New BAA board president seeks constructive dialogue
By Daniel Houston
Photo by Rod Aydelotte
The Baylor Alumni Association recently spoke with Elizabeth Coker, 2012-13 president of the BAA Board of Directors and Texas 258th District Court judge. Coker ’89, JD ’92, talked about her Baylor education, law background, and priorities for the BAA in the coming year.
BAA: You’re a second-generation Baylor graduate and a third-generation Texas judge. How much did your upbringing influence your education and career choices?
Coker: One-hundred percent. All my life I’ve been around judges and lawyers. After Sunday dinner after church, instead of conversing with the women, I would go into the living room and talk with my dad and my uncle—who were both Baylor grads—and my grandfather about their cases and the law. I cannot think of a time in my life that I did not want to be a lawyer, and when the opportunity was presented for me to run for the [judge] position I have now, there was not a moment’s hesitation to do that.
BAA: You’ve spoken with us in the past about how you were raised in a pro-Baylor family. When did you decide for yourself you wanted to study at Baylor?
Coker: Actually, I transferred in my sophomore year [from Sam Houston State University] even though Baylor was the university I always wanted to go to. I guess you could say it took me about a year to come to my senses and get on up to Waco.
I had a wonderful experience and was able to go on to Baylor Law School from there. Each of those steps contributed to and built on the path that led me to where I am now.
BAA: How did you get involved with the BAA Board of Directors?
Coker: BAA board member Si Ragsdale contacted me toward the end of 2009 to see if I’d be interested in serving on the board — I was a lifetime member. They were seeking diversity among the alumni and asked if I’d be interested in becoming a board member.
Now, why they made me president, I have no idea. [Laughter]
BAA: It sounds like being selected as president of the board took you by surprise.
Coker: It did. I had only been on the board a year when I was asked to accept the position as president-elect. I was overwhelmed, honored, and was hopeful that I could fulfill those duties. They’re big shoes to fill with a lot of wonderful Baylor alumni who have served in that capacity.
BAA: Does your background in law inform your approach and the judgments you make as the board’s president? If so, how?
Coker: I suppose, being a judge, I try to fully analyze every side of an issue before making a decision. You prepare for what issues there might be, you understand the issues, and then ultimately you make a decision that you feel is in the best interests of the association. You never want to have a knee-jerk reaction.
BAA: What challenges face the BAA in the upcoming year, and how do you think the organization can address them constructively?
Coker: What’s paramount to us right now is maintaining and establishing a working relationship with our university. That is the common denominator for any Baylor alum: it is our love for our university, and our alumni engage in many different ways with Baylor.
I have chosen — as many others have — to engage through our independent Baylor Alumni Association, and I believe it is very important that the many attributes the BAA brings to enhance Baylor be recognized and appreciated.
BAA: And how does the BAA go about improving that relationship?
Coker: By opening up constructive dialogue with those at the university. I believe there have been lines of communication that have opened, and I’m hopeful that will continue.