January 12, 2004

Mike Lawrence named interim director of the PPI

by Sue Davis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale Chancellor Walter V. Wendler announced today (Jan. 12) that Mike Lawrence, former senior policy adviser and press secretary to former Gov. Jim Edgar and associate director of the Public Policy Institute, will head the institute on an interim basis.

He will continue setting the day-to-day agenda for the think tank founded by the late Sen. Paul Simon and will also take the leadership role until a national search is completed.

"Paul Simon was a planner and always looked ahead," Wendler said. "He had plans for the center and those plans will continue to flourish and grow, even in his absence, pinned to the center's strong mission as it relates to the University, Southern Illinois and beyond."

Wendler said the search for a permanent director would begin later this semester.

SIUC's Provost and Vice Chancellor John M. Dunn said he is pleased that Lawrence agreed to fill the slot. "Mike worked side-by-side with Sen. Simon for the past six years to bring the institute this far, and I am very confident in his ability to oversee the operation," Dunn said. "Mike understands what Paul's vision for the future encompassed and he will continue to move the institute forward."

Lawrence, who has been at SIUC since July 1997, says his overall concern is to stay true to Simon's vision. "I want to ensure that the institute continues to go on and grow as Paul would have wanted it to grow. I want to do everything we can do to keep faith with his vision for the institute."

Lawrence said the institute will continue to address issues that are so controversial that they are not easily addressed and issues that have great importance but lack an advocate.

Lawrence has an extensive background in media relations, management in the public and private sectors, and spent many years in newspapering before joining Edgar's team in 1987.

He served as the Springfield bureau chief for Lee Enterprises from 1979 to 1986 before capping his journalism career as the Statehouse bureau chief in Springfield for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1986 to 1987.

He holds a bachelor's degree from Knox College (Galesburg, Ill.). His alma mater awarded him with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1998.