The Oil Can

By Frances George

There is a story from years ago of an old man who walked about town with an oil can and wherever he found a squeaky door or roughly hinged gate, he would use his oil can and make the way easier for the one who came after him. It is my hope that as you read this, your uncertainty over college will subside and in your mind and heart, the door will open wide and without hesitation and you allow your son or daughter to walk through it…to Baylor.

Many of you are deciding where your son or daughter will spend the next chapter of their life. I have two daughters who have attended and are currently attending Baylor, beginning in 2012 through 2020. They will complete their time at Baylor with a total three degrees between them. My elder daughter is receiving her second Baylor degree in May and my youngest graduates in 2020. Over the years I have witnessed much of college life from a Baylor perspective. May I submit to you that the Baylor difference is real. Just this morning I was talking with a mom in another state about the Baylor difference. I shared with her the things that set Baylor apart. I told her stories of financial sacrifice on the part of parents in order to send their child to a private university (We are in that category!) I told her stories of distance (We are 1200 miles from our girls). And I told her stories of the academic rigor that accompanies a top tier institution (Yes, that describes us as well! Our girls work extremely hard each year.) These things are all true of Baylor. But as I told this mom just a few minutes ago, there is no sacrifice too big, no distance too great, no rigor too overwhelming that supersedes choosing a university where professors share our faith, for a college community that encourages faith, for the myriad of churches in Waco that grow our children’s faith, and for the deep friendships that make faith such fun. Baylor is unique.

Just last week my younger daughter submitted a paper in one of her classes and in her conclusion she quoted a verse from scripture. My daughter sent the paper to me to share with my 91 year old father, as the paper referenced him and his experience during the Great Depression. Someone in the room with us, who taught at the college level in a state school asked, “Won’t your daughter be graded down for quoting scripture in an academic paper? Won’t this professor be off-put by her blatant display of faith?” My answer, was “No. This is Baylor. This university is different.” I remember thinking once again how grateful I am again for Baylor.

Baylor is worth the cost, worth the sacrifice of distance, and worth the challenge that accompanies academic rigor. Four years at Baylor will make your sons and daughters better prepared to enter the world than most college graduates. A Baylor education is much more than the time spent in the classroom. It is a life experience that takes the long view. Baylor does all things, as the great English orphan protector and provider George Mueller said, “with eternity in view.”

It is costly? Yes. Is it far away from home? Yes. Is it challenging academically, requiring many hours in the library? Yes. But is it worth it? That is the ultimate question each parent must answer. Most things in life of value come with a cost to us. The cost may include the sacrifice of not having our children right down the street but the result: amazing young adults who learn “life” apart from us and yet are surrounded and mentored for four years by wise men and women who teach and do life with our children. The friends, the faculty, the faith found at Baylor are like the old man with the oil can and our children are the recipients of that grace. And likewise, your children then become the “old man with the oil can” to the students who will come after them. How do I know this to be true? Because I’ve seen it, in not just one but two daughters at Baylor. This institution has shaped my daughters, who pour into others’ lives each day, like the old man with the oil can. Baylor is absolutely worth it. Life is about choices. Choose well. Choose Baylor. You will not regret it.

And that is the Baylor difference.

The Stained Glass

By Frances George

Last week I was on campus and found myself parked in a parking lot next to the Stacy Riddle Forum. This beautiful brick and columned building houses the women’s Panhellenic sorority meeting rooms. As I sat in the car in the late afternoon, waiting for my daughter to get out of class to meet me for a quick dinner, I noticed the exquisite stained glass in a set of windows. There is a chapel in the building. To me, that says a great deal. What it does not say is sometimes as important as what it says. A chapel does not say all is rosy all the time. Sometimes freshmen, sophomores, juniors and even seniors have tough days on campus and off. Perhaps there is a class in which you can’t seem to keep your head above water, there is a roommate who has turned out to be less than what you expected, someone has crushed your hopes for the weekend or simply, home seems very far away right now. College is not always the best of the best…on the surface. But there is the chapel. And in that chapel there is hope. And hope is a cornerstone of who Baylor is. It is not a “hope for,” a wish that may or may not come to fruition but rather a hope in what I know to be true and in that hope I can place my trust and know it will be alright because someone bigger than myself is in control. That is Baylor.

