy), Fred Gehlbach (Biology), and J. R. LeMaster (American Studies). The retired administrator’s award will go to Dr. Clif Williams, who retired as a vice president, but also taught psychology and leadership. Between the five recipients, they have given 171 years of service to Baylor.

The association presents nine different awards annually, and I enjoy watching each one as it progresses from nominations to selections, from the behind-the-scenes announcement of the recipients to the very public presentation of the award.

These awards recognize the diversity of the Baylor family. We recognize alumni, young and old. We recognize families who have passed their love of Baylor through the generations. We say thank you to individuals who have made outstanding humanitarian contributions, as well as distinguished church and public service. Though the recipients are often quite humbled by the awards they receive, as fellow alumni we have good reason to be proud of the difference they have made in the world.

On Saturday, as our association president, David Lacy, welcomes the Baylor retirees, he will no doubt acknowledge the contributions of each person there. And (since I wrote his suggested remarks) I’m fairly confident that he will say something like this: “Next weekend, for the first time, Baylor will have commencement services on both Friday and Saturday, and we will watch as a new crop of alumni march out of Ferrell Center–ready to fling their green and gold and make a difference in the world. But you–Baylor faculty and staff–you have stayed on after they left. Many of you have made important contributions in your writing and other works, but perhaps your greatest contributions are made through those students you touch…and change…and send out with a diploma and your blessing.”

I’m one of those whose life was touched and changed by some of those now-retired professors. It’s been more than thirty-five years since I sat at their feet and was sent out with their blessing. Some of my most loved professors have since passed on, with a few hardy folk still around. But, to me, those at the luncheon represent all faculty members, past and present, who have given their professional lives and love to students.

We hear a lot about what makes Baylor different. An extraordinarily beautiful campus, yes. Superb students and outstanding faculty, yes. Even an occasional sports championship. But what makes us different is less tangible than red brick buildings or a Big 12 trophy. What makes Baylor different is what one of my own special professors, Ann Miller, used to call “the spirit of the place.” She once wrote, “You will find an added dimension that makes it distinctively Baylor. A something that takes place here, that seems to hold past the years.”

I wish every alumnus and alumna could be at the luncheon on Saturday, but let me suggest this instead. When you finish reading this, stop a moment and reflect on the faculty who touched your life in this place, and say a grateful prayer for that “something” that has held past the years.

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