Bearathon 2017: Bears on the Loose

By Bernadette Cooper

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

People run for many different reasons: those wanting to tune out what’s around and just focus on pace, breathing and the great outdoors; those who want to take home the top prize in their respective category; those running on behalf of a cause or charity; those who want to simply say, “I finished…and here’s my shirt and medal to prove it.”  Others are among the crowded starting lines to meet like-minded folks (runners are indeed a different breed). There are first-timers, regardless of age, and one or two super impressive youth running alongside dad or mom with an energy and enthusiasm unique to a child enjoying a new activity. Often present are those who serve in our United States military, making the feat more impressive as they run with backpacks.

I’ve been exercising for as long as I can remember. In my mid-20s, I incorporated long distance running into my exercise regime for something different to mix up the 80s-workout routine blues. Upon her acceptance into Baylor, my daughter and I (both of us long-time runners) made a pact that we would begin a new tradition and “run among the Bears” each March in Baylor’s annual Bearathon. We made a promise to one another in August 2016 that we would conquer the “toughest half in Texas”.  After all, race day was 7 months away. That would provide plenty of time to train. “We’ve got this; no problem,” we said.

While I wasn’t as prepared for this race as I would have liked (I’d injured myself two months prior to race day and had not worked out since), I was still going to give it the old college try. Race day dawned clear and cool. For reasons beyond my control, I missed the start of the race. After a mini pity-party and a good cleansing cry, I got myself together. Arriving an hour late, I decided to make lemonade from the lemons handed me on that beautiful clear Saturday morning. There was a good wind that kept the temperatures from feeling stifling. A perfect day for a run.

My first thought was to volunteer, but it was clear Baylor and the Student Foundation had everything well under control. Plan B. I thought that the runners could always use another cheerleader throughout the course and at the finish line. I encouraged by clapping and hollering for the teachers, newbies, military. I overheard stories from other spectators who were on hand to cheer friends and family. There was a runner, fresh off a recovery of some sort, finishing a half marathon. I cheered for the swift, the slow and all runners in between. There were teachers, administrators, and students as far as the eye could see.

Standing on the sidelines allowed me to take in the beauty of the event. Baylor showed up in true Baylor form—a slew of tents with all kinds of goodies (nutritional and not so nutritional), families on hand to support a loved one (and strangers), and sororities and fraternities cheering their friends the loudest. It was an exciting time to be a Bear. A hearty congratulation to all the finishers.

Some may not realize this annual half marathon and 5K is a fundraising event, and the proceeds go back to students in the form of scholarships. Baylor’s vision to cultivate committed constituents who give back to the school and community is very much at work. It made this momma bear all kinds of proud to witness first hand.

Next year, Bearathon, I’ll be a Bear on a loose…hopefully with my Bear cub in tow.

Captured…by Baylor!

By Frances George

Years ago on our family farm, one of my nephews, Little David as we called him, was fishing with his granddaddy (my father) on the pond in one of our pastures. My young nephew caught a fish and handed it back to Granddaddy and while Daddy was taking out the hook and putting the fish on the string, he heard his little grandson whispering something. Granddaddy leaned in closer and listened carefully, “I can’t believe I caught a fish. I can’t believe I caught a fish.” David was in awe of this amazing feat and was simply whispering it to himself over and over in utter delight and joy. As my daddy was recounting that incident today, he said, “David was so proud of his accomplishment. It was one of the happiest days of his young life and one of the sweetest of mine.”

My father recounted this story to me on the heels of a phone call I had just received from my Baylor freshman daughter, Catherine. Dad and I were enjoying our last cup of coffee after a delightful spring day of visiting on the farm before I headed back to my house in town. Just before I rose to leave, Catherine called me on my cell, so I stayed a few more minutes to take the call before telling Daddy goodbye. Catherine was happily walking across campus on this spring day, following a very busy week of quizzes and papers and late nights. Just 24 hours earlier she had called, exhausted by seemingly endless assignments and longing for Easter break. But now she was all smiles and as she face-timed me, she said, “Just look at this beautiful campus of mine” and proceeded to pan her phone around the campus where the sky above was cloudless and blue, where trees were in full bloom, the grass was green, and students were happily greeting each other as paths crossed.

She said, “It has been such a great day Mom. I was sitting in my Sociology class and we were discussing college admissions. And all of a sudden, I looked around the room and thought, ‘This is my school. I was accepted to Baylor University! This is my college. This is my home. I am so happy to be here!’” She continued, “Mom, while I sat there, I just started smiling thinking about how fortunate I am to be at Baylor and how happy it makes me to be here more than any other place in the country. I just wanted you to know that!”

When I hung up the phone and recounted to Daddy this story of Catherine, he immediately told me the story of my nephew and the fish…. “I can’t believe I caught a fish. I can’t believe I caught a fish.” He said my story of Catherine reminded him of his story of Little David. We both smiled.

This is a simple story but sometimes simple stories are the best stories.

So, as your student considers where he or she will spend the next four years of their life, I hope that in the spring of 2018, you will receive a phone call as I did today. I hope that your student will pan the Baylor campus on his or her phone, having just left “Soc” and a discussion on college admissions and like Catherine, will have the wonderfully happy thought, “I can’t believe I caught a fish, a fish named Baylor” and then you will realize, as I did today, that “Baylor has now happily captured not only my daughter, but Baylor has also captured me”.

