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Kenneth Starr introduced as Baylor president

Kenneth Starr, center, speaks to Baylor University faculty and students, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, in Waco Texas. Starr was named Baylor's 14th president. Starr replaces John M. Lilley. Kenneth Starr, center, speaks to Baylor University faculty and students, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, in Waco Texas. Starr was named Baylor's 14th president. Starr replaces John M. Lilley. (AP Photo/Waco Tribune Herald, Rod Aydelotte)
By Angela K. Brown
Associated Press Writer / February 16, 2010

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WACO, Texas—Baylor University's new president Kenneth Starr said Tuesday he is excited to promote the world's largest Baptist university and pleased his time as an independent prosecutor investigating the Clinton White House is long past.

Starr, whose investigation of land deals and the Monica Lewinsky scandal led to Clinton's impeachment, was introduced as Baylor's 14th president. He will start the new job June 1.

Starr told The Associated Press he was drawn to Baylor because it balances its Christian mission with academic freedoms. He has been Pepperdine University's law school dean since 2004 and noted his work as independent counsel was just one chapter in his life.

"We're called on to serve ... and that chapter is happily long over," Starr told the AP after his introductory news conference. "It was an unhappy experience for the entire country."

In the 1990s, Starr's office spent millions of dollars 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 White House officials misused FBI files.

A small group of students demonstrated outside Tuesday's event, holding signs such as "we need a unifier, not a divider." But Baylor regents chairman Dary Stone took the attention given Starr in stride, saying he will raise the university's national profile.

"Anybody who's involved in a controversial public issue is going to have supporters and detractors, and the search committee obviously did not ignore that fact," Stone said. "But in real short order, we discovered that all of those who really understand the process of special prosecution were highly complimentary of how Starr conducted himself."

Stone said Starr's academic and private sector successes made him a clear choice. He declined to release Starr's salary or other contract terms.

Starr earlier told more than 400 people who packed his news conference that as a fifth-generation Texan, "it's good to be coming home." He said he embraces Baylor's mission, faculty governance and commitment to helping others.

"I can help form a vision, but it will be a collaborative process," Starr said. "I pledge my energy, my active effort in building what our ancestors have built on and going into all of the world."

Some at the news conference noted Starr's affiliation with the Church of Christ, but Starr said he was comfortable with Baptist doctrines because he has been involved in the "broader evangelical movement." He later said he plans to join a Baptist church in Waco.

Starr has an "uncommon and even uncanny understanding of Baylor's unique and distinct mission as a national Christian university with historic Baptist ties," said Kenneth L. Hall, the search advisory committee chairman.

Starr is the second person hired to lead Baylor in the last five years.

John M. Lilley was fired in 2008, less than three years after he was hired. Regents said he failed to unite students, faculty and alumni, but declined to elaborate.

Shortly before Lilley was hired, Robert Sloan stepped down as Baylor's president and became the school's chancellor in a deal 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.