Baylor University Announces $1.5 Million Gift Establishing New Chair in Materials Science
Tim and Sharalynn Fenn’s gift will receive support through the Illuminate Chair Matching Program
WACO, Texas (July 21, 2022) – Baylor University announced a $1.5 million gift today from Tim and Sharalynn Fenn of Houston, establishing an endowed faculty chair position to attract, retain and support a visionary Christian leader who is focused on the growth and development of Materials Science and its associated fields. The Tim and Sharalynn Fenn Family Endowed Chair in Materials Science supports the Materials Science initiative within Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan, and will qualify for matching support through the Give Light Campaign’s Illuminate Chair Matching Program.
“Tim and Sharalynn are dedicated alumni and proud Baylor parents who have quietly and steadfastly supported Christian higher education in a transformational way here at Baylor University,” President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., said. “They are committed to seeking out the needs of this institution, of digging deeply and discovering the places of impact that will create new opportunities and significant growth within research and teaching. We are humbled and truly grateful for their decision to entrust us with these resources, and we are excited for the opportunities the Fenn Chair will create for our faculty and our students.”
Sharalynn, BBA ’91, and Tim, BBA ’92, decided to establish The Tim and Sharalynn Fenn Family Endowed Chair in Materials Science after learning about the University’s focus, through Illuminate, in growing faculty support for research and scholarship within Materials Science.
“We wanted to meet needs at Baylor,” Sharalynn said. “It wasn’t about what we wanted. It was really about what Baylor needed. Coincidentally, we had just finished building a platinum-level LEED-certified home when we discussed making this gift. We felt it was the responsible thing to do in building a home, and materials science is part of that sphere of improving things and doing what’s environmentally responsible.”
“We did have to Google materials science,” Tim added, with a laugh.
“But once we learned what it was – once we understood – it did resonate,” Sharalynn concluded, adding that both of their fathers were engineers – an unanticipated but meaningful connection for the couple.
Materials Science is an umbrella term covering research, study and innovations in the materials that humans use – from new fabrics that create fire-retardant clothing, to composite materials that make up stronger, lighter airplanes and automobiles, to innovations creating biological sensors or biomaterials for medical applications. Through Illuminate, Baylor University is prioritizing resources and support for this interdisciplinary area. From research funds to endowed chairs like the Fenn Chair, Baylor is making strides to keep pace with this growing field.
For Tim and Sharalynn, the draw to give in this area had more to do with their commitment to supporting the needs of the University, which has come to define their approach to giving to Baylor. It has been a rewarding approach for them.
In 2012, they established The Tim and Sharalynn Sanders Fenn Endowed Scholarship to support Baylor’s first-generation college students in their Baylor journeys. The Fenns love that the scholarship is helping students and their families in their Baylor journeys. Sharalynn said before their sons, Charles and Greydon, left for college, the family would read their thank-you letters from scholarship recipients together at the dinner table. Hearing how their scholarship supported these students was not only rewarding; it gave their sons a deeper understanding of philanthropy and the legacy of giving they had established at Baylor.
When they decided to make another gift to the University, Tim and Sharalynn asked where there was a significant need. University administrators responded with several opportunities, and the Fenns chose faculty support in Materials Science, initially for the impact it would have on the University. Later, Tim said they realized the opportunity this chair would benefit faculty, as well.
“When we started talking about who the potential candidates were and what (becoming a named chairholder) meant to them, it was rewarding for me to realize that in someone's career, an appointment to an endowed chair is a huge deal for them in their development,” he said. “Of course, it’s benefiting students, but then we’re helping someone’s career. Opportunities to teach at an institution where you can claim to be a Christian and advance your academic career are few and far between these days. Doing something that helps a talented professor move to the next level of their career is inspiring.”
The Tim and Sharalynn Fenn Family Endowed Chair in Materials Science will receive matching support through the Baylor Illuminate Chair Matching Program, providing greater support for the chair’s research and activities. The Baylor Illuminate Chair Matching Program supports the University’s efforts to generate high-impact research and scholarship, focusing especially upon the key academic initiatives of the Illuminate strategic plan, by matching endowment gifts to establish research faculty chairs. The program provides matching support for new endowed 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.
Tim and Sharalynn Fenn met in junior high where Sharalynn was Tim’s 8th grade student assistant in his 7th grade Spanish class. They have two sons, Charles, a 2022 graduate of Dartmouth College who was recently commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and Greydon, who will begin his sophomore year at Baylor this fall, majoring in accounting through the Hankamer Scholars program within the Hankamer School of Business.
After graduating with his bachelor’s in business administration in accounting, Tim received a JD from Georgetown University in 1996. Tim Fenn is the Office Managing Partner in Latham & Watkins’ Houston office and former Chair of the firm’s Houston Tax Department with a particular focus on business taxation as it applies to partnerships and corporations.
Sharalynn Fenn, née Sanders, earned a BBA in human resources management from Baylor in 1991. Sharalynn served as a bank merger project manager at Bank of America and its predecessors before leaving her position to care for Charles and Greydon. She has continued to serve tirelessly as a volunteer and supporter within her church and community, including within the Baylor community. Tim and Sharalynn serve on the Baylor Parent Advisory Council, and Tim serves on the Hankamer School of Business Advisory Board.
As the Fenns have stayed connected to the University and to the Baylor community, they have seen their love and appreciation deepen for the University’s approach to Christian higher education.
“When I graduated, I appreciated Baylor for the quality of friends that I made and the education I received,” Tim said. “As time has gone on, my appreciation for Baylor has grown in witnessing how students are supported and molded during the most formative years of their lives. Academics are always important, but at Baylor, you’re asked to think deeper about what kind of person you want to become and who you will be. I am impressed by that and value it all the more as I grow older.”
Baylor publicly launched the Give Light campaign on Nov. 1, 2018. To date, the campaign has raised $1.21 billion. The Campaign has seen 85,636 alumni, parents and friends give to the University’s priorities, as well as establishing 705 endowed scholarships and 38 endowed faculty positions. For more information or to support Give Light: The Campaign for Baylor, visit www.baylor.edu/givelight.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 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.