Caught by Baylor. Captured by joy.

And that, as I always say, is the Baylor difference.

The Blessing of Baylor

Waco (and Baylor) feel like home to our daughters.
Real-life sisters and now sorority sisters. Baylor is home for our family.

By Frances George

Many of you are in the middle of deciding on a college for your student for the fall of 2017. You have spent the past months applying to and now hearing from top universities all around the country with acceptances, deferrals, and perhaps even a few denied admission emails. So many emotions.

I have spent the past month in an East Asian country with my boarding school roommate who founded an orphanage some 25 years ago to rescue children out of the government welfare centers from a life unimaginable to a life of hope. She is dying of cancer and we went to tell her children goodbye.

After almost a month of being far away from home, I traveled 9,000+ miles back home last week, unpacked, repacked and within 24 hours of arriving in the United States after a month in East Asia, I flew to Waco to see my freshman daughter at Baylor. Within those 48 hours of travel halfway around the world ending on Baylor’s campus, I saw more contrasts than I can recount and yet after being on campus at Baylor for less than an hour, I came to appreciate The Blessing of Baylor on a deeper level than I had ever known before.

I saw young adults in East Asia enslaved to government tyranny that rules over every aspect of their life and at Baylor, I saw young adults thriving, with a strong sense of purpose, a fresh new generation free to choose…everything from coffee to classes to careers. Their joy in life was reflected on their faces and the way they carried themselves on campus and how they interacted with every person they met. The difference was palpable and I was deeply moved when I saw the contrast so clearly, though I have been on Baylor’s campus many, many times before.  And so I began to write down what kept ringing over and over in my head and heart, “The Blessing of Baylor” as observed from one short weekend on campus.

The purpose of my trip to Baylor was ostensibly, to watch my second daughter be initiated into her sorority, the sorority that her older sister had pledged four years earlier. But my real purpose was much bigger. It was to relay something to you, as parents and potential Baylor students and to encourage anyone who reads this, that Baylor is unique among college campuses. What happens at Baylor is indeed…A Blessing. I saw my joyful daughter come to the luncheon proudly wearing her older sister’s pin, the pin that belonged to her sister, now passed down to a new generation of Kappas. I saw mothers and grandmothers, godmothers, friends, all surrounding these 106 young newly initiated women who will make a difference on their campus. I listened as the sorority faculty sponsor, who had also pinned her granddaughter that morning, a 5th generation sister, open our luncheon in prayer and who prayed beautifully for these girls, praying sincerely in Jesus’ name, not just to a random higher power. I know this lovely woman well and she represents all that is good about Baylor. Her faith, her integrity are genuine. She is The Blessing of Baylor and a blessing to me.

I walked through my daughter’s house in which she will be living next fall, met her new roommates from Texas and from California, all who sought out my freshman out-of-state daughter and asked her to live with them! Upperclassmen who want to pour into my daughter’s life and shepherd her. As I walked around the house, beautifully decorated, warm and inviting, there hung on the walls scripture after scripture, intentionally placed, words that reflect the core of who these girls are. Sprinkled throughout this house are plenty of indications that this house has a ton of fun but this house also has a ton of faith. This house is The Blessing of Baylor.

Earlier in the week, as I was traveling home from East Asia, I received a text from our daughter regarding a meeting with one professor. Catherine had commented to him that costumes are her favorite part of any film or production. He offered to show Catherine and a friend all of the Baylor costumes, how they are made and “It was incredible! I was amazed. I told him I’d love to see one of the rehearsals and watch it all come together and he said, “I think I can arrange that.”” A professor who goes above and beyond to encourage a student. This professor is The Blessing of Baylor.

Later, in a class in which our daughter is struggling, she emailed the professor with a bit of a cry for help and immediately, Catherine received this response and shared it with me: “He is eager to meet with me and see what help I’ll be able to get for his class, and gave me reading tips. He was so encouraging, Mom!”

These are just two examples of two professors. I could share more. They are examples of The Blessing of Baylor.

Finally, the most tender example, the blessing for which I am most thankful, arrived in a text from my daughter accompanied by a picture just this week. Catherine sent a picture of an item from a recent care package I sent to my daughter and her dear roommate (another Blessing of Baylor). In the care package, I placed two crosses with the girls’ sorority name inscribed on each. Catherine sent a picture of the cross hanging on her closet door and this is the message she wrote to me:

“The Kappa cross will be a good reminder of a wonderful accomplishment and of a great blessing. It will remind me of the One who enables me and that He will forever be by my side to help me.” There is an incredible joy watching your daughter mature in an environment that nourishes this type of thinking and philosophy of life, a daughter who has chosen to embrace The Blessing of Baylor. That perhaps is The (most wonderful) Blessing of Baylor to a parent.

