Baylor Regents Approve Phase 1 and Design to Begin for Hurd Welcome Center, Baylor Basketball Pavilion, Shared Research Lab for Mechanical Engineering; Celebrate Academic Challenge Gift for Endowed Bioengineering Chair

November 1, 2019

Board remembers vice chair Mark Hurd, receives initial findings of Baylor Spirituality and Character Study and discusses higher education issues with panels of students and faculty

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-6275
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WACO, Texas (Nov. 1, 2019) – At its regular fall meeting, the Baylor University Board of Regents approved phase 1 design and fees for the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center and the Baylor Basketball Pavilion and approved design and construction fees to fit-up shared research lab space for mechanical engineering in the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC).

In addition, Regents received the preliminary findings of a Baylor Spirituality and Character Study to answer questions about the spiritual and character growth of Baylor students and held panel discussions with students and faculty on higher education matters at Christian universities. The University also announced a $1.5 million gift from a current Baylor Regent that will endow a faculty chair in biological and biomedical engineering under the University’s new Baylor Academic Challenge matching program.

Before the meeting began, Regents remembered Mark Hurd, a 1979 Baylor graduate, Oracle CEO and vice chair of the Board, who passed away on Oct. 18. Hurd had served on the Board of Regents since 2014 and as vice chair since 2017.

In a video tribute, Regents honored Hurd and his lasting legacy, including his dedication to returning to campus to address and mentor students at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business; his deep appreciation, as a former tennis student-athlete, for the student-athlete experience and his longtime support for the Baylor tennis program that included investments in two top facilities named in his honor, the Hurd Tennis Building and Hurd Tennis Center; and most recently, the Hurd family’s gift – one of the largest in Baylor history – for the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center.

“For the past five years, Mark Hurd served tirelessly and selflessly on the Baylor Board of Regents. He genuinely loved and cared for Baylor and contributed his time, strategic leadership and treasure to help achieve Baylor’s vision for the future as the preeminent Christian research university,” said Jerry K. Clements, J.D. ’81, chair of the Board of Regents. “Our Board greatly misses his presence, wisdom and leadership, and our thoughts, prayers and support continue to be with the Hurd family.”

Phase 1 design moving forward on capital projects

As the University moves forward on the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center, the Board approved $5 million for the project’s phase 1 and design, which includes space programming, project design fees and preconstruction services. The architect for the project is Populous, the global architectural design firm also known for its design of Baylor’s McLane Stadium. The total projected budget is currently estimated to be $60 million.

The Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center is slated to be between a 100,000 to 125,000-square-foot complex designed to create interest and enthusiasm in the University through a high-tech and interactive experience, and serve as the home for alumni and the epicenter for academic, cultural and social activities. Construction could begin by summer 2020, with an anticipated opening in spring 2022.

The Board approved $8.6 million for the Baylor Basketball Pavilion phase 1 and design, which includes space programming for the Pavilion and Basketball Performance Centers, project design fees, preconstruction services and development of a construction schedule. The architect for the project is AECOM, a premier infrastructure firm based in Kansas City, Missouri. The total projected budget is $105 million.

The 150,000-square-foot Fieldhouse will have a seating capacity of 7,000 fans, in addition to practice and office facilities dedicated for both women’s and men’s basketball teams, along with shared sports performance facilities.

Fundraising continues for both projects as the design process begins.

In addition, the Board approved $1.25 million for design and construction expenses for a fit-up of shared research lab space for mechanical engineering research in the BRIC. The shared lab facility will accommodate up to five faculty researchers, including future hires with assignable, ready lab space for mechanical engineering faculty.

Baylor Spirituality and Character Study

Baylor researchers presented early findings to the Board from the Baylor Spirituality and Character Study, a longitudinal study to track the long-term impact of a Baylor education on a person’s faith and character. The study is led by Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology; Perry L. Glanzer, Ph.D., professor of educational foundations; and Sarah A. Schnitker, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience.

The initial survey of 3,369 first-year and 969 senior students, as well as 271 alumni who graduated 10 years ago, was conducted in fall 2018, with additional qualitative interviews of 42 first-year and 35 senior students. The ongoing research project will continue to collect information each year about students’ faith and character from when they arrive at Baylor, when they graduate and a decade after graduation.

Researchers cautioned that their conclusions are only preliminary and that they will be able to compare groups more accurately when they can measure, for example, seniors in the class of 2023 for whom they have data from their first year.

Among their preliminary findings:

New students, seniors and alumni had high levels of Christian beliefs and behaviors.

  • 93% of new Baylor students and seniors identify with a religious tradition.
  • 50% of Baylor students attend religious services at least once per week compared to 30% of the U.S. population.
  • New students and seniors reported high levels of being spiritually moved by nature, talking with others about their faith, their commitment to God, applying their faith to political and social issues and seeking opportunities to grow spiritually.

New students are lower on Bible belief and reading than seniors or alumni.

  • 74% of alumni, 69% of seniors and 61% of new students agreed that the Bible is inspired by God.
  • On Bible reading, one in three new students (31%) read the Bible at least once per week compared to 26% of the U.S. population, 43% of seniors and 54% of alumni.
  • On average, new students attended religious services about weekly but read the Bible less than once a month, while seniors and alumni read the Bible two to three times a month.

Seniors self-report stronger character than new students.

