Why it’s a big deal that Baylor is hiring five new endowed chairs
Last week, Baylor announced a nationwide search to fill five new endowed faculty positions — big news in the academic world, and a big step forward towards fulfilling the dreams of Baylor’s strategic plan, Illuminate.
Those outside academia, however, are quite likely wondering just why this is such a big deal. What is an endowed chair? What does it mean for the university?
If you’ve read articles about professors at Baylor (or any other university), you might have noticed special titles held by some faculty. For instance, in recent months we’ve written about cancer research led by Dr. John Wood, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and shared African American history resources suggested by Dr. Ronald Angelo Johnson, the Ralph and Bessie Mae Lynn Chair of History.
Those titles represent endowed faculty positions, meaning that donors have given to create an endowed fund that will support that position in perpetuity. The professor holding that position can count on a guaranteed level of funding for his or her research efforts (in addition to grants and awards they earn), which adds a measure of prestige to the position. That, in turn, makes endowed positions exceptionally attractive, enabling Baylor to recruit veteran and proven researchers — professors who, as Provost Nancy Brickhouse puts it, “are at the peak of their game and conduct advanced research that addresses significant issues.”
Baylor is hiring right now for five endowed chair positions, with more future positions in the works:
- The Kenneth and Celia Carlile Chair in Materials Science,
- The Jackson Family Endowed Chair for Baylor in Latin America,
- The McCollum Family Endowed Chair in Data Sciences,
- The Mearse Chair in Biological and Biomedical Engineering, and
- The James R. Schofield Chair in Biomedical Studies.
Each of these positions aligns with one of Illuminate’s five signature academic initiatives, and that’s no accident; these endowed chairs will provide high-level research and leadership as Baylor grows in these areas.
Notably, it’s the Baylor Family that has made these chairs possible. Part of Baylor’s Give Light campaign is the Baylor Academic Challenge, a dollar-for-dollar matching program to spark new endowed positions. The generosity of the Baylor Family has played a meaningful role in the formation of these positions, the first of 12 funded through the challenge. That means the progress they make through research, and the university’s advancement towards Tier 1 research status, is something many will have shared in enabling. So thank you to the Carlile, Jackson, McCollum, Mearse and Schofield families, and —
Sic ’em, Baylor endowed chairs!