In 1991, after finishing the coursework for her Ph.D. in management and organizational behavior at Oklahoma State University, Linda Livingstone headed five hours south to Waco to take a job as an assistant professor at Baylor University. She stayed for eleven years before leaving to work her way up the administrative ranks, first at Pepperdine University and then at George Washington. She returned to Baylor this summer, to serve as its fifteenth president at a time when the school has been ensnared in scandal. In May of last year, her predecessor, Ken Starr, was removed and football coach Art Briles was fired after a report by the law firm Pepper Hamilton revealed systemic failings in how the school had responded to allegations of sexual assault.
Tim Taliaferro: A month in, what is the most common question you get?
Linda Livingstone: Why I decided to come back after having been away for about fifteen years.
TT: Why did you?
LL: It was a great opportunity to return to a place that I love and that had been really important to me and my family. The university’s aspiration to be a preeminent research university while maintaining an unapologetic Christian mission is to me a noble aspiration and one that very few universities have achieved.
TT: What do you mean by “unapologetic Christian mission”?
LL: I mean we don’t shy away from it. It is embedded throughout the experience that people have at Baylor. Lots of universities that were originally faith based drifted over time, and it is no longer a core part of who they are. We intend to stay true to our roots.
TT: What were your biggest impressions of the Pepper Hamilton report?
LL: Every university should read the findings of fact and the recommendations for how to deal with sexual violence on campus. Because I have a history with Baylor, it was painful for me to read. But it’s clear to me now that the university has made tremendous progress. Baylor is a very different place than it was last year.
TT: What was your first experience like at Baylor?
LL: I was working on my Ph.D. at OSU and a colleague asked if I had ever considered Baylor [for a teaching position]. She knew I was a Christian and knew my values. Four years later, when I was looking for a job, Baylor, by good fortune and God’s blessing, had an opening in my field. It was clear when my husband and I came here that it was exactly the right place. We felt God calling us to Baylor.