Baylor alumni leaders resign

Four officers and at least 13 other members of the Baylor Alumni Association’s board of directors have stepped down, believing a recently rejected compromise was the best hope for improving relations with the university’s administration.

By Ken Camp

About one-third of the Baylor Alumni Association board of directors — including four officers — have resigned in the wake of a failed attempt to approve a transition agreement with the historically Baptist university in Waco, Texas.

Association President Collin Cox, a Houston attorney; President-elect Si Ragsdale of Childress, Texas; Secretary Kyle Gilley of Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Past President Elizabeth Coker, a district judge from Livingston, Texas, all resigned from the board. At least 13 other directors also resigned from the 52-member board.

chad wootenAll alumni association staff except Chief Operating Officer Chad Wooten and Development Officer Pete Rowe resigned to accept jobs with Baylor University. Those resignations leave The Baylor Line magazine without editorial and production staff.

“The Baylor Alumni Association is a 154-year-old organization with over 17,000 members and nearly $7 million in total assets,” Wooten said. “We take our responsibility to this organization very seriously, and we are working hard to determine the most appropriate path forward at this pivotal time”

The series of resignations followed a failed Sept. 7 vote on a negotiated agreement that would have disbanded the alumni association, allowed the university to assume all alumni-engagement activities and created the Baylor Line Corporation to preserve what proponents termed “an independent alumni voice” for the magazine published since 1946.

Subsequently, Baylor President Ken Starr e-mailed a letter to “Baylor Nation” saying the university was giving the association 90 days to phase out use of Baylor’s licensed marks.

In his Oct. 10 letter of resignation, Cox said he had viewed the transition agreement as the “last, best hope” for reconciliation between the alumni association and Baylor University. While Cox said he believes “a clear majority of our membership want nothing to do with a fight,” a minority strongly believe the alumni association should defend its legal agreements with Baylor — in court, if necessary.

“It appears the time for an unfortunate fight, whether started by the university, by the BAA or by individual BAA members, is on the horizon,” he said, adding he could not support “any prospect of full-blown litigation against Baylor.”

An informal survey e-mailed to alumni association members reveals an organization divided about its future direction. According to information on the Baylor Alumni Association website, the survey generated about 1,900 responses and more than 800 written comments.

Half of the respondents favored making organizational changes to try to retain control of the association’s endowment, possibly as a foundation to provide scholarships to Baylor students from alumni families.

About a third wanted to defend the alumni association’s legal agreements and maintain use of the “Baylor” name, even if it meant a lawsuit against the university and significant expenditures from the association’s endowment.

One respondent in five desired to change the organization’s name and seek to maintain its roles in alumni relations and communication but operate completely outside the university structure.

Relations between the alumni association and the university have been strained — and at times contentious — for more than a decade, since Baylor developed its own alumni services office, the Baylor Alumni Network, and began publishing its own magazine for alumni and donors.

This summer, the university demolished the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center to make way for a plaza leading to the bridge that will connect the campus and Baylor Stadium. The alumni association moved its offices to the university’s Clifton Robinson Tower.

Previous story:

Future of Baylor alumni group unclear