Baylor's President Makes Smooth Transition to Chancellorship

Dr. Robert Sloan of Baylor University (BU) ended his ten-year tenure as president on May 31, 2005. As Law Professor William Underwood took over as interim president, Sloan was installed on June 1 as chancellor for the world’s largest Baptist institution.

Sloan’s resignation

Sloan’s resignation and reassignment, agreed by both himself and regents in January, followed constant internal ruptures that arose from the initiation of Baylor 2012 - a plan to revamp, renew and renovate the campus and faculty that would cost $250 million and 10-years to complete.

Swamped with a debt that is expected to climb to over $100 million by the decade’s end, rising tuition costs, and regulated faculty tests, scores of faculty and student body members have been rallied and criticized the university’s administration for launching such a massive program.

The internal conflicts peaked in recent years when the Baylor Faculty Senate approved a no-confidence motion in Sloan’s administration in September 2003 and reaffirmed the vote in May 2004.

In addition, Sixty percent of the Waco, Texas-based school’s faculty participated in a referendum on Sloan’s leadership last fall and more than 80 percent of them voted against Sloan.

Accomplishments during Sloan’s presidency

At the same time, according to KWTX press release, under Sloan’s administration, enrollment grew from 12,202 in the fall of 1995 to 13,799 in the fall of 2004 and the average SAT score of entering freshmen improved during the same period from 1160 to 1190.

Minority enrollment increased by almost five percent during Sloan’s tenure and graduate student enrollment on the Waco campus reached an all-time high in the fall of 2004.

Almost $400 million in new facilities were constructed during Sloan’s presidency including the new sciences building, residential village and parking garages.

The campus grew from 450 acres to almost 750 acres and the once-beleaguered athletic program enjoyed unprecedented successes in the wake of the Men’s Basketball Program scandal, including national championships in tennis and women’s basketball.

Transition

In an interview with KWTX News on Tuesday, Sloan said he has spent the past few weeks tying up the loose ends, making sure all the business responsibilities as president have all been carried out. He added that he has also been building a calendar for the future for his work as chancellor.

At the same time, he has been working with his interim successor - his longtime friend and colleague William Underwood - to ensure a smooth transition, but said Underwood is already well schooled in many of the university’s operations.

“Bill and I are longtime friends and we worked together over the years. Originally, 8 or 9 years ago, I brought him into the central administration to be the University Counsel and he and I have worked together in a lot of projects over the years. He's one of the smartest and finest people I've ever known,” said Sloan. “He really doesn’t need a lot of coaching because he's really very bright and understands a lot about operations in the university from his previous responsibilities.”

Sloan said he is talking to Underwood about the current status of some projects and issues so that he's fully up to speed the day that he takes over.

He hopes to do his best to work with him and to provide any help and support he can.

Reflection on his ten-year presidency

When asked to sum up his ten-year tenure at Baylor, he pointed towards the university and said he is very proud of Baylor’s “excellence” as a Christian institution in all aspects of learning institution.

“I think that one of the things that the university is committed to is being faithful to our Christian heritage and in being excellent. You can see that in athletics, in academics, and in buildings. I'm very proud of our commitment as a Christian university to excellence,” said Sloan.

He also attributed the Vision plan to the many students and staff members of the univsersity.

“I’m very proud of Baylor 2012, the ten-year vision for BU, he said, “but of course a lot of people contributed to that. Particularly, the creation and implementation of it is owing to thousands of people who worked across university and Baylor community.”

Despite the many new opportunities offered to him, the reason for his staying at Baylor is

“I had other opportunities to do some other thing that are interesting and exciting, but for right now, I’m very strongly committed to being Baylor’s chancellor because I love Baylor and the direction of the school and want to be as supportive as I can.”

With his new role as chancellor, Sloan said he no longer feels like a distraction in the main goal for the university, a statement he made on the day of his resignation.

“I think by becoming a chancellor I have opportunity to support the direction of the university and Baylor 2012 can and will go on very strongly without me and that was my goal in stepping aside to become a chancellor,” he said. “I didn’t want the discussion to be about me, but about the character and direction of Baylor and it is. So, I feel very good about that.”

Final words to student body and faculty

Sloan referred to the students, faculty and staff members as the university's greatest assets.

“We are here for the sake of the students. Baylor is a university which belongs to the students even more so it belongs to staff faculty or alumni,” said Sloan. “I'd say the greatest asset of Baylor is not our building or not even our endowment. It's our faculty and staff of university because they carry our traditions, intellectual freight, and service practices of Baylor.”

In sum, Sloan expressed deep gratitude towards Baylor family for all the support they provided during his presidency.

“I have so much to be thankful for. I’m grateful to the students, faculty, staff and alumni,” said Sloan. “Sue and I and our children have received such tremendous support and encouragement from people so I really would want to say thank you for all of that encouragement, friendship and love down the years.”