So what is The Blessing of Baylor? Simple. It’s the lifeblood of Baylor’s history that is present today. You see it is as you walk around campus and find scripture inscribed on building after building. You see it too, inscribed on the hearts of the students. You see it in the excellence coupled with deep joy exuding from not only the students but in the faculty as well. It’s in administrators and top staff members who remember that all they do, they do in Jesus name. It’s in the life of the professors who go above and beyond to help students at any level. The Blessing of Baylor is evident up and down the residence halls where our sons and daughters live, on the bulletin boards, in the encouraging conversations that take place all through the day and night. The Blessing of Baylor is found in new friends, new sisters saying, “I want you to live with us and we’ll show you the way home!” The Blessing of Baylor is tangibly found hanging on the door of a freshman who is reminded every time she looks at it that “He brought me to Baylor and He has a plan for my future and my success as I keep my eyes on Him.”

The Blessing of Baylor. You need to look no further than this amazing place to see it. Like the picture says, “Waco (Baylor) feels like home.”

Our family certainly believes it. And we hope you will too.

We hope you’ll call Baylor home next fall and experience it for yourself! You will not be disappointed.

And that, as I have said many times before, is the Baylor difference.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things: Reflections from First Semester Freshman Year

By Bernadette Cooper

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

It’s Christmas season. That time of the year where the temperature changes from cool to cold, nightfall comes earlier and earlier with each passing day, excitement about heading home for the holiday, anxiety over upcoming exams, compassion in this time of giving, reflection on the end of the year, anticipation at the beginning of a new year, humility for blessings, seen and unseen.

My favorite bear cub has been away from home for 15 weeks now—all of first semester. Folks get amused when they realize I’m still keeping count. I’ve missed her. More than I thought I would. While I’ve become used to the idea that she’s away at school, I think of her all the time. But the marked difference is I don’t worry about her as I used to. I lift her in prayer and trust God is taking care of her and I trust that she’s doing what she’s at Baylor to do: God first, studies second and sports enthusiast last.

We communicate often and the underlying theme of each conversation is how grateful she is to be a student at Baylor. She shares often that she’s fully vested now. That makes me giggle. I reply, You’re one semester in with seven more to go, how vested could you be? It’s more than just the classes, she explains. She’s embedded into the culture of Baylor and the community of Waco. And she couldn’t be happier. She is firmly planted and up for the challenge. And challenged she’s been. She made it through her first semester of exams, earned excellent grades in order to maintain her scholarship and before I knew it, she was walking out of the airport and ready to head home.

It may sound slightly cliché to mention how she’s matured over this short time at school. But she has. She looks the same and sounds like the Savannah that I left outside her dorm back in the Texas heat in August. But something happened during those 15 weeks of living away from home. I questioned her about her favorite things at Baylor. Her first reply is the uniqueness of Baylor—people in the library studying with you and praying for you; going to the professor’s house for dinner with her peers; having access to keep in touch with current professors, even after their classes are no longer part of her daily schedule.

The university’s interim president, Dr. David Garland, is wise…and kind. He made time in his undoubtedly full schedule to meet with me, last minute, above the 15 minutes I’d requested. Words cannot express how thankful I was for the opportunity to sit and chat with him but more so I was moved at the invitation to have my student reach out to him as well. A few of my favorite things about Baylor: Accessible.

Two semesters of Chapel participation and two semesters of religion classes are mandatory for Baylor students to graduate. My student enjoys the variation of Chapel topics, guests and experiences. Seek and ye shall find. A closer walk with God is there for the taking although not forced upon students who may not be believers.

While Baylor is not abundantly diverse, the school is certainly aware of this and working to add students of different backgrounds and racial makeup to its student body. In the meantime, the students of color are making things work for them. During my first visit back to campus—Family Weekend in September—one of the first comments my bear cub shared was about the group of students that look like she does. “Mom, it’s cool. We look out for each other and in turn, the school looks out for us”. That pretty much made my day. After hearing several stories about some of her friends, I know that my daughter has found like-minded sisters and brothers and I pray they will continue to be there for one another. The compassion extends through the parents. Savannah was unable to make it home for Thanksgiving and a family in Allen, Texas, opened their home to her for the holiday. A few of my favorite things about Baylor: Family.

My young lady has been home for nearly a week now. She’s been very vocal about the plans she’s working in order to pursue her degree. Her dreams and her hopes are lofty, and I couldn’t be more excited for her. She has learned her way during this first semester and assures me the discipline and focus is still very much at play. While she rests and recharges her batteries, she’s enjoying catching up with family and high school friends and sharing her experiences.  A few of my favorite things about Baylor: My bear cub is content.

As we prepare to celebrate this holiday around a very beary Baylor-themed Christmas tree, decked out in nothing but green and gold bulbs, a handful of Baylor ornaments and one Baylor stocking hanging from the fireplace mantle, I give glory to God for placing her exactly where we both believe she should be.

A few of my favorite things about Baylor: Being in God’s will.

The Test

By Frances George

I have three children. One went to university in New York City. Mary Scott, our second, is a Baylor alumna, Class of 2016 and thriving in Dallas. Our youngest, Catherine, is finishing her freshman first semester at Baylor, Class of 2020.

