A History of Baylor’s Presidents

Throughout Baylor’s incredible history, she has been blessed by a dedicated group of leaders. These 15 Baylor Presidents have each helped guide and shape our rich learning community.  Together, their tenures have propelled Baylor to heights, with each president providing their personal leadership talents and abilities. Individually, each president has had their own impact on the University, including improving the curriculum, expanding the campus up to and across the Brazos, increasing student scholarships and general endowment, campus beautification, and scores of other student-centered initiatives. Countless stories of patience, strength, and presidential wisdom are woven throughout our University’s history.  Through these tales and physical reminders around campus, each successive generation of students, staff and faculty, are inspired. This exhibit celebrates the achievements of this remarkable group who dedicated their time shaping the spirit and mission of Baylor University.

Baylor’s 15th and newest president, Dr. Linda A. Livingstone, began her tenure on June 1, 2017. Her appointment marks a historic occasion:  Dr. Livingstone is the first woman to hold the position.  Her presidency marks her return to Baylor after time here on campus in the 1990s and early 2000s.  For 11 years, Dr. Livingstone was an assistant professor and later an associate professor in the Department of Management.  She also had the distinct pleasure of serving as associate dean of graduate programs for the Hankamer School of Business.

Baylor’s Presidents

Henry Lee Graves, 1846-1851

A Baptist minister and educational leader, Henry L. Graves assumed his responsibilities in January 1847. He immediately began expanding the curriculum beyond the preparatory studies that had formed the basic program of study since the University had opened in May 1846 under Henry F. Gillette. Over the next few years, he instituted a department of mathematics and classics, added lectures in law, and employed a full-time fund raiser. He announced his resignation in 1951, claiming his poor health as the reason.




Rufus Columbus Burleson, 1851-1861, 1886-1897

When Burleson originally took over Baylor, his first step was to enhance and enlarge the curriculum, along with the establishment of rules for decorum and behavior. The next was to upgrade the facilities by raising funds to purchase equipment, buy property, and construct new buildings. He resigned in 1861 to preside over Waco University.

In 1886, as Baylor searched for the best man to lead the consolidated Baylor and Waco Universities, the natural choice was Rufus Burleson. During his second stint as Baylor President, Burleson instituted general and specialized academic programs, authorized the formation of literary societies, and substantially enlarged the faculty. He also led in the construction of the first two permanent facilities – Main Hall (later known as “Old Main”) and Burleson, a female dormitory named for his wife, Georgia.


George Washington Baines, 1861-1863

With Burleson’s departure to head what soon became known as Waco University, the leadership reigns of Baylor University passed to George Washington Baines. He did his best to recruit teachers and students, but with the coming of the Civil War, he had little success. After Baines’ first year, the trustees found it difficult to find anyone to lead the financially-plagued university and pleaded with Baines to continue as president who acquiesced and stayed on for another year.





William Carey Crane, 1864-1885

As the end of Baines’ second year approached, the trustees identified William Carey Crane as the next president. For the next five years Crane operated the school on the edge of bankruptcy, and in January 1869, he actually saved it from oblivion by raising approximately $300, including $100 which he had inherited, to purchase the campus back from an individual who had just bought it at a sheriff’s auction to satisfy a ten-year-old $200 debt for shingles. Crane passed away in office on February 27, 1885, opening the door for the unification of Baylor and Waco Universities the following year.




Reddin Andrews, 1885-1886

Reddin Andrews was the first native Texan and Baylor alumnus to become president of Baylor University. In March 1885 when Andrews was inaugurated, he understood that he was to hold the job only until the Baptists of the state could agree on ways to unify the various conventions, organizations, and promotional bodies and, of course, decide the fate of Baylor University and Waco University along with the Baylor Female College which separated from Baylor University in 1866. Andrews reluctantly agreed but resigned after the fall term to accept a vice presidency at Waco University.




Oscar Henry Cooper, 1899-1902

Cooper’s presidency, though lasting just a few months short of three years, was fairly productive. His most notable achievements were the securing of increased recognition of Baylor’s degrees by the prestigious “Eastern” universities and the acquiring from F. L. Carroll and his son, George W. Carroll, contributions of $75,000 each to construct a chapel, library building, and science hall.






Samuel Palmer Brooks, 1902-1931

During his tenure at Baylor, a College of Medicine, a College of Pharmacy, a College of Dentistry, and a Theological Seminary were established. In addition, Brooks organized the College of Arts and Sciences, the Schools of Education, Music, Nursing, and Business and the Medical Center in Dallas. He also reinstated the School of Law that had been dormant since the University had moved to Waco, and made the summer term an integral part of the academic year. Endowment was increased by a half million dollars and Brooks personally led fund-raising activities across the state, the results of his efforts being seen in the restoration of Carroll Library which had been gutted by fire in 1922, the construction of the S. P. Brooks Hall, a cafeteria, a heating plant, a gymnasium, and several smaller facilities. Brooks also oversaw the creation of the Baylor bear mascot.


