Significant Support from Alumni, Donors Fuels Successful Completion of the Transformational Baylor Academic Challenge Program

September 30, 2021
Baylor University

Campus of Baylor University (Morty Ortega/Baylor University)

Dollar-for-dollar matching program maximizes support for high-impact faculty research, University endowment

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (Sept. 30, 2021) – Two years ago, Baylor University announced a $100 million gift from an anonymous donor to the Give Light Campaign – the largest current gift in University history – with a significant portion establishing the Baylor Academic Challenge (BAC), a dollar-for-dollar matching program to fuel the University’s academic enterprise. Today, Baylor announced the successful completion of the BAC, which generated significant support from alumni and donors to establish 14 new endowed faculty chairs and significantly advance the aspirations of Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan.

“It is humbling to see the way that our Baylor Family has responded to the call for endowment support for Baylor’s faculty through the Baylor Academic Challenge,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “To the alumni, parents, friends and families who have made the transformational decision to give generously to support faculty endowment, thank you. Your support will ripple through generations of Baylor’s students and faculty who will reap the benefits of these generous gifts. The future of Baylor University truly is bright because of our Baylor Family who gives through gifts both great and small to ensure this institution continues to flourish, contribute and influence through graduates who will leave our campus to lead and serve in their chosen communities.”

Created in May 2019, the Baylor Academic Challenge supports the University’s efforts to generate high-impact research and scholarship, focusing on the key academic initiatives of Illuminate. The BAC was established to aid the University in recruiting elite scholars whose research and leadership advance Illuminate’s goals, which include Baylor’s efforts to achieve Research 1 status, according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Prior to the Give Light Campaign, Baylor University had received funding for two endowed research chairs, which are enhanced chairs that provide additional funds for faculty research compared to traditional endowed chairs. The University’s total of research chair endowments grew to six with the launch of Give Light. The establishment of the Baylor Academic Challenge then sparked transformational growth, nearly doubling the University’s total research chair count in two years through the creation of 14 additional research chairs. The University now holds 22 research chair endowments to advance R1-level research and enhance the University’s efforts toward top-tier designation.

The Baylor Academic Challenge chairs are:

In addition to the 14 chairs created since 2019, the BAC helped spark the discussion of faculty support through endowment, leading to a gift from Ed and Denise Crenshaw, of Lakeland, Florida., and the naming of The William E. Crenshaw Dean of Baylor’s nationally ranked Hankamer School of Business. In July, Sandeep Mazumder, Ph.D., was installed as the inaugural holder of The Crenshaw Deanship, joining Baylor from Wake Forest University, where he was professor and chair of the department of economics. An additional faculty position, The Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Selma DeBakey and Lois DeBakey Chair for Medical Humanities within the Baylor College of Arts & Sciences, was created in 2020 through a $2 million gift from the DeBakey Medical Foundation of Houston.

Recruiting leading faculty scholars

Through the Baylor Academic Challenge, the University saw four chair endowments established within the Hankamer School of Business, three endowments established within the College of Arts & Sciences, two endowments within the School of Engineering and Computer Science and one endowment established in both the Honors College and the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences. The remaining three endowments will be administered through the Office of the Provost as Illuminate Chairs, providing Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., and subsequent provosts, with the flexibility and capacity to move faculty support between academic units in order to recruit leading faculty scholars whose experience and areas of expertise advance academic priorities identified within Illuminate to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration among academic units.

“The Baylor Academic Challenge has been a significant, transformative gift for the academy at Baylor,” Brickhouse said. “It has given us the flexibility and the freedom to look at areas of growth and strength within our academic schools and colleges and determine where faculty endowment can bring the greatest impact. Being able to approach alumni and others who have a passion for the research or hold strong to the core values of a certain discipline’s purpose with this incredible opportunity has maximized the generous philanthropy of our Baylor Family for the greatest benefit not only to our students and faculty, but to academic discovery on Baylor’s campus.”

In its fifth and final year, Illuminate has established goals and benchmarks that have set the University on a path projected to achieve R1 classification by 2024. Baylor’s Illuminate strategic plan provided a framework on which the University could build, detailing interdisciplinary areas of focus to strengthen scholarship, grow graduate programs and improve teaching. These five areas of growth – Health; Data Sciences; Materials Science; Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics; and Baylor in Latin America – are represented in the faculty positions established through the Baylor Academic Challenge. Beyond the funding provided for research, these new faculty positions also will expand opportunities for graduate and doctoral programs, a key goal within Illuminate for its R1 goals.

“The Baylor Academic Challenge and the chairs established by dedicated members of our Baylor community enable us to take great strides forward in the priorities and the purpose of the Give Light campaign,” said Baylor Vice President for Advancement David Rosselli. “The wide-ranging areas represented by our Baylor Academic Challenge Scholars speaks to the many backgrounds and areas of interest held by the alumni, parents and friends who established them. It speaks to this Baylor Family, which is a vibrant, diverse community who represent so many different interests and passions, but who share among them a common love and deep-rooted care for Baylor and our commitment to excellence in Christian higher education. We are grateful for our anonymous Baylor family who established the Baylor Academic Challenge and for the many donors who responded to that challenge with endowment support that will benefit the university for generations to come.”

Baylor publicly launched the Give Light campaign on Nov. 1, 2018. To date, the campaign has raised $1.06 billion. The Campaign has seen 77,666 alumni, parents and friends give to the University’s priorities, as well as establish 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.


A significant portion of the $100 million gift created a matching fund to launch the Baylor Academic Challenge, which will maximize Baylor's investments in promising research and academic programs by matching dollar-for-dollar significant additional gifts from other donors, fueling the University's academic enterprise. The program seeks to increase the number of endowed faculty positions, helping Baylor generate additional funding to sustain and grow teaching and research in key areas. Another portion of the $100 million gift provided the lead investment in the Baylor Basketball Pavilion, a state-of-the-art $105 million facility that will become the new home of the men's and women's basketball teams.