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Alumni 150

Since Baylor’s first graduate in 1854, more than 140,000 men and women have earned degrees from Texas’s oldest university. Alumni 150 celebrates the collective mark these alumni have made upon the world through their exceptional achievements. As part of the Baylor Alumni Association’s celebration of its sesquicentennial anniversary this year, the Line is profiling 150 of Baylor’s most remarkable alumni, with ten featured per issue. The selected alumni represent a range of professions and callings as well as eras in the school’s history. If you have suggestions for alumni to profile, send them to us at or The Baylor Line, One Bear Place #97116, Waco, TX 76798-7116.

Gilberto Freyre

Well before he became recognized as the leading Brazilian intellectual of the twentieth century, Gilberto Freyre experienced an unlikely cross-cultural journey that opened his eyes to the wider world and introduced him to ideas that would emerge in his groundbreaking work as a sociologist and writer.

Born in 1900 to a distinguished Catholic family in Recife, Brazil, Freyre learned English from his father, a college professor, and attended a Baptist missionary school run by Americans. A bright student, he converted to Protestantism and was helped by his teachers in securing a scholarship to Baylor University. After graduating in 1921 with a degree in English, he went to Columbia University, where he studied cultural anthropology under the pioneering anthropologist Franz Boas.

Returning to his native country in 1922, he studied the importance of regional differentiation within a large country, using his native northeastern state of Pernambuco as a testing ground. He then was invited to teach at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, one of Europe’s oldest universities, and in 1931 he was selected to represent the institution as an exchange professor to Stanford University.

Returning to Brazil once again, he gained international acclaim with the publication in 1933 of his seminal book Casa-grande e Senzala (The Masters and the Slaves), which Freyre described as “an essay of social genetics and social history.” Exploring the relationship between Portuguese colonizers, natives, and African slaves, he wrote in a personal style and mined primary documents for evidence to support his thesis. The book—which contended that the mixture of races strengthened society rather than weakened it, as social Darwinists in Europe were teaching at the time—is credited with helping Brazilians develop a sense of national identity and exposing Brazil’s genuine cultural heritage. Race was not the basis for social inequality, Freyre argued. Economic disparities, and poverty in particular, were the real forces behind society’s stratifications and the degeneration of men.

Freyre published two other books that, with The Masters and the Slaves, formed a series: Sobrados e Mucambos (The Mansions and the Shanties) in 1936 and Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progress) in 1959. He also wrote a novel, Doã Sinhá e o Filho Padre, translated as Mother and Son, and continued to write and lecture into his eighties.

He held a variety of academic appointments, including chair in sociology at the University of Brazil and honorary professor of sociology at the University of Buenos Aires, and he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Münster in 1968. Freyre was the subject of the book Gilberto Freyre: Social Theory in the Tropics, published in 2008. He died on July 18, 1987, in Recife, Brazil, at the age of eighty-seven.—Todd Copeland

Dallas Willard

In the preface to his book Knowing Christ Today, Dallas Willard wrote, “I should alert the reader to the fact that this is not a devotional book, and that it will require considerable mental effort to understand.” What might sound like a warning to some is actually a summation of Willard’s long and distinguished academic career, during which he’s blended a life of the mind and a life of the soul in his quest to delineate and follow the teachings of Jesus.

“I was raised that you didn’t think about things like philosophy,” Willard told the Baylor Line in 2007. “You figured you were lucky to stay alive.” Willard grew up in the Missouri Ozarks, and at the urging of his older brother, he attended William Jewell College, later transferring to Tennessee Temple College, where he earned a BA in psychology in 1956. By the time he arrived at Baylor University, Willard not only had a college degree under his belt but was also an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He says he didn’t think much about his career prospects, assuming that he would continue as a minister.

But Baylor, Willard said, changed him profoundly. “In conservative Baptist circles, there is a big issue about the relationship of faith and reason, and reason usually loses out,” he told the Line. “I really learned to love and trust thought when I was at Baylor.”

Willard graduated from Baylor in 1957 with a BA in philosophy and religion. He went on to earn a PhD in philosophy and the history of science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Since 1965, he has taught at the University of Southern California. A one-time director of USC’s School of Philosophy, Willard continues as a professor there and has written extensively on the philosophy of mind and of logic.