  • Seniors had higher self-ratings than new students on measures of character, including forgiveness of others, forgiveness of situations, gratitude, openness to revising one’s viewpoint and respect for others’ viewpoints. Seniors also displayed more curiosity, faith, judgment, love of learning, perseverance, prudence and wisdom.
  • However, while eight in 10 seniors and new students report that their life is filled with meaning and purpose, more than half of new students in qualitative interviews could not yet identify a purpose.

President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., said the long-term study will help the University better understand where students are in their faith, why they change, how they grow and what is most impactful during their time at Baylor, and how the University can support their spiritual and character development.

“It’s important for Baylor, as well as other faith-based colleges and universities, that we understand what most influences the spiritual and character development of young people while they’re in college,” Dr. Livingstone said. “We want to ensure this continues to be an important part of their life after college, and that Baylor continues to stay true to our Christian mission.”

Mearse Endowed Chair in Biological and Biomedical Engineering

Baylor announced today the funding of a new endowed faculty position within the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the third announced faculty chair funded as part of the Baylor Academic Challenge matching program since its creation in May. The $1.5 million gift establishes The Mearse Endowed Chair in Biological and Biomedical Engineering, a position that will provide senior leadership for the emerging program within Baylor ECS. The Mearse Chair was established by Bill and Tanya Mearse of Houston, Texas. Bill Mearse, B.B.A. ’78, M.B.A. ’79, serves as a member of the Board of Regents and chair of the ECS Board of Advocates. The Mearses also represent ECS on the Give Light National Campaign Steering Committee. Bill Mearse retired from Accenture as resources group operating officer and senior managing director of the Houston office in November 2013 after more than 33 years of service.

The matching program maximizes Baylor’s investments in promising research and academic programs by matching dollar-for-dollar qualifying gifts by other members of the Baylor Family. The program has the potential to create as many as 17 new faculty positions to spur innovation, research and teaching in areas identified as priorities by the University.

“We are certainly appreciative of Regent Mearse’s generous gift that will assist greatly in Baylor’s path to become a Research 1/Tier 1 institution and address a key priority within our School of Engineering and Computer Science,” Dr. Livingstone said. “The Baylor Academic Challenge matching program has the potential to be transformational in our goal of becoming the preeminent Christian research university. The Mearse Chair is the third chair to be announced as part of the Baylor Academic Challenge, which has generated significant interest within the Baylor Family.”

Higher education discussion, President’s report

The Board heard from a panel of three students from across Baylor’s LGBTQ community, continuing the discussion about how universities like Baylor can provide a loving, caring community because of their Christian missions while providing LGBTQ students with the support essential to their holistic growth and formation as adults in a faith-based environment. No Board action was taken.

The Board also engaged a panel of faculty members, who discussed the role of research at a Christian university, as Baylor moves forward on its path to R1/T1 recognition. Moderated by Larry Lyons, Ph.D., vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, the panelists were:

  • Beth Allison Barr, Ph.D., associate dean for student and faculty development in the Graduate School and associate professor of history;
  • Byron Johnson, Ph.D., founding director of Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion and Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences;
  • Christopher Rios, Ph.D., associate dean of the Graduate School; and
  • Annette von Jouanne, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering.

President Livingstone gave her regular update to the Board, which included progress on the implementation of the University’s Illuminate strategic plan, its strategic priorities and Baylor’s overall aspirations to achieve R1/T1 status. Her report included an update on the national rollout of Give Light, the University’s $1.1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign, which has raised $757.5 million as of Oct. 28, 2019.

The President also discussed the launch of a refocused and reenergized University alumni relations organization under the “Baylor Alumni” banner, greater resource stewardship to decrease reliance on undergraduate tuition and maintaining the University’s commitment to a safe, secure and diverse campus community.

“Baylor is strong and resilient,” Dr. Livingstone said. “It’s an exciting time for the University as we move forward under our Illuminate strategic plan, building on our historic strengths and strategically investing in new areas of teaching, research and service. I’m grateful for our passionate, engaged and generous Baylor Family who have supported the Give Light campaign to ensure the ongoing success of our students, faculty and the University. The world needs a Baylor as a Christian research university that recognizes a calling to address society’s greatest challenges and pursue even greater impact on the world while remaining firmly grounded in our faith.”

Other Board action

The Board amended the Regent Selection Task Force guidelines to constitute a selection subcommittee under the Nominating, Governance and Regent Leadership Committee at least once every three years, instead of annually.

“We have a strong pool of nearly 40 prospective Regents, which is a testament to the great work of the Regent Selection Task Force and the robust process we have in place to identify future Board members. The Board is committed to continuing to diversify our membership across many factors, including gender, ethnicity, expertise and prior experience,” Chair Clements said. “As part of board governance best practices, we regularly review our policies, procedures and practices to ensure the Regents are effectively upholding the University’s mission and strategic vision and preparing Baylor for a successful future.”

The Board also approved the new compensation package for head football coach Matt Rhule. Baylor announced in late September that it had reached an agreement on a contract extension for the third-year coach. As previously announced, the new amendment to Rhule’s original seven-year contract results in an extension through March 31, 2028. The amended contract includes various performance and retention incentives in addition to an enhancement to his base salary. As a private institution, Baylor does not disclose specific contract terms.


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.