Even in Uncertain Times…Baylor Remains

By Frances George

Graduation 2020.

I, like many of you, will never forget it. Not because it didn’t happen, but because of the way it actually did occur…

Graduation was, for our daughter, Catherine, unlike her sister’s Baylor graduation in 2016 when Mary Scott received her first degree and different from 2018, when Mary Scott received her second Baylor degree.

Catherine is our youngest, and we were prepared to celebrate in large form in Waco. As many of you know, it is a momentous occasion when your youngest completes their undergraduate degree, when that last child walks across the stage, diploma in hand! So as many of you reading this can attest by your own personal experience, it was an incredible disappointment to hear in early March that Catherine’s college career ended (on campus) and then to hear there would be no May graduation ceremony.

So I went into high gear, “we-have-to-make-this special” mode! Once Catherine officially completed her classes and undergraduate course work, we trekked to the North Carolina coast for several days. Baylor flag, graduation cap and gown, graduation dresses, department honor tassels, temporary Baylor diploma, gifts with BU custom ribbon, “SIC’EM” cupcake flags for a party of four (though I have enough for a party of 400!) — all in hand and ready to begin the celebration!

I was determined to have a traditional graduation, even though it was to be held in a nontraditional setting… in the sand, by the shore, with Pomp and Circumstance playing as Catherine marched across the pier and over the sand dunes and stood beside the Baylor flag we firmly planted in the sand at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, on May 16 at 9:30 a.m. — the same time Catherine was to have graduated in the Ferrell Center.

It went off without a hitch, as you can see in the pictures. And I am sure across the nation, this was repeated by many families in the same situation. We even snagged a young mom strolling her child on the beach to snap the family photo. When I handed her the camera, I noticed her shirt. It said “MAMA BEAR!” (My name in Catherine’s phone is “Mama Bear.”) I chose to view this as a divine blessing on my efforts, and I smiled! So why do I write these words? Not because we were the only family that celebrated in this unique way. Everyone did something special. I write what you are about to read because what transpired during the ceremony on the beach represented the epitome of The Baylor Difference.

I knew, while planning the Baylor Graduation Part 1 ceremony, I wanted to make it more than a fun photo opp. I wanted it to be meaningful to Catherine. Through Catherine’s four years, there have been certain professors she has gotten to know more deeply than others, professors she respects as mentors and now friends. I can, without any effort, recall their names, the classes (some, multiple classes) and the impact they made on my daughter. She speaks of them often. I decided to send an email to these professors and ask if they would write just a few sentences that I could read to Catherine on her graduation day on May 16. These notes to Catherine would serve as the “keynote address.”
Remember: these professors were in the midst grading finals, submitting final grades, all within a pandemic that forced them off- campus, away from their offices and doing all this for the first time in their careers, I’m certain, in this unusual manner.

I immediately heard back from every single one and some, with notes so kind, that I actually included their response email with the letters they wrote to Catherine for the keynote address.

So there Catherine sat in cap and gown on May 16, on a raised bench in the sand on the beach, unaware of the letters about to be read to her. As I began reading the emails, emails that congratulated Catherine on academic accomplishments and, more than that, commended her character, Catherine grew solemn and head bowed. They spoke of her love of family from conversations Catherine had with professors through the years during office hours and in class discussions. One professor, in particular, spoke of Catherine’s perseverance freshman year, citing a specific example. He continued by saying, that without mentioning her name or details to students, he uses Catherine as an example to inspire every incoming class of freshmen he teaches.

As those words fell upon my daughter’s ears and into her heart, I thought, “Who is inspired now?” Catherine…and by this professor’s incredible words. The emotion was on her face with every letter… “They would do that for me? Write these letters?” She was clearly moved. I do not share this with you to elevate your estimation of my daughter. My daughter was not one of the academic or athletic stars highly recruited by Baylor in 2016 to help Baylor’s light shine more brightly on the national level. No, Catherine was a “regular” Baylor coed, so happy to have been accepted in 2016. She worked hard and did graduate with her department’s academic honor cords. But you have to remember, the word “regular” at Baylor doesn’t mean what it means at any other university. Regular at Baylor = The Best of the Best, Top Drawer, Outstanding Men and Women. The same is true of its professors.

There is nothing “regular” about Baylor students. And there is nothing “regular” about Baylor professors. They are all of a higher caliber, and they navigate life with a higher calling steering their ship. This distinct quality permeates Baylor students and its professors.

Catherine could hardly believe her ears, and tears of gratitude streamed down her face. Professors who are willing to take this kind of time to thoughtfully craft beautiful emails speaks volumes of the type of professors Baylor hires. You would be hard pressed to find one professor who would do the same at any other university in the nation. Catherine had five professors write this keynote address. And I could have asked five more easily! These Baylor professors knew my daughter in such a way that they could recall specific examples from two, three, four years ago in my daughter’s life, in their class, and they wanted Catherine to know she made a difference at Baylor. These were not generic emails written in a couple of minutes. One professor actually said he had tears in his eyes as he responded to my request, as he recalled the impact my youngest child had on him in his class, as he saw her perseverance and her academic accomplishment by semester’s end. It was one of the most moving letters I have ever received on any topic.
One person can make a difference and that difference is found at Baylor. This is the legacy of Baylor professors. This will, in turn, become the legacy of Baylor students.

And those cords you see around Catherine’s neck, they were not her original cords she received in the fall of 2019 when Catherine was inducted into the Communication Honor Society. Those cords were in Waco on May 16 in her home. Catherine thought for certain the Class of 2020 would be back on campus in late March after two weeks of online courses, and then absolutely for sure in May for graduation. And so, she left those cords in Waco as a testament of hope. When the plans unfolded differently, and she realized she would not have her cords for her Baylor Graduation Part 1 on the Beach, I emailed her professor and explained what happened but that she really wanted to wear her cords on May 16. Within matter of less than an hour after receiving my email, he Fed Exed a new set of cords to us…another example of how Baylor professors, even with so much on their plates, are willing to take the time for one student.

