Dr. Linda Livingstone became the 15th president of Baylor University in June of 2017. She previously served on Baylor’s faculty from 1991 to 2002 and taught in the Department of Management and also served for four years as associate dean of graduate programs for the Hankamer School of Business. In the interim of her posts at Baylor, she 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.
Livingstone and her husband, Brad, are excited to be back in Waco and to be a part of its changing and growing community.
“It’s been fun to see the way the community has continued to develop,” Livingstone said. “One of the things that I was really thrilled to see when I came back was how much more tightly connected Baylor was with the Waco community. We try to get out in the community as much as we can, involve ourselves in some of the organizations around town and show support for them.”
However, this time around, they don’t have their daughter, Shelby, with them as she is a senior student-athlete at Rice University. As you can imagine, serving as president of an institution of higher education comes with a busy schedule filled with meetings, events and travel, so to maintain her work-life balance, she surrounds herself with a strong leadership team and a support staff that can help manage her agenda. She often does double duty, attending Baylor events in cities where she can also catch one her daughter’s volleyball games. Plus, many of her responsibilities as president include activities, such as Christmas on 5th Street or athletic events, that she and her husband would enjoy even if they weren’t Baylor’s president and first gentleman.
“There is a certain aspect of the work that I do that kind of blends my personal enjoyment with the work that I need to do, which is part of what makes the job such a special job,” she said.
WACOAN: You came to Baylor in June of last year?
Livingstone: June of 2017. I’ve been here almost a year and a half.
WACOAN: Do you feel like you’re settled? Still settling?
Livingstone: You know, I think we do [feel settled]. It helped a lot that we’d lived here before and had been at the university and in Waco. When we came back, we knew a lot of people in town and on campus, and so that made it sort of an easier transition. And because I’d been at the university before, I also knew a lot about the university.
So the learning curve was a little less steep than it would have been if I’d just come from outside. I think we’ve acclimated well coming back and feel very welcomed back into the Waco and Baylor community, and I think it’s been a great transition.
WACOAN: What are some of the most significant changes that you’ve noticed in Waco since the last time you lived here?
Livingstone: Well, when we were first talking about coming back and everybody was kind of describing what had changed at the campus, what had changed in town, and they started talking about how people were buying second homes in Waco and people were retiring in Waco and people were vacationing in Waco, and you’re going, ‘Really? Waco?’ It was not that way when we had been here 15 years before, and so it was great to see that the city had developed in a way that made people really want to be here, not just to live and work here, but to actually come and visit.
And certainly Magnolia and the Silos had a huge piece of that, but I think it was also just a sign of the way that the city was developing, the way Baylor was being an even more significant contributor into the city that has made it a really wonderful place for people to live.
I’m out among our alumni and parents a lot, and it’s amazing how many of them say, ‘Oh gosh, we’d really love to live in Waco someday,’ because they see you’re in a midsize city that has all the amenities that you need. You’ve got a university, a community college, a technical college where there’s all kinds of interesting learning experiences and activities going on.
WACOAN: Your daughter, Shelby, is out of the house now. Where does she go to school?
Livingstone: She’s at Rice University. She graduates in December. She’s in her fifth year there. She’s finishing up her volleyball eligibility and finishing up school. So, she’s doing great, and she was thrilled to have us back a little bit closer [to her] and is certainly a Rice Owl, but she loves Baylor, too. So she kind of enjoys those split loyalties between the two universities.
WACOAN: Split loyalties. You went to Oklahoma State University, right?
Livingstone: Yes, we did.
WACOAN: I don’t see any OSU stuff in [your office].
Livingstone: I do have my diplomas and stuff in my back office, so I do have some OSU things, and I wear my letter ring all the time. We love Oklahoma State. Brad and I had fabulous experiences there as students, and we tell all our OSU friends that we cheer for OSU all the time, except when they’re playing Baylor.
We certainly got lots of questions at homecoming when we were playing OSU about, ‘Well, do you have some orange underneath your green?’ No, we’re all in with Baylor all the time.
WACOAN: The first time that you worked at Baylor and then this time as well, what made you want to be part of this community? What drew you to Baylor?
Livingstone: When I came the first time, I was a new assistant professor. I had a professor, my Ph.D. adviser at Oklahoma State — when I was beginning to look at universities for potential jobs, she knew I was a person of faith. She knew that my Christian faith mattered to me, and so she was talking about places that I might want to consider. And she’d actually suggested that I look at Baylor.
It was my first experience at a faith-based institution. I had gone to public schools all the way from first grade through college. So it was a great experience because it helped me to see the important role of Christian education, particularly Christian higher education, a place where you could live [your faith] out in very open ways in your work at the university. I love that experience, and I loved that part of Baylor.
WACOAN: We’re just going to assume that you have a busy schedule.
Livingstone: A little bit.
WACOAN: What exactly does your day look like?
Livingstone: You know, I get asked that question quite a bit, and there’s really no typical day. I mean, I traveled almost all of last week. I was in Atlanta for a meeting with our regional accrediting body. I was helping a committee there. I did alumni activities.