But it’s his religious writings that have garnered the most attention. His first book on Christianity, The Spirit of the Disciplines, was noted for its explication of scripture and its rigorous content—two aspects that would become hallmarks of Willard’s work. “Few books have challenged me like this one,” wrote one reviewer. “I would urge every serious-minded Christian to read it . . . at your own risk.”

Since the mid-1980s, Willard has continued to write books that challenge readers to become more knowledgeable about what they believe. His books have garnered numerous awards as well as comparisons to another famed theologian. One friend and former student said of Willard, “Like C. S. Lewis, he is able to cut right through to what is the central issue upon which everything turns.”—Lisa Asher

Steven Browning

Steven Browning was the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda from 2006 until July 2009 after being appointed by President George W. Bush. A career foreign service officer, Browning also served as ambassador to Malawi in 2003 to 2004. That post was cut short when Browning was needed as the minister counselor for management in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.

As a youth, Browning had to be urged by his parents to venture out of the confines of West Texas to attend Baylor University, where he earned a religion degree in 1971. He then earned a master’s degree in education at the University of Houston. As he was nearing the end of his studies in Houston, he accepted a post teaching the children of diplomats in Damascus, Syria. While there, he discovered the Foreign Service, and a globe-spanning career was born.

In addition to his ambassadorial posts, Browning has served as Diplomat in Residence at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Davis (2000 to 2003), dean of the Foreign Service Institute’s School of Professional and Area Studies (1998 to 2000), and executive director for the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State (1996 to 1998). He has served in posts in the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Egypt, and Sri Lanka.

While ambassador in Uganda, Browning supervised one hundred American employees, six hundred Ugandan employees, and a budget of $500 million.

In accepting the challenging post, Browning told the AllAfrica news service: “The process of democratization in Uganda is far short of where it should be. It is a major priority to work with the government and people of Uganda to advance good governance, particularly transparency and accountability.”

Browning told the Baylor Line in 2008 that he enjoys the constant education he receives in the Foreign Service. “Every time I change assignments, it’s like getting another master’s degree,” he said. “I have to learn something new, and it’s fascinating.”

In 2009, Browning returned to the U.S. and took the post of principle deputy assistant secretary—the number-two position—in the Bureau of Human Resources at the State Department.—Meg Cullar

Sandra Haldane

Sandra Haldane has lived in Texas, New Mexico, and Maryland, where she currently serves as director of the Division of Nursing and chief nurse for the Indian Health Service. But there’s one place that draws her back time and again—Metlakatla, Alaska. In addition to being her hometown, the place is a cultural touchstone for this advocate of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Located on Annette Island, Metlakatla is home to the Tsimshian Tribe and the only federal Indian reservation in Alaska. When Haldane was three years old, her father made a difficult decision to move his family away from the tribal community for a job in Anchorage. As a teenager, Haldane returned to the island every summer to stay with her grandmother.

After earning a bachelor of science in nursing from Baylor University in 1981, she worked as a clinical nurse in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and in Houston, specializing in obstetrics, surgery, and ICU care. But Alaska was pulling her back, so in 1989, Haldane moved to Anchorage, where she worked at the Alaska Native Medical Center as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service. While she loved providing hands-on care to patients, Haldane said, she was eager to play a more proactive role in national nursing issues.

From her growing involvement in the Indian Health Service (IHS), she was offered a six-week IHS nurse fellowship on Capitol Hill. There, she worked in the office of Sen. Daniel Inouye on nursing and healthcare issues specific to Indian health. “It was that assignment that opened my eyes,” Haldane said, “and further piqued my interest in the global nature of health policy and advocacy.”

After taking a break of several years—during which she earned an MS in nursing and healthcare administration from the University of Alaska and cared for her two sons—she left Alaska in 2003 for her position as director of nursing at the IHS in Rockville, Maryland. Despite the distance, this job, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, gives her the opportunity to affect real change in her Alaskan tribe and beyond. She oversees public health nursing, the community health representatives program, and women’s health, as well as providing national guidance for a variety of programs and grants specific to Indian health.