Catherine will walk across the stage on August 14 at 8 p.m., not in The Ferrell Center but rather in McLane Stadium. This time she’ll have her original cords… the symbol of hope realized! I know the ceremony will be meaningful, and the keynote and benediction will be powerful. But I believe that Catherine’s graduation on the beach will be spoken of with equal emotion to her children and grands, not because of my planning or her dad’s handing of the temporary diploma, but because of the keynote address from Catherine’s five most beloved professors. The words they offered, that I read, will be rocks of remembrance in her life, the Ebenezer upon which she can rest and remember that The Baylor Difference resides in so many places on that beautiful campus. But The Baylor Difference resides primarily within its people, Dr. Livingstone and her vision for our university, and it flows to the professors and students, and for a few fortunate parents, like myself, it flows to us. Baylor University is the difference the world needs. Especially now.
As I sat on campus just a few weeks ago, after bringing Catherine back to Baylor… back home… I snapped a picture of the iconic Pat Neff building on campus and posted it on my social media. I was reminiscing about our Baylor Graduation Part 1, looking with joy toward Baylor Graduation Part 2 in August and reflecting on all that has transpired in the last three months in the world.

So much uncertainty, so much upheaval, and yet so much hope.

My conclusion was this, and I printed those words on the picture before posting it:

“Even in uncertain times…Baylor remains.”

That is all I need to know. Baylor stands on Truth. Baylor reflects Truth. Baylor lives out the Truth from Dr. Livingstone to the professors and the students and to this undeserving parent who happened to brought into its amazing orbit.

It is, as I always say, The Baylor Difference — even in, especially in, uncertain times…

Baylor remains.

Delivered…With Care

By Frances George

I’ve sent care packages multiple times to Waco, Texas, for the last four years to our youngest daughter. And before that, for six years, to our first Baylor daughter while she earned her two Baylor degrees. I actually have an entire closet in my home full of boxes for this singular purpose: care packages! Today, that closet is empty.

Care Package

You see, today the last delivery to our last student in college was made. And this delivery was sent to our home in Raleigh, North Carolina, not Waco, Texas. Catherine, like every other college senior at Baylor, is finishing college online at Mom and Dad’s kitchen table. This was not our plan. But God…

The label on the package says it all, “Fragile. Handle with Care.” When we sent our youngest to Baylor four years ago, 1,200 miles away, she was our fragile baby girl. Today, she has been delivered with care, back to us: a Baylor University graduate (in 15 days), a young woman who loves Jesus and is valued by so many friends, faculty and administrators — and not because of her parents or her last name or her lineage, but because she is Catherine George, Baylor student and soon alumna, who has proven herself in the academic arena as well as the social sphere and, perhaps most importantly, in demonstration of her spiritual depth. And much of that took place over four years at this place called Baylor.

Fragile Handle with Care

So thank you, Baylor, for “delivering with care” this most treasured and exquisitely transformed package — our daughter, strong and confident and accomplished, a beautiful reflection of the University we love and have come to call our own. 3 degrees, 2 daughters, 1 amazing university.

Catherine, like all of the Class of 2020… YOU are The Baylor Difference.

P.S. This is the last delivery for college, but the silver lining to this entire semester is that Catherine will be back in Waco this summer, beginning her post graduate work. At where else? Baylor! I guess I’ll just keep on collecting those boxes with joy! Sic’em, Catherine!


By Frances George

Homesick, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as experiencing a longing for home after a period of absence from it.

First, there was spring break.

Then an additional week of spring break.

Today, we are completing the third week of online classes.

One month at home for my Baylor senior…

I can’t remember the last time Catherine was at home for this length of time since the summer prior to entering Baylor as a freshman back in 2016.

My daughter is a complete delight, and I consider her, as a young adult, a close friend.

But “home”…

They say “home is where your heart is,” and so home right now for our daughter is not our address in Raleigh, North Carolina. Rather her address just off campus in Waco, Texas, with her porch swing and Texas flag displayed, a spring wreath hanging by the door, and lights strung all around the door frame and up the bannister to the second floor — THIS is Catherine’s home.


And she is homesick.

I remember my mother telling me that when the children go to college, it will be a watershed moment. And when they return to their old bedrooms for holidays and a few weeks in the summer, yes, they will sleep in their old bedroom, but they will have now returned mostly, as guests. They come with their suitcase, but they never really unpack it. They talk to you and share, but their heartiest laughs and best late night conversations are mostly with friends on Snap Chap or FaceTime or Zoom, hundreds of miles away. And that is as it should be. (Even as I write this, my daughter is on the porch “zooming” her Bible study on her laptop with friends scattered across the country.)

They come to Baylor and learn who they are apart from Mom and Dad, learn and experience new things, explore things they never dreamed possible as a child.

Many travel the world to study more in depth, and all along the way, the path is filled with not only new experiences and epiphanies regarding life, but also new and golden, treasured friends. They walk the same paths across campus to class, by the beautiful Draper building, through the gardens in front of Pat Neff, as the melodies of the carillon bells playing the old hymns drift across campus on the breeze. They see that same old friend they met at Line Camp and exchange a smile, they grab a cup of coffee at Common Grounds (thankfully, now also in the SUB!), they practice for Christmas on 5th with their choir and anticipate the lighting of the Christmas Tree (thank you, KOT men!) and realize that Christmas on 5th at Baylor rivals whatever anyone else in the country might consider the best of the season!

They attend basketball games (go Lady Bears and Men! We love you!) and watch for the first signs of spring to sit by the pool at their apartment and study, take that first walk across campus late in the afternoon with someone special. They look forward to Monday night and Vertical and Sunday morning at church where you now have “your” seat next to your friends and hear JD Waco open the Word and challenge you and your friends to look a little more like Jesus this week. And then you hear those same beliefs echoed in the classroom from your professors and over the dinner table with roommates.

The list goes on and on.

We have a photograph on our counter of our first Baylor daughter (Class of ’16 and ’18) with our current Baylor daughter (Class of ’20 and headed to graduate school at Baylor!) during her freshman year in downtown Waco. It’s been framed for almost four years. Today, I decided, as the time away from Baylor has now been extended (possibly through the summer months), that every Friday is going to be “Baylor Day” at our home, not only as a way to help make each day away from campus a little less painful by reminding her of the joy of Baylor but to remind Catherine that I know where her home is now: It’s Baylor, and that’s okay.

I remember vividly, as a child being so homesick that my parents would come take me home even in the middle of the night! And it wasn’t because my friend’s home was awful, not one bit, but rather, it was because I loved my own home and my own family and my own room and my own things and my own life there. And so my feelings aren’t hurt that Catherine prefers Baylor to our house.

