Baylor University fires President John Lilley


by By BRUCE TOMASO / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 20 at 1:55 PM

The Baylor University Board of Regents voted today to replace its president, John Lilley.

AP File 2005
Dr. John Lilley (right) embraced his former mentor, Baylor University music professor Dr. Robert Young, after Dr. Lilley was announced as Baylor's new president in November 2005. Baylor's Board of Regents fired Dr. Lilley for unspecified reasons Thursday, less than three years after he was hired.

The board, meeting in Grapevine, decided "the decision was necessary in order to unite Baylor's many constituencies and move the university forward," Howard K. Batson, the board chairman, was quoted as saying in a written statement.

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"I'm not at liberty to discuss the specifics of this personnel decision," Batson said in the statement, "but we believe that Baylor must demonstrate its commitment to excellence in all areas, including communication and the building of relationships within the Baylor family."

Baylor had hoped to transition to a new president gradually, the university said in a news release, officially beginning its search in January.

"Because plans for a gradual transition were rejected by Dr. Lilley, the board will immediately seek a new president," it said.

Dr. Lilley was named president of Baylor in November 2005. He had a five-year contract.

"Change is always difficult," Mr. Batson was quoted as saying, "but Baylor has a solid leadership team in place and the university continues to experience unprecedented success in many areas. The board is confident that the university will be able to press forward and continue its progress during this time of transition.The board is appreciative of Dr. Lilley's service to Baylor, which includes a variety of significant accomplishments."< /p>

Harold Cunningham, a member of the Board of Regents who was previously board chair, will assume the role of acting president until such time as an interim president is named.

Dr. Lilley was president of the University of Nevada at Reno and a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church when he was named Baylor president.

His selection was surprising to some. He was already 66, he wasn't an active Baptist (though he was the son of a Baptist preacher and an ordained Baptist minister), and he was coming from a state school.

In addition, Nevada-Reno school had experienced the same kind of faculty-administration discord that had dogged Baylor during the previous decade.

Nonetheless, the regents were unanimous in their selection.

Dr. Lilley holds a bachelor's degree from Baylor in music and music education, and a master's degree from the school in music. His earned his doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1971.

He began his administrator's career at Claremont College in California and worked at Kansas State University before spending 21 years at the helm of Penn State University at Erie. He became president of Nevada-Reno in 2001.