Lives That Bind by Robert Darden
The Baylor Line - Fall 2004
Bill Bailey can't trace his roots to the university's founders, but for the past half-century he has insured a significant percentage of Baylor Bears. That's not surprising, considering that Bailey Insurance and Financial Services, founded in 1956, ranks among the top 5 percent of all American independent insurance agencies.
Today, the 1950 Baylor alum, who also earned a Baylor law degree in 1951, serves as a chair of the company that is now managed and directed by his son Wes, who serves as president and CEO.
Like any good insurance agent, Bill is outgoing and talkative. His energy and people skills have propelled him into leadership positions with dozens of civic, religious, industrial, and educational boards and organizations. He served as a Baylor regent for eighteen years, chair of the Greater Waco United Way, and president of both the Baylor/Waco Foundation and Waco Business League. During that time, he has developed a unique perspective on the strong relationship between Waco and Baylor.
"I've never thought there was any divide between the city and the university," he says emphatically. "That's an old idea that wore out many years ago. The City of Waco has been extremely supportive of Baylor University. Anyone with any intelligence knows that the university is the major industry – if you can call education an industry – in the city."
Even so, Bill sees his role as a "conduit" between the two, sometimes explaining the actions of one party to the other. From the business side of things, Bill says the satisfaction comes from that kind of involvement. "You're not just watching things happen – you're part of making things happen," he says.
As for the Baylor side of the equation, Bill says he's driven by his need to return something to the school. And this he has done, in part, by serving as a regent under Baylor's three most recent presidents.
"I think you come out of Baylor with a good set of values for life," he says. "To me, the important things are the mind, body, and spirit. You have an opportunity here to develop all three. Baylor creates a very wholesome lifestyle – which creates a lifestyle of service to the community."
For the future, Bill's current cause is working to ensure that the City of Waco actively support all locally owned businesses – from insurance to higher education.
"If businesses are owned in Waco, it's a lot more likely that those owners are going to make contributions to the city and the university," he says. "A goal of mine is to see Waco really take care of people who own businesses in Waco. Anytime you own a business or home or property in a community, you have a greater investment in that community."
Wes Bailey, a taller, quieter version of his father, stands to greet a guest in the company's handsome offices downtown. The 1978 Baylor graduate is a third-generation Rotarian (and a past president, like his father), a past chair of the Waco Chamber of Commerce, and a past campaign chair of the Waco United Way. He is also in the second year of a three-year term on the Baylor Board of Regents, Approaching fifty, Wes talks about beginning a new chapter in his life.
"That first twenty-five years of your life is the grow up and get educated chapter," he says. "The second twenty-five is the raising children, getting them educated, and building the business chapter. That's coming to a conclusion. Rebecca and I have been married twenty-six years, and so we are looking at that next chapter. That's when you ask, ‘What can I do to make a difference for God's kingdom?'"
Wes's reassessment has also been influenced by his father's example. When Bill experienced health problems a few years ago, the doctor told him to resign from everything possible. (At the time, Bill was serving on twenty different boards!) Wes has limited his activities in similar fashion.
"I've enjoyed most doing the things that I believe are substantial in making Waco a better place to live," Wes adds. "But most of the things I'm moving toward now have a more spiritual emphasis."
Wes's spiritual journey began at Baylor University – not necessarily through the influence of administrators or professors, but of his classmates.
"What I needed were friends who knew how to have fun and get the most out of life and still honor God with their lives," he says. "I found those things at Baylor. Not that these guys were necessarily spiritual giants, but they were spiritually on track. Being around those kinds of people transformed my life."
Like his father, Wes wants to honor that gift by returning something to both the university and the city. As a regent and Baylor supporter, he would like to have a positive impact on the university. "I love Baylor for the same reasons that we all love Baylor," he says. "I want to see Baylor reach the level of endowment that a modern university needs to be competitive. Beyond that, I want to be ready for the next role God has in mind for me – whatever that may be."