Baylor Announces $15 Million Gift from The Sunderland Foundation for Tidwell Restoration

April 25, 2019

WACO, Texas (April 25, 2019) – Baylor University today announced a $15 million leadership gift from The Sunderland Foundation of Overland Park, Kansas, that will provide significant support for one of the University’s highest priority endeavors within its $1.1 billion Give Light philanthropic campaign: the renovation and restoration of the iconic Tidwell Bible Building. The project is among the nearly $300 million in capital improvements planned as part of the campaign that will support Illuminate, the University’s academic strategic plan.

On the lawn of the historically rich building, Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., joined Michelle Buckner, B.A. (Religion) ’16, a member of the board of trustees of The Sunderland Foundation, to sign the official gift acknowledgement. Also participating in the ceremony and representing the faculty in Tidwell was W.H. Bellinger Jr., Ph.D., chair of religion, The W. Marshall and Lulie Craig Chairholder in Bible and professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament; Barry G. Hankins, Ph.D., professor and chair of history; and Lee Nordt, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Jonathan Tran, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophical theology and The George W. Baines Chair of Religion, gave the opening prayer.

“These are exciting times as we celebrate the progress of Give Light, which will strengthen our commitment to our Christian mission, impact every aspect of campus life and position our academic programs and our students for success. We are deeply grateful for The Sunderland Foundation’s transformational gift that will restore a truly historic and important building on our campus for future generations,” President Livingstone said.

“Tidwell Bible Building remains a cultural touchstone at Baylor — few students pass through this campus without venturing inside for a core class in history or religion,” Livingstone added. “As we move forward with Illuminate, our strategic plan and Give Light, the campaign supporting that plan, our commitment to improving and expanding upon our curriculum also has highlighted the infrastructure needs within the University. This significant gift from The Sunderland Foundation and other generous support will allow Baylor to restore Tidwell to its original beauty – carefully preserving its architectural significance while revitalizing its ability to serve as a place of excellence in Christian higher education.”

RELATED VIDEO: Tidwell Bible Building Restoration is among the priority projects of Baylor University’s $1.1 billion Give Light campaign that will support Illuminate, the University’s academic strategic plan.

“Baylor University is a special university under remarkable leadership, and we are excited by the ambitious vision for the future as outlined by President Livingstone,” said Kent Sunderland, president of The Sunderland Foundation. “Just as Baylor University prepares young men and women to become leaders in their professions and communities, The Sunderland Foundation believes in helping nonprofit institutions and communities fulfill their aspirations through brick-and-mortar projects. The Foundation has supported Baylor University for several years, and we are proud to support the Give Light campaign through this gift to the Tidwell Bible Building restoration project. We personally know of the significance that this historic building has had on so many lives and look forward to seeing Tidwell’s impact further extended through renovation and restoration.”

“We give thanks for the Sunderland Foundation and their investment in the future of Baylor University,” said David Rosselli, vice president for advancement at Baylor. “The Sunderland Foundation’s commitment to preserving the iconic Tidwell Bible Building builds upon their incredible legacy of support for our University. Their commitment to ensuring our students and faculty have classrooms and the physical spaces needed to teach and pursue academic discovery propels us forward, helping to prepare the University for our bright future.”

During its more than 60 years as part of the core of Baylor’s campus, Tidwell Bible Building has served tens of thousands of Baylor students who have completed religion, philosophy, history, sociology, nursing, modern foreign language and sacred music classes in its classrooms. Today, the facility – which was dedicated in 1954 – remains home to the religion and history departments.

In addition to improving infrastructure such as the facility’s electrical wiring, plumbing, elevator service, and code and accessibility remediation, the renovation of Tidwell’s 57,000 square feet will dramatically expand and enhance areas devoted to academic instruction, faculty offices and community building.

Important components of the restoration project will include the preservation of the beautiful limestone carvings depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the stained glass windows that shine in Miller Chapel, as well as the addition of a prayer chapel that provides a breathtaking view of campus from the top floors of Tidwell that will be accessible by elevator for the first time in the building’s history.

Before several new chapels were built on campus, Miller Chapel had served for decades as the primary chapel on campus, as well as the location for hundreds of Baylor weddings. Since many marriage vows were spoken in Miller Chapel, the University is planning a future open house, inviting alumni married in the chapel to return to campus, reminisce and have memories of the sacred space captured by a professional photographer. Details will be announced soon.

The renovated Tidwell will house the Sunderland Academic Center, which includes:

  • Small- and large-sized, flexible classrooms to enhance teaching.
  • Administrative and faculty offices – currently spread throughout the building – consolidated into common spaces that creates synergies in collaboration, research and programs. This area includes the high ceiling of Miller Chapel and maintains the beautiful stained glass windows that extend the length of the structure.
  • Greater accessibility and modern infrastructure throughout the building to enable technology-enhanced learning.
  • Group meeting and work spaces and graduate student workspace to facilitate greater engagement.

“Since 1945, The Sunderland Foundation has been awarding grants to universities, hospitals and nonprofits to help fund the spaces in which they work,” Buckner said. “This renovation of Tidwell Bible Building fit that mission perfectly and holds personal significance for me as a graduate of the department of religion and also my sisters, who are Baylor graduates. On behalf of The Sunderland Foundation and its board members, we give Baylor our best wishes on this project and the Give Light campaign.”

Construction on Tidwell is expected to begin in late 2020, lasting approximately 18 months. During construction, faculty offices will be relocated to the Cashion Academic Center while history and religion classes will be held in various buildings across campus. The restored Tidwell, which will house the Sunderland Academic Center, is expected to open in 2022.

The Sunderland Foundation was established in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, who served as president of the Ash Grove Cement Co. for 33 years as a highly respected leader in the cement industry.

Since its inception, the Foundation, which is still led by Lester T. Sunderland’s descendants, has focused on supporting construction projects, awarding grants to nonprofits in the Kansas City region and other markets traditionally served by the Ash Grove Cement Co., including Central Texas. Areas of interest include higher education, youth serving agencies, health facilities, community buildings, museums, civic projects and energy efficient affordable housing projects sponsored by qualified tax-exempt organizations.

In 2018, the Foundation awarded more than $48 million to more than 45 educational organizations, including community colleges, private colleges and public universities.

The Sunderland Foundation has been a special and valuable partner of the University in advancing the creation of a new home for the Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas, along with providing previous support of the School of Engineering and Computer Science and helping replace the organ at Waco Hall in 2010.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 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 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.