“American Indians and Alaska Natives have some of the highest rates and incidence of disease, disability, and injury over any other population in the U.S.,” she has said, “so we must campaign fiercely for our own people to choose nursing and other health careers as well as assume key healthcare leadership positions.”—Lisa Asher

James “Spud” Covington

James “Spud” Covington had a front-row seat on history when U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong descended the Eagle’s ladder to mark the end of the race to the moon with a “giant leap for mankind” and a footprint. The 1966 Baylor University graduate was serving as the lead operations and procedures officer during the Apollo 11 mission on that momentous day of July 20, 1969, sitting near Gene Krantz, the flight director, in the Mission Operations Control Room of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center.

“I don’t think we ever questioned that we’d be successful,” Covington told the Baylor Line in 2001. “Most of the people working in the space program, like myself, were so young that we didn’t know any better.”

For Apollo 11, Covington was responsible for keeping all branches of the operations team working together in an integrated fashion—a job he’d been doing since the Apollo 9 mission. “During missions, we were responsible for coordinating and documenting all the tasks that required three or more people to accomplish,” he said. In addition, the operations and procedures officers were responsible for the communication links between the control center and both the lunar module and the worldwide tracking network.

During the Apollo 11 mission, Covington was on shift during the launch, the first moon walk, and the command module’s recovery in the Pacific Ocean.

The Alvord native had been hired by NASA immediately upon his graduation from Baylor, where he studied physics, and he was assigned to the first flight operations team for the Apollo program. After becoming an assistant flight director for Apollo 12—a title he held through Apollo 15—he left NASA in 1972 and co-founded a company that oversaw marine biological and geological surveys of approximately forty large seabed features along the Texas outer continental shelf in areas being considered for future petroleum exploration. His company’s studies eventually resulted in the establishment of what is now the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located about 125 miles offshore from Galveston.

In 1987, Covington joined The Aerospace Corporation, a Federally Funded Research and Development Corporation (FFRDC) created by the U.S. Congress to provide independent technical advice and support on space and missile issues. During his more than twenty years with the organization, he has moved from Los Angeles Air Force Base to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and finally to White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

During his nearly fifteen years in Albuquerque, he led the Mission Design and Human Spaceflight segments of the Department of Defense Space Test Program. In that capacity, Covington coordinated the placement of about twenty experiments on space flights each year.—Todd Copeland

Irl Allison

The name of Irl Allison was familiar to thousands of piano teachers and students, in part because it hung on their walls or was tucked into their scrapbooks. As the founder and president of the National Guild of Piano Teachers, Allison signed countless certificates and award citations for participants in the National Annual Piano Playing Auditions, which he also founded and spearheaded through the guild.

The organization Allison began in 1929 at Hardin-Simmons University, where he was dean of music, grew to international prestige, and the yearly competition now hosts 118,000 participants in eight hundred locations worldwide.

As a student at Baylor University, he was considered a candidate for a concert career, but with a young family to support, he chose a career in teaching. He graduated from Baylor in 1915 and earned a master’s degree from Baylor in 1918.

Allison was dean of music as Rusk College from 1918 to 1919, piano instructor at Baylor College for Women from 1921 to 1923, dean of fine arts at Montezuma College from 1923 to 1927, and dean of music at Hardin-Simmons from 1927 to 1934. But his greatest mark was made through the piano guild. He edited musical publications for the guild and compiled and edited the Irl Allison Library of Music, which comprised thirty-three volumes.

The founder of the Golden Rule Peace Movement, Allison started the World Peace Programs for radio in 1948. He also developed the Azalea Trail in Austin, where he lived beginning in 1943. He died there in 1979.

Allison made another permanent mark in piano history as the instigator of the Van Cliburn International Competition, held in Fort Worth since 1962. Cliburn had won the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in the spring of 1958. At a banquet later that year, Allison stunned the crowd, including Cliburn, with the announcement of the new competition named in honor of the young pianist and carrying a generous prize of $10,000.

But that was not the first time the paths of Cliburn and Allison had crossed. When Cliburn was nine years old, he played in the National Piano Auditions in Dallas and was judged by Allison himself, who wrote on his score card this insightful and prophetic comment: “Unusual talent! Your gifts will undoubtedly carry you far!”—Meg Cullar

Thomas Holton

As a senior at Baylor University in 1949, Thomas Holton had to make a choice between two paths for his career—one led into the ministry, the other into accounting. Although he chose the latter, he told the Baylor Line in 1982 that he still felt he was serving a higher purpose.