If you have multiple children, you know how each child has individual strengths and individual struggles. Our family is no different. Whereas school came rather easily and with success for our oldest two, our youngest had to work extra hard for every grade. She reached each goal but with much labor. From time to time, there would be the discouraging query to me, “Mom, why did God make me the way He did?” (Meaning, “Why was it all so easy for Benjamin and Mary Scott?”) She was the hardest worker of the three and yet from time to time would grow weary in ‘doing good’…

As college options happily came to Catherine from across the state and nation during her senior year in high school, Catherine felt God very specifically calling her to Baylor and her admission in early December on her Baylor portal reading “YOU’RE ACCEPTED!” was the single happiest moment of her senior year and the best Christmas present ever!

Going to Baylor, we knew would be an academic challenge, as Baylor is a top tier academic university and the Class of 2020 was on track to be not only the largest incoming freshman class but also the brightest in the school’s history. But Catherine was determined that Baylor would be her school!

Hard work does not begin to describe Catherine’s first semester. Many late nights, many meetings with professors, academic advisors, taking advantage of the writing center and helpful teaching assistants, along with learning how to “do” college through networking with new friends, peer mentorships with Catherine’s older sister’s friends still at Baylor working on advanced degrees… it was a semester that challenged Catherine on every level. All the while, Catherine’s older sister was a great cheerleader from Dallas and their relationship strengthened as only happens through sharing college life, past and present. Catherine’s church was a highlight of every week and provided the much-needed perspective and challenge to keep her focus upward and to trust God and work hard!

Catherine charged ahead in her classes and found success but as is the usual course of things in college freshman year, one class was particularly difficult. Through tireless perseverance and an exceptionally encouraging TA, Catherine found herself facing the final test before final exams. To say it was a very significant test is an understatement. Study, eat, sleep, study, eat, sleep, study, study, study…Then, The Test.

Early this morning, a text came in from Catherine to her older sister, Mary Scott, and to me… “Do you want to know my final grade in the class?”

After seeing the (happy) grade, I got down on my knees and began to pray silently in my mind, “Thank You, Lord.” And then, since my nest is empty and my audible prayers wouldn’t bother anyone in the house, I prayed out loud and said, “Thank you God, for making Catherine the way you did,” (recalling as I prayed, her perseverance, her complete confidence in knowing God had called her to Baylor, her great anticipation for how she will be involved in Baylor life and give back to Baylor… “I know God has me here for a purpose.”). Suddenly it was as if I heard God saying to me, “Fran, did you hear your own words? Remember the words Catherine spoke from time to time as a child, struggling in school, “Why did God make me the way He did?” Now you are saying the same words but through My prism, “Thank You God, for making Catherine the way You did”.

I learned a very important lesson this morning: God made Catherine the way He did to show that His plan is higher than mine. And then a secondary but equally significant realization hit me: God made Catherine for Baylor and Baylor for Catherine. All that she has worked her entire life for is coming to fruition on this campus. Catherine’s gentle spirit and loving heart is reflected in her baskets of candy placed outside her dorm room door, to encourage the girls in Collins Hall as they go about their everyday college life, or her basket of thanks, also beside her door with little pieces of paper and pen for the girls of Collins to write down the things for which they are thankful. It is the way God made Catherine. And now it is a blessing to many… her purpose. Catherine’s beautiful and kind roommate who writes her notes on hard days (a roomie she only met this summer), her thoughtful hall mates on “The Collins Cul-de-sac” as they call their totally decked out for every holiday end of the hall, her CL who drove Catherine to the airport in Dallas for Thanksgiving… a 7 hour completely out of her way trip, her professors’ emails of encouragement to Catherine – yes, Baylor professors write encouraging notes to their students! – a campus now decked out in full Christmas attire and an upcoming Christmas choral concert, all celebrating unashamedly the birth of Christ… All of this and more, has made for a more than successful first semester on every level. “The Test” was just one of many freshman year tangible rewards for diligence and hard work appreciated and recognized at Baylor. Baylor, as it did for our elder daughter, is shaping the life of our youngest in a most meaningful manner and celebrating the way God created her in unique fashion, all leading to an incredible future at Baylor and in life. The world may spell SUCCESS in different ways. But today, I spell not only success but also joy and confidence:

B-A-Y-L-O-R!

And that’s the Baylor difference.

Just One Call: Connections that Count

By Bernadette Cooper

Be willing to help and care for each other because of Christ. By doing this, you honor Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Per the Baylor University website, the Baylor Parents Network serves to link Baylor parents with the Baylor Community. Baylor parents are an integral part of the Baylor family, so we strive to improve your Baylor experience by serving as an information and communication link between parents and the university and helping you get involved with Baylor.

Yes, they do all of the above…and so much more.

Two weeks into her freshman year, my daughter hurt herself in her dorm room. While she didn’t think anything of her injury that evening, it became apparent by the following day that she wasn’t alright. She reached out to me very nonchalantly, asking for her insurance information. I reminded her that I’d left the cards with her upon my departure back home. A few minutes after she texted me about the insurance coverage, I thought, wait one moment…why does she need this? I called her and learned that she was in the medical center with an injury from hitting her head on her wooden desk. I asked that she keep me in the loop and got off the phone.

