Baylor University named former Clinton White House nemesis Kenneth Starr its new president on Monday, saying the one-time independent prosecutor’s Christian ideals and experience heading a law school made him the ideal candidate to lead the world’s largest Baptist university.
Starr, whose investigation of the Whitewater land deal and Monica Lewinsky scandal led to Clinton’s impeachment in the House of Representatives, has been dean of the law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., since 2004. He becomes the 14th president of Baylor and follows John M. Lilley, who was fired from the post in 2008.
“While I look forward to the honor of serving as Baylor’s next president, my wife Alice and I know how much we will miss Pepperdine,” Starr said in a statement released Monday by Pepperdine. “Working with Pepperdine students, faculty, and the law school’s alumni has been one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences of our lives.”
Pepperdine officials said he would begin his new job in Texas on June 1.
Baylor officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but the school issued a statement on the appointment, which was first reported by the Waco Tribune-Herald.
R. Dary Stone, who leads the board of regents at Baylor, called Starr an “ideal” choice to lead the school.
“His depth of experience and exceptional record as a university dean and legal scholar, his dedication to the highest ideals of the Christian faith, and his profound commitment to public service and visionary leadership make him the ideal person to lead Baylor at this remarkable time in the university’s history,” Stone said, according to the news release.
Baylor board of regents member Joseph B. Armes said Starr was “a fifth-generation Texan who, throughout his distinguished career in law, the academy and public service, has been an articulate advocate for Christian ideals in the public square.”
Andrew K. Benton, Pepperdine’s president, said Starr has had a “tremendous impact” on students, the law school and the Pepperdine community at large.
“His leadership, his love of scholarship and his devotion to our students helped raise the national stature of our school and we will benefit from the good he accomplished here for many years to come,” Benton said Monday in a statement.
Starr was born in Vernon, near the Oklahoma border, and grew up in San Antonio. He has taught at New York University School of Law, George Mason University School of Law in Fairfax, Va., and Chapman Law School in Orange, Calif. He served as a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge for the District of Columbia for six years, was the solicitor general for four years and conducted five investigations as independent counsel, according to Baylor.
His office spent millions of dollars in the 1990s investigating Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky, a White House intern, and efforts to cover it up. The House approved two articles of impeachment against Clinton, but the Senate fell short of the votes necessary to convict him.
Starr’s five-year probe also investigated the Clintons’ Whitewater business dealings, the suicide of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster, firing of White travel office workers and charges that White House officials misused FBI files.
In its announcement, Baylor said its board of regents unanimously hired Starr on Friday after unanimous recommendations by the school’s presidential search committee and presidential search advisory committee.
Starr is the second person hired to lead Baylor in the last five years.
John M. Lilley was fired as Baylor’s president in 2008, less than three years after he was hired. Regents said he failed to unite students, faculty and alumni, but they declined to elaborate.
A few months before Lilley was hired in 2005, Robert Sloan stepped down as Baylor’s president and became the school’s chancellor in a deal worked out with regents. Sloan, who had been president since 1995, had been blamed for rising tuition costs and rifts among professors who had been calling for his ouster.