Dean's Update - March 15, 2023

March 15, 2023

Dear Colleagues:

In 1910, on a little patch of farmland in central Oklahoma, my grandmother was born into another world. Three years prior, Oklahoma Territory had given way to statehood, but large swaths of the state remained frontier land. Then, as now, distant men commanded unfathomable wealth and power, yet the baby who would become my grandmother was as blissfully unaware of Franz Joseph I, Nicholas II, and George V as they were of her.

By the time I was old enough to wonder about my grandmother’s life, she was in her mid-70s, having mothered 11 children through Dust Bowl and Great Depression, World War and Cold War. For me, she was a quiet, gentle woman, if perhaps somewhat worn out by life, although I have heard stories of her tough-as-nails determination.

I know relatively little of this humble soul, mother of my father. I do know that she, with her hardscrabble life and brood of rambunctious children, made much of her country high school education. It helped her uncover hidden depths within herself and the world about her. She paid attention to that world, wondered and dreamed in light of it, and treasured the good she saw. How do I know this? When she was sixteen, she wrote ‘Spring’:

   Making our hearts light,
   Turning the world bright;
   Slipping upon you when your back is
   turned away,
   And softly bidding you come out in
   the sunshine of May.

   Then, the bees lazily hum,
   And the little brooks merrily run,
   Making the whole world happy and glad,
   Where before it was dreary and sad.

   How thy light and airy cheer,
   After a long and dreary year,
   Brings hope and happiness to those
   whose lives seem blighted,
   And in the hearts of youth the fire
   of love and laughter has lighted.

   --Effie Laurent (1910-1995)

I wonder what Mary Effie Laurent Henry might have done with a college education. I do not wonder what she did with the modest education she had. It brought her self-knowledge, imagination, understanding of the world, and depths of inner life. She used her high schooling well: to think, to make lovely things to read, to give voice to an elevated part of her. However full her life was with keeping house and raising so many children, education enlarged her. Together with her faith in Christ, it tempered the sorrows and elevated the joys of her long life.

I think of my grandmother’s poem because Spring arrives next week. March is also women’s history month. In honor of Effie Laurent, then, let me say how blessed we are, a century after she came of age in the 1920s, to teach the bright women who come our way in the 2020s. From wherever they hail and wherever they go, we do good work in helping them to invaluable intellectual and spiritual treasure. My grandmother knew that without such treasure the rich and powerful are poor and weak; with it, even those of little means possess vast resources.

Please take note of announcements and good news within the Honors College community:

• In 2020, Judy and Don Schmeltekopf made a major estate gift commitment that in time to come will create a named, endowed lecture series in ethics and culture. Even now, they are sponsoring launch of the series through current giving. Our first annual ethics and culture lecture is planned for Monday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the Baylor Club Ballroom, featuring Russell Moore, editor in chief of Christianity Today and director of the Public Theology Project. Honors College faculty, staff, friends, and guests may RSVP here for a celebratory banquet at 5:30 p.m., preceding the lecture.

• Through help from a nominating committee chaired by Julia Hejduk and including Darin Davis, Chuck McDaniel, and Melinda Nielsen, and in consultation with Provost Nancy Brickhouse, I am pleased to announce appointment of Alan Jacobs to the Jim and Sharon Harrod Chair of Christian Thought. As a Baylor Illuminate Matching Chair, it will, when fully funded, provide support at the level of a $6 million endowment. With gratitude for the Harrods’ bold vision, we applaud you, Alan!

• Congratulations to Lenore Wright, professor of interdisciplinary studies and philosophy in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core. Following Lenore’s application and review for promotion, we received good news from President Linda Livingstone of her appointment as a full professor, effective August 1. Well done, Lenore!

• Please welcome two new staff colleagues to positions in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core. Moving from a role as temporary full-time lecturer, Katelyn Jaynes joins us senior academic advisor. Also, alumna Caroline Clark returns to us for service in an administrative support and admissions analyst role. We’re happy to have you with us!

• Our Task Force on Annual Faculty Performance Review Guidelines is set for work. Members are Erika Abel, David Corey, Kristen Drahos, Jonathan Tran, Sarah Walden, William Weaver, Jason Whitt, and Lenore Wright. Through their efforts, we seek greater clarity about faculty performance ratings and expectations in the Honors College, and a more effective and rewarding annual review process.

• Join me in gratitude for colleagues who have reached the following service milestones:

   5 years Chris Moore
   10 years Millie Hubbard
   10 years Melinda Nielsen
   15 years Al Beck
   15 years Elizabeth Corey
   15 years Melanie Nogalski
   15 years William Weaver
   20 years David Corey
   20 years Phillip Donnelly
   20 years Sarah Marcum
   20 years Charles McDaniel
   20 years Robert Miner

Thank you, colleagues, for your 185 years of combined service. That’s amazing!

All the best,

Douglas V. Henry | Dean
Honors College | Baylor University | 254.710.7689