Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service established

Encouraging people to become involved in public service will be the goal of the newly established Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service at Washington University in St. Louis.

Richard A. Gephardt
Richard A. 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,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “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 (D-Mo.), 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 of political science emeritus in Arts & Sciences and former director of the Teaching Center at Washington University, has been named director of the institute. Davis also will be installed as the Robert S. Brookings Fellow.

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.

James Davis
James Davis

“Our goal is to build this institute into a valuable, non-partisan 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 as 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 until 1999, she was a public affairs manager at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She holds a bachelor of science in business administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1990.

Plans call for the Gephardt Institute to conduct programs and sponsor events aimed at helping individuals to 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.

Kristin Lappin
Kristin Lappin

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.

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 Gephardt 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 has 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, such as the Vice Chancellor for Students, and the deans of schools participating in institute programs.