I reached out to a fellow Baylor parent, another momma bear, and simply requested that she pray for my bear cub as she waited in the medical center and that the injury wasn’t too severe. She responded back right away that she would indeed pray. One telephone call. One text message. Connections that really count: communication link between the parents and the university. Baylor Parents Network in action. Little did I know that the one call to the head of my local North Carolina Baylor Parents Network chapter would result in such galvanized action. Next thing I knew, I received a call from Gail Offringa, Director of BPN. She was calling to check on Savannah and whether or not she’d received a diagnosis (she had – a mild concussion).

Gail and I kept in touch for the remainder of the day. I’d not met Gail prior to that phone call. I recall being at a parents-only event during Welcome Week in August as she spoke to the general crowd of freshman parents. At that time, I remember vividly, she was nine days new to her position at Baylor. To say she’s jumped in with both feet would be an understatement. She was caring, helpful and professional. She not only kept in touch with me and the medical center, she also checked on Savannah and brought soup and a sandwich from Savannah’s favorite restaurant. How Savannah’s peers and the school came together to assist her brings tears to my eyes as I write this nearly three months later. Being 1,100 miles away didn’t feel so helpless as other momma bears stepped in and went above and beyond the call of duty.

Community. It’s more than a word at Baylor. They care about each of their students. The staff I’ve encountered are willing to help and care for each other and the student body population, to honor Christ.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gail during my next visit to campus on Family Weekend in mid-September. I gave her a hug of thanks for taking care of my girl. Gail is warm, genuine and is handling things with a professional ease that belies her short time at Baylor.

In the several months that I’ve been actively involved in the NC chapter of the Baylor Parents Network, I have formed quite the bond with other parents. When any of us heads to Baylor to visit our child, we also reach out to the children within our network. Offers to drive them to the store, take them to dinner for an off-campus meal, fellowship and just offer an ear to listen to their concerns and issues are common place.

On my most recent Baylor visit a few days prior to Thanksgiving break, I received a text from a Baylor parent living in Connecticut. I’d met her once during student drop-off in August. We both have freshman daughters. She was on her way to campus and reached out to me to ask if my child needed anything during the weekend she was in town.  I immediately called to let her know that we were both in town at the same time, to our mutual delight. We attended the last home football game of the 2016-2017 school year catching up and enjoying our time in Waco.

Connections that count–my daughter knows that she has adults praying for her, cheering for her and always available to help her even when her own mom is miles away.

My advice to new parents? Reach out to the Baylor Parents Network. Get to know them. Become involved. You’ll be glad you did.

Campus Tours 101

By Bernadette Cooper

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Greetings prospective Baylor parents! I joyfully write this blog to assist you and your child in navigating college visits and campus tours. Below are some pieces of advice/insights/encouragement that I can recall from the 50+ campus visits that I’ve done with my daughter — the last being our trip to Baylor Nation in April 2016.

  • Seems quite obvious but a campus visit is a mandatory first step. It will be confirmed if this is the future home of your daughter/son. Believe that.
  • Plan ahead! We scheduled visits while my high schooler was on spring break and summer vacation (make sure the campus will be open and receiving visitors/conducting tours during this time). If time and money allow, visit a second time to discount any ‘honeymoon’ feelings during the first visit.
  • Attend the tour and stick around for the financial aid presentation. Most schools offer a walking tour followed by a Q&A portion that provides information on what the school is seeking in a prospective student, how to apply and get accepted, and financial/scholarship aid information.
  • Ask questions, lots of them, of everyone you meet. Many folks are willing to share their experiences. Ask the typical ones (# of tenured professors, class size, teacher/student ratio, campus safety) as well as the off-script ones (retention rate of the freshman class, diversity, graduates with employment offers). Chat with students, and not just those providing the tour. Politely ask the student sitting in the quad or in one of the buildings what his/her experience has been. More specifically, ask what brought them to that school in particular. And take notes — this will help down the road when all the schools begin to blend together. You’ll want to know what stood out about each one.
  • Visit the department(s) of your child’s intended major(s) — Talk with everyone you can, from the department chair to professors to students. Collect and read ALL THE LITERATURE you can on the school, the area, etc.
  • Attend a class as that will provide first-hand experience with regard to class size, curriculum and expectations.
  • Connect with at least one person on the staff (i.e., admissions counselor) and get their business card — they will serve as your liaison for any additional questions you may have post-visit.
  • Respect the dates!! This is not the time to procrastinate. There are tasks that must be completed by student and parents. Don’t delay when it comes to the deadlines.
  • Enjoy the experience. Can you envision your child thriving in this community, calling this campus/community home for four years while earning a degree and living on purpose, both academically and socially?

Where did summer go?! MOVE-IN DAY, Baylor style

Our Packed Car

By Bernadette Cooper

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”  1 Peter 5:7

The first day of college is but a week away. The epic trip to Waco to drop off my favorite college freshman, my bear cub as I’ve affectionately nicknamed her after she committed to Baylor in late April, is underway. In the blink of an eye, college went from being a few months away to next week.

