Ad Unitatem: Founders Mall update
Message from the Special Advisor to the President, Rev. Dr. Malcolm B. Foley
We’re going to start Black History Month with a bang!
Baylor University is celebrating the diversity of the Baylor Family in a number of ways. One of those is by continuing to implement the recommendations made by the Commission on Historic Campus Representations, which submitted its comprehensive report in Dec. 2020 and which was accepted by the Baylor Board of Regents at their quarterly meeting in Feb. 2021.
After hosting conversations across campus and publicly releasing the Commission’s report, Baylor’s Board of Regents approved a four-phase framework to help the University address key recommendations. This spring, University leadership is progressing through the second of those phases by reconceptualizing the area around the Judge Baylor statue to include enhanced historical signage, landscaping and greater accessibility, while also developing plans for a “Monument to the Unknown Enslaved,” as recommended in the Commission report, in the center of Founders Mall.
The former project will tell a fuller story of the man after whom this University was named, drawing us into a deeper reckoning with this institution’s slaveholding past and into deeper consideration of what repentance and reconciliation look like for us today.
The latter project will transform the heart of Baylor’s campus through the creation of new areas of reflection, gathering and community. The Commission’s report describes a new monument as an opportunity to honor the enslaved persons “who were instrumental in constructing the original campus where Baylor University began its journey” and whose identities remain unknown.
Guided by professionals from renowned architectural design firm Sasaki, who have worked with many colleges and universities across the country on similar projects, the University is fulfilling the vision that Board Chair Mark Rountree articulated last May: “Our goal at the outset of this process was not to erase Baylor’s history, but rather to tell the University’s complete story by taking an additive approach as we shine a light on the past. Some of the facts uncovered about the University’s history have indeed been painful, but it is important that we move forward together as the Baylor Family through an intentional process of reckoning, repentance, reconciliation and redemption.”
Below you will find a first look at four architectural renderings of this moving monument that ties in the constructs of light and water with limestone representing the University’s original campus in Independence, Texas.
These new initiatives supplement similar projects already underway across campus, which include statues recognizing Baylor’s first Black graduates — Mrs. Barbara Walker and the late Rev. Robert Gilbert, who both graduated in 1967. Baylor has partnered with accomplished artist Benjamin Victor, the only living artist to have three works in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol, to create these life-sized bronze statues. I am delighted that the Baylor Family will be invited to attend an unveiling ceremony of these wonderful pieces of art in the afternoon on April 4 in front of the Tidwell Bible Building. Save the date – an invitation will be forthcoming!
Last year, when I interviewed Mrs. Walker about the prospect of a statue in her honor being placed on campus, she told me, “It means a lot to me because of the legacy it leaves for my family. I would like for future Baylor attendees to know something about me, that I was willing to do something so many would not, especially during the turbulent time of that day. I want them to know that there have always been good people of all races willing to do what was right regarding the question of integration. And Baylor has been part of the good.”
Today, through living out our mission and working together, Baylor continues striving every day to be “part of the good.” Such work requires both systemic and physical rearranging. We are excited to celebrate some of those physical changes in the coming months!
Baylor continues to implement a range of initiatives designed to create a more equitable and compassionate campus. It is a demonstration of the University’s commitment to making continuous improvements in all areas of Baylor’s operations and institutional programming as we bring a Christian voice to the table among the nation’s leading universities as a preeminent Christian research university.
During the observance of Black History Month throughout February, Baylor is partnering with the community on a variety of opportunities to gather in celebration and fellowship and resources to use to learn more about Black history. Among them are the following:
- Walk with Baylor’s Institute for Oral History
Saturday, February 11, 2023 | 10 a.m.
McLennan County Courthouse, 501 Washington Ave.
Adrienne Cain and Stephen Sloan of the Baylor Institute for Oral History will lead an exploration of downtown Waco with an emphasis on the impact and legacy of African Americans in the community. Participants will learn about Paul Quinn College, A. J. Moore High School, The Farmer’s Improvement Society and much more. Walkers are encouraged to pre-load the Waco History App on their mobile devices, but this is not required to enjoy the two-mile walk.
- Faculty and Staff Chapel
February 15, 2023 | 1 p.m.
Paul W. Powell Chapel at Truett Seminary
As part of President Livingstone’s campuswide Spiritual Wellbeing initiative, Baylor will hold this winter’s Faculty and Staff Chapel service with Toliver Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Toliver Pastor Jimmy Hunter will lead the service, and Dr. Horace Maxile, a Baylor faculty member, will organize the music. All Baylor faculty and staff are invited to attend.
- “Time To Wake Up” - Racism in the White Church
February 16-18, 2023 |
George W. Truett Theological Seminary
This conference is the second in a three-year sequence of programs on confronting racism in the white church and seeking God’s justice. Among others, the event will feature Esau McCaulley, Beth Moore and Jemar Tisby. Registration is free for Baylor faculty, staff and students.
- Black Heritage Banquet
Tuesday, February 28, 2023 | 6 p.m.
Each year, the Department of Multicultural Affairs partners with the Black Student Union to host an evening event for the Baylor community during Black History Month. Along with dinner, there is a keynote speaker. Details for this year will be released soon but save the date now for this year’s Black Heritage Banquet!