Baylor University Announces $3 Million Gift Establishing New Chair in Christian Thought
Jim and Sharon Harrod’s gift will receive support through the Illuminate Chair Matching Program
WACO, Texas (April 7, 2022) – Baylor University today announced a $3 million gift from Jim and Sharon Harrod of Horseshoe Bay, Texas, establishing an endowed faculty chair position to support exceptional scholarship and transformational learning within the Honors College and the study of great thinkers who have stood at the intersection of the Christian faith and culture at large.
The Jim and Sharon Harrod Endowed Chair of Christian Thought supports the Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics initiative within Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan, and will qualify for matching support through the Give Light Campaign’s Illuminate Chair Matching Program.
“We are truly grateful for Jim and Sharon and their transformational gift through The Jim and Sharon Harrod Endowed Chair in Christian Thought,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “Baylor is committed to an unambiguously Christian approach to higher education, where faculty take inspiration from the great Christian thinkers of our time to lead our students to think more deeply about their world and how their faith informs and shapes their approach to life, to family and to vocation. For Baylor to lead and participate in national and international conversations about this intersection of faith and knowledge, we must recruit nationally renowned faculty and resource them to engage in this compelling research.”
The Jim and Sharon Harrod Endowed Chair of Christian Thought will be used to attract, retain and support a distinguished Christian scholar who will promote deep study of the relationship between faith and knowledge, while fostering rich avenues for transformational learning among Baylor’s students within the Honors College. The Harrod Chair also will help ensure Baylor is a national leader in dialogue concerning the intersection of faith and learning in higher education.
Jim and Sharon Harrod chose to create enduring support through The Harrod Chair based upon their belief that a college education should offer a Christian dimension to learning. The Harrods chose Baylor for this endowment after experiencing the University’s approach to Christian higher education through their daughters, Kelly Woods (B.A. ’90) and Mary Kate Garrison (B.A. ’94, M.A. ’98), and son-in-law, Will Woods (B.B.A. ’94, J.D. ’98). Their grandson, Ben Woods, is currently enrolled in the Class of 2026.
“We are humbled and proud that God has blessed us with this opportunity to stand with Baylor in its pursuit of the Christian perspective in learning and in life,” Jim Harrod said.
For the Harrods, their vision for the chair is summed up in a quote by British author and theologian C.S. Lewis: “An appetite for knowledge and beauty exists in the human mind and God makes no appetite in vain. We can therefore pursue knowledge as such, and beauty as such, in the sure confidence that by doing so we are either advancing to the vision of God ourselves or indirectly helping others to do so.”
Both originally from the Midwest, Sharon graduated from the University of Missouri in 1962, and Jim graduated in 1957 from Westminster College, a small college with previous ties to the Presbyterian church. Westminster also is internationally known as the location for the famous 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, which coined the phrase and ushered in the Cold War following the end of World War II.
After graduation, Jim served in the U.S. Navy, with a career that included teaching chemistry at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and commanding a river boat on the Mekong River during the Vietnam War. He ended his military career as a retired Commander. Jim then joined what was at the time a small financial firm, Edward Jones, rising from regional leader to part of management and head of training. In 2004, Jim and Sharon retired and moved to their home in Horseshoe Bay.
The support through the Illuminate Matching Chair Program for The Jim and Sharon Harrod Endowed Chair of Christian Thought will provide greater support for the chair’s research and activities related to research and instruction. The matching program supports the University’s efforts to generate high-impact research and scholarship, focusing especially upon the five academic initiatives of Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan, by matching endowment gifts to establish research faculty chairs that support Health, Data Sciences, Materials Science, Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics and Baylor in Latin America.
Baylor publicly launched the Give Light campaign on Nov. 1, 2018. To date, the campaign has raised $1.14 billion. The Campaign has seen 80,384 alumni, parents and friends give to the University’s priorities, as well as establishing 671 endowed scholarships and 34 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.
ABOUT THE HONORS COLLEGE AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
The Honors College at Baylor University unites four innovative interdisciplinary programs – the Honors Program, University Scholars, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and Great Texts – with a shared commitment to providing undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue questions that often fall between the cracks of the specialized disciplines by investigating the writings of scientists along with the writings of poets, historians and philosophers. For more information, visit baylor.edu/honorscollege.