Reaching Out in 2009
By Jeff Kilgore, Executive Vice President and CEO of the Baylor Alumni Association
On New Year’s Day, my wife, Stephanie, and I sat at our kitchen table with our sons, Luke (seven years old) and Patrick (five years old), attempting to explain to them why eating black-eyed peas was important this particular day–even though such peas are not, as they protested, a regular part of an elementary scholar’s diet. We spent time talking about tradition and reflecting on the presents, parties, vacations, and special events of the past year. But we spent most of our energy trying to help them look forward. We talked about what a “resolution” was and the importance of challenging ourselves in the year to come. Their conversation still drifted toward parties, presents, and vacation, but I think some fun and maybe a little bit of life lesson emerged from that fairly bland bowl of black-eyed peas.
At 10:00 a.m. this past Monday, our Baylor Alumni Association staff gathered for our regular weekly staff meeting. We enjoyed cups of coffee instead of bowls of peas, replaced holiday spirit with work schedules, and contemplated second-quarter budget and planning metrics rather than toys and birthday parties gone by. It wasn’t nearly as much fun as Christmas, but I believe our staff cast their eyes toward all the possible things we could achieve in 2009 with the same seriousness and sense of challenge that my family had at our dining table on New Year’s Day.
For me, I believe the greatest challenges ahead for 2009 have a common thread of uncertainty: about the economy’s effect on the world and our families’ livelihoods; about the change sweeping through the international, national, and local political landscapes; and, here on campus, about the future of Baylor University. I am the first to recuse myself as an authority on any of the above subjects, but what I can be responsible for is how I challenge myself to become personally involved as part of the process.
Whether talking about corporate America’s escapades, national politics, or my alma mater, I feel very much a part of the sweeping wave of people who desire to be openly informed about and included in decisions that affect me and the things of value to my family and friends. Such inclusiveness and transparency result in a mutually beneficial environment. Their absence, in contrast, creates an unhealthy environment. When people don’t feel they can speak privately to those in power or have a role in decisions, those same people feel compelled to voice their opinions publicly, often resulting in further criticism and rancor.
Whether it’s regarding private or public institutions–from the outcry about corporate scandals to controversy over political manipulation–we have seen the reemergence in our society of the values of inclusion and transparency that form the cornerstone of our great nation. While I remain convinced that the rapidly growing sentiment in our country is going in the right direction, I’ve also accepted the realization that I am flawed, deserve less, and require more grace than most and certainly can’t be “throwing any stones.” So I believe my first challenge in 2009 should be directed toward myself.
As I challenge the public and private officials in our country and on our Baylor campus to be inclusive, shouldn’t I challenge myself and also ask:
What can I do better to involve our BAA members, Board of Directors, Alumni Council, and staff in the decisions that affect the BAA and our alma mater?
What can I do to better serve and communicate with our members and the Baylor family?
What can I do to communicate with, seek feedback from, and include Baylor alumni, students, faculty, staff, and administrators in BAA events and programming?
What can I do to reach out to and include Baylor regents with the BAA?
In 2009, I will be making these efforts to reach out, to be more inclusive, and to communicate more openly and directly. I hope they are received genuinely with all intended respect and common love for our Baylor University and all else who have a care.