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Essay: Why Me and What’s Next?

Tony Pederson has served Baylor Line tirelessly for decades in ways big and small, but now he’s in a totally new position. Here’s why he accepted the invitation.

It is reasonable to ask why a professor from SMU is president of Baylor Line Foundation. The simple explanation is that it wasn’t planned this way. I only agreed to serve after the untimely passing of L. Wayne Tucker, Jr. (’85), who was then the incoming president.

Wayne was a beloved figure in Baylor Line life, highly respected in the banking industry in Texas, and a true friend to all lucky enough to know him. He fought a brave and very private battle with cancer before dying in July 2021 at the age of 59. Wayne loved Baylor, always had a smile on his face and a kind word for everyone, and would have led this organization superbly.  When I was asked to fill in for a one-year term, the memory of Wayne and so many others who have gone before him made my decision an obvious one.

There are two areas I would like to emphasize in the short time I’ll serve. The first is to increase the endowment of the foundation used to fund our Legacy Scholarships Program, which financially supports deserving Baylor students annually. The second is to encourage and involve a new generation of younger leaders to carry on the foundation’s legacy.

There are challenges to funding a university education in the 21st Century. As an academic, and one who has been on a number of scholarship selection committees over the years, I cannot fully describe how meaningful scholarship aid can be. Even a small scholarship can mean the difference in whether a student can attend college or not. Many deserving students come from families in which budgets are stretched. Many are first-generation students whose families can contribute little or nothing to a college education. In many cases, a scholarship will mean a reduction in the amount of loans a student or a family will have to take.

Aside from the financial issue, a scholarship is a strong vote of confidence about the future of a student. When a student receives a scholarship with Baylor Line Foundation’s name on it, the student has a chance to understand there are generations of Baylor alumni who are encouraging that student’s academic performance and professional future. Especially in receiving one of the numerous scholarships that are specifically named, there is additional incentive to learn about an outstanding person in Baylor’s history whose name is on that scholarship.

Baylor Line Foundation in recent years has been awarding over $100,000 in scholarships to more than 50 deserving students. As Baylor’s enrollment has increased, there is more need and more opportunity to help deserving students. Specifically, the Babs Baugh Memorial Scholarship Fund is dedicated to helping first-generation college students, and the L. Wayne Tucker, Jr. Fund has been established to help the future leaders of the Baylor Family. Additionally, the Dave Campbell Memorial Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance to sports journalism students.


Chad Wooten, Tony Pederson, and Allen Holt at a
Baylor Line Foundaiton Executive Committee meeting.

Please consider giving to the foundation’s scholarship funds. Information about the funds and how to contribute can be found on the foundation’s website, baylorline.com/give. And please consider supporting the annual Hall of Fame event in February. Distinguished alumni and other outstanding award winners will be honored. Funds raised from this event are used in the scholarships. Tickets are available at baylorline.com/halloffame.

There is another reason, in addition to Wayne’s death, that I agreed to serve as president on short notice, and this will lead me to my second goal of involving younger leadership. 

So much of my professional life as a journalist and teacher has been directly linked to Baylor. My undergraduate education in journalism was heavily influenced by Baylor Professor David McHam (’58), who produced journalists for three generations at Baylor and other universities in Texas. The late Harry Marsh (’49) was another professor on the faculty who not only taught journalism at an extraordinary level but whose career, personality, and life served as great examples for professional conduct and personal living. I could name a dozen other professors whose classes and whose teaching remain with me today.

As a student, I worked for the late, legendary Dave Campbell (’50), sports editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald and founder of Texas Football magazine, who passed away just at the end of 2021. Dave was respected nationally for his knowledge of sports and, specifically, college football. But he also set standards for fairness, accuracy, and detailed reporting that influenced everyone who ever worked for him. He has been a lifelong friend and mentor.  As I mentioned, the Dave Campbell Scholarship at Baylor Line Foundation helps Baylor students interested in sports journalism. Dave’s late wife Reba Campbell (’47) was also a significant influence in the Journalism Department at Baylor as well as a groundbreaking reporter working in newspapers when opportunities for women typically were limited to the society and “women’s news” pages. Reba would have nothing to do with such limits. She covered news, national affairs, and politics.