“The life of an auditor can be likened to that of a minister,” he said. “In a sense, we act as the conscience of our clients, convincing them that it is in their best interests to do what is right.”

While serving his higher purpose, Holton ascended to great heights in his profession. He practiced accounting at two separate firms and served as Baylor’s internal auditor during his student days, which led to a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a master’s degree in accounting in 1950. Then Holton began his career in San Antonio with the accounting firm of Peat Marwick—now named KPMG. He found the variety of public accounting assignments intriguing, whether it was bookkeeping or tax-return preparation, and helped build the office from scratch as managing partner.

In 1962, Holton relocated to Chicago to begin an appointment as managing partner and partner in charge of the firm’s Midwest region. Six years later, it was time to move again—this time to Peat Marwick’s executive offices in New York City. Over the next decade, he served as a member of the firm’s Board of Directors, Ethics Committee, and Accounting Practice Committee and was chair of its SEC Policy Committee and SEC Reviewing Partners Committee.

His contributions and success were rewarded in 1979 when he was named chair and CEO of the firm—officially named Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. With more than one hundred offices in the U.S. and in sixty-five countries around the world at the time, the firm was the largest and most influential of the so-called “Big Eight” accounting companies. His experience with the nuts and bolts of accounting and auditing served him well as he provided philosophical guidance to the firm.

“Although large accounting firms are certainly big businesses in and of themselves, I keep in my mind the fact that we are first and foremost a profession serving our clients and the general public in a very important way,” he said in 1982.

Holton’s tenure as chair and CEO ended in 1984, and he officially retired from Peat Marwick in 1986. During his career and into his retirement, he served on the boards of a number of professional and service organizations, and he was a presidential appointee on the U.S. Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations. In 1991, he was presented with the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Service by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the highest honor in the accounting profession.—Todd Copeland

Giancarlo Guerrero

Don’t try to pigeonhole Giancarlo Guerrero into one musical genre—or one country, for that matter. As music director of the Nashville Symphony, Guerrero may conduct cellist Yo-Yo Ma one night and singer Glen Campbell the next.

He has staged new opera productions in Australia and Costa Rica, and he makes regular appearances in Canada, Slovenia, and Venezuela. Guerrero’s passion for all music and his enthusiastic conducting style—which one appreciative reviewer called “podium dancing”—have made the young conductor a worldwide favorite.

A native of Nicaragua, Guerrero grew up in Costa Rica, where he received early musical training in the Costa Rica Youth Symphony. He came to Baylor University to study percussion, playing in both the orchestra and the Golden Wave marching band. “Anything that had to do with banging sticks together, I just loved,” he told the Baylor Line.

For Guerrero, musical appreciation happened both inside the Baylor classroom and outside. He lived in Dunn House, a property Seventh and James Baptist Church made available to international students. So Guerrero and his housemates would listen to African music one day, classical compositions the next, and some Pink Floyd for good measure.

In his junior year at Baylor, Guerrero took a conducting class taught by Waco Symphony conductor Steven Heyde, and percussion gave way to conducting. After graduating from Baylor in 1991, Guerrero earned a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University.

He then took what some would consider an unusual step by moving back to South America, where he conducted symphonies across the region. But Heyde said it was the right strategy. “He went back home and took every job he could, did them well, created a buzz about himself, and then returned to the States,” he said.

Upon his return, Guerrero had almost more offers than he could handle. From 1999 to 2004, he was associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, while also serving as musical director of the Eugene (Oregon) Symphony Orchestra. At both of those venues, he developed a reputation for showcasing American composers, and he was asked to conduct many of the major American orchestras.

The recipient of the American Symphony Orchestra League’s 2004 Helen M. Thompson Award, Guerrero continues to balance both national and international conducting offers. And in fall 2009, he began a five-year contract as musical director of the Nashville Orchestra.

