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A History of Public Service


The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy was established in 2003 with a Congressionally-funded endowment and a mission to educate and promote research to further the public’s knowledge of our system of governance, and to highlight the critical importance of public service. Sen. Howard Baker and a dedicated board assisted the staff of four, led by Director Alan Lowe, to grow and develop the Baker Center.  From its humble beginnings in Hoskins Library on the UT Campus, to its move into a 51,000 square foot facility on Cumberland Avenue in 2008, the Center focused on four main areas: public programs, archives, research, and civic education and engagement.

In 2005, plans were announced to build a new facility to house the Baker Center. The building would include a museum on government, a 100 collection archives, classrooms and meeting rooms.  A ground-breaking ceremony was held with Vice President Dick Cheney and then the building was dedicated in 2008 with Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Sandra Day O’Connor. The staff expanded to eight to run the facility, promote the museum and administer the new Modern Political Archives (MPA).

In 2009, Alan Lowe left to become director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Carl Pierce, UT Law professor, was appointed director. Concurrently, various task forces reviewed the mission of the Baker Center and in 2012 the museum was closed and converted into offices for the Chancellor’s Honors Program and the Modern Political Archives was turned over to UT Libraries Special Collections. As a result, staff was reduced and segments of the museum were moved into locations throughout the building, where they can be viewed today.

In 2012, Dr. Matt Murray, Associate Director of the UT Boyd Center for Business & Economic Research, was appointed director of the Baker Center. A revised mission and new focus on policy research in the areas of Energy and the Environment, Global Security, and Leadership and Governance, was adopted, along with academic courses and additional student engagement programs. The mission of the center is to:  Provide policy makers, citizens, scholars, and students with the information and skills necessary to work effectively within our political system and to educate our local, state, national, and global communities.

Sen. Baker continued to be engaged with the Baker Center until his death on June 26, 2014. However, his leadership and support provided such a strong foundation that the Center is well situated to continue his legacy as a place for civil, bipartisan discussion of the issues affecting us all.

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