Ken Starr named as Baylor president
Since 2004, Starr has been the dean of Pepperdine University's law school in Malibu, Calif., where he is credited with dramatically raising the school's profile.
"We are delighted to announce the appointment of Judge Ken Starr as the 14th president of Baylor University," Dary Stone, chairman of Baylor's board of regents, said in a news release Feb. 15.
"His depth of experience and exceptional record as a university dean and legal scholar, his dedication to the highest ideals of the Christian faith, and his profound commitment to public service and visionary leadership make him the ideal person to lead Baylor at this remarkable time in the university's history," Stone said.
Starr, 63, was introduced to students during a university-wide meeting Feb. 16, and he is scheduled to assume duties as president June 1. He succeeds John Lilley, who was fired as Baylor's president in 2008 after less than three years in the position.
The university reported that Starr was the unanimous choice of both the 14-member presidential search committee and the 10-member presidential search advisory committee and was elected unanimously by the board of regents Feb. 12.
"A comprehensive national search process has produced a fifth-generation Texan who, throughout his distinguished career in law, the academy and public service, has been an articulate advocate for Christian ideals in the public square," regent Joseph Armes said.
After graduating from high school in San Antonio, Starr earned degrees from George Washington University, Brown University and Duke University Law School.
He served as a law clerk for Chief Justice Warren Burger as well as U.S. circuit judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, solicitor general of the United States and independent counsel for five investigations, including the Whitewater real estate scandal and the Monica Lewinsky episode during the Clinton administration. Starr has argued 25 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some observers have questioned Baylor's decision to hire Starr as president of the world's largest Baptist university when he has never been a member of a Baptist church. Baylor's student newspaper reported Feb. 16 that Starr plans to join a Baptist church in Waco by June 1.
Starr told The Lariat he has been involved in nondenominational Christianity for decades and his home church, McLean Bible Church in Virginia, operates under a Baptist theology.
"Ken Starr's home church McLean Bible is Baptist as you will find, it just does not have Baptist in its name," Stone, the regent chairman, said. "The pastors on our board are familiar with this church and had a great, terrific conversation with [Starr] about his doctrinal beliefs."
Stone told The Lariat that members of the advisory committee were pleased with Starr's articulation of his beliefs and that they align with Baptist beliefs.
"A lot of people outside of Texas don't have the same opportunity for Baptist churches that we are blessed with here in Texas, specifically here in Waco," Stone said. "And so I suspect that Judge Starr, had he been in Waco, would have been a Baptist at a Baptist church."
Tom Phillips, a member of the advisory committee for the presidential search and a retired chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, told The Lariat that Starr's understanding of Baptist doctrine will enable him to lead Baylor through disputes.
At Pepperdine, Starr gained a reputation for being available to students, and he cited the relationships he formed there as "a very gratifying part of being in higher education."
Baylor Law School professor Mark Osler told the Waco Tribune-Herald that Starr's "disarming warmth" should serve him well, especially as he develops relationships with key donors for the school's massive fundraising effort.
"I started out, frankly, disinclined to like him," Osler said. "As a former federal prosecutor, I really had some problems with the Clinton investigation and the way that played out. But as an academic, and seeing what he's done at Pepperdine Law, I'm really an admirer now."
Starr told the Tribune-Herald he was pleased to move on after serving as a controversial independent prosecutor, and he characterized the Clinton investigation as "an unhappy chapter in the nation's history."
As he looks toward the future, Starr said he embraces Baylor 2012, the 10-year plan intended to move the school into the top tier of national universities, but he also is concerned about the next step.
"With its great tradition in the Christian world and its growing international reputation as a research university that continues to care deeply about undergraduate education, Baylor is poised to have an increasingly expanding global impact," Starr said.
"With the goals of educational excellence and Christian commitment remaining firmly before us, I count it a great blessing and honored responsibility to commit my talents and strengths to stand alongside the Baylor family in writing the next chapter in this university's storied history," Starr said.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.