Baylor University Announces New Matching Program, Transformational Support for the Wesley House of Studies at Truett Seminary

November 18, 2021

New matching program creates significant support for research, endowment

Additional $1 million scholarship gift from Woodway couple supports program’s students

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (Nov. 18, 2021) – Baylor University today announced the first chair established through the Baylor Illuminate Chair Matching Program, which supports the Give Light Campaign’s goals to increase endowed faculty positions. An anonymous gift of $1.5 million established the first chair through the program, The William J. Abraham Endowed Chair, to support George W. Truett Theological Seminary’s Wesley House of Studies. An additional gift of $1 million to establish a scholarship was made by Jeff (BBA ’86) and Debbie (BS ’87) Wooley of Woodway to support the program’s students.

The William J. Abraham Endowed Chair is named in memory of the late William J. Abraham, D.Phil., a Truett Seminary faculty member and the founding director of the Wesley House of Studies. Dr. Abraham – a renowned theologian, philosopher, author and minister – passed away on Oct. 8, 2021.

“Support of Baylor University’s endowment creates enduring and sustaining funding for Baylor and our students,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “It is humbling to witness Baylor’s alumni, parents and friends who, as a result of the Give Light Campaign, see the importance of giving to the University in a way that will allow Baylor to recruit and retain leading scholars to serve as faculty. The Baylor Illuminate Chair Matching Program has been created to inspire more members of our Baylor Family to come alongside our efforts to grow faculty endowment at Baylor, and we are grateful for this first Chair at Truett, in memory of Dr. Abraham and in honor of his ministry, and for the Wooley family’s inspiring support of our Truett students.”

The Baylor Illuminate Chair Matching Program was created to build upon the momentum established by the Baylor Academic Challenge, now known as the Foster Academic Challenge. The Baylor Illuminate Chair Matching Program will support the University’s efforts to generate high-impact research and scholarship, focusing especially upon the key academic initiatives of Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan. The program will provide matching support for new endowed faculty chairs, with preference given to chairs that support the five Illuminate initiatives: Health; Data Sciences; Materials Science; Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics; and Baylor in Latin America.

New Chair, Scholarships Support Wesley House

The William J. Abraham Endowed Chair honors the aspirations of the Baylor Illuminate Chair Matching Program through its support of Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics. The Abraham Chair was established following a weekend event hosted by Truett Seminary in early September to mark the 2020 founding of the Wesley House. During the gathering, the additional gift of $1 million from Jeff and Debbie Wooley was announced in addition to the anonymous gift to create the Abraham Chair. Their gift will create the Wooley Family Endowed Scholarship at Truett Seminary, supporting seminary students enrolled in the Wesley House of Studies program. 

“The establishment of the William J. Abraham Chair in Wesleyan Studies at Baylor’s Truett Seminary not only lavishly honors the life and legacy of our recently deceased friend and colleague, but it also further establishes our school’s Wesley House of Studies as a viable and desirable place to pursue ministerial training in the Wesleyan tradition,” said Truett Seminary Dean Todd D. Still, Ph.D., The Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean and The William M. Hinson Chair of Christian Scriptures. “Additionally, the overwhelming generosity of the Wooleys to provide scholarship support for students in our Wesley House is greatly appreciated. I could not be more delighted by these significant developments. Both the endowed chair and this substantial endowed scholarship will have both an immediate and a lasting impact on the work and witness of Truett.”

With the Abraham Chair in place, Truett Seminary will be able to recruit and retain a distinguished faculty member to carry forward Dr. Abraham’s work in conducting research within the Wesleyan tradition and in expanding a Wesleyan network for Baylor’s Truett Seminary. The anonymous donor’s support through the Abraham Chair will aid the Wesley House of Studies in preparing and equipping Christ-centered, Spirit-led students to serve in Wesleyan congregations and institutions, furthering the legacy and ministry of Dr. Abraham and his vision for the program.

“When I was called to ministry in Irish Methodism, I was already a student and I wanted to be a teacher,” Dr. Abraham said when first learning of the honor. “With the call to preach, I thought I would have to give up teaching. In my mind and heart, I did so. And then God gave it all back without rescinding the call to preach. So here I am now, honored beyond words with the naming of this chair. I sense a deep assurance that I discerned correctly. I know the chair will uphold the deep connections between scholarship and preaching that has given me endless joy. What an amazing gift for the Gospel and the future of Methodism.”

The Wesley House Weekend at Truett Seminary was conceived in partnership with Rev. Ryan Barnett and First Methodist Church of Waco, where Rev. Barnett serves as the lead pastor. The event’s purpose was to generate support from the Baylor and Methodist communities for scholarship and programmatic resourcing for the Wesley House of Studies.

“Our founding director, Billy Abraham, has left his indelible mark on this project. His legacy will flourish at Truett Seminary,” said Barnett, who also chairs the Team of Advocates for the Wesley House of Studies at Truett. “And now, Truett has added Dr. Kevin Watson, who is viewed by many as a rising star in Methodist academia, as an Affiliate Research Professor. Led by the Wooley family, First Methodist Waco members have made significant financial gifts toward the Wesley House of Studies. This level of generosity reflects our deep commitment to the city of Waco and Baylor University. With the leadership of President Linda Livingstone and Dean Todd Still, we believe that Truett’s Wesley House, embedded at Baylor University, is well placed to become one of the most significant training centers for future Methodist ministers.”

Even as the Abraham Chair will strengthen the Wesley House staff, the Wooley Family Endowed Scholarship will assist Wesley House students. Jeff and Debbie Wooley are longtime supporters of Baylor University, and they have previously supported such areas as the Sports Ministry Endowed Fund to provide for student-athletes participating in the Baylor Missions program and the Wooley Family Baylor Built Endowed Fund to support Character Formation initiatives within the Baylor Built program in Baylor Athletics. Jeff is a senior partner with D-1 Sports Training, and after a career in elementary education, Debbie devoted her time to raising their two children, both of whom are Baylor graduates: Kaitlyn (BA ‘14, MS ’15) and Drew (BBA ‘18).

Baylor publicly launched the Give Light campaign on Nov. 1, 2018. To date, the campaign has raised $1.06 billion. The Campaign has seen more than 77,600 alumni, parents and friends give to the University’s priorities, as well as establishing 614 endowed scholarships. For more information or to support Give Light: The Campaign for Baylor, visit


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 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.


Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary is an orthodox, evangelical school in the historic Baptist tradition that equips God-called people for gospel ministry in and alongside Christ’s Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, Truett Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Theological Studies, Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D. in Preaching. The M.Div., M.A.C.M. and M.T.S. degrees also can be completed at the seminary’s Houston and San Antonio locations. In addition, Truett Seminary offers joint degrees: M.Div./M.S.W. and M.T.S./M.S.W. with the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, M.Div./M.B.A. with the Hankamer School of Business, M.Div./J.D. with Baylor Law School, M.Div./M.M. with the School of Music and M.Div./M.S.Ed. or M.Div./M.A. with the School of Education. Visit to learn more.