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KNOXVILLE — Vice President Dick Cheney was among Senator Howard Baker’s special guests at Tuesday’s groundbreaking for the University of Tennessee’s Howard Baker Center for Public Policy building.

Vice President Dick Cheney participates in the groundbreaking for the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy.

The occasion also marked the 80th birthday for Baker, an East Tennessee native and longtime public servant. UT President John Petersen emceed the event, which concluded with a ceremonial shoveling to mark the beginning of construction of the $15 million building. The Baker Center’s 53,000-square foot facility will be located at the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Melrose Place.

Vice President Cheney, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and U.S. Rep. John Duncan spoke during the program. Cheney and Sen. Baker have known each other throughout their more than 30 years of public service.

Cheney said the Baker Center is a fitting tribute to its namesake.

“The Baker Center is an institution of academic excellence and public programs on vital issues of the day, and it’s a place where students can gain special insight into the workings of our political system,” Cheney said. “It’s more than fitting that such a center be named for a great son of Tennessee, because all who look for the best qualities in that system, and for the highest standards of integrity and public service, will find it in the life of Howard Henry Baker Jr.”

“For more than 40 years, Sen. Baker has led an exemplary career in public service that has touched the lives of so many around the world,” said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy. “We are honored to celebrate his birthday in this manner and to begin construction on what will always be a living tribute to his life and his values.”

The new facility will include a museum that will tell the story of Baker’s life, explore modern Tennessee politics and engage students in interactive civic instruction. The building also will house a 200-seat auditorium with Rotunda for programs and classrooms and break out rooms for instruction and conferences. The building will contain the modern political archives collection as well as a research room for students and scholars.

Construction is expected to take at least two years.

Founded in 2003, the Baker Center works to create a better understanding of government and foster a greater appreciation for the vital importance of public service. Since it its inception, the Center has engaged thousands of students, teachers and community members in public programs and educational initiatives on topics including energy policy, clean air, the Constitution, presidential history, civic engagement and careers in government.

In cooperation with Special Collections of the UT Libraries, the Center established the Modern Political Archives. Plans are underway to establish fellowships in energy policy and legislative decision-making.

“We are incredibly grateful to the many individuals and companies that have chosen to honor Sen. Baker by making a contribution that will allow for this state of the art facility,” said Lowe. “A dedicated building of this caliber will allow us to further our goals and truly accomplish our mission of outreach and education.”

A UT College of Law graduate, Baker is one of the nation’s most respected statesmen. He served three terms as a U.S. senator from Tennessee (1967-1985) and was the first Republican popularly elected to that position. He was vice chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee. He served as Senate Minority Leader from 1977 to 1981 and as majority leader from 1981 until he retired in 1985.

Baker also served as President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff from 1987 to 1988. He went on to serve as Ambassador to Japan from 2001 to 2005.

For more information, please call (865) 974-0158 or visit http://www.tennessee.edu

Alan Lowe (865-974-0931)
Karen Collins (865-974-5186 or 216-6862)