Here in this building, a building which represents fun and philanthropy, scholarship and sisterhood all rolled up in one package, there is a room, not tucked away in the back, not given as the leftovers of the building budget, but rather a lovely space with stained glass, prominently positioned in the very front of the building, as soon as you walk in…to your right. Perfectly placed, I’d say. You can’t miss it and that’s the point.

Because you see, even in college, in Greek life, in academic life, Baylor knows where the anchor is and they have built their institution on that very firm Foundation and it is on display around campus for all to see. Because Baylor knows that no roommate will always be there for you like Christ will be. No sorority sister will understand every crisis, no boyfriend will ever love you perfectly, and a perfect 4.0 GPA will not guarantee perfect peace. But Christ will do all of those things and more and weather every storm for four years and more. And yet just like stained glass, you can’t see through it. You can’t see what’s inside from being on the outside. And while that may seem discouraging at first and you may wonder, “Why can’t I see it all right now?” upon closer investigation, a different vantage point, and over time, what was once opaque displays its most spectacular beauty from within and becomes the most encouraging encounter ever. You were never intended to see it only from the outside. The real beauty comes from within. Opaque from the outside but complete peace inside where the light streams through the colored glass and creates a beautiful view only known to those who have ventured to come inside. So much like the college years…arriving on campus that first day, not knowing, not seeing it all clearly but somehow knowing, “this is the place” and by the end, when you walk across the platform, diploma in hand, you realize you’ve made your way “inside” and all things are clear and more beautiful than you could have imagined. Illumination from the Son through the stained glass. That’s the beauty of Baylor.

Baylor not only acknowledges that truth in its philosophy you read in print but Baylor intentionally puts it on display in its buildings, on its buildings, and on the “playlist” of the bells that echo from the lovely old centerpiece Pat Neff Hall each day, hymns that ring out across the campus with the sound of hope. Just this past week my daughter texted me saying, “Mom, the bells are playing my favorite song! Listen!” and she held the phone up to the breeze and I heard an old familiar tune of hope. In the late semester as December and exams are ahead, Christmas carols seem to remind the students that hope is not far off or “That Good Old Baylor Line” reminds the students that we are a family bound by more than classrooms and grades.

So as the semester begins anew for the classes of 2018, ’19, ’20, and ’21, and as your student is looking for a place to call home for the next four years, consider Baylor. When I consider the great things that occur in college and even when I consider the hard times in college, challenges that every student will face in one form or another, there is no other place I’d rather have my daughter walk through them than at Baylor where a chapel is only a few steps away and where the music on the afternoon breeze reminds our students, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

And that is the Baylor difference.

End of Year Reflection & Paying it Forward

By Bernadette Cooper

And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.   Job 8:7

A former supervisor of mine once shared some wisdom that has remained with me for nearly two decades: the older you are, the faster time seems to move. As I reflect once again on the ending of a semester – freshman year for my bear cub, Savannah – I can’t help but think of his observation. This time last year my daughter was preparing for senior exams, graduation and a trip to Europe. She was delighted to finally have an answer to the question adults in her life had been posing for months: what are your plans after high school? While she knew she was college bound, she was uncertain what campus she’d call home for the next four years.

Fast forward to May 2017.

In the intervening nine months, I have been an active part of the Baylor Parents Network. And I’ve LOVED it. Baylor is diligent in connecting potential families to current parents and students in order to provide a personal opinion of our experiences with the school and address any concerns from both the parent’s and the student’s perspective.  In the past two months, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with seven families considering Baylor.

The deadline to commit to Baylor came and went on Monday, May 1st. On that same day, I reached out to three of the families I’d forged the closest relationships with. All three families live outside of Texas. One family, in particular, a single mom and her daughter, swooped into town the weekend before the May 1st deadline and met with their area admissions counselor, department heads, enjoyed lunch in the dining hall, toured several dormitories and broke bread at a local restaurant with my daughter. This reminded me of my journey with Savannah last year, at this same time. For weeks the parent heard my take on the school and spending time with my student was just what this family needed to get the real sense of life on campus.  According to my daughter, they asked the hard questions, which Savannah addressed honestly.

I am happy to share that all three families committed to Baylor and their children are officially bear cubs. All three are a welcome addition to the incoming class of 2017. I look forward to meeting them at freshman orientation this summer.