I went to Florida and did some more alumni activities. We watched our daughter play a little volleyball while we were there, so we combined business and family. Came back through New Orleans on the way back to meet with the presidents and chancellors at the autonomy five conferences in the NCAA. That was sort of a busy week with lots of different kinds of activities going on.
Today’s sort of a typical day in the office. I just met with my president’s council, my leadership team. I’ve got meetings all day long today with internal folks. [The job is] kind of a combination of the work you have to do with my direct reports, with the activities on campus to kind of manage and lead things through, while you’re also doing a lot of external activities with alumni, donors, friends, legislative activities, Big 12 activities and other things.
It’s one of the things I love about it. No day is typical, and there’s always lots of broad and diverse types of activities to keep me busy and keep us moving forward.
WACOAN: You mentioned your trip last week. How often do you travel?
Livingstone: It varies from week to week and month to month. I would say certainly probably two or three times a month I’m traveling and out visiting folks. Some of it’s in Texas. We obviously have a huge family and alumni base here in Texas, so I do a lot of travel here in the state. We’ve been to East Texas and West Texas. Some of it’s more regional travel, and then certainly on a national basis, we did a whole conversation series over the last year. I was in California, I was on the East Coast, I was in Nashville, Denver, of course, all over Texas.
WACOAN: What are some of the greatest challenges you face in administering a large private university?
Livingstone: I think the most important thing when you’re responsible for a large, complex organization is to make sure that you have a really strong leadership team, and I’m just really blessed with the folks that are on my president’s council.
We are completing kind of filling out that team. I made a few changes to that when I first arrived. We hired a new chief business officer that joined us this summer — Brett Dalton from Clemson [University]. Fabulous. He is just the perfect person for that job, and he has jumped right in and become an immediate member of that group in a very important way. He’s wonderful.
The one last position we have to fill is our provost position. We have great people, Gary Mortenson and Gary Carini, running our provost office right now, but we’re looking for a permanent provost. Once I get that position filled, we’ll have the team completely together.
But, it’s really important when you run a complex organization that you have a great team working on it because I don’t have the time on a day-to-day basis to worry about all the details that are happening all over campus. So I’ve got wonderful folks providing leadership there so that I can focus on the strategic direction, I can focus on fundraising, I can focus on some of the external relations that we have to deal with, ensuring that we’re moving forward in the direction that we need to as a Christian research university.
WACOAN: Alternatively, what are some of the most rewarding things that you get to experience administering a large university?
Livingstone: Well, I have to say one of the most enjoyable things we do is spend time with our students. We have amazing students here at Baylor, whether it’s our undergraduates or graduate students, and they have embraced me and my family in very significant ways. So, we do love being out among the students when we can be, whether that’s at activities on campus, whether it’s hosting things in our home, whether it’s going to music events or theater events or athletic events. You just really understand why we’re here and why we do what we do when you’re out among our students and see the wonderful things that they’re accomplishing and how talented they are. That’s one of the great joys I have.
I also love being out with our alumni and our parents because then you get to hear the stories about the impact that Baylor had either on them personally or on their children. And again, you are reminded of what a special place this is, what a difference we make in people’s lives and why what we do here really matters.
WACOAN: What’s one of your favorite Baylor traditions?
Livingstone: We just had homecoming. Homecoming is so much fun, and it’s great because it brings everybody back together. This year was particularly exciting because we had the kickoff of our Give Light, $1.1 billion campaign, and of course we closed out with a win on the football field on Saturday, so that was a great weekend. I love homecoming.
I do love Christmas on 5th Street as well. Christmas is just such a fun time anyway, and it not only brings our Baylor campus family together, it brings people from the community. It’s just a fun time to kind of relax and enjoy the upcoming Christmas holidays.
WACOAN: Speaking of relaxing, as far as maintaining your work-life balance, what are some of the things that make that possible? As you mentioned, you have a daughter you like to go visit and games of hers you try watch. How do you do those things?
Livingstone: Well, my staff has been very helpful and supportive in doing that. They work very hard to make sure that we’re trying to balance my schedule in a way that allows me to not only get done what I need to for Baylor but to find time with my family and particularly given that this fall is my daughter’s last semester playing volleyball at Rice. We’ve worked very diligently to get to as many of her games as we can.
The good thing is we’ve been able to balance that with doing Baylor alumni and parent activities in most of the places where she’s playing, which are not places I would have maybe normally gone as early in my administration, but it’s given us a great connection with some other folks. So I have to give my staff a lot of credit for helping to do that. My husband, Brad, is a great partner in all that we do, and he helps me to keep my life balanced and make sure that I’m sort of focusing on the things I need to with family as well as with work.
Then, I have to say that a lot of the things that we get to do as the first family are things we would have done for enjoyment even if we weren’t the first family. Whether it’s going to athletic events or going to a music production here on campus or theater productions, those are things we would have just done. We did them when we were here before, and we do them now. Now they’re sort of viewed as official activities of the president and the president’s family, but they’re things we love to do and enjoy.
