- (Photo: AP Images / Waco Tribune Herald, Rod Aydelotte)
The world's largest Baptist university has named Kenneth Winston Starr, who is most well-known for his work as special prosecutor in the Clinton scandals, as its next president.
Starr was elected unanimously to lead Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and will be introduced to the campus of some 14,000 students on Tuesday, according to Monday's announcement.
"I am pleased that Baylor University has named an individual of Dean Starr's sterling reputation, character and ability to lead the university into a future that is made all the more promising by his presence," former president George H. W. Bush said in a statement Monday. "Ken was one of the very finest public servants with whom I had the privilege to work as President of the United States. When he represented the United States before the Supreme Court, the American people had a tireless advocate who not only represented their values and interests – but shared them."
Starr has been serving as dean of the law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., since 2004. He is noted for his distinguished career in academia, law and public service as well as his dedication to the ideals of the Christian faith, as Baylor Board of Regents Chair R. Dary Stone stated, according to the Waco university.
Starr has argued 25 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and most recently represented proponents of Proposition 8 – California's amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman – before the state Supreme Court in March 2009.
He is most noted by the media for his work between 1994 and 1999 when he was appointed to serve as Independent Counsel for five investigations, including the Whitewater land deal during former president Bill Clinton's term in office. His investigation of Whitewater and the Monica Lewinsky scandal led to Clinton's impeachment in the House of Representatives.
John Barry, Baylor vice president of marketing and communications, told the schools publication, The Lariat, "He calls it an unfortunate period in history. If you kind of understand his legal career in that context alone, you're really ignoring a huge body of work in terms of what he's done over the course of a career."
Starr, the son of a Church of Christ minister and raised in San Antonio, was elected on Feb. 12 by the Presidential Search Committee and Presidential Search Advisory Committee to succeed John M. Lilley, who was fired in 2008 over clashes with the faculty. David E. Garland served as interim president since August 2008.
Former board chairman Howard K. Batson said at the time that they need "a new president who will listen to all the divergent voices in the Baylor family."
Retired chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court Thomas R. Phillips believes Starr fits the profile.
"Dean Ken Starr is the right leader at the right time to be Baylor University's 14th President," he said in a statement. "His unique gifts match Baylor's need to unite all parts of the Baylor family in a renewed dedication to provide a world-class education at a faith-based institution of higher education."
Starr's appointment is effective June 1.
Chartered in 1845, Baylor University is the oldest, continually operating university in the state of Texas. The private Baptist university is ranked as one of the top 100 best national universities in U.S. News and World Report's 2010 rankings.