Participants in the John Roy Baylor Day program were Bill Curry, seniors Lea Hunter and Connor Duffy, Headmaster Scott Wilson '75, and Associate Director of Residential Life Takisha Haynie
Baylor students returned to classes on Monday, Jan. 6, and were greeted by former NFL player, college coach, author, and motivational speaker Bill Curry, who kicked off the school’s annual “John Roy Baylor Day” celebration. Dr. Baylor served as the founding headmaster from 1893 to 1926.
Speaking to the full student body (see this issue's featured video), Curry referenced Dr. Baylor’s final message to his students in 1926 "to live a life of magnanimitas," which translated from its Latin origins means "Greatness of Spirit." “If you can live in the moment and capture what you are being offered here, your life will never be the same. You will be a leader at whatever you choose to lead. You will have magnanimitas captured in your soul,” he said.
"The essence of Dr. Baylor's message as I understand it to be is you may become a great philosopher; you may be a great leader; you may be a wonderful mother, father, coach, mentor; you may have tremendous success as a philanthropist. But you will never be the creation that your creator made you to be until you locate your magnanimitas, your greatness of spirit, develop it, and give it to a cause greater than yourself."
Curry was introduced by Headmaster Scott Wilson ’75, who reflected on the founding headmaster’s dreams for his school and his values of faith, honor, and the pursuit of excellence. Click here to read his introductory remarks.
Curry was a two-time Super Bowl Champion and played in two NFL Pro Bowls. As an NCAA coach, he was named National Coach of the Year at Alabama and later became the first head football coach ever at Georgia State. He served as an ESPN commentator for a decade and was the executive director for Baylor’s leadership program from 2006-08.
From the Archives: Who Was John Roy Baylor?
John Roy Baylor entered the University of Virginia at the age of 15 and graduated in 1872 with bachelor of arts and bachelor of literature degrees. He married Julia Howard in November 1883, and their only child was born in November the following year.
At the time, the family was living in Lynchburg, Va., where he was teaching orphan boys and girls at the Miller Manual Labor School. Prior to that he had served as an instructor and principal of the Mountain Spring School in Trinity, Ala. In 1888, he moved his family to Savannah, Ga., where he was principal of a school for boys, and in 1890 he accepted a position as the head of the Nobel Institute at Anniston, Ala.
In the spring of 1893, he arrived in Chattanooga with ample experience in education and ambitions to start a school of his own. That fall, the doors of the University School of Chattanooga – six years before Ben F. Thomas, Joseph B. Whitehead, and John T. Lupton secured the exclusive bottling rights to Coca-Cola. Lupton would later play an important role in rebuilding the school at its current location. In 1923, the University of the South at Sewanee recognized Prof. Baylor’s contributions to education and bestowed upon him an honorary degree of doctor of literature.
Dr. Baylor – as he was then known – died suddenly but peacefully on Aug. 21, 1926, in the family dining room of his home on Lupton Circle. At the age of 74, he had fulfilled a dream of opening the first four-year college preparatory school in the city and had paved the way for it to be among the best prep schools in the South.