In fact, it makes me smile to think my daughter has found such success on every level at this place called Baylor. My daughter has family members that encourage her to be a better person and cheer for her along the way at Baylor — friends and professors who are now mentors. The photograph says, “Waco feels like home.” In reality, Baylor IS home. And our daughter misses it. As does every son and daughter across the country who is away from all the things that are familiar, the people who have grown up with them… not from childhood but grown into adulthood with them.

Fountain Mall

Catherine is now making a new bucket list for the day when she gets back, and it is comprised of the little things: have coffee with this one, go to Cameron Park with that one, jump in the fountain with another and sit on Fountain Mall and just watch family walk by.



And if you are considering if you should send your son or daughter to a school where they may not know anyone, my elder daughter didn’t know a soul when she walked on campus the fall of 2012, but the friends she met, they are her sisters now. They now stand with each other at their weddings and have stood by the grave when they’ve buried a mother gone too soon. They’ve traveled the world together and shared an extraordinarily happy life in Waco together. These girls are family. They are family because they grew up at Baylor into beautiful women of God together.

And our younger daughter is now mourning the loss of her last spring at Baylor because she, too, has a family on Baylor’s campus and in the classrooms and memories of bold and brave accomplishments from study abroad and spring break and late night conversations with best friends and first love and first heartbreak. It’s all here with the beautiful golden thread of Christ permeating it all. Right now, it all resides in her heart. She longs for the day when it is her reality again.

Catherine is homesick. Along with about 15,000 of her friends. That’s okay. In fact, it’s a high complement to Baylor, its faculty and staff and students. When you are homesick, it is because you long to be with the people who are good and who love you in the place that is most familiar and tender to your heart. Homesick means the place you long to be is a good, good place.

Baylor is that place.

And so we do mourn for the loss of the Class of 2020’s senior “lasts,” but we know that family is always family. And at Baylor, it’s a family unlike any other, and over time the happy memories of their Baylor lifetime (3.5 years) with sisters and brothers at Baylor will come to the fore and the sad lasts that never were, will fade away.

Because, you see, Waco feels like home…
…Because Baylor is home.

Come home to Baylor, Class of 2024, and find out for yourself. You won’t regret a single minute. Just ask our daughter. She’d give anything for just one more minute with her family.

It is, as I always say, The Baylor Difference.

“It Went By Too Fast”… But Oh, The Memories We Made

By Frances George

When our first Baylor daughter, Mary Scott, was in the spring semester of her senior year in 2016, she texted me the night of her final sorority chapter meeting and said, “Mom, it went by too fast. I’m so sad it’s over.”

Last night our younger daughter, Catherine, currently a Baylor senior, came downstairs at our home, thinking she was heading back to Baylor to finish her senior year, after (what seemed at the time) two interminably long weeks at home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Instead, with tears in her eyes, she said, “Mom, it’s over. We aren’t going back. My college career just ended. It went by too fast.” The Class of 2020 will end their senior year online without a graduation ceremony in May.

Tears have been flowing here at the George house over a season cut short. And yet…

Through the tears, through the overhearing of conversations Catherine has had with her fellow Baylor seniors scattered now across the country, through social media posts from Baylor students and from the University itself, I’ve seen over and over, what I call “The Baylor Difference” shine brightly.

Daily, almost hourly, I read posts of Baylor students like this: “At the deepest of levels, neither peace nor joy is based on the circumstances but on the God who rules the circumstances.” And “I am learning to choose peace before things fall into place.” Also from President Livingstone, “As we walk through these significant challenges together, let us remember to heed Jesus’ command to ‘love one another’.”

Baylor students are perplexed but not crushed. They are disappointed, but they know deep in their soul this is not all there is. They know—because they have been taught in the classroom, on the field of play, in their sororities and fraternities, through Vertical, and weekly in their phenomenal churches in Waco—that there is something more than what they see going on in this season of uncertainty and that Baylor has been their training ground for life, no matter what “life” comes their way.

And in the crisis, Baylor students are prepared to meet the challenge.

The last big event at Baylor on campus was Sing. I’ve blogged about it in the past,  and the late February performance was one for the record books. Three and half hours of Broadway-style musical talent, consisting of eighteen outstanding performances by more than 2,000 students over six nights. The cherry on top was that Catherine’s Kappa Kappa Gamma/Kappa Sig act was the blue ribbon, first place performance! It was a night we won’t soon forget! So many happy tears of joy, followed by spring break!

Frances at Football Game

But as the events of the last 24 hours unfolded and I realized Catherine’s collegiate career was suddenly, and without warning, over, I immediately had a flood of images fill my mind of our family’s nine years and three degrees (and a post graduate degree yet to come in 2022). Images of football games, homecoming parades, National Championships, choral performances, summer Send-Off Parties, care package parties and prayer, mid semester dinners in our home for NC Baylor Nation parents, and countless other memories that will remain in our minds and hearts long after the events of this week pass, for not only our daughters but also our entire family. Our family has been dramatically shaped by Baylor University, and I would venture to say that our girls are the amazing young women of God today in large part because of the influence of Baylor University.

Two snapshots came to my mind last night as events unfolded for our family. These images sum up “The Baylor Difference,” and poignantly, they are images of the final event of Catherine’s collegiate career, although at the time we did not know it.

Sing Rehearsal

The first image is of a Sing open stage rehearsal, without costumes, without backdrop, without an audience, late in the evening. Countless hours are spent by the students preparing for the six Sing performances. Late nights are required of the students, most every night of the week, over the six weeks that precede the performance. It is tiring. It is, at times, tedious.

But it is worth it. When the audience sees the performance (the second image), it is polished and perfected, every costume perfectly fitted, every carefully choreographed moved expertly executed, make up, hair, orchestra, lighting…. all presented excellently to over 13,200 ticket holders, in a six night, sold-out Waco Hall! Yes, it is highly impressive!

The second image is an accurate snapshot of Baylor students that are ready to perform with excellence. They can do this. Baylor students do life with excellence unparalleled by any other university. What takes place between the open stage rehearsal and the final performance, the final curtain, I realized, is a picture of what our students become through their four years of college at this place called Baylor.

Sing Performance

They work night after night, day after day. It can be tedious. It is most definitely tiring. You are called upon to learn what excellence means and how to incorporate excellence in every aspect of life. The students “rehearse” in the classroom, outside of it, alone and with others, for countless hours, days, months and years for the final performance, the one that actually takes place after they graduate, after the final Baylor curtain — it’s called life.