To the rising sophomores – that is, freshmen class of 2016 – can you believe you have one year of college already under your belt? Three more to go. Cherish your memories and the friendships you’ve made. Maintain contact over the summer. Work toward some goals in your field of study. Learn from your mistakes and prepare for sophomore year, which will likely be more challenging. Get some relaxation and rest in. Unless you are studying to be an educator, you likely won’t have another opportunity for 10 weeks off once you enter the workforce.

God’s speed on exams and safe journey to your respective summer locations.

Sic ‘Em Bears and see you August!

Baylor 1.0

By Frances George

Time to choose a college. If you haven’t, here is one final and compelling reason to say “YES” to Baylor.

Catherine is our second daughter to attend Baylor, finishing her freshman year in a week. Our elder daughter graduated May 2016 with her first degree and will be returning to Baylor in just two weeks to begin classes at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing at Baylor to receive her second Baylor degree… but that’s another blog! In some ways my two Baylor daughters are very similar and in some ways they are quite different from one another. Both have had/are having amazing experiences at Baylor but for different reasons. Just last week, our second Baylor daughter sang in her Women’s Choir Spring Concert. During one particular piece in the concert, she said she cried tears of joy as she sang “How Great Thou Art,” thinking about aging grandparents and how much the family would have enjoyed the concert. “It was so good Mom. Made me realize how I blessed I am to be a part of it all!”

I texted back saying, “Your words are confirmation that Baylor is the perfect place for you. Your experience will look different from your big sister’s and yet in some ways, it will be richer. You are a light at Baylor and you’re a great blessing to me.” What she said next is why I have written this final blog before final decisions are being made for college. If you are wondering, “Will my child fit in at this major university? Will she be a ‘no one’ among 15,000, just a number? Or will she find her place? Will she grow and learn and become a strong, prepared and confident adult?” Wonder no more. Yes, she will. This is what Catherine texted back to me…

“It’s funny because when I first came to Baylor, I thought that my experience should be the same… I wanted my experience to be the same as Mary Scott’s. But lately, I’ve been realizing that my experience can and should be different from Mary Scott’s because she and I are not the same person and are created differently and think differently and influence others differently. Honestly, it’s a relief to know that my experience should be different from hers because if I continue to think that it should be the same I will start comparing myself to her, her life and her friends & think, (as I have in the past) that I need to have the same friends and share the exact same experiences. But God has something different for me, and like I said it’s a relief…It’s not “Mary Scott’s Baylor story 2.0”. It’s my story, 1.0.”

My story. Baylor 1.0. That’s it. In one sentence Catherine summed up my prayer for my second Baylor daughter. “Let it be her experience and let it be every bit as wonderful as Mary Scott’s but let it “look” like Catherine.” For a young woman to realize this her freshman year in college is an answer to a mother’s prayer. She gets it. And from where did she learn this? From Baylor. It is not learned in a specific course and not from a particular person but from being a student who, in the classroom and on campus, finds herself surrounded by peers and professors who exude true greatness of character and academic excellence and they encourage it among the students, from the youngest to the oldest. It is a call to embrace their own Baylor experience. And embrace it Catherine has.

Every Baylor experience is unique. The great transformation takes place a little at a time over the course of a year, from a professor with whom your daughter connects and is actually sad when the class ends, from realizing that friends are not all in one sorority and some not in a sorority at all, when your daughter takes a picture of her dorm room window with the sun streaming through and texts, “Mom, I’m going to miss this beautiful view next year,” it’s going to her church on Sunday morning after being at her home church over Easter break and saying, “Mom, it was so good being back in my church in Waco! My heart is full!” And for us as parents, it’s realizing that the blessing of Baylor resides in the lives of the 15,000 students, amazing individuals who walk the campus and intentionally interact with students in a positive way. And I have the privilege of sending my son or daughter here to experience it for four years.

Baylor 1.0 is getting ready to start for a whole new group of 3,000 incoming freshmen. Their stories will be unique. Their stories will inspire. Will your son or daughter be among them? Don’t settle on just any college experience. Join the best. It may sound cliché but it is anything but cliché at Baylor. See for yourself. Come and listen closely over the next year as your child begins to write his or her own Baylor 1.0. It will be a beautiful story, indeed.

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

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.