Cody S. Knowlton: We improve health, both physical and spiritual

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Cody S. Knowlton has been the CEO of the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio since 2011. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on church and ministry. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated leader to be mentioned in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.


Where else have you worked, and what were your positions?
American Cable Advertising: four years in sales. Baylor University: 18 years in the university development office raising funds and managing those who do.

Where did you grow up?
San Antonio


How did you come to faith in Christ?
Because of my parents’ leadership and example, I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior when I was nine thanks to the First Baptist Church of San Antonio, its Pastor, Jimmy Allen, and the children’s program.

Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
Baylor University – BBA and MBA

Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
Because the Lord powerfully and clearly opened the door for me when I was 26 to take a step into the world of philanthropic giving. Baylor took a chance on me, and I have been tremendously blessed to help others achieve their philanthropic goals. I feel called because he continues to validate on a regular basis that I am serving where I need to serve.

Please tell us about your BGCT institution—the breadth and nature of its work, including its mission, measures of scope, etc.
The Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio is committed to improving the health of our community (Bexar County and the seven contiguous counties) by fostering and funding clinical, educational, spiritual and scientific initiatives while honoring God and our Baptist heritage. Our vision is to be one of the Lord’s conduits to provide spiritual and healthcare services to his people and be a reflection of his presence in the community. Since 2005, the foundation, in conjunction with Baptist Health Services Foundation, has awarded 880 grants totaling $61,173,052 to nonprofits in our eight-county region. In 2016, we awarded 88 grants totaling $5,704,149.

What do you like best about leading your institution? Why?
I love leading the foundation’s trustees and staff in being mission-focused, generous, strategic and visionary in meeting the needs of the San Antonio community. They know the grant-making process. My job is to keep them inspired, encouraged, educated and aware of all that is needed to improve the health of our neighbors.

What aspect(s) of your institution and/or its mission do you wish more people understood?
I wish the San Antonio community better understood that since 2003 we are completely separate from the Baptist Health System. While we deeply value our relationship and ongoing partnerships with the hospital, we are two very different organizations. I also wish the greater community would see Christ first and us second. We work on this, but it is a challenge.

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How do you expect your institution and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
I expect the foundation to continue to grow in its giving as our assets grow. I firmly believe our mission will remain unwavering as we continue to improve the health of our community. While I hope staff changes will be minimal, that is always a possibility. One thing is for sure, there will be different trustees on the board in 10 to 20 years. I look forward to seeing who God leads our direction.

Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your institution.
1. Never enough money for all the needs that are presented
2. Financial market fluctuations which impact our giving
3. Recruitment of a younger, more diverse board of trustees

What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
My greatest joy comes when we pray for the nonprofits we are considering funding while on a site visit to that organization. The prayer always comes at the end of our visit and is always a tremendous blessing to those in attendance.

What are the key issues facing Baptists?
1. Continued decline by churches and their affiliation with a denomination
2. Cooperative giving dollars being given directly by churches to missionaries and agencies
3. Perceived image of what Baptists don’t do or don’t permit versus what we believe and who we serve
4. Continued splintering of various state and nationwide denominational groups around certain issues

About Cody S. Knowlton

Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
My mentors were/are: My dad, David, a godly, humble servant, influenced me by his example and consistency. My brother, Deke, godly, kind, generous and servant-hearted, influenced me by his example and firm words when I needed to hear them. Richard Scott, a gifted businessman and business school dean/vice president of development at Baylor, influenced me by his motivation of me to be excellent and smart about all my endeavors. Mark Minor, a gifted business leader and manager of people at Baylor and in banking, influenced me by his example, his strength and his words of wisdom.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” With all that the world and the enemy throws at me, this verse encourages me that Jesus is my strength, my shield, my friend, my Savior, my Lord and my God.”

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