Monday afternoon — on President’s Day, appropriately enough — Baylor announced the hiring of the University’s 14th president, Pepperdine University School of Law Dean Ken Starr.
Over a distinguished career in education, law and public service, Starr has become known for many things. He has argued 25 cases before the Supreme Court, served as Independent Counsel for five investigations, is the author of more than 25 publications, and was at one time a leading candidate for a Supreme Court nomination. But such things can be found on a resume; Starr is more much than that. He is a man whose path has crossed the likes of former President George H. W. Bush and former ACLU President Nadine Strossen, and impressed both. (Click here for full quotes from Bush, Strossen and many others inside and outside the Baylor family.)
“Ken was one of the very finest public servants with whom I had the privilege to work as President of the United States,” says Bush. “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. Both Baylor University, and Dean Starr, have chosen wisely, and Barbara joins me in wishing the Baylor University Family every success moving forward.”
“In my extensive dealings with Ken Starr over the past two decades — concerning some important civil liberties issues on which we have collaborated as allies, and other important issues on which we have strongly but respectfully disagreed — I have always found him to be not only a zealous, brilliant advocate on the biggest issues of the day, but also someone who is deeply concerned about and kind to every individual he encounters,” says Strossen, who led the ACLU from 1991-2008. “From the students for whom he is impressively available, to the Death Row inmates whose legal appeals he has handled on a pro bono basis, he is unstintingly generous with his time, expertise and wisdom. Ken Starr is deeply committed to academic freedom and to the robust exchange of ideas, including ideas with which he personally disagrees. He will be a superb leader of Baylor University and a wonderful mentor and role model for all of Baylor’s students.”
A fifth-generation Texan, Starr was born in Vernon (just a few miles from the Oklahoma border), raised in Centerville (on I-45 between Houston and Dallas), and graduated from San Antonio’s Sam Houston High School in 1964. He earned his BA from George Washington University four years later, a master’s from Brown in 1969 and his law degree from Duke in 1973.
In 1983, at age 37, he was the youngest person ever nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. By 1990, he was a leading candidate to replace William Brennan on the Supreme Court, though he was ultimately passed over in favor of David Souter. After five years as Independent Counsel, Starr returned to private practice, then was named dean of Pepperdine Law School in 2004.
Known as a strong Christian, Starr is the son of a Church of Christ minister and has announced he will join a Baptist church in Waco. World Magazine named him its “Daniel of the Year” in 1998, noting that “All who know Ken Starr agree that his deep personal faith serves as a rock in turbulent times.” Even while serving as a high-powered lawyer in the nation’s capital, he continued to teach children’s Sunday School at his local church. In his “Message from the Dean” on the Pepperdine website, Starr accentuates the school’s commitment to the “highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership” — words that should sound very familiar to those who know Baylor’s mission.
Starr will be introduced as Baylor’s new president Tuesday at 3 p.m.; click here to watch the event live, or return to that link later to view archived video.
Sic ’em, President Starr!