Baylor had us biting our nails up to the last minute as we waited (not so patiently) for dorm assignments. Granted, Savannah committed to Baylor on the last day of the deadline, May 1st, but why weren’t they more prepared for the incoming freshman class? Each correspondence from housing was met with a sigh as she thought it would be the email stating the dorm and roommates she’d been waiting weeks and months for. But God. I encouraged Savannah to give her worries and cares about her dorm room to God in prayer. He cares about every aspect of you…including your room assignment in college. I knew with an assurance that God (and Baylor) would come through. And come through they did! God was all in it: she would land herself in a sweet dorm with two wonderful girls. East coast Savannah, Texas native and West Coast were represented. The girls touched base via texts prior to the start of the school year, making sure they had everything necessary for their triple room.

Trip number two to DFW airport felt much, much different. I travelled down with her, knowing that I would be travelling back home without her. I’ve never been away from her for more than two weeks.

Savannah and I arrived in Waco a full week before classes began. Two large suitcases filled with clothes and memories from home and high school were all she packed. We visited Walmart every day for the next 6 days loading up on personal hygiene items, blankets, munchies for the roommates and above all, cleaning supplies.

Move-in day for freshmen is unlike anything I’ve seen. I’d heard the stories but was a little skeptical. It rained each day that first week in Waco. Liquid sunshine, as my friend Fran likes to call it. It was all good.

The process of moving in was nothing short of engineering genius. Time slots for every freshman student in every dorm were issued. Countless fellow Bears and staff are on hand. We pulled up to her dorm…her new home for the next year. We’d visited the day before to get a sneak peek of what we were dealing with. We were pleasantly surprised at this triple room. It was clean and as spacious as a triple could be. Savannah stepped out the car to a cheering section welcoming her to Baylor and her dorm.

This place has class. The momma bear in me was so impressed and excited for the new adventures that awaited Savannah. In about two minutes, literally, the student helpers – dressed in matching shirts, some wearing hats or rain jackets to ward off that liquid sunshine – had emptied out all her belongings as they made their way to her room. Their attitudes were as bright as the sun hiding behind the clouds. I did a double-take because just like that, the car was indeed empty. I went to park the car and took the shuttle back to her dorm. By the time I reached her room, she was already unpacking the first of her boxes and luggage. We came, we cleaned, we conquered.

Roommate #1 showed up a short time later, by which time we were hanging clothes in the closet and chatting it up with the one young brother we’d met on one of our Walmart runs.  John, from Atlanta, was among the movers and shakers on move-in day. He not only remembered Savannah but came in, greeted us and gave us the run down as to what to expect in the coming days. He and Savannah talked church, upcoming “welcome week” events and freshman year. It did my heart good to see that. The CL (community leader – Baylor’s version of RA), Kathryn from Michigan, showed up with words of wisdom and just the warmest of welcomes. My bear cub was ready to ditch her mom and check things out on her own.

Once Roommate #2 showed up, the girls bonded quickly. They took pictures (at the insistence of the parents) and began to learn about one another. The parents swapped phone numbers and attended the parent-only events together. I relish in the diversity of Savannah’s new friends – Savannah is African-American, while one of the roommates is Asian and the other is Latina descent.

Baylor hosts an event for freshmen and their parents. The Thursday before classes is known as the Ice Cream Social on the Fountain. It is designed for the students to gather together to celebrate the upcoming school year and say farewell to their parents. Parents, in turn, are expected to say ‘so long’ for now. Savannah had jumped into dorm life and Baylor life with both feet. While that was a little sad, it was alright because I wanted her to be independent. I just don’t know that I was ready quite so soon. Between her NC Baylor sisters and several new friends, I saw less and less of her with each passing day. I’d transitioned from full-time parenting for 18 years to parenting long distance in the blink of an eye. Sigh.

I found solace in commiserating with other parents, some who were new at this like me and others who were on their 2nd or 3rd child. But again, thank you, Baylor for making this moment one she’ll never forget. The best is yet to come.

BAYLOR CHOSE ME—and we’re so thankful they did

By Bernadette Cooper

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

August 2015: senior year in high school.

This was the year I promised my daughter Savannah that I’d work even harder at not saying “we” each time I described an experience that was solely “hers”:

We’re a senior in high school, graduating in 180 days.

We’re applying to colleges up and down the eastern corridor.

We’re majoring in journalism and French, wherever we land.

Although I’m her biggest cheerleader and along for (most of) the ride, this experience was and would be uniquely hers and ready or not, I was going to have to come to grips with that.

Savannah visited her share of colleges and universities. As a matter of fact, the count was lost sometime after campus visit #50. She had the idea of starting her college search during the summer before her freshman year of high school (in order to get ahead of the game). Learning what the schools wanted and getting a glimpse into the respective admissions process prior to starting high school allowed her to proactively become the ‘master of her fate’. Instead of scrambling in her junior year of high school to fit certain classes, interests or extracurricular activities into her schedule, she was able to focus instead on honing her likes, enjoying senior year (and enjoyed she did) and planning accordingly.

When crunch time arrived and it was time to apply to colleges after all those visits, she was ready. Almost. Enter Baylor University. I vividly recall when I first heard those words. At the beginning of senior year. Baylor University.  Where is that? Texas. Oh no, ma’am. Not even a contender. While we are big travelers, both domestic and international, the deal was Savannah would attend college no more than 6 hours from home by car. My rationale—if she phoned me at 6 a.m. with a crisis, I could easily be to her by lunch time. Perfect. Baylor University. They found Savannah—due to the number of lists she landed on as a minority student with competitive grades and a rigorous course load.