They learn how to succeed. They learn what it looks like to fail and then to pick yourself up when you make a misstep and start again. They learn all of this with the support and love of friends, faculty and administrators all the way to the top, with our beloved President Linda Livingstone and First Gent Brad Livingstone. Baylor students learn life’s choreography within this unique Baylor family, who are cheering and instructing the students every step of the way.

Each major milestone along the way in their four year journey is like an opening night, and then, all too soon, the final curtain on the final performance falls. For the Class of 2020, it all came to a close too fast.

But even in this severe disappointment, our students are ready. The intervening four years between the first rehearsals of freshman year and the final curtain for our Class of 2020 seniors look a lot like these two photographs, now etched in my mind.

Baylor students come to campus as young, eighteen year old freshmen, and yet even these young Baylor students that arrive on campus are of a higher caliber from the beginning than students at other universities. Over four years, they hone their academic skills, discover new ones, experience life with students and faculty where it is still “cool” to be a Christian, acceptable to lead based on Truths of the Word and integrity and honor, where doing things with eternity in view permeates each student’s day. Baylor.

And when things suddenly come to a close prematurely, Baylor students, even in the crisis—especially in the crisis—are ready.

The unexpected early final curtain for the Class of 2020 has only proved what I have seen for almost a decade now…

Baylor University is unique among colleges.

Baylor University prepares its students for life, even when life throws curves unexpected.

The winning act for Sing this year was “Ship of Dreams.” It was the story of the Titanic… Poetic irony, perhaps, but what was said to the students by their peers before the final performance embodies the essence of what a Baylor student represents. The competition for first place is stiff, and preparation is rigorous for the right to win first place. Before Catherine’s sorority (and the fraternity with whom they were coupled for this season of Sing) went out to perform one last time, the Sing chairs who are students themselves, addressed the over 200 students in their act and said, “You know, we are all on life’s ship. We can choose to steer our ship ourselves in our own strength, or we can choose to let God steer our ship. Let’s trust God to steer our ship and watch Him work.”

Catherine texted that to me later that night and said, “Mom, I’m so proud to be a part of a group where its leaders encourage us with words like that. I love my school. Thank you for sending me to Baylor.” It is a phrase our daughters have repeated to us for nine years: “Thank you for sending me to Baylor.”

The opening scene for their act included 200+ students on stage singing “Tis the Old Ship of Zion. Step on board if you want to see Jesus. There’s nothing but love in God’s waters.” Truth spoken by these talented young adults, even as it foreshadowed what was to become of the Class of 2020’s senior spring semester. Even with an early final curtain, what do we see? Nothing but love…across the country in the lives of our students in Baylor Nation.

Baylor Nation, you see, is not just a place in Waco, Texas. Baylor Nation resides in each student, in the spirit and soul, in the character and caliber of its students no matter where they are and no matter under what circumstances they find themselves.

Mary Scott and Catherine were both correct in their sentiments: “Mom, it went by so fast. It ended too soon.” And both of my girls are ready to launch with a lifetime of blue ribbon, first place lives because of Baylor.

It is, as I always say, The Baylor Difference. Some things never change. Baylor is one of them.

And when students, including the newest Class of 2024 return to campus, it will be even sweeter to be back. But for the time being, we’ll “fling our green and gold afar” And sooner than we can imagine, we’ll be back singing together, “That Good Old Baylor Line.”

Step on board. Join us. Hope lives here.

Thanks be to God for this place called Baylor where the final curtain is really only the beginning…

At Its Core

By Frances George

The nature of a person is found at their core — their character, their beliefs, their philosophy and worldview. The same is true of institutions.

I’ve been a Baylor parent, watching life unfold over nine years for our two daughters, and as of May 16, our daughters will have three Baylor degrees between them, with perhaps one more on the way! I’ve seen a lot of life unfold for my daughters at Baylor. They have gone from young girls who came to Baylor knowing no one to growing into wise young adults who are excellently equipped for life.

As we look back over the college years, if the girls had it to do all over, they would choose Baylor again and again. And it’s not because every moment, every situation was a flowery bed of roses. There are always moments in a college career that are difficult, that leave you wondering, “How did that happen?” or “That certainly didn’t seem like what I expected.”

Institutions, like people, are flawed. It is sometimes hard to imagine at a place like Baylor, hard to believe that could possibly be the case when so much is overwhelmingly and wonderfully seamless and done with excellence. But nothing — not people, not institutions — is perfect. However, at the core, at the center of who Baylor is, it is there you will find that Baylor possesses real depth of character, even in imperfection.

Depth of character? How can an institution possess character? Isn’t that reserved for humans, for the living? That is the point.

Baylor is not just a static name of an institution. Baylor means something more. Baylor IS. Baylor DOES.

What Baylor is and what Baylor does is like a mirror, and its reflection is not just a static logo but living character. Character you can see. Character that speaks to its students and to the community and to the generations. Yes, an institution reflects character. And Baylor reflects it well.

Just this morning I was studying Psalm 88. It is a psalm of lament. If it could go wrong, it did go wrong for the writer of this particular psalm. Sometimes, to our students, life is hard. College is hard. Relationships can be hard, and yes, courses can be hard. And it seems there is nothing but disappointment and discouragement on the horizon.

Sun shining on Baylor campus

But then, because it is Baylor, there, on that same bleak horizon, is a glimmer of hope found in one person, one faculty member, one administrator, one staff member, one pastor of a Waco church who is also a Baylor graduate, one student. One who reaches out with light and is relentless in helping bring you out of the pit of despair, who is willing to tirelessly help find a solution to the conundrum, though it’s not part of their job description.

THIS is the Baylor difference. It permeates not only the faculty and administration, but it is now a part of the Waco community with pastors of churches who are Baylor graduates and who reflect that same Baylor character. Students who walk alongside your student and offer suggestions, and because of the amazing Baylor network beyond the university, a solution is found. A network of people who don’t know each other’s names but know the Name above all names. And together, Psalm 88 turns into Psalm 89…

“I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever. To all generations I will make known Thy lovingkindness with my mouth.” (And for me, with my pen).

How can I say this? Because I have seen this exact scenario unfold before my eyes at Baylor. And it is not because every step of the way was without struggle. But at the core of who Baylor is, there is depth of character found even within the struggle.