Guerrero simply loves what he does, whether he’s in Scotland, Venezuela, or Tennessee. “To me,” he says, “all orchestras bring the same level of joy.”—Lisa Asher
Phil Hardberger

When Phil Hardberger completed a four-year run as mayor of San Antonio—the U.S.’s seventh-largest city—on May 31, 2009, the moment marked the end of a remarkable career in law and public service.

Having grown up in the West Texas town of O’Donnell, where his father was a farmer, Hardberger became the first person in his family to go to college. After serving as editor of the Lariat, he graduated from Baylor University in 1955 and promptly joined the Air Force. He spent more than two years in the service, principally flying B-47 bombers, and left the Air Force with the rank of captain and his eyes set on new horizons.

Hardberger’s next decade reads like the résumé of an overachiever with a strong case of wanderlust: a year as a reporter for the Baptist General Convention of Texas under the guidance of Bill Moyers; a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York; a stint in Mexico City writing for the Mexican-American Review; a move to Washington, D.C., in 1961, where he served as executive secretary of the Peace Corps and earned a law degree from Georgetown University in 1965; several months in Europe, where he landed a job with film studio MGM as a utility man during the filming of the Oscar-winning movie Grand Prix; and finally a return to Washington in 1967 as special assistant to the director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity under President Lyndon Johnson.

In 1970, Hardberger moved to San Antonio, where he began practicing law as a trial attorney. During the next twenty-four years, he specialized in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases and pursued such pastimes as sailing yachts, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and flying solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1994, he was appointed as an associate justice on the Fourth Court of Appeals, and two years later he was elected as chief justice of the court. During nine years on the bench, he wrote approximately twelve hundred opinions and heard more than three thousand cases. His peers in the judiciary honored him with the John Marshall Award for best appellate judge in the nation and named him the best judge in the state in 2003.

After a brief retirement, Hardberger was pulled back into public service by supporters who thought he could win election as mayor of San Antonio. They were right. On June 17, 2005, he took office as the first mayor elected in modern times from outside the City Council, and he was re-elected in 2007. “One of the reasons I ran for office was to clean up the whole political environment,” Hardberger told the Baylor Line in 2006. “He did more in four years, as far as quality of life, than any other mayor,” Ramiro Cavazos, president of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told the San Antonio Express-News.

Among Hardberger’s achievements as mayor were the city’s role as an evacuee center for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the passage of a record $550-million bond package in 2007, the city’s purchase of land for the future Voelcker Park, and the introduction of the multi-prong Mission Verde plan to turn Alamo City into a sustainable energy center.—Todd Copeland

Linda Bunnell

Linda Bunnell is a driving force in higher education, having served as the head of two universities. A 1964 Baylor University graduate, she earned a master’s degree and PhD in English literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

From 2004 until May 2009, Bunnell was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point (UWSP), the first woman to head the school. She has since returned to her consulting business, which is a broad-based practice serving nonprofits and higher education.

Bunnell said she was most proud of bringing more racial and ethnic diversity to the student body during her five years at UWSP, with minority enrollment increasing by 22 percent. Bunnell’s tenure also brought a seventeen-year high in enrollment, the university’s first master plan for campus growth in forty years, expanded research capabilities, a new campus for professional programs in Wausau, and expanded international education. The university maintained its “Top Ten” rating among Midwest public universities in U.S. News and World Report rankings and was named Wisconsin’s “greenest university” by the Princeton Review.

From 1993 to 2001, Bunnell was chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, where she turned around an enrollment decline and a $2-million deficit. By 1998, the school was described as a “campus on the move” by the Denver Post. Enrollment doubled during Bunnell’s eight years in Colorado. The campus also changed from a commuter to a residential school, a transformation that required approval from the state and the support of regents for a $25-million bond issue. In 1994, the university built its first new building in ten years. Bunnell’s accomplishments in Colorado also included increasing racial and ethnic diversity by 59 percent, improvements in retention and graduation rates, and the addition of a health sciences curriculum and a doctorate in computer engineering. The Economic Corporation of Colorado Springs named Bunnell as Community Leader of the Year in 2001.

Bunnell left the university to become senior vice president for higher education for the College Board, where she served until 2002. Prior to her Colorado post, Bunnell was vice chancellor of the Minnesota State University System and held various administrative and academic positions in the California State University System and the University of California at Riverside.—Meg Cullar

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