Meet 30 Baylor women who have made their marks on the world of education
When Baylor was chartered in 1845, it was one of the first coeducational colleges or universities west of the Mississippi River — about 10 years before any public institution of higher learning would introduce mixed-gender learning, and a full 75 years before American women were guaranteed the right to vote.
Since that groundbreaking beginning, countless women have come through the halls of Baylor before going on to do amazing things. Here’s a look at some Baylor Bears who have made big impacts in education — at Baylor and beyond:
Lily McIlroy Russell (1911) held multiple roles at Baylor from 1926-58, and was beloved by students who knew her.
Russell served in a wide variety of roles over her 30+ years at Baylor, serving as an English instructor, dean of women, director of public relations, dean of the then-new Student Union Building, and the university’s official historian at different times. She also chaired Baylor’s Centennial Committee leading up to the university’s 100th birthday in 1945. Although she was unable to finish a history of Baylor before her death in 1958, Lois Smith Douglas Murray Strain and Sue Moore used her research to complete her dream two decades later with Baylor at Independence.
(Other early female deans and chairs at Baylor include Roxy Grove, chair of the School of Music from 1926-42; Lorena Stretch, dean of the School of Education from 1935-57; and Margaret Amsler, acting dean of Baylor Law School in 1946.)
Gladys Allen (1918) was a teacher, Baylor trustee, and researcher on education.
Allen served two terms as a Baylor trustee, from 1941-47 and 1951-53. During that time, she also conducted research in order to disprove notions concerning perceived gender inequalities at Baylor. This work played a large part in the university reclaiming admittance to the national chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), an organization which promotes educational opportunities for women and girls. Her name is immortalized on the Baylor campus through Allen Residence Hall.
Dr. Bettye Caldwell (BA ’45) drew national attention to the need for early childhood education.
Caldwell was an avid proponent of a prekindergarten program that prepared poor children for elementary school — something taken as a matter-of-fact in modern-day early childhood education. In the early 1960s, as director of the Children’s Center at Syracuse University, she collaborated on a pilot project that suggested children born to poor families developed normally until they were about 1 year old, but then declined intellectually compared with their peers. Her work paved the way for the creation of Head Start, which has provided educational, nutritional, health and other services to more than 30 million children since 1965.
Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes was a widely-respected mathematician who became Baylor’s first Black professor in 1966.
In 1961, when Malone-Mayes decided to get her Ph.D. in mathematics, she applied to Baylor — but was rejected because of her race. By the time she had completed her doctoral studies at UT, Baylor had officially integrated, and in a beautiful twist of fate, the university hired her as its first Black professor. Adored by her students, Malone-Mayes also was a leader in education statewide and nationally, including roles as director-at-large for the Texas section of the Mathematical Association of America, a member of the board of directors for the National Association of Mathematics, and as a member of the executive committee of the Association of Women in Mathematics. She was honored with a permanent display in the Sid Richardson Building (home to the math department) in 2019.
Donna Denton (BBA ’48) was Baylor’s first female vice president.
Denton actually started her education at the University of Texas, but transferred to Baylor for her senior year, where she was one of the few female students studying accounting. After graduating, she became Waco’s first female CPA. She then moved to Oklahoma to work with the Tulsa Oil and Gas Estate before becoming the first female computer programmer at Houston’s Humble Oil. Finally, she returned to Baylor in 1962 as an internal auditor, eventually becoming vice president of financial affairs from 1972-94.
In 1982, legendary Baylor professor Ann Miller was honored as part of Baylor’s first class of Master Teachers — the highest honor bestowed by the university on faculty members. Many other Baylor women have followed suit over the years: Tommye Lou Davis (BA ’66, MS ’68) in 1993, Helen Ligon in 2003, Rachel Moore (MA ’69) in 2004, Laine Scales and Dr. Gaynor Yancey in 2016, and Dr. Anne-Marie Schultz in 2020.
Being named a Master Teacher is no small feat. It’s only bestowed upon professors who have made a profound impact in the classroom and on students’ lives and requires proven knowledge and use of effective teaching methods, plus active advocacy for teaching and learning. On top of that, it’s only awarded to professors who have been at Baylor for 10 years or more — a proven commitment to teaching excellence.
Dr. Diana Garland was the founding dean of the Baylor School of Social Work.
Garland came to Baylor as a professor in 1997, when social work was still a degree track within the College of Arts & Sciences. Social work became its own department in 1999, and Garland was named chair two years later. When the School of Social Work was officially established in 2005, Garland was named dean. Over the past decade, the school has grown to include 20 full-time faculty members and almost 250 students, evenly split between graduate and undergraduate students. Garland can certainly be credited with the school’s identity, infusing social work with our Christian faith. Just before her passing in 2015, the school was renamed the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work in her honor.
Dr. Elizabeth Davis (BBA ’84) was Baylor’s first female provost — essentially, the school’s chief academic officer.
After earning her business degree from Baylor in 1984, Davis returned to her alma mater as a professor of accounting in 1992. She later served as an associate dean in the Hankamer School of Business and vice provost for financial and academic administration. Davis was named interim provost in 2008 and was named to the position in earnest in 2010, becoming the first woman to serve as Baylor’s top academic officer. In 2014, she was named president of Furman University.
[Davis is one of six Baylor alumnae who lead colleges and universities across the nation, joining Dr. Debbie Cottrell (BSED ’79) at Texas Lutheran University, Dr. Pamela Durso (BA ’83, PhD ’92) at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Mary Hensley (EDD ’89) at Blinn College, Dr. Amanda Lee (BA ’88, MA ’90) at Bladen Community College, and Dr. Diana Lovell (BA ’89) at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.]
Dr. Linda Livingstone is the 15th president of Baylor University — the university’s first female president.
A distinguished scholar and academic leader, Livingstone taught in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business before becoming dean of the business schools at Pepperdine and then George Washington University. Since being named Baylor’s president in 2017, Livingstone has overseen the development of Baylor’s academic strategic plan, Illuminate, which details Baylor’s plans to become a preeminent Christian research university, and led the successful $1.1 billion Give Light campaign.
(Women in leadership at Baylor also extend beyond President Livingstone. Dr. Nancy Brickhouse (BA ’82) serves as provost (chief academic officer). Dr. Robyn Driskell (BA ’91, MA ’93) is vice president and chief compliance & risk officer. Cheryl Gochis (BA ’91, MA ’94) is vice president of human resources and chief human resources officer. Tiffany Hogue (BA ’95) is chief of staff to the president. Dr. Shanna Hagan-Burke is dean of the School of Education, Dr. Linda Plank (BSN ’77) is dean of the Louise Herrington School of Nursing, and Dr. Sheri Dragoo is interim dean of Robbins College of Health & Human Sciences.)
These are just a handful of the countless Baylor women who have made (and who continue to make) their marks in education. Of course, there’s not enough room (even on a blog) to list every notable Baylor woman; if there’s someone you think particularly deserves to be honored, please let us know!
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* Meet 7 Baylor women who blazed new trails in the sciences (March 2019)