Seriously? The Gregarious and Hug-able, Ken Starr?
I found this article to be most fascinating on two fronts. The first half of the article is a profile on the new Baylor University President, Ken Starr. A taste…
But the reality of Kenneth Winston Starr, who in June became the 14th president of Baylor University, is quite different. To watch him work the crowd at the Baylor-Texas A&M football game, in fact, is nothing short of a revelation.
Here, he seems less a pious righter-of-wrongs than a sort of funny uncle. Resplendent in a white warm-up suit trimmed with green and gold and a yellow Baylor cap, and bearing a cherubic smile that never quite leaves his face, the 64-year-old Starr plunges into groups of startled tailgaters. He talks to everyone. He hugs anyone who will agree to be hugged. He tells jokes. He tosses footballs. He poses for photographs, lots of them.
When the Baylor players emerge from their bus to walk a gauntlet of fans, Starr tries to hug all of them, many of whom appear to have no idea who he is. He fails, but is undeterred.
Though his enemies might prefer to think otherwise, this is the actual Ken Starr, the one the TV cameras never quite got: warm, kind, humble, funny and engaging.
There is much more to the profile and its worth a read in and of itself. However, I found even more fascinating, perhaps, the description of the mission Baylor University.
Baylor wants to turn itself into a top-ranked institution and research university all while not just maintaining, but emphasizing, its Christianity. The only comparable model would be Notre Dame, except well, actually Christian.
His larger mission is to fulfill one of the most breathtaking visions in American higher education. Baylor wants nothing less than to transform itself from its traditional role as a somewhat sleepy, second-rate, predominantly regional Baptist school to a world-class research university with highly ranked graduate programs.
And it wants to accomplish all that while asserting itself as a fully Christian, evangelical university with avowedly Christian professors. No Protestant university has ever done this before or even tried. Old-line schools founded on Christian principles like Harvard, Princeton and Yale historically bowed before a relentless secularism and are now places where religion is relegated to extracurricular status. Notre Dame is the only remotely comparable model. It is very definitely a world-class research institution, but not absolute in requiring its faculty to be Catholic or Christian.