Baylor is a university made up of people who want to make a difference in the lives of the students first and foremost and will go to incredible lengths to help their students succeed.

It is found in all of the aforementioned players, whose job on paper might be oversight of a department, working on the east coast in advancement, a student who has no personal gain in helping another student think through possible options, a church staff member who already has a full plate but says, “Yes, we can do this. We can make this work!” They all have one thing in common: Each is a Baylor “family” member as a current student or alumnus/alumna. Yes, family.

And for four years, these Baylor family members were exposed to a culture of character that reflects all that is good. They were trained in the classroom by the character found in their professors. They walked across campus and “did life” with multitudes of students who possess a depth of character not seen on other college campuses. They witnessed, daily, a university president who interacts with students as if they were the most important part of her job description, and to Dr. Livingstone, they are. This is what is at the core of Baylor. And this is what makes the great times at Baylor the greatest.

But perhaps more importantly, it is what makes the challenging times deeply meaningful and worthwhile. Strength of character is what we want to see in our students. Most anyone can secure a degree. But when Baylor students walk across the platform on graduation day, they walk across with so much more. And in this life, it is “the so much more” that makes the difference.

It is, as I always say, The Baylor Difference. Choose well. Choose Baylor. Because at its core, the Baylor Difference IS the difference for life.

Baylor is a Way of Life

By Frances George

We are in the eighth week of the semester of my daughter’s senior year at Baylor. I am beginning to see the end of this amazing multi-daughter, multi-degree, multi-joy-filled journey. I tell my daughter to embrace the journey… every single minute of it. And she has.

For those of you reading my blog for the first time, I have written almost monthly for the past eight or nine years (I lose track) about what I and my readers have come to know as “The Baylor Difference.”

I have written about Baylor’s Homecoming and the longest continuously running homecoming parade in the nation… and I would know. I was in it last year when my husband and I were named Baylor Parents of the Year, an honor that is a rock of remembrance in my life. However, call time for the parade was 4:30 a.m.! Yes, the parade is that long, and there are that many cars and floats and the fabulous Golden Wave band. It takes a long time to line up and meander for over an hour through downtown Waco and through campus! But it is worth every early minute!

I’ve blogged about distance from home and how 1,200 miles really does feel right around the corner because Baylor is family for my daughter. I’ve blogged about how Greek life at Baylor is really leadership training for life, and I’ve blogged about that last month of college when my first Baylor daughter wrote, “I can’t believe it’s almost over. It went too fast.” I likened Mary Scott’s Baylor experience to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major” with a single string becoming a full symphony and its denouement becoming the single string, yet with a beautifully repeated musical phrase throughout, that phrase being the thread of Christ, permeating her experience from start to finish…

Spires at sunrise

But this month, I have witnessed a side of Baylor I have not seen before, and it once again, demonstrates The Baylor Difference.

Last month, one of my oldest and dearest friends lost her daughter after a three-day illness where an infection took her life. She was 21. She was senior at UNC Chapel Hill, my alma mater. She was a Morehead Scholar, arguably the most prestigious collegiate scholarship in the entire state and among the most sought after in the nation. But suddenly, she was gone. And she was a friend of my Baylor senior, Catherine.

Not wanting to tell Catherine this news over the phone late at night, I DM’d a close friend of Catherine’s, a young man with whom I knew I could share this information and he would be an emotional rock for my daughter when she heard from me. He was at the ready, as I knew he would be, a strong brother in Christ and treasured friend, as are so many of the men at Baylor. I often have said, “I have yet to meet a young man at Baylor that I would ask the girls to not bring home to North Carolina.” The caliber of men and their character on this campus is second to none. And this young man did not disappoint. He was there when he was needed most.

But there was more. Catherine is involved in Vertical Ministries on campus, a campus-wide organization that meets every Monday evening, with typically 1,000 students in attendance to learn what it means to walk with Christ in the 21st century in college and beyond; amazing speakers, amazing music, amazing fellowship. I have come to know the executive director through the years, and so I texted Dale and asked him to pray. That night at Vertical, the night of Wynn’s funeral in Raleigh, 1,200 miles away at a place Wynn never visited, a place that had never heard her name… Vertical prayed for Wynn’s family. Dale Wallace is a Baylor graduate. I was not surprised that he prayed for this family. That’s what the Baylor family does.

And finally, Catherine’s church in Waco, (a church that with just a little persuasion, could make me move to Waco, that’s how incredible this church is!), also prayed for Wynn’s family and those who would be impacted by Wynn’s life and death and her love for Jesus. 1,200 miles away, the leadership of the body of Christ in Waco rose up and knelt down on behalf of my youngest daughter’s friend’s family. The senior pastor, John Durham, is a Baylor graduate. That is the type of person who graduates from Baylor.

Why do I write this? Because in joy and in sorrow, in the best of times and the most difficult ones, Baylor stands in the gap and shines in a world that seems to have lost its way. I knew this would be a difficult week for my daughter, but because of this place called Baylor, I knew she would be supported by friends and faculty, ministry leaders and her Waco church. I knew she would be stronger and even more grounded because of all who surrounded her in the valley. The Baylor difference this month has shown me that the core of Baylor transcends time and transcends campus borders and is still in play long after the four years that comprise college. Baylor understands and sees the difference one university can make in the present and into eternity. Baylor intentionally takes the long view and models it for their students. Baylor is a way of life.

The influence of Baylor University goes beyond the classroom, beyond the winding paths that crisscross campus.

The perspective Baylor gives is deeper and more profound than that which the world offers. Baylor is a verb. It steps up. It steps in to help. It makes a difference. I am grateful for Baylor friendships and for Baylor faculty. I am grateful for ministries and those who minister on and off campus. I am grateful in the joy. I am grateful in the sorrow. Our students are better prepared for life because of their time at Baylor.

All those spires you see on campus…they are intentionally present and point upward for a reason. They pointed my daughter upward. “This is not all there is” is what Baylor says and what Baylor does. The “this” matters, and Baylor makes it count. And in all the saying and in all the doing, in all the teaching and in all the training, Baylor makes it count for eternity.

And that’s the Baylor difference.

It’s What Takes Place Inside That Counts

By Frances George

Abigail Adams, wife of United States President John Adams, once wrote about an event, that it was “beyond the reach of my pen.”

