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KNOXVILLE — A search has been launched for the director of a University of Tennessee center that will continue the public policy ideas of Sen. Howard H. Baker.

Emerson Fly, acting UT president, said it is hoped a director of the Baker Center for Public Policy will be named by July. Baker, a 1949 UT law graduate, is U.S. Ambassador to Japan. He is a former Senate Majority Leader and served as chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan.

“The search for the director of the Baker Center in a sense signals its official start,” Fly said. “We are honored to have the center here and to be the repository for the official papers of one of America’s most distinguished and respected public servants.”

The center will explore the role of the media in the political process, the structure of the American electoral system and the importance of public involvement in governing. It will have a special emphasis on introducing college and high school students to the responsibilities and rewards of public service.

Last August Congress approved a $6 million Post Secondary Education grant to assist in establishing the center. UT will seek other funds for the center’s endowment and for renovation of space on campus to house it.

Tennesseans currently serving in Congress say it is appropriate that Baker’s leadership skills and contributions to public service be studied and copied.

“A Volunteer through and through, Howard Baker has devoted much of his life to serving Tennessee and our nation,” Sen. Fred Thompson said. “The Baker Center director will be critical to the development of programs that promote an appreciation of public service and inspire future generations of leaders like Howard Baker, whose life has impacted so many so greatly.”

Sen. Bill Frist said, “Howard Baker is one of Tennessee-s most distinguished public servants. UT-s efforts to select a director for the Baker Center brings us closer to having a fully operational forum where students and scholars alike can explore the role public policy has played in our nation-s history. This is a fitting tribute to Mr. Baker, and I-m pleased to see it move forward.”

Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. said he hopes the center can help develop leaders like Sen. Baker.

“In my opinion, Sen. Baker is our greatest living Tennessean, and he has set a really outstanding example for everyone in public life today,” Duncan said.

“It is putting it lightly to say that he served, and continues to serve, our state and nation with great honor and distinction. It is my hope that this new Center will produce future leaders in the mold of Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr.”

Rep. Van Hilleary, who represents Baker’s hometown of Huntsville, Tenn., said the senator has inspired many people to enter politics.

“Sen. Baker was an inspiration for me when I first ran for Congress. Because of his integrity and his hard work on behalf of the people of Tennessee, he is a role model for many of us in public service. I am excited about the future of the Baker Center and believe it will make an invaluable contribution to our state and nation by teaching thousands of young students that we all have a duty to be involved and that there is honor in public service.”

The director will report to the center’s board of directors and work with the faculty and student advisory committee to provide administrative, professional and academic leadership. The individual hired will be expected to have experience in public life and/or an advanced degree in public affairs, political science, law, history or other related field.