February 07, 2005

Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Name changes honors Simon's legacy

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Il. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials and members of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon's family honored him today (Feb. 7) by announcing the Public Policy Institute he founded will now bear his name.

Chancellor Walter V. Wendler noted that in 1996, the University and the Illinois Board of Higher Education approved the establishment of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. However, Simon preferred it being known simply as the Public Policy Institute.

"As we all know, Paul was a very modest man," Wendler said. "He believed the institute should be identified by its contributions, not as the work of one individual. But it is only fitting that we honor his legacy."

Institute director Mike Lawrence said the organization's staff "is delighted with our new name, and we will do everything in our power to live up to it."

Simon's vision for a public policy organization at SIUC was clear from its beginnings. Rather than being a "think tank," Simon's efforts were focused on making the Institute a "do" tank – seeking and achieving positive results.

"I'm not interested in a great intellectual discussion that will become a volume in a library somewhere," Simon once said. "I think that has its place, but that's not my cup of tea. I want to do things where we can actually get something done."

SIU Board of Trustees Chair Glenn Poshard said that since it opened its doors in 1997, the institute has launched initiatives that have made significant impacts in Illinois and beyond.

"This institute's programs and speakers have looked at significant issues and we are pleased that it will now remind our students, faculty, staff and others of the contributions Paul made through a lifetime of public service," Poshard said.

It engineered the most substantial reform of state campaign finance laws in nearly 25 years, helped recharge national literacy efforts, made specific recommendations to the United Nations on how to prevent future genocides, helped bring dental care to disadvantaged children in Southern Illinois and spearheaded efforts to develop a pilot program to combat smoking among college-aged women.

The institute continues to carry forward Simon's vision of involving faculty and students, something Simon noted he missed when visiting other campus institutes around the nation. He believed it is important for students and faculty "to get a better sense of how public policy is made as we bring policymakers and idea people together."

The 100 speakers and major symposium participants – many of whom spoke with SIUC students in various classrooms – include former First Lady Barbara Bush, former U.S. Sen. and Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern, actors and social activists Mike Farrell and Ed Asner, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, human rights leader Coretta Scott King, Washington Post newsmen David Broder and Dan Balz, legendary CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former New York mayor David Dinkins.

The tradition of offering the opportunity for insight into the world's major issues continues tonight as Art Simon, Paul Simon's brother, presents a lecture on fighting world hunger. Art Simon

is founder and president emeritus of Bread for the World, the nation's leading citizen's lobby against hunger. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. in Student Center Ballroom D.

The institute will also host lectures by Illinois Senate President Emil Jones on Feb. 23 and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman on April 11.

Outreach and creating citizen-leaders are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.