Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) is located on the sandy shores of West Palm Beach, Florida, about an hour north of Miami. A small liberal arts institution with a total student population of 4,000, PBA strives to “offer a curriculum of studies and a program of student activities dedicated to the development of moral character, the enrichment of spiritual lives, and the perpetuation of growth in Christian ideals.” Despite being 1,300 miles from Waco, Texas and having a quarter of the student population of Baylor, PBA has a strong connection with this city and with our school.
This unusual linkage can be traced back over three decades to 1981 when Baylor hired Dr. Naymond Keathley. After graduating from Baylor with a bachelor’s degree in history, Dr. Keathley made stops at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and Palm Beach Atlantic University before returning to his alma mater. Five years later, in 1986, Dr. James Kennedy, now an associate professor in the Department of Religion, also joined the Baylor family after realizing that teaching and studying the Bible was his passion during his undergraduate time as a Sailfish at Palm Beach Atlantic.
In 1999, Dr. Laine Scales, now Baylor’s Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Professional Development, came to Baylor as a faculty member in the School of Social Work. Previously, she was redeveloping PBA’s service-learning program, Workship. Around the same time that Dr. Scales arrived at Baylor, three students, who would, unbeknownst to them at the time, strengthen the BU-PBA relationship, enrolled in the university’s religion graduate program.
Kathy Maxwell and her husband, Nathan, came to Waco in 2002 to pursue degrees in New Testament and Old Testament, respectively. Of the twelve new students to the program that year, only two students would be studying Old Testament: Nathan Maxwell and Nathan Lane. “Through the forge that is first semester doctoral students,” Dr. Kathy Maxwell wrote, “we formed deep friendships with our colleagues and their families.” While graduating at different times, the group continued to meet at national conferences, plan visits to each other, and share academic postings. Then, without fail, the calming palm trees and soothing ocean breeze of West Palm Beach started calling them one by one.
It started in 2005 when former Bear, Dr. Kris Pratt, joined the PBA staff and taught in their MacArthur School of Leadership. With his support, Dr. Lane made the same move two years later. One short year after that, a faculty spot came open and, on the advice of her old friend, Dr. Kathy Maxwell applied because the “opportunity to work alongside a fellow Baylor Bear was impossible to resist!” She was hired and her husband, Dr. Nathan Maxwell, taught as an adjunct and worked in online learning for several years at PBA before coming on as full-time faculty. Two years later, Dr. Myles Werntz, who received his doctorate from Baylor in 2011, came aboard as an assistant professor. As Dr. Lane wrote, “For three semesters, we (PBA) had a religion department dominated by Bears!”
There are endless examples of the BU-PBA connection that have continued to this day. In 2016, Dr. Scales was invited to speak at Palm Beach Atlantic University during their annual Founder’s Day Chapel. The Workship program that she and her colleague, Dr. Hope Haslam Straughan, redeveloped from 1993-1996 was celebrating its three millionth hour of community service. While there, she reconnected with associate professors Nathan Lane and the Maxwells.
And so the relationship goes on.
By Matthew Doyen