Once again the regents of Baylor University will be searching high and low for a new president of the largest Baptist university in the world. Dr. John Lilley’s tenure at Baylor was short and not so sweet. The task of a college president may be one of the most difficult in the world. He or she has the responsibility of balancing relationships with college professors, donors, students, and alumni. Each and every one of these constituencies offered unique challenges and opportunities for success and immediate failure. In Lilley’s case, he stepped into a high divisive situation following the controversial tenure and dismissal of Dr. Robert Sloan, who now serves as president of Houston Baptist University. Sloan led Baylor with a strong hand, and with the tenacity of a Baptist preacher.
Needless to say, Dr. Lilley stepped into a mine field of challenges. Living in the “Baylor Bubble” may work for freshman from Canyon, but not for the president. In many ways looking in from the outside it appears that Dr. Lilley was an “unintentional interim”. After his firing, Dr. Howard Batson, president of the board of regents, gave high marks to Dr. Lilley and his administration on many fronts. It appears Baylor was moving in forward, yet deep divisions within the life of the university appear to be the undoing of Dr. Lilley’s administration. These divisions were there when Dr. Lilley arrived, and they will continue to haunt this great university until the leaders of the various factions choose to get on the same page and behind the same vision for the future.
Those of us who love Baylor and want to see it continue to be the Baptist response to higher education and Christian scholarship need to pray for Dr. Batson, and those who will be charged with the selection of the next president. I would encourage presidential search committee to be very deliberate, prayerful, and selective as they seek the next president. Baylor cannot afford another “unintentional interim”. Baylor needs a proven servant leader who models his administration after the leadership principles of our Lord. Baylor needs a president that is fully devoted to Jesus Christ, Baptist by conviction, a scholar and life long learner, someone who will listen, and someone who will lead. Baylor needs a president who can articulate a vision bold enough to lead this great university to raise the bar in Christian scholarship to heights unmatched by any previous generation. Baylor needs to be committed to turning out the finest servant leaders in all arenas of life whether in the boardroom, the court room, the pulpit, or the playing field.
In closing I want to thank Dr. Lilley for his service to Baylor. I pray his days ahead will be fruitful and blessed. I want to pledge my support to Dr. Batson and the regents. Yours is a thankless task. I pray the Lord will guide you during these difficult days of transition. I pray the best days for Baylor and the good old Baylor line are just around the corner!