As a young journalist and later an editor at the Houston Chronicle, I was mentored by the late Jack Loftis (’57). Jack was one of my dearest friends, and he was a superb editor for a major metropolitan newspaper. In every news story, he asked one question: Was it fair? Jack was a very proud product of Hillsboro, and he had a home-spun, common-man sensibility that served him well. Baylor made a major impact on him, and he was never shy talking about the pride he had in his alma mater. He served as president of the Baylor Alumni Association (predecessor of Baylor Line Foundation) and was honored as a distinguished alumnus.

My point is one of encouragement to young Baylor alumni whether you graduated a year ago or even 10 or 20 years ago. Baylor has a way of changing who you are in a positive way. That change usually starts with a professor or a group of professors who taught you things that stay with you for a lifetime. They probably pushed you in ways you maybe didn’t understand at the time. They always encouraged you, perhaps sensing when you were in a down moment or a critical time in your life. If your professors were like mine, there were a few nights without sleep to complete a paper or an assignment. Only later did I fully appreciate what those sleepless nights meant and how they shaped me.

For so many of my colleagues and for me personally, the Baylor influence may have started with sports. The thrill of watching Baylor legends Don Trull (’63) and Lawrence Elkins (’64) has never left me. I consider both of them friends to this day. As I am writing, the Baylor Family is celebrating a 31-24 football win over the University of Texas at McLane Stadium. Funny how so many of our most memorable wins, and heartbreaking losses, have involved the University of Texas. With changes in the Big 12 Conference, any games with the University of Texas in Waco will depend on non-conference scheduling and may not occur for years, if at all. It seems strange to say, but we’re going to miss the Longhorns, and they are going to miss us. (Note to young Baylor alums. Do an internet search for Miracle on the Brazos 1974. It’s required reading for historical perspective.)

Memories of academic life, personal and professional influence, sports and other extracurricular activities are the lifeblood of university tradition. The Baylor Line is difficult to explain to anyone not a part of it. But if you are a part of it, you can’t escape it, even if you try. My appeal is particularly aimed at younger alumni. Find the Baylor Line in your life. It’s there for the taking. Then, come and join this organization. Volunteer to help with one of our activities. Let us know your interest. Be willing to assume your part in the next generation of leadership.  


Tony accepting his Distinguished Alumni Award.

Baylor Line Foundation is a relatively new organization in name only. The beginnings of Baylor Alumni Association go back more than 160 years to 1859. We need not digress into a history that at times has been not unlike family disagreements.  That history has been detailed fully in the pages of this award-winning magazine as well as mainstream news media. But it is important to reaffirm the willingness and the commitment of Baylor Line Foundation to work with Baylor University for the benefit of the Baylor Family locally, nationally, and worldwide. 

I am grateful to Gordon Wilkerson (’82), who will be serving the second year of Wayne’s term as president. And I would be remiss in not thanking Laura Hilton Hollman (’96, JD ’99) for her outstanding service as president of Baylor Line Foundation. Laura comes from one of the great Baylor families who have contributed so much in so many ways to Baylor over the generations. She led this foundation during the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping all of us not only survive but thrive during the travel and personal contact limitations that had to be imposed. Laura’s grace, intelligence, and persistence served the foundation well, and all of us are grateful for her commitment and her service.

Laura, Gordon, and all those I’ve mentioned above are part of the Baylor Line. To all who read this, and especially to the young alumni, find the part of the Baylor Line that changed your life, and then come and join us.

____________________

Tony Pederson (’73) is a professor and The Belo Foundation Endowed Distinguished Chair in Journalism at SMU. He was executive editor of the Houston Chronicle before being named to the Belo Chair in 2003.

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