This past school year was a year of change, compromise, and adjustment to a new normal. It was a year of Zoom and masks and keeping six feet apart at all times. Although COVID-19 is not gone and many of these safety protocols will continue, this new school year brings a lot of new faces, new opportunities, and new plans for our 129th school year.
This past school year, Rev. Dan Scott, Coach Bill McMahan '67, and Carl Owens '74 retired after many great years and significant influence on many lives at Baylor, along with Scott Wilson '75, who retired after 12 years as headmaster and will leave an impact for many more to come.
One of the new faces on campus this year is Head of School Chris Angel ‘89, who graciously took the time to do a short interview to introduce himself and preview this new school year.
Franklin: To start, you have talked about this being a “return home” for you; would you expand on that?
Angel: “It is home here. First, because I grew up in Chattanooga, and I also feel like I grew up at Baylor: I was a student at Baylor for all six years. When I first came to Baylor, we did not have a sixth grade, so I started as a seventh grader and went all the way through. I was here while we went coed, which was awesome. My first two years were all boys, and the last four we were coed. Then I went to college and came back. I moved into the dorm in Lupton, right on the second floor in the hall. I taught biology and chemistry, coached football and track, and did dorm duty. I did that for three years, and then, in my third year, I was asked to take on a leadership role as Dean of 11th and 12th grades. I did that for five years. I spent eight years as a faculty member here after six years as a student, so now it is technically my fifteenth year at Baylor. Baylor is where I credit my education, and the relationships I formed here are still great. I am happy to be home.”
Franklin: What is your favorite aspect of Baylor?
Angel: “Students, easy. [Specifically,] I think, for me, watching students grow from the moment they arrive to the moment that they leave, and then even beyond that. I love all things Baylor and watching students in different areas. There is a lot that happens on campus every day, and I am excited for it. I am also excited to just participate in a Round Table and sit in and talk to an Honor Council. I’m excited for all concerts and plays and sporting events. Students will quickly see me in classrooms. One of my favorite things about doing what I do is interacting with students, especially in uncomfortable situations, like a cross country team before the big race and behind the curtains of a play. The nervous energy and the growth from it is just the best.”
Franklin: What is your favorite Baylor tradition?
Angel: “Favorites are very tough for me. You will find out pretty quickly that I really love so many aspects of school. I always do a little bit of everything, and I did that as a student here. I tried to be involved in everything, and coming back as a faculty member, I realized that there were so many things that I didn’t even know about. One of my favorite traditions is the week of Baylor vs. McCallie; that is a natural one to put on top tier. I also love all class trips, and, for me, a big part of that is experimental education. I love the freshman trip, the senior trips, and community service trips. It’s not even about where we go but about being together and being challenged so that we can grow. Baylor taught me that, and that’s what I’ve been helping students learn for the last 26 years.”
Franklin: Are there aspects of Baylor that you hope to change or grow more?
Angel: “It’s hard to know that until I get here, but one of my main areas of focus is going to be the residential community and hoping the boarding and day student communities interact both on and off campus in fun and positive ways. [I want to] create ways that day students want to come to campus on the weekends. I also want to find more ways to access the river. We have the crew team and paddle boarding, but to find more ways to take advantage of all of the natural resources is so important. The river and the mountain bike trails are a big thing.”
Franklin: How will COVID-19 impact this year and life at Baylor, from your perspective?
Angel: What I will do is find a balance between keeping us safe versus having as much of the Baylor experience as possible. At first I was so hopeful that we were leaving COVID-19 behind and everything that we needed to do had been done last year. Until about late July, I thought that we were there. Clearly, the situation has changed. With the Delta variant, we have to take some mitigation to make sure that we stay safe, stay open, and decrease the amount of quarantines. So, we are going to begin the year with indoor masking in situations that you cannot stay six feet apart. One thing that is different this year from last year is the rules with quarantining. There is a strategy until the numbers decrease, which I hope will be very quickly, and we will have to wear some masks and continue a form of social distancing. My prediction is some version of that for about a month or so, and we will just have to continue to reevaluate and follow the guidance from our many healthcare sources.
Franklin: Finally, what is your biggest goal?
Angel: The way that I approach every day is to look at all aspects and ask myself, “How can I get better each day? How can each area get better?” It is what I challenge myself, all the staff here, and all of the students to do. When I finish this year, or ten years, or 20 years, or however long I am here, if we have grown in every area, that will mean success. That doesn’t mean getting bigger but getting better.
COVID-19 protocols are ever changing, and the faculty and health staff at Baylor are constantly focused on ensuring the safety of everyone on campus. Everyone at Baylor is excited for what is to come this year, and Angel insists that “there has never been a better time to be at Baylor.” What will happen is not always certain, but all at Baylor are used to change, and all are ready to keep up the good work, have lots of fun, and take in the full Baylor experience.