Baylor has multiple opportunities for its students to travel abroad during the year. Our daughter just completed her summer study abroad in London with Baylor. Our family joined Catherine at the conclusion of her study in London and traveled to France for an additional adventure, exploring the remarkable sites in the beautiful city of Paris.

Over this past weekend, once home from our adventures, as Catherine was processing to me all she had seen and learned before heading back for her senior year, I quickly realized that I would want to share this with the current Baylor Family and with prospective students.

As Catherine spoke and filled the canvas of my mind with her summer study, the Abigail Adams quote kept coming to mind. She would speak and then fall silent, in deep thought, the occasional tear would stream down her face as she contemplated the sheer magnitude of all she had learned and as she verbalized her thoughts. The experience was almost beyond the reach of her “mind’s” pen.

And as she spoke, though words sometime seemed inadequate and hard to express, after many musings, suddenly she looked at me and summed the experience up in one phrase: “I realized, it’s what takes place inside that counts.”

While in Paris, our family visited Versailles. The sheer volume of square footage, the artwork, too numerous to count, the “passageway” famously known as the Hall of Mirrors, the seemingly endless statues, busts and monuments to a man, gardens beyond belief in detail and expanse and the gilding of practically everything in sight… it is breathtaking.

Just a few days earlier, Catherine had concluded her time among the Baylor students with a tour of Buckingham Palace, a lifelong dream of Catherine’s. The palace did not disappoint. As she listened to the recorded message by The Prince of Wales at the beginning of the tour, he mentioned that this was his home for most of his childhood and is still home today to the Queen, his mother. It is a working palace and yet, very much a private home.

As Catherine described in detail these two magnificent structures, she said, “Mom, as phenomenal as Versailles was, it’s a museum now. No one lives there. Buckingham Palace may be far less grand and even a little plain by comparison, but a family still resides within the walls. It’s a home. I liked it better than Versailles. And then I thought of our own home, even more greatly diminished in grandeur than Buckingham Palace, and yet, it’s home and where we have all of our happiest memories within our little walls. The real beauty is found inside a home, and its magnificence is determined by what happens there. I know, perhaps, you are ‘supposed’ to prefer Versailles, but for me, I realized, it’s what takes place inside that counts.”

Catherine came to the same conclusion when she visited the magnificent Westminster Abby and St. Paul’s Cathedral, attending services in both. She was awed by each cathedral’s stone and marble of varied shapes and sizes, all perfectly fashioned and pieced together coupled with the majesty, pomp and exquisite music of each service. The students had practically front row seats at Westminster at the Sunday service they attended. It was an incredible experience, and she said she learned from each message she heard.

And yet, as she reflected on the two cathedrals, she said, “Mom, as beautiful as they both were, I found myself missing my church in Waco and hearing the Word taught and music sung that makes me want to be a better person and more like Jesus today. Our church in Waco is a plain ‘box,’ and we are all dressed pretty casually each week, but it’s what takes place inside that counts. I can hardly wait to get home to Waco and my church.”

Baylor University at sunset

When she finished, she looked up at me with tears and said, “Thank you Mom for this trip. Thank for giving me the trip of a lifetime.”

I said, “There’s a scripture that goes with what you are saying: ‘Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart.’ All that you have seen has broadened your world and expanded your horizons. These are all good things. But by seeing so much, you’ve also made the most important discovery in life.”

Indeed, the trip of a lifetime. I liked what I saw when I looked at my daughter. As I listened to Catherine, I saw a new strength, a new confidence. She appreciated the beauty of the master craftsmen who built these incredible structures. She fell in love with the late-night talks and adventures (!) with friends in London and Paris cafés and can hardly wait to return and see more and learn even more! She also fell in love with Parisian style and has a few new pieces in her wardrobe now that reflect her refined sense of femininity that she saw and fell in love with on the streets of Paris.

But at the end of the day, she had the realization that for all the outward beauty she observed over the past month, “It’s what takes place inside that counts.” The beauty of all she saw was not diminished by this realization but actually heightened. Catherine now possesses a deeper understanding of the definition of true beauty as she stood face to face with the pinnacle of the world’s beauty. She recognized true beauty in palaces, true beauty in cathedrals and, most importantly, where to find true beauty in life…it’s inside.

And as she spoke, I found myself being once again grateful for Baylor. You see, Catherine’s deep and profound sense of what matters most has been nurtured and taught at Baylor. She hears it from her professors. She was mentored in this during her study abroad with her professor who led the trip with his kind and encouraging manner. She sees it in ministries on campus, like Vertical, that shepherd the students to walk well through life. And she hears it each week at her church, Highland, as John Durham, “JD Waco” as we call him in North Carolina, opens up the Word each week and challenges the students to do all things with eternity in view.

Baylor’s study abroad is so much more than the phenomenal teaching, writing, exploration and reflection that takes place in countries around the globe. It is the opportunity to watch all that Baylor represents on its Waco campus come to fruition in the hearts and minds of its students while they study around the world.

Baylor understands “It’s what takes place inside that counts” and they strive every day on so many levels, on campus and, literally, around the world, to make sure the inside of a Baylor student is as lovely and strong as the outside.

If this type of “interior/exterior” design and palatial study is important to you, then Baylor is the place you’ll want to call home. Psalm 144:12, “Let our sons in their youth be as grown up plants and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace,” reminds me of the magnificent gardens and palace at Versailles. But today, this verse reminds me of the myriad of students I know at Baylor. Because, this summer’s study abroad, just like every day on campus, where students become magnificent structures ready to make a difference, is just another example of what I always call…
“The Baylor Difference.”

“Dear Baylor, Please handle with care…FRAGILE. Sincerely, Mom”

By Frances George

A few weeks ago, I was in the Baylor Bookstore—the most beautiful bookstore in the nation, by the way—purchasing a few items to be given to our North Carolina Baylor Nation senior parents at our final care package dinner in late April. (Side Note: Class of 2023 parents, you are in for a big treat with the Parents Network and all that we do to support each other while your student is at Baylor. We celebrate students and parents!)

The items I purchased from the bookstore would not fit in my suitcase, and the items were glass, thus needing to be shipped and shipped carefully so as to arrive intact and ready for use. I approached the checkout and a senior member of the team behind the counter took my items and said he would make sure they would be carefully wrapped and shipped to our home in North Carolina.

