Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service established

Encouraging people to become involved in public service is the goal of the newly established Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service at the University.

Richard Gephardt
Richard Gephardt

“The Gephardt Institute will inspire people, especially students and older citizens, to become more involved in serving society and building a more engaged citizenry,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “Commitment to public service by talented and creative people contributes to the advance of society.”

The institute is named in honor of Richard A. Gephardt, who stepped down in 2004 after serving nearly 30 years as U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 3rd District. A two-time presidential candidate, Gephardt has served as both majority and minority leader for Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This institute will endeavor to focus all the enormous capabilities of Washington University on the task of inspiring young and older citizens to the noble and needed work of public service,” Gephardt said. “St. Louis, America and the world need gifted public citizens as never before, and I know the institute will succeed in motivating and matching many of them to the challenges ahead.”

James W. Davis, Ph.D., professor emeritus of political science in Arts & Sciences and former director of the Teaching Center, has been named director of the institute. Davis will also be installed as the Robert S. Brookings Fellow.

James Davis
James Davis

A member of the faculty since 1968, Davis teaches and writes on American policy and public policy, with special focus on the presidency and national security policy. He has taught politics in the schools of business, engineering and social work, and has held numerous University administrative positions, including several years as vice chancellor.

“Our goal is to build this institute into a valuable, nonpartisan resource for the entire campus, one that will make important contributions to the St. Louis community and to the wider world of public service,” Davis said. “We look forward to working with University schools, programs and faculty, many of whom already are doing important work in such areas as volunteerism, pro bono legal work and community health clinics.”

The Gephardt Institute will be housed temporarily in the Women’s Building, before moving soon to Eliot Hall.

Kristin Lappin, a former congressional liaison in Gephardt’s office, has been named the institute’s assistant director. Lappin began working with the Gephardt in Congress Committee in 1990 and held various positions with his office through 2004. From 1997-99, she was a public affairs manager at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri in 1990.

Plans call for the Gephardt Institute to conduct programs and sponsor events aimed at helping individuals address important issues in communities and nations around the world. It will take an active role in public service activities, including efforts to recruit, train and enhance the contributions of volunteers and career public service professionals.

Programs may include the planning and coordination of community service programs, public affairs conferences, special lectures and internship programs. Internships in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere will be developed by the Gephardt Institute to provide practical experiences for students interested in public service.

Kristin Lappin
Kristin Lappin

The Gephardt Institute will work with University academic leaders to coordinate new and existing course offerings and other learning opportunities with the goal of enhancing the preparation of students for careers and lives of public service. As resources grow, the institute will pursue scholarly work designed to increase understanding of public issues and of the importance of public service and civic participation.

The institute is being started with the help of donations from the hundreds of people who turned out Dec. 9 for a dinner honoring Gephardt’s many contributions over a long career in public service. More than $1.1 million was raised at the event, which attracted a roster of prominent business leaders and politicians.

The Gephardt Institute received $400,000 from the event, with the remainder going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health.

The University is in the process of forming an advisory board for the institute, and Gephardt will serve as its chair.

Davis will head the institute’s steering committee, which will include various University administrators and the deans of schools participating in institute programs.