Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baylor University's Honors Program

Baylor University's Honors Program
(Image from Baylor Magazine)

Some readers may recall that Mr. Lane Murphy, a writer for Baylor Magazine, had recently contacted me and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed for an article on Baylor's Honors Program. I agreed and answered his questions, also posting my responses here. In retrospect, I wonder if I perhaps should have waited for Baylor Magazine to first publish Mr. Murphy's article. I had assumed that the interview would be used only as a source for the article, but my interview has been posted online as an addendum to the article, along with interviews of six others who graduated from the Honors Program.

Mr. Lane Murphy, however, seems not to have minded:
I laughed that you posted my email to you with what appear to be my typos on your blog. Thanks for that! I'll be more careful to measure my email correspondence now that I realize it may be shared with a somewhat broader audience.

I appreciate your help with my article. It turns out that my story was a little long, so the the editor decided it best to include the Honors alumni profiles as an online component. If you haven't seen it yet, you can find it at
I hadn't recalled any typos in Mr. Murphy's email (though I note one on the profile page, where my name is misspelled as "Jeffrey"). Anyway, Mr. Murphy's larger article, "An Honorable Pursuit," Baylor Magazine (Spring 2009, Volume 7, Number 3), is also available online and provides a great deal of fascinating information about the history of Baylor University's Honors Program. Here's the official abstract:
In 1957, the U.S.S.R. took an early lead in the "space race" by launching Sputnik, the first man-made object to orbit the Earth, sparking fear that the United States was losing its collective edge over the Soviet Union. That fear led to a renewed interest in programs that challenged and trained the brightest minds in science, technology and research at American colleges and universities, according to honors education researcher Dr. Frank Shushok, BS '91. Honors programs became a focus of efforts to reach these students and by 1959, the Baylor Honors Program had enrolled its first class; eleven of those students became Baylor's first Honors graduates in 1961.

Fifty years later, Honors education at Baylor is coming into its prime. A concerted effort by faculty across disciplines has resulted in a desirable, finely tuned experience for Honors students, who are enrolling and graduating at unprecedented rates. In the past six years, the Honors Program has tripled the number of graduates per year, the number of majors represented in graduating classes, and the program's retention rate.
I had no idea that Baylor's Honors Program was a Cold War 'project'! Academically speaking, I am a Cold War baby . . . albeit rather old for a 'baby'. Since 2009 marks the program's 50th anniversary, Baylor really ought to invite me as an honored speaker at its Honors celebration, being that I am one of its finest products, as attested by my astounding success in life. Okay, that's a pipe dream, but I'm nevertheless gratified to see that the program is flourishing:
In 2002, the Honors Program became part of the newly established Honors College, which bolstered and expanded Baylor's tradition of attracting and educating excellent students. The Honors College includes four programs: Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, the Honors Program, University Scholars, and Great Texts, in addition to student housing opportunities in the Honors Residential College.
The program has come a long way from the days when Betty Christian used to serve as advisor to Honors students. That "Great Texts" program sounds excellent, offering precisely the sort of courses that I would have wanted to take and would now love to teach.

I'll not summarize Mr. Murphy's entire article but leave it for those interested to read on their own. I will only add that I am honored to have been interviewed and proud to have been a part of the Honors Program.

Well, I will add one more thing.

Baylor University not only did an excellent job in preparing me for futher study at UC Berkeley but seems to have become an even more excellent university over the years since I left, so I would encourage any serious student to consider Baylor as a primary choice for a university education.

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