Baylor University Mourns Passing of Provost Emeritus John S. Belew, Ph.D.

Generations of alumni remember Dr. Belew, B.S. ’41, as a Baylor classmate, professor or administrator

August 17, 2023
Photos of Dr. John Belew as a student, chemistry professor and Provost Emeritus at Baylor University

John S. Belew, B.S. '41, Ph.D., as a Baylor student, chemistry professor and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Provost Emeritus of Baylor University.

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WACO, Texas (Aug. 17, 2023) – Baylor University is mourning the death of Provost Emeritus John S. Belew, B.A. ’41, Ph.D., who served as a longtime chemistry professor well into the 2000s, The Jo Murphy Chair of International Education, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and later as provost, the University’s chief academic officer. Dr. Belew passed away Aug. 9 at the age of 102.

A Celebration of John Belew’s life will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at Seventh & James Baptist Church, 602 James Ave., in Waco. A time for visiting with family and friends will occur after the service in Harper Hall, located next to the sanctuary. The family will hold a private burial earlier that day.

Current Baylor Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., who earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Baylor, had a special connection with Dr. Belew from the moment she returned to the University in 2018 as provost.

“When I arrived at Baylor, a hand-written note from John Belew was in my office. In it, he provided words of welcome and encouragement. I often ran into him at church. He had an insatiable curiosity – a very important trait for a provost since we oversee a huge range of faculty engagements. He cared deeply about Baylor, contributed to it in very significant ways and remained interested in supportive of the direction of the University in his final years. His work as provost played a key role in shaping Baylor into the strong academic institution it is today and, as our founders put it, an institution ‘fully susceptible of enlargement and development to meet the needs of all the ages to come.’” - Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., remembering Provost Emeritus John S. Belew

Dr. Belew’s extensive obituary – so beautifully written covering Dr. Belew’s remarkable and full life – is available on the Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home website.

When Dr. Belew celebrated his 100th birthday on Nov. 2, 2020, BaylorProud shared a special tribute in honor of his life and the many ways in which generations of Bears remember Dr. Belew as a Baylor classmate, professor or administrator.

"Belew first came to Baylor in the late 1930s, and graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1941. (That Belew would attend Baylor was no surprise; his grandmother was a student at Baylor in Independence, his father was a Baylor trustee and business manager, and both parents were Baylor grads.)

"After serving in the military during World War II, earning his master’s from Wichita State and his doctorate from Wisconsin, Belew returned to Baylor to teach chemistry in 1956. In 1974, he was named dean of the College of Arts & Sciences; five years later, he was promoted again, this time to provost — the university’s chief academic officer — a role he would hold until his retirement in 1991.

"Belew’s Baylor legacy has continued long after his retirement. Professionally, he continued to serve as provost emeritus and professor emeritus for years. His family also continued the BU tradition, including his wife, Ruth, a 1942 Baylor graduate who taught in the BU theatre department for more than 20 years. John and Ruth had two children, Janet and James, who both attended Baylor; Janet graduated in 1976, while James attended Baylor and later helped excavate Baylor’s home in Independence as an archaeologist for the state of Texas. Multiple other extended family members have also donned the green and gold.

"The Belew family’s decades of generosity and service to Baylor have been recognized in multiple ways, including the Belew Collection in Baylor’s Martin Museum of Art, the Belew Scholars’ Room in Armstrong Browning Library, and Student Activities’ John S. Belew Award, given annually to a male Baylor student for his contribution of time, talent and effort in the Waco community.

"Baylor Arts & Sciences Magazine caught up with Belew in 2017, when — at age 96 — he was “busy maintaining his farm west of Waco in McGregor,” keeping up with friends and former BU colleagues, and reading."

Dr. Belew was preceded in death by his father, George Haggard Belew, and his mother, Mary Bernetta Seymour Belew, both of Waco; his sister, Katherine Ann Belew Gorham of Bosqueville; and, in 2014, his beloved Ruth Edna McAtee Belew.

John Belew is survived by his son, James Seymour (Jay) Belew, and Jay’s wife, Sonia Elizabeth Mattson Belew, of McGregor; his daughter, Janet Elizabeth Belew Dizinno, Ph.D., and Janet’s husband, Gerard (Gerry) Dizinno, Ph.D., of San Antonio. He is also survived by his granddaughters, Natalie Grace Belew of Madison, Wisconsin, and her husband, Gary Lynn Collins, Ph.D. of Baltimore; and Jacqueline Anne (Jackie) Dizinno Edwards and her husband, A. J Edwards of New York City. John Belew is furthermore survived by his great-grandchildren, Kevin John Edwards, and Lester James Edwards of New York City.

To make a memorial gift in lieu of flowers, the family offers for consideration several of his most cherished organizations, including Baylor’s Armstrong Browning Library, Martin Museum of Art and Baylor Theater; the Janet Belew Dizinno scholarship fund at St. Mary’s University; Trinity University’s East Program; the YMCA/YWCA; or a donation in John Belew’s name to the institution of higher learning of your choice.


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.