The lede from the Dallas Morning News' front-page report:
Baylor University has hired its first woman president in its 172-year history, the university announced Tuesday, as the school works to recover from its long-running sexual assault scandal.
Linda Livingstone, the dean of George Washington University’s business school and a former faculty member at Baylor, was the unanimous choice of the university’s regents, the school said.
She will begin June 1.
Livingstone steps in to steer the university after a sexual assault crisis led to the ousting of her predecessor last May. Baylor parted ways with university president Ken Starr, as well as the football coach and the athletic director, in a sweeping reaction to the school’s botched handling of rapes and other attacks, including those by football players.
Obviously, Baylor's decision to hire a woman to deal with its ongoing rape scandal is the major news development.
But GetReligion readers no doubt are interested in specific religious details concerning the new leader of "the world's largest Baptist university" — as the news media and Baylor itself often refer to the Waco, Texas, institution.
Such details are scattered throughout the secular newspaper and Christian media reports that we scanned. When put together, those accounts begin to paint a portrait of Livingstone's faith background.
From the Dallas newspaper:
Livingstone, who has been an advocate for women in the business world, will be charged with guiding Baylor into a new era. The conservative Baptist school in Waco did not allow men and women to dance together until 1996. But after the growing scandal had prominent alumni and donors demanding answers, the university is trying to make profound changes to its policies and culture.
“Dr. Livingstone’s experience uniquely fit the profile of the dynamic faith and transformational leader which Baylor needs at this point in time in our history,” Bob Brewton, a 1974 Baylor graduate who led the search for a new president, said in a news release announcing her hiring.
I'm not certain that "conservative Baptist" is the best description for Baylor, particularly in Texas. Longtime observers know that Baylor in the 1990s "survived a fierce struggle between conservatives and moderates at the Southern Baptist Convention." As Christianity Today notes, Baylor maintains a relationship with the moderate (in Baptist terms) Baptist General Convention of Texas, which "selects a quarter of Baylor’s board of regents and provides a sliver of its annual operating budget."
The Dallas Morning News also suggests:
Livingstone is a longtime Baptist, a key criterion for the leader of a university that prides itself on its Christian identity.
Is the Dallas paper saying that being Baptist is a key criterion? If so, that's interesting since the university's last president — Kenneth Starr — came from a Church of Christ background, although he said upon his hiring that he was fine joining a Baptist church.
Baylor hired executive consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles, based in Chicago, to help it find Starr’s successor. The firm said in a position profile that it sought a “mature, unapologetic, yet growing Christian leader” with financial savvy, communication skills and the desire to lift academic standards.
Livingstone, he said, “met all our requirements. She, her husband and their family are outstanding, committed Christians.”
But the Houston paper provides no specifics.
Baylor's hometown Waco Tribune-Herald, however, includes this highly relevant background: Livingstone was a member of Waco's Calvary Baptist Church during her previous time with the university. That church is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship — which includes progressive Southern Baptist and former Southern Baptist congregations. In 1998, Calvary Baptist became the first church affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas to call a female senior pastor, the Baptist Press reported at that time.
And in a piece of Livingstone's selection as Baylor president, the Waco paper reports:
The Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, former pastor of Calvary Baptist, said Livingstone was co-chair of the pastor search committee when Russell accepted the role in 1998.
Baylor’s next president played a large role in the church’s “period of significant renewal and change,” Russell said.
“Linda has a considerable capacity to absorb chaos and to give back calm and to speak words of hope,” she said. “She’s able to maintain a hopeful imagination in the midst of difficult circumstances.”
Note to the Dallas Morning News: If Baylor is a "conservative Baptist school," hiring Livingstone is an interesting way to show it.
During her earlier time at Baylor, she was a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco. Most recently, she and her family have been members of First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
Like Calvary Baptist, First Baptist in Washington is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, according to its website.
And the D.C. church's pastor also is a woman. In fact, it's the same woman quoted by the Waco paper. Since the beginning of 2016, Pennington-Russell has served as the senior pastor of Livingstone's home congregation in the nation's capital. Coincidence?
Finally, for those interested in how rare it is for a Baptist or evangelical university to hire a woman as president, Christianity Today's Kate Shellnutt offers some interesting background:
Women make up about 16 percent of top leaders at evangelical colleges and nonprofits, while their status in secular organizations is well over double that, according to a 2014 study.
Though the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), of which Baylor is an affiliate member, has since named its first female president, fewer than 1 in 10 CCCU schools is led by a woman. Last month, the CCCU gathered more than 600 women at an event focused on female representation in faculty and administrative leadership positions.
What other religious details about Livingstone and Baylor's choice are you seeing, dear GetReligion readers? What else do you want to know?