This week we are releasing a background and Q&A about the three candidates running for Alumni-Elected Regent. Credentials for voting will be provided to all degree-holding alumni of the University by mail and/or email in advance of the voting period. The election will be conducted by an independent third party from April 29 through May 9.
Susan Youngblood Paynter, BA ’72, of Austin, TX
Susan “Suzii” Youngblood Paynter is co-director of Pastors for Texas Children, and the recently retired executive coordinator (CEO) of The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. She earned a Baylor degree and a master’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University. Paynter served as director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission and as director of the BGCT’s Advocacy & Care Center. A trained reading specialist, she taught in the colleges of Education at SFA and at Baylor.
Paynter is on the board of the T.B. Maston Foundation, Christian Ethics Today, and the Baptist Joint Committee for Public Affairs. She is a member of the Baptist World Alliance Executive Committee. Past service includes the Samaritan Counseling Center, the North American Baptist Fellowship, the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, and the National Immigration Forum.
AWARDS AND HONORS
Paynter has received the 2019 Baylor Line Foundation Distinguished Alumni Award, the T.B. Maston Foundation Christian Ethics Award, the J.M. Dawson Religious Liberty Award, and an honorary doctorate from Dallas Baptist University. She was named to the Duke Divinity School Board of Advisors. Other recognitions include Distinguished Service to Social Welfare Award from the North American Association of Christians in Social Work and recognition from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Sierra Club and the National Samaritan Counseling Centers.
Paynter has contributed to Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and former Alumni Association. She was instrumental in establishing the Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor and is a member of the Old Main Society.
CHURCH/CHRISTIAN MISSION AFFILIATIONS
Paynter was ordained to ministry by Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches. She is a deacon at First Baptist Church, Austin and has held leadership positions in Baptist churches in Texas, Kentucky and Mississippi. She has been a Sunday School teacher for 40 years and active in missions in Africa, Asia, South America, the U.S. and in church support in China.
How did your experience at Baylor shape you?
My Baylor experience has been like a time release capsule, extending across years and stages in my life. Early on I encouraged my own younger brothers and sister to come as students, making us a true Baylor family sharing an alma mater over generations. Baylor provided me with opportunities to develop academic and professional competence under the guidance of excellent professors who were also models of character and Christian commitment shaping my life choices. I began a love of missions by tutoring a Waco woman towards her GED and that love and practice of missions continues today. In recent years, I have met new generations of Baylor friends and colleagues from the developing and changing Baylor programs including Truett Seminary, Diana Garland School of Social Work and special programs like Texas Hunger Initiative none of which existed when I was a student. I look forward to next chapters.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received, and from who?
“This life is not a dress rehearsal…” be deliberate in joy, in purpose, in gratitude, in relationship. My dad, Hull Youngblood.
In speaking of fine china, my grandmother Ada McLendon Ewing, said, “What are we saving it for? I’m ready to set my table with love. If it chips, it was for the most precious people in my life.”
What lesson did you learn from your biggest personal or professional failure?
Years ago my position was summarily eliminated. I felt the shame of failure. I thought it was an unjustified dismissal, but the elimination was swift and final. A few weeks later, I was surprised when a small group of folks banded together to protest the elimination. This felt great, I felt justified and willing to fight. What I didn’t anticipate was how the “battle lines” of this adversarial endeavor would take over my focus and the focus of friends and advocates. I thought this would be good, but it turned out to be hurtful and robbed me and my family of time and happiness. I prayed sincerely for freedom from the hurt. The answer to my prayer was an unexpected call to forgiveness. I dropped this battle, I disappointed my friends, but found that forgiveness is a living spiritual power and although difficult at first, forgiveness is God’s doorway to a brighter future.
How has your definition of success changed over the years?
Earlier, I often measured success by measuring the indicators closest and most relevant to my life. In becoming a teacher, a parent, a Christian educator a state, and global faith leader, I don’t consider something important to success, these days, without casting a wider net. Success is interdependent and more lasting and beautiful when shared. Stability, prosperity, trust, leadership, human flourishing, friendship, wisdom, gratitude and love are fruits of true success and are multiplied when we structure our institutions and families to benefit individuals and communities. Personal success and institutional success are not always the same, because cooperative endeavors for groups and institutions require a broad base of deliberation to build lasting resilience. Form does affect function; for complex endeavors especially, an effective and fair process can help create and insure greater measures of lasting success.
Baylor’s mission is to “educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and a Christian commitment in a caring community.” How is that mission meaningful to you?
I am from a long time Texas, Baptist family and am proud of both my Texas and Baptist heritage. I am equally proud of the way that these rich histories can be the foundation for the global, diverse and strong Christian witness of the 21st Century. Today’s mission field, today’s global business climate, today’s research needs are all beckoning for leaders who are shaped by God’s calling and who are uniquely formed for this time. We are born in to this time and God is asking something from us. Baylor’s new emphasis in the Illumine priorities provides a clear path. I believe Baylor has a strong and purposeful witness for the future and I will be a dedicated servant to her future.
As a new board member, what specific perspectives, skills, interests and relationship networks will you bring to the board and how will you use them?
My greatest joy at BGCT and CBF has been finding home in hundreds of churches and knowing talented people whose unique relationship to Christ is expressed in Christian living. A premier Christian university will be closely linked to the church and its changing but flourishing future. I will connect Baylor to both traditional churches and to Christian communities that are new wineskins for ministries with local and global outreach. I have advocated for many in need and have built relationships locally, national and globally among faith leaders, elected officials and among large non-profit organizations. All of these networks provide new opportunities for partnership with Baylor’s leaders and programs along the four pillars of Illuminate and for the pipeline of student recruitment. I will bring the unique experience of being the CEO of a major Baptist denomination to the Baylor board of regents at a time when women’s leadership is essential for Baylor.
Based on your experiences, what do you believe are the biggest challenges facing governing boards of higher education institutions today?
Over the past 20 years I have worked with leaders of Christian institutions of higher education raising scholarship support and grappling with the changes and demands of higher education, specifically the role of seminary preparation for Christian leaders. This experience has given me insight into the fiscal and academic climate for success. One of the major challenges for the board today is the same challenge voiced by Baylor’s founders who sought to establish an institution of higher learning that would “meet the needs of all ages to come.” We have seen Baylor turn her face to the future with campus expansion, aspirational research goals and expanding visions in academic and athletic achievement. The biggest challenge for a board is the challenge to embody leadership which equips the university for the future, not just the present.
What qualities and attributes do you think make for a strong board member and a highly functioning board?
Serving a beloved university is a trust. I’ll echo my dad’s advice, “this life is not a dress rehearsal.” Prepare, work hard and give your best. Important decisions are made in every board committee. The effect of those decisions in every facet of university life and the well-being of each generation of students are the core concerns of the board. The impact will be there long after this cycle of chairs at the board table have changed. Each board has a unique set of intersecting opportunities and challenges and must be prepared to face them with the strength of a concerted plan and a well of resources for the unexpected challenges that inevitably appear. At Baylor, we have a sacred trust. I hear the refrain of a childhood hymn, “…do then the best you can, not for reward, not for the sake of man but for the Lord.”