Pat Morris Neff, 1932-1947

Pat Neff became president at a time when Baylor was severely in debt. Envisioning better times for the University, Neff began making plans for a Bible Building, a Student Center, a permanent gymnasium, and an administration building. Fund raising committees were established for all of these facilities and each project was successfully concluded, though in some cases it took more years to complete than originally planned, due in part to economic conditions brought on by the onslaught of World War II.




William Richardson White, 1948-1961

At his inauguration on April 13, 1948, White announced his desire to renew the religious emphasis of the institution and to build additional facilities to enhance the school’s physical plant. Within a year enrollment on the Waco campus passed the 5,000 mark (5,102) with a few hundred more in the programs which were being offered in Dallas and Houston. The Union Building was soon completed, the Floyd Casey football stadium was constructed, and plans for the Tidwell Bible Building and the Browning Library began to take final shape.




Abner Vernon McCall, 1961-1981

Abner V. McCall presided over a time of great change for Baylor University. Many buildings were constructed, including the Moody Memorial Library, Sid Richardson Science Building, and an addition to Waco Hall. In 1975 as enrollment topped 8,625, McCall changed a long-standing policy of allowing students to live off-campus. Over the next three years, the University developed additional facilities, instituted a campus beautification program, established new student orientation programs, conducted a $100 million campaign to enhance annual operations and capital improvements, and won the Southwest Conference football crown.




Herbert Hal Reynolds, 1981-1995

Herbert Reynolds made special academic initiatives his priority in the first few years of his presidency. Among them were the establishment of the Distinguished Visiting Professors Program, the creation of the Robert Foster Cherry Great Teacher Awards, the designation of twelve Distinguished Professors, and the creation of “In-Residence” faculty positions for faculty with unique talents and backgrounds. New facilities, made possible by the gifts of many generous donors, included the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center and Lewis Art Building, Wiethorn Information Center, Cashion Academic Center and the Law Advocacy Center. By the end of 1991, Reynolds’ first decade as president, 649 new courses and 23 new degree programs had been added to meet the needs of the student body which had increased by 16%.



Robert Bryan Sloan, Jr., 1995-2005

Baylor regents in February 1995 named Sloan to succeed Dr. Herbert H. Reynolds as president of the University. New construction on campus during Sloan’s tenure included the McLane Student Life Center and the Baylor Sciences Building. In 2002, Sloan began work on “Baylor 2012”, a strategy he hoped would develop students of integrity and faith, and equip them to reach the highest levels of academic and educational achievement.





John Mark Lilley, 2006-2008

During Dr. Lilley’s term as president, Baylor was recognized as one of the most productive research universities in the nation by Academic Analytics. New construction and major renovations on campus included the Brooks Village Residential Community, the Paul L. Foster Success Center, the McMullen-Connally Faculty Center and the Immortal Ten Memorial.  He also presided over the creation of an honors program and secured a $20 million private endowment for its School of Business.




Kenneth Winston Starr, 2010-2016

Judge Kenneth Winston Starr served as president of Baylor University from June 1, 2010, to May 31, 2016. He concurrently held the title of chancellor, beginning on November 11, 2013, and served as The Louise L. Morrison Chair of Constitutional Law at Baylor Law School. During his tenure as president, Judge Starr oversaw the creation of Pro Futuris, a strategic vision developed with the collective wisdom of the extended Baylor family that was adopted by the Baylor Board of Regents on May 11, 2012. New construction included the $260-million McLane Stadium and the adjacent, $18.1-million Clyde Hart Track and Field Stadium.




Linda A. Livingstone, 2016- present

Linda A. Livingstone began her tenure as Baylor University’s 15th president on June 1, 2017. A distinguished scholar and academic leader, she previously served as dean of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management from 2002 to 2014, and as dean and professor of management at The George Washington University School of Business from 2014 to 2017.








3 thoughts on “A History of Baylor’s Presidents

  1. My grandson is 15 and wants to go to Baylor University. He and I are direct descendants of Rufus Burleson; Burleson is my maiden name and Rufus was my great, great Uncle. Ironically , my son purchased a home in Burleson TX, before I started my search on Ancestory.com; my grandson will graduate Burleson High School in 2021. Are there any scholarships or grants for descendants of past president? My grandson is an excellent student and we plan on visiting the University on Monday June 25th & Tuesday June 26th.

  2. Hi, I am an alumni from 1988, and I am seeking to learn the VP with President Reynolds in 1986 or 1987? I had an appt. with him on campus once to discuss biology, and I would like to know his name and credentials once again to jar my old gray cells. Thank you for your help!

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