There is a certain aspect of the work that I do that kind of blends my personal enjoyment with the work that I need to do, which is part of what makes the job such a special job.
WACOAN: Is there anything outside of Baylor activities that you like to do as a family or things you like to do with just you and Brad?
Livingstone: Yeah. We love the outdoors, so we are very good about planning family time and family vacations, and oftentimes those include spending time outside. We were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this summer and did a lot of hiking and other things in that part of the country that’s just so beautiful. We like to spend time at lakes, so we will sometimes, if we can get a few days away, go to one of the lakes nearby and spend some time to relax.
And of course with Shelby’s schedule this fall, a lot of the family time has been with her around her volleyball schedule, so that goes away in the [spring], and we’ll have a little more time to do other things with the family after that.
WACOAN: What’s something outdoors that you guys like to do in Waco?
Livingstone: We love the riverwalk on both sides. We bike on it quite a bit when we have time and when the weather’s good. We love Cameron Park. I mean, oh my goodness, what a great park in the middle of a community this size. I think in some ways it’s kind of a hidden gem in the city that a lot of people don’t even take full advantage of — great hiking trails, great places to spend time with your family, a beautiful setting, and, course, those biking trails can be tough. We do not bike the trails in Cameron Park. We’re not quite that adventurous, but we do love that part of the city as well.
WACOAN: Where are your favorite places to eat in Waco?
Livingstone: When we actually just want a quick bite of something, we love going to Torchy’s Tacos. We’d been introduced to that when our daughter was in Houston, so we were thrilled when we got here that there was a Torchy’s here. For a nicer dinner, we like going to Diamondback’s, 1424 Bistro or One Thirty Five Prime. Alpha Omega is a great place to go for kind of Mediterranean, Greek food.
WACOAN: What’s something you do that’s just for you?
Livingstone: I love to read. I don’t have a whole lot of just-for-me time where I just sit around and do that, but when I travel, I usually use that time to enjoy some of the books that I like to read. But I have to say I enjoy spending time with my family about as much as anything when I get to choose what I want to do with my time.
WACOAN: Tell me a little bit about your husband, Brad.
Livingstone: Brad is a great partner in life and in all that we do. We celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary this fall, which is great fun. He is a historian and teaches at Vanguard College Preparatory School here in Waco. Loves that. He teaches a class on the history of World War II, so that’s really his passion, World War II. He brings World War II veterans into his class to share with his students, which is becoming more and more challenging because there are becoming fewer of them.
We were just in New Orleans, and he was thrilled that I had a meeting in New Orleans because he got to go spend the day at [The National WWII Museum], and he happened to be there on Veterans Day. He was thrilled to be able to spend the day there. There were lots of veterans there that he could talk to and thank.
He’s very involved in the campus community. He works with our veterans program on campus. He does a lot of speaking in the community, both because he’s a teacher [and] he’s the first gentleman. He shares a lot about the work he’s doing with veterans and with World War II and the teaching that he does.
He also loves to walk our dog, BU, on campus. BU is spelled B-U for Baylor. He loves to walk around campus and views that as a ministry to our students. He’ll stop and chat with students as he’s walking, and a lot of times, they’ll look like they’re having a really bad day until they get a chance to pet the dog and be loved on by the pup. He enjoys doing that. BU has become quite popular on our campus and even has her own Instagram page, [@firstpup_bu].
WACOAN: With her being away at school, what type of role does your daughter have as a part of the first family?
Livingstone: Well, because she’s off at school, she’s not as engaged on a daily basis as Brad and I are, of course, but she runs our dog’s Instagram account. That’s kind of her way to stay connected. We’re always in trouble because we’re not sending enough pictures of the dog, but we’re working on that.
Then she, of course, doesn’t get to come back a lot since she’s a student-athlete, but when she is here, she attends Baylor events with us. She did my introduction at the inauguration last fall, which was a really special experience for us.
WACOAN: Have you been able to get involved in the Waco community outside of your Baylor responsibilities? Or has that been all-consuming?
Livingstone: I think that being the president of Baylor and in a community, particularly the size of Waco, part of your responsibility is to be engaged in the community. I think it’s one of the things that I was really thrilled to see when I came back was how much more tightly connected Baylor was with the Waco community. We certainly are members of a local church. We go to Calvary Baptist Church. Love it. It’s the church that we went to when we were here previously, so we have lots of friends that are still there and have been excited to get reconnected with that church community that meant so much to us the first time we were here.
But in my official role, I certainly engage in events and activities on campus, belong to a number of the groups in town and try to be as engaged and supportive of what’s happening in the Waco community as we can be along with the other responsibilities, and it’s one of the ways that Brad is very helpful and involved. He’s speaking today at the Rotary Club in Waco and has done a lot of that too. So between the two of us, we try to get out in the community as much as we can.