WACO, Texas (FOX 44) – Baylor University has announced a $1.5 million gift from anonymous alumni establishing an endowed faculty chair position to support innovative research and teaching focused on the flourishing of children and youth with disabilities.

With an appointment in the Baylor School of Education and leading the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities, this faculty chair will accelerate interdisciplinary scholarship across the University and beyond. The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities supports the Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics and Health initiatives within Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan, and will qualify for matching support through the Give Light Campaign’s Illuminate Chair Matching Program.

The School of Education has named Erik W. Carter, Ph.D., as the inaugural chairholder. Carter previously held The Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Special Education at Vanderbilt University and co-directed the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. In this role, he will serve as executive director for the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities (BCDD) and help launch a new interdisciplinary institute on faith and disability.

Carter’s passion is helping schools, churches and communities become places of belonging and flourishing for people with disabilities and their families. He is particularly interested in the intersection of faith and disability, where his research focuses on calling, equipping and supporting congregations and schools to be places of deep embrace and contribution for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. His work on inclusive practices and its reciprocal impact have been especially influential in the areas of K-12 education and Christian ministry. Carter has established an impactful record of research publication with significant scholarly citations and federal and state grant funding totaling $28 million.

The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities was established by a gift from an anonymous Waco couple in support of the School of Education and its work on behalf of children with disabilities. The couple, who are both Baylor alumni, chose to support the School’s faculty due to their commitment to Christian education, the School of Education’s dedication to preparing graduates who lead with integrity to impact the world, and the BCDD’s mission to serve individuals with disabilities through collaborative research and service.

Carter will lead the expansion of BCDD, furthering its research and impact by strengthening campus and community partnerships focused on various issues related to disability and diversity. Likewise, the center will pursue new projects focused on advancing inclusion within faith communities. Established in 2013, the BCDD has invested in research, training, outreach and clinical services that promote the well-being of people with disabilities and their families.

The support through the Illuminate Matching Chair Program for The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities will provide greater support for the chair’s research and other activities related to academic discovery and instruction. The matching program supports the University’s efforts to generate high-impact research and scholarship, focusing especially upon research faculty chairs that support the five academic initiatives of Illuminate: Health, Data Sciences, Materials Science, Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics and Baylor in Latin America.

Baylor publicly launched the Give Light campaign on November 1, 2018. To date, the campaign has raised $1.29 billion. The Campaign has seen 88,685 alumni, parents and friends give to the University’s priorities, as well as establishing 791 endowed scholarships and 44 endowed faculty positions.

For more information or to support Give Light: The Campaign for Baylor, visit the Give Light website.