Baylor University Announces $1.5 Million Gift Establishing New Chair in School of Education

The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities will receive support through the Illuminate Chair Matching Program equivalent to a $3 million chair

March 15, 2023
Erik W. Carter, Ph.D., the Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities in the Baylor University School of Education and executive director of the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities

Erik W. Carter, Ph.D., is the inaugural holder of The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities in the School of Education, an endowed chair established through a $1.5 million gift from anonymous Baylor alumni that also received support through the Illuminate Chair Matching Program.

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WACO, Texas (March 16, 2023) – Baylor University today announced a $1.5 million gift from anonymous alumni establishing an endowed faculty chair position to support innovative research and teaching focused on the flourishing of children and youth with disabilities. With an appointment in the Baylor School of Education and leading the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities, this faculty chair will accelerate interdisciplinary scholarship across the University and beyond.

The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities supports the Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics and Health initiatives within Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan, and will qualify for matching support through the Give Light Campaign’s Illuminate Chair Matching Program.

“We give heartfelt thanks to our anonymous donors who have established the Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities, and we celebrate this family who has chosen to magnify their gift through the Illuminate Chair Matching Program,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “It is truly humbling to see how our Baylor Family has come together through the Give Light Campaign, giving where they have felt called to make an impact on this institution. The School of Education has a strong reputation for producing gifted teachers and visionary leaders, and I am grateful for the support the Sweet Chair will create to fund and fuel these endeavors.”

The School of Education has named Erik W. Carter, Ph.D., as the inaugural chairholder. Carter previously held The Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Special Education at Vanderbilt University and co-directed the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. In this role, he will serve as executive director for the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities (BCDD) and help launch a new interdisciplinary institute on faith and disability.

“We are grateful for these members of the Baylor Family for this generous gift and its significant impact and pleased that Erik Carter has accepted an invitation to join the School of Education faculty,” said Shanna Hagan-Burke, Ph.D., dean of the Baylor School of Education. “Dr. Carter’s program of research on faith and flourishing will advance Baylor’s strategic goals in new and exciting ways, and his considerable research accomplishments add to Baylor’s scholarship profile across a range of interrelated disciplines focused on human flourishing, inclusion and belonging.

“As the Luther Sweet Chair in Disabilities, Dr. Carter’s leadership will expand the research and outreach of the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities in meaningful ways, as will his interdisciplinary approach to equip the Church to welcome and embrace people with disabilities and their families,” Dean Hagan-Burke said. “Dr. Carter’s work at Baylor – advancing knowledge through research, and leading outreach to faith communities – embodies Baylor’s motto of ‘Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana’ and furthers the University’s mission of Christian service on a worldwide level.”

Carter’s passion is helping schools, churches and communities become places of belonging and flourishing for people with disabilities and their families. He is particularly interested in the intersection of faith and disability, where his research focuses on calling, equipping and supporting congregations and schools to be places of deep embrace and contribution for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. His work on inclusive practices and its reciprocal impact have been especially influential in the areas of K-12 education and Christian ministry. Carter has established an impactful record of research publication with significant scholarly citations and federal and state grant funding totaling $28 million.

“I am grateful to join a community that is so deeply committed to changing the landscape for people with disabilities and their families. Through strong scholarship, leadership training and strategic partnerships, we can work together toward creating a world that is more accessible, just and flourishing,” Carter said. 

The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities was established by a gift from an anonymous Waco couple in support of the School of Education and its work on behalf of children with disabilities. The couple, who are both Baylor alumni, chose to support the School’s faculty due to their commitment to Christian education, the School of Education’s dedication to preparing graduates who lead with integrity to impact the world, and the BCDD’s mission to serve individuals with disabilities through collaborative research and service.

Carter will lead the expansion of BCDD, furthering its research and impact by strengthening campus and community partnerships focused on various issues related to disability and diversity. Likewise, the center will pursue new projects focused on advancing inclusion within faith communities. Established in 2013, the BCDD has invested in research, training, outreach and clinical services that promote the well-being of people with disabilities and their families.

The support through the Illuminate Matching Chair Program for The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities will provide greater support for the chair’s research and other activities related to academic discovery and instruction. The matching program supports the University’s efforts to generate high-impact research and scholarship, focusing especially upon research faculty chairs that support the five academic initiatives of Illuminate: 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 $1.29 billion. The Campaign has seen 88,685 alumni, parents and friends give to the University’s priorities, as well as establishing 791 endowed scholarships and 44 endowed faculty positions. For more information or to support Give Light: The Campaign for Baylor, visit the Give Light website.


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 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


For more than 100 years, the School of Education has advanced Baylor’s mission across the globe while preparing students for a range of careers focused on education, leadership, and human development. With more than 60 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation. Likewise, the School of Education’s graduate programs have attained national recognition for their exemplary preparation of research scholars, educational leaders, innovators, and clinicians. Visit to learn more.