Half a century after being founded by the Baptist General Convention of Texas as “a Christian college of the highest order,” Houston Baptist University may soon erase the religious designation in its name.
Saying that the Baptist tag creates a barrier for potential students, university officials are exploring a name change for the 51-year-old school – a prospect that concerns some alumni who fear HBU’s religious identity would be de-emphasized.
Although an alternative name hasn’t been chosen, one possibility mentioned at an HBU town hall meeting last Thursday was “Morris Christian University,” after Stewart Morris, a founding father and major donor.
At the town hall meeting, one of two held last week, HBU board member Ray Cox Jr. argued that “the name Houston and the name Baptist are somewhat limiting to a national Christian university. … That’s why we are considering changing the name.”
I don’t know, “Morris Christian University” sounds limiting to me. It sounds like a school in a small town. Maybe that’s just me.
In recent years, the school’s profile has shifted significantly from its origins with an inaugural freshman class of 193 students. Only about one-third of HBU’s 2,500 students are Baptist.
Last year, the university voted to add three non-Baptists to the board of trustees, making HBU the first university affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas to allow non-Baptist trustees.
The HBU-commissioned survey of 1,129 current and prospective students and faculty showed that the current name wasn’t the best fit with the university’s vision of becoming “a comprehensive national Christian university,” Mark Denison, a board member and chairman of the name change committee, said at the town hall.
Denison said officials are also considering dropping Houston from the university’s name because the geographical term is limiting. He noted most of the students come from three surrounding counties.
The timing of the change coincides with the school’s transition to the Southland Conference and the addition of football in 2014, Denison said.
I suppose they could go the TCU route and decide that the acronym is the name. As we know from the UH-Downtown experience, it’s not easy finding a new name that enough people like, or at least don’t dislike. The committee will present its findings in May, so we’ll see what they come up with. Greg has more.