When the box arrived to our North Carolina home a few days later and I opened the box, I noticed the items had been packaged as if they were the most expensive Waterford crystal, bubble wrapped, and on multiple sides of the box for all to see, the familiar red and white stickers reading “FRAGILE” had been attached.

However, the stickers were above and beyond the command to handle with care, above and beyond just the statement “Fragile.” These stickers added the words “Please and Thank You.” “This is no ordinary package” is what the box screamed! “This is no ordinary place,” is what I thought, “a place that goes to such lengths to insure safe and intact arrival (of coffee mugs)!”

"Handle with Care--FRAGILE"

I have used that box on several occasions this spring to transport items, as it is sturdy and deep and just the right size. Yesterday, as I went to put the box away in the “box closet” (I keep boxes in order to ship things to my Baylor daughter through the year), something about that box made me smile, and I realized once again, this is a picture of the Baylor difference.

And I hope the following will be a word of encouragement to you, parents, who have chosen to send your beloveds, your “fragile treasures” to Baylor, a place, like the box, which is sturdy and deep and is for our students, just the right size, a perfect fit.

As you think of your student leaving home, “Fragile” is the word that, in one sense or another, may come to your mind… new experience, new roommate, new professors, new opportunities, new life! “Oh, please handle with care! This one is so dear to me.”

May I assure you, the same care with which my items were wrapped in the Baylor Bookstore is the same care with which Baylor University will “handle” your student. That box is a picture of that to which you have to look forward. You have carefully prepared your student for eighteen years while they have been at home. And now they are ready to experience the next four years in preparation to launch into the world.

Your box is sturdy and deep and the right size, but it will soon be time for your student to be fitted for a new box. The next four years will be the time your student will grow in remarkable ways. And it begins in just a few weeks.

When your student arrives on campus, a most wonderful community of professors, administrators, new friends, and amazing opportunities await. People will literally line the streets on campus as you arrive, people who understand the care with which you have prepared your package, and yes, those people are the faculty and staff and our amazing President Linda Livingstone and the fabulous First Gent Brad Livingstone.

They are there to joyfully receive your boxes, and they will spend four years “preparing” your most precious package to be shipped out again, but this time to the world, as young adults perfectly poised to make a difference, prepared by this place called Baylor.

So, as your student prepares over the next few weeks to leave the safe and “bubble wrapped” life you have provided for them, know that Baylor is a great place to step out of their box and into a world that will challenge and broaden them, strengthen them, show them the world and introduce wonderfully new opportunities that heretofore they have only dreamed.

And in four years they will need a new box, one that has the ability to hold all of the new experiences they have encountered, the new academic prowess they possess, and the new confidence they exude!

Remember, however, the contents, once on campus in August and out of the bubble wrap from home, will be bumped around a little over four years, as they are challenged academically at a level they have not known. Yes, they will suffer a scratch or two along the way as they learn to navigate living with a roommate for the first time. And when they receive that first letter grade they’ve never seen, the contents may get a little wet with a few tears of disappointment.

But in the end, oh, in the end, that once “FRAGILE” treasure will walk across the platform at graduation strong and secure, better and brighter, prepared and possessing tools that make most anything possible for their future. I know. My first daughter did it not once, but twice at Baylor, earning two degrees in two different disciplines! And now my second daughter, a senior, is looking toward post-graduate work at Baylor with every intention of giving back to the University that has given her life beyond what she ever dreamed possible, encouraging and training students as she herself has been encouraged and taught.

So, don’t worry parents, as you begin to pack your boxes in the weeks to come—boxes of sheets and towels and pillows and pictures from home—and you prepare to deliver it all to Waco. Don’t worry as you place those final pieces of bubble wrap around that most FRAGILE item, speaking words of wisdom to your student.

Those words will not be lost at Baylor. They will be strengthened. They will be re- enforced. You see, even though you may not audibly voice it, everyone knows you are saying, “Please handle with care. FRAGILE TREASURE INSIDE!” Baylor understands that. Because Baylor wraps their own with the same care as you. Sturdy. Deep. The Perfect Fit.

Baylor is the next step of package preparation and delivery into adulthood. And you’ll see, when that once FRAGILE treasure dons cap and gown at graduation four years from now, the new box will say,

(“Thank you for sending your student to Baylor.”)

How can just an ordinary box sent from a university bookstore carry so much meaning? You’ll understand soon, as I have seen for years now, even the boxes shipped from the Baylor Bookstore represent, on full and beautiful display for all to see, The Baylor Difference!

Watching from a Distance

By Frances George

Sometimes we see more clearly from far away than when we are close in proximity. I know. I’ve watched from a distance of 1200+ miles since my first daughter came to Baylor in 2012 and my second daughter in 2016. And the view… spectacular.

Watching from a distance is not what you think you’d want. It seems counter intuitive. It’s more fun to watch life happen up close, in person. Right?  But watching our students grow and mature from a distance is good. Very good, in fact, and yet it does require certain things from us as parents.

First, watching from a distance requires trust. When I’m far away, I’m not on hand to experience each triumph. I’m not there for the disappointments sprinkled through the four years of growing up that takes place in college. I am forced to trust when I don’t see it unfold before my eyes, when I don’t get the phone call, or when I know I must restrain myself and not call (or text) that piece of wisdom that I am “certain” would make the difference. Trusting when you know a heart is breaking or a disappointment is crushing.  Trusting conversely when the joy is so immense and the first to know are peers… not parents. It isn’t just a blind trust, however. It a trust in One who is completely trustworthy. I can trust, fully knowing that distance is one of His most useful tools, shaping and molding and making a life most beautiful. Watching from a distance is a very good thing.

But so too, this “distance watching” requires not only MY trust but also trusting my STUDENT. Trusting her to walk gracefully through triumph and tragedy, knowing that out of each will be the burgeoning of a young woman, strong and secure in who she was created to be. Both traits found and fostered at Baylor while I stand at a distance.  Trust her. Difficult at times? Yes. But worth it? Without a doubt!

Watching from a distance has its bonuses, however.  When my view is almost exclusively from far away, there is a new and deep appreciation for the rare times when I do get to see up close, in sharp focus and in real time.

This weekend I flew to Texas and drove to Waco and spent three days… for a 45 minute Mother/Daughter event on Sunday afternoon. I got a new t-shirt in the bargain, one that matches my daughter’s! That was it. My sole purpose in coming was to attend this very brief event. Oh, but what I observed in the unscheduled time that filled the remainder of the weekend was so much greater than I could have ever imagined. And it was most telling as the gift of this rare up-close glimpse unfolded outside of the 45 minute event.  I realized it was the distance that made the difference.

