Baylor Law Student, Army Veteran Honored with Pat Tillman Scholarship

September 22, 2017

Former helicopter pilot pursues law degree to help orphans

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WACO, Texas (Sept. 22, 2017) – Baylor Law School student and U.S. Army veteran Stephen Carl would rather talk about his passion for kids than his experiences on the battlefields of Afghanistan, but he can’t deny the common thread between the two: selfless sacrifice.

During a nine-month deployment to eastern Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014, Stephen flew MEDEVAC helicopter missions into battle zones, where he’d pick up wounded soldiers and evacuate them to hospitals. In battle, he witnessed a selflessness among his fellow soldiers that he described as “second nature.”

“You don’t even think about it. You’re trained to do it,” the 30-year-old Houston native said. “Every soldier in the Army, no matter the job, is taught to never leave a fallen comrade. We are brothers in arms and we look after one another. It’s just ingrained in us as soldiers.”

Stephen, a married father of two biological children and three adopted children, said his faith as a Christian coupled with his soldier’s conviction to leave no one behind is driving him to become a lawyer devoted to helping abused and orphaned kids find hope – and family.

In recognition of his military service and for his mission to help children, Stephen was named a 2017 Pat Tillman Foundation Scholar. Tillman Scholars are U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses chosen in recognition of their service, leadership and potential. Of more than 2,000 applicants, only 60 are named each year.

“Stephen is the most humble person I know,” said his wife, Lindsey. “He often tries to distract any attention he may receive, but he is so deserving of the Pat Tillman Scholarship. The Pat Tillman Scholarship focuses on a committed life of service, which is exactly what Stephen has done.”

Power to Change the World

After Stephen returned from Afghanistan in 2014, the family – including their young son and daughter – turned their attention to fostering and adoption.

“Even before we were married, Stephen and I both knew we wanted to adopt,” Lindsey said. “A couple of years ago, before we entered the adoption process, we chose a Bible verse to define our mission as a family, which is 1 John 4:19, which says, ‘We love because He first loved us.’ This verse is truly one of the core reasons why we pursued adoption. We, ourselves, were orphans spiritually, and yet our heavenly Father chose and adopted us as His children.”

Soon after their approval as foster parents, they welcomed three little girls into their home, all siblings. Those girls eventually became permanent members of the family in 2015.

It was during the legal stages of the adoption process that something churned in Stephen’s heart. He’d been searching for his next steps, post military, and realized how important lawyers were to affecting change and making things happen.

“My mind was blown by how powerful the legal profession is,” he said. “Not the kind of power that makes you rich and famous, but the kind of power that helps you change the world. The lawyers who helped us helped change the world for my little girls that we adopted.”

After much prayer and consulting his wife and his father, he began exploring law schools. The goal was to find a place that offered a strong commitment to service and one that would help him get the training he needed to help kids like his.

“My heart is with these kids in the Texas child welfare system who don’t have a home, and I know there are a lot of things that can only be solved by lawyers,” he said. “A lot of the issues are legal issues, and so that put the little spark in me to go to law school, get a law degree and help people.”

Committed to Service

Stephen visited several law schools, including Baylor Law School.

He and his wife ultimately chose Baylor, he said, because of its proven commitment to service. They packed their belongings, loaded up their five kids and moved to Waco in May. He took his first class this summer.

“The law profession is a call to serve,” he said. “That was made very clear from the first time I visited the school. It’s not just a pitch to get students. It’s taught in the classroom.”

Since 2010, Baylor Law School students have devoted more than 10,000 recorded hours to pro bono efforts and, subsequently, the American Bar Association (ABA) honored Baylor Law School with the 2015 Pro Bono Publico Award for its commitment to providing volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged.

Among its many initiatives, the Law School’s pro bono and public service programs include the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Immigration Clinic; the People’s Law School; Pro Bono and Public Service Program; and the Veterans Assistance Clinic.

But the program that interests Stephen the most is the Law School’s annual Adoption Day, an event organized by faculty, staff and students in collaboration with the Baylor Law Public Interest Legal Society, the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association and the McLennan County office of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

In December 2016, a record-breaking 41 children were adopted during Adoption Day at the Law School. Professor Bridget Fuselier, director of Adoption Day, said she’s excited to have Stephen at the Law School.

“He already knows—and lives—the meaning of service,” Fuselier said. “He served our country in the military, he served as a foster parent to children he ultimately adopted, and as a lawyer he will serve his community and the justice system. Stephen is dedicated and focused on his calling. He is going to be an incredible Baylor Lawyer.”

Stephen said he’s a firm believer in God guiding his steps. He said he knew the next step was law school. What follows is unknown.

“I’m stepping in with a desire to help – not knowing how to get to the end result,” he said. “I want to live a life that changes the world by making a difference that outlives me, doing that through helping other people.”

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

Established in 1857, Baylor Law School was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program as #4 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #55 in the magazine’s 2017 edition of "America’s Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and #4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984. Learn more at