February marked the arrival of the first of many acceptance letters. College interviews came and went. Things calmed down for a month or so and then seemingly out of nowhere, more information from Baylor kept flooding our mailbox. Alright, Savannah, I said. Let’s talk about Baylor. I began doing my own homework on what this school and town had to offer my only child. My female child. I was instantly turned off by the distance, the price tag, the lack of diversity and the scandal. Sigh. However, I was most impressed that my teenager was considering a Christian institution. Upon further research, I learned the school had quite a bit to offer. She was looking for a strong program in journalism, a Division 1 school that enjoyed sports but didn’t worship them, a mid-sized student population and far enough from home to spread her wings.

After reading testimonies from students and continuing to comb through the website, I thought that at the very least, we could pay Baylor a visit. I also received my first contact, a letter, from the Baylor Parent Network, who introduced me to Frances George of Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s the Baylor liaison in the Tarheel State. I immediately reached out to her and she phoned me back shortly after I left a message. Our initial conversation lasted 60 minutes. I found her to be delightful, upfront, enthusiastically Baylor and a lover of Christ. I liked her right away. At the conclusion of the phone call, I still had a few questions that Fran couldn’t answer. I phoned the Baylor Network folks looking for another Baylor parent that was a little more like me: a minority, single parent, and one who might benefit from the school’s payment plan for tuition payments. The Network didn’t have anyone that fit my criteria, but I was sure I’d find someone in the coming weeks….

A few weeks later, Savannah and I landed at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport, rented a car and headed down I-35 toward Waco. It was Thursday, April 28th and Savannah had until May 1st to let Baylor know if she would accept their offer of admission for the Fall 2016 semester.

As expected, the Baylor staff were on their game. Based on prior campus visit experience, we expected the red-carpet treatment. The school tells the prospective student what they want to hear while simultaneously trying to sell the parents on what they are while glossing over what they aren’t. The Welcome Center had fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. I’d not eaten since I boarded the flight at 5 a.m. so that was a sweet plus. Cookies aside, the staff spoke to us and answered all of our questions. The students hosting the tours were mature and seemed genuinely fond of Baylor. Again, quite willing to answer any and all questions. The campus was well kept and looked magnificent.

As I looked around, I came to the sudden realization that I could see Savannah here in another four months and for the next four years. Beyond the tour, Savannah had tried scheduling appointments with the head of the departments she was most interested in—Journalism and French. There was no one available from the Journalism department but the French department chair was on hand. He not only met with us for a full hour but invited us out for the evening to a local eatery with him and some of the students. He provided the best of advice to the soon to be graduating senior on how to wrap up senior year and how to prepare for classes in the fall. Even prior to her commitment, he invited us to sit in on a 2nd level French class the next day. We accepted.

The next day we met with Financial Aid and the admissions counselors. It was a full two-day visit and by the beginning of day #2, we already knew that Savannah would become a Baylor Bear and join the ranks of the class of 2020. Meanwhile, back in North Carolina, we were able to connect to some African-American Baylor alumni through LinkedIn. Still asking the hard questions of race relations, scandal, and life on this predominantly white campus, everything came back positive. Yes, Savannah was heading to Baylor.

The NC Baylor Parent Network hosted three “meet & greets” this summer. Savannah met nearly two dozen NC Baylor sisters and brothers and real friendships were forged in the living room of the George home as well as the Henry home in Charlotte. I met scores of families with several things in common—a love for this school, the school community, our children….and foremost, Christ. She hadn’t yet started her first day at Baylor and had only visited campus once, but we both knew this was the place, the best fit for my little bear cub.

High school graduation came and went. Savannah enjoyed a summer vacation with some of her high school class in Europe and returned to Charlotte to work for the remainder of the summer to save up spending money for school.  Before we knew it, she was saying farewell to friends and family, near and far and receiving all sorts of well wishes for this new adventure she would soon be starting.

Stay tuned for more stories from “our” Baylor journey. My hope is that I’m able to speak to you—parent to parent—and offer encouragement and insight from having just gone through the process you’re embarking on now.

Sic’em Bears!

The Intangible Transformation

By Frances George

One daughter graduated from Baylor last May and is successfully launched in Dallas.

One daughter is a freshman at Baylor, finding her way in this wonderful new world called college.

And I? I am in North Carolina learning that the best lessons in life happen to our children when they are on their own. I am watching and learning much from afar.

A few weeks ago, we traveled from North Carolina to Texas for Family Weekend at Baylor. The weekend also dovetailed with our elder daughter’s birthday…in Dallas. Mary Scott, the elder, had requested dinner at the top of Reunion Tower in Dallas, where an iconic restaurant sits 50 stories high, slowly rotating a full 360 degrees while you eat, offering spectacular views of Dallas and beyond. After having the dinner reservations arranged, we were excited about a family dinner in Dallas with our two girls! One problem, our younger daughter had her first concert at Baylor in the Women’s Chorus that same night. Oops. I made the (hard to secure) reservation before checking the calendar.