On Sunday morning, I saw three young women worshiping next to me at church (my daughter and two treasured friends), each taking copious notes and at the end of the service, as I stood to sing, one remained seated, head bowed, considering in the still moment what she had just heard. Life coming into focus right before my eyes and I had the rare privilege of witnessing it up close and sensing the enormity of the moment, witnessing three young women walking with God.  Afterwards, brunch, with more treasured friends, all telling me about how they plan to spend their summer, serving and thinking well about their future and loving each other well. They call each other “The High Council,” offering wise advice to each other, holding each other accountable on a myriad of topics, some serious and some just plain fun!  These four will make a difference and enjoy great joy in the journey.

The up close glance continued in a mid- afternoon concert with still another friend, listening to the strains of music that brought tears to this old mom’s eyes and when I turned, I noticed my daughter was equally moved, so rich was the text, so ethereal the notes, so perfect the setting. And I was able to see it up close. We looked at each other with a knowing glance. Maturity produces that. It was a gift. It was a rare glimpse provided to me by the One to whom I must entrust my daughter every other day of the year. And when I see life unfold up close and because of the rarity of its occurrence, it makes me appreciate the close-in view as it comes into sharper focus and I watch it with greater intensity.

The clarity of what I see in my daughter lies in stark contrast to the young girl who left home for college three years ago, so unsure of so much but now seeing with remarkable clarity.

I realize the distance has made her a woman in whose image I most wanted her to be all along…His image. And He needed to do this from a distance. Would it be fun to see this up close each day? Of course. But the deep joy of knowing that God worked while I watched from far away and prayed to the One who never leaves her, is even richer.

You see, at Baylor, Catherine has found life, her life. Distance ensures it’s her life, not mine, not even her big sister’s. Catherine found herself at Baylor.

Tomorrow night I’ll resume my watching from a distance until mid-June. But you know what? It’s okay. Because what I have sensed and prayed all along would take place, is actually coming to fruition at this remarkable place called Baylor.

Watching from a distance requires trust and letting go. But it’s okay to do both at Baylor. The key, however, is to do it at the right place. Baylor is that place. Won’t you join us? And watch. Soon you’ll see as I have seen for many years now and with not one, but two daughters ….the beautiful Baylor difference.

The Crosses That Make Us Beautiful

By Frances George 

New semester! New start! New opportunities!

As you and your student consider the college choice for next fall, consider this truth: College is full of so much joy, so much laughter and so much fun and yet life, even in college, has its share of sorrow and disappointment. And when those hard moments come in our students’ lives, believe me, there is no place you’d rather have your student than at a university that navigates well those rough waters alongside your student. And that is found at this place called Baylor.

My Baylor daughters, Class of ’16 (second Baylor degree Class of ’18) and my current Baylor daughter, Class of ‘20, all have experienced their share of extreme joy and excruciating disappointment, while in college, one example as recently as this week. And with our children’s sorrow, comes our own agony as parents, watching our beloveds walk through these rough places in life. We are sad when they are sad, despite how much we say it all works for good. We know that it is true, but our frail, human hearts ache for our sons and daughters.

Just this morning, I was talking with several mothers regarding new semester hopes and disappointments and offered perspective. The Baylor Family is real (and yes, it includes mothers and dads, not just students!) and distance is not a factor, as one might think. I can encourage a mother in Los Angeles, California while I’m in Raleigh, North Carolina about our treasures in Texas! That’s what the Baylor Family does. We rejoice together and we walk through trials together. So, file this blog away for that day that, I promise, will come during the college years. “Into every life, a little rain must fall.” To our students, it may seem like a deluge and a flood. We are here to remind them of the truth below. And the great thing is this, at Baylor, the faculty and administration are there too, standing in the gap with our students.

It is one of the things Baylor does best. They stand at the ready, walking, counseling, and encouraging our students in a way that feels like home. I know. I’ve talked to one shining example of that kind of Baylor faculty just today.

So, the advice… Our crosses, make us beautiful. The scars of difficulty that mark our students’ paths in college serve a greater purpose. Whether it is the disappointment of a grade that wasn’t what you had hoped, was in fact, a nightmarish result, or a heart suddenly broken without warning by a young man or young woman, an internship that you thought for sure was going to be a reality that went to someone else, or a recruitment outcome that left you wondering, “Why?”, college is a microcosm of life at sea with its sunny, smooth sailing but yes, also with its storms. And yet, at Baylor, the microcosm comes with an amazing lifeboat – friends and faculty who are standing with you and will be there when the storms come.

As I wrote to a mother and to my own daughter who suffered a disappointment recently…

“These difficult moments make our daughters more refined, less “young”, more dignified young women of God. It teaches them to walk more circumspectly through life and carefully, as they now understand a modicum of what pain looks like and how badly it can hurt. But pain grows them. And because they love Christ, it makes them wiser and reminds them that our home is not here. And they see others more tenderly when they are hurting because they can easily recall their own pain. Our treasures aren’t in a perfectly ordered outcome. It is, oddly, the scars we bear from our cross that make us more beautiful. And yes, more confident. God’s economy works that way. It seems upside down but it isn’t. God uses all of our crosses… but it doesn’t mean the cross doesn’t hurt and that the cross isn’t heavy. It is dreadfully painful and at times we may feel we will collapse under the weight of it. But He will redeem it. To the world, disappointment is the end. To us, the path is the destination, with all its pain and all its joy. Eyes on Jesus. Mind of Christ. Result: Beautiful young women of God used on this campus.”

How do I know this to be true? I’ve seen in in both of my daughters’ lives. Shaping, molding, beautiful in the Father’s eyes and in mine as well, even through the tears.

These lessons shape our students into amazing adults. At Baylor, this eternal perspective permeates all that Baylor is. In joy… it’s the happy Baylor difference. In sorrow, the Baylor difference shines brightly from the faculty and the caliber of students on our campus that help steer ships through storms. But the real treasure is the brilliant gem that is discovered, polished and illuminated within our children’s own heart as they grow into adults who will make a difference on their campus and in their world. And you know, that is our ultimate goal; to teach them life. And Life is found at Baylor. Remember this.

Yes, it is, as I always say, The Baylor Difference.