Catherine, the younger, said, “Mom! It’s college. I’m okay. I’ll get one of my friends to record the concert with me singing in it and I’ll show you Saturday. Have fun celebrating Scottie (the elder).” Catherine? Is that you? Our youngest, you see, really revealed in the reality of a few years at home as the “OC”…Only Child…when Mary Scott went to college. We never missed anything she did. And now this? But we will take it! So, my husband and I traveled to Dallas Friday night and with the thrilled Mary Scott, rode the elevator to the stratosphere while Catherine sang notes in the stratosphere at her concert… but as a first, without us in the audience. Mmm. Something is happening here. I can’t quite see it but a transformation seems to be taking place in our new Baylor freshman.

Meanwhile, as Catherine sang, we enjoyed dinner with Mary Scott and as the restaurant slowly turned, telling the story of Dallas, we heard the story of post-graduate life, her amazing job in marketing and events (thank you Baylor Corporate Comm degree!), the new church she’s found in Dallas and how the transition from college life to “real life” is a transition more significant than that from high school to college and one for which no one can really prepare you. She told us of how she treasures her now golden friends from Baylor and the supper club in Dallas they enjoy each week. She told us how her time at Baylor was the season that defined the person she is today and that she has no regrets of the time she spent at Baylor and how she spent it. “It made me who I am and my faith, it’s mine! Who I am, is uniquely me!”

As the night progressed and the restaurant high above the Dallas skyline continued rotating its slow 360 degrees, not only did I find myself enjoying the exquisite sunset, the birds-eye view of the place where part of our country’s history unfolded, where highways intertwine like ribbons below, and where the faint outline of the new Cowboy stadium highlights the distance, now I found myself enjoying something new and even more exquisite in my Dallas view: a young Baylor alumna who will make a difference here as she did at Baylor.

Over dessert, as the evening began to wind down, Mary Scott asked us for the one best piece of parenting advice we would give her to file away for another chapter in life yet to come and the one best piece of general advice we would give her for right now. After we gave our advice, I then asked Mary Scott what would be the one piece of advice she would give us about our parenting and about life in general. And as the sun set on our unparalleled view of Dallas, Mary Scott answered our query and I realized that the real unparalleled view was not the cityscape on the other side of the glass but the daughter sitting right across from us. She told us, “Mom, Dad, you taught us well. But now as you let us go and you look back on the life we had together at home, don’t beat yourself up over the 1% or even the 5% you did wrong. Be grateful for the 99% you did right. You did so very much right. I am grateful. I am half of you (dad) and half of you (mom) and all me and I like who that person is.”

And suddenly I saw it. A lovely transformation had taken place. An intangible transformation.

The next morning, bright and early, we headed to Waco to see our younger daughter. First sighting since August and move in, first return trip to Target with Mom and Dad for just a few more things, fill up the car with gas, get the car washed, meet new friends and more new friends, treating Catherine to dinner along with a few of her friends from NC and Georgia whose parents could not make the trip, church on Sunday, brunch and before we knew it, time to say goodbye. A few tears? Yes. Confident that Catherine had made the right choice? Without question. But, is there an intangible transformation taking place among this one too, I wondered?

The answer came a few days later in a text. It had been a week of tests and meeting with professors and still settling in academically. Catherine texted, “My devotion was so great this morning. It was about priorities. It’s easy to think about all that some have and compare it to what I have or don’t have. Now I know to just be myself. I’m really loving I can just be me at Baylor! Oh Mom, thank you for sending me to this place, my new home, where I can just be me.”

“I can just be me.” Don’t you wish you had known that the first month of college? How grateful we are that our youngest has found the key that will unlock so many doors. Our daughter is just beginning her journey, traveling the first few degrees of her own “Reunion Tower” experience, and the view is lovely so far. Not without tears. Not without disappointments. But her sights are properly set, thanks to Baylor.

I realized when I read Catherine’s text, that in our youngest, an intangible transformation had taken place, just as the transformation had begun in her big sister just a few short years before when Mary Scott was a freshman.

Parents, are you looking for a place where students graduate with a sense not only of who they are but with a deep appreciation of who you are as parents and are grateful? Then look no further than Baylor. In a world of universities where so many students graduate with a degree in ‘dismissing parents’, Baylor is unique. At Baylor, parents are held in high esteem all four years and beyond!

Parents, are you looking for a place where students are encouraged to look in the truth of the Word and find that they are fearfully and wonderfully made and that the priority is knowing Christ and in knowing Him they find themselves? Then look no further than Baylor. At Baylor, students are encouraged to be the young men and women God created them to be.

So the next time you drive through Dallas, look up at Reunion Tower on the south end of town as you head to Waco. And think of Baylor. Think of the slowly turning sphere that represents the slowly turning chapter in the circle of life that happens in college, when young students look out in this big new world and explore the question “Who am I?” and discover, “I can just be me” and watch the world unfold before them as they settle in this newfound confidence. Look at Reunion Tower and think of Baylor, where they grow into men and women who, when they come full circle, are not only confident in who they are but are grateful for who you are, and are ready to live well, thankful for a place where this lovely intangible transformation took place. And to think, it all happens in a place called Baylor.

And that’s the Baylor difference.