The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University is turning 20 this year. Because the Baker Institute has become such an important part of the world of think tanks, not to mention part of the fabric of Houston life, it’s hard to imagine a time without it.
Picture this: March of 1993, the city was still reeling from "The Comeback," the Jan. 3 game where the Houston Oilers lost a 32-point lead to the Buffalo Bills to give the New York team the largest comeback in NFL history. The average high temperature that month was 71.9 degrees and Reba McEntire had packed the Astrodome on March 1. The Arc Angels were getting ready to play the Tower Theater, because it was still a theater and not a Tex-Mex palace.
The Institute has brought such notables as Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Henry Kissinger, Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice to speak to Houston audiences.
And on March 31, 1993, James A. Baker, III, gave an address at Rice University that included these words: “Together, I believe we can build the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy into a nationally recognized center, one that will draw statesmen, scholars, and students from around the world to its innovative and integrated activities. My vision for the institute is simple: To build a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action.”
And that’s exactly what has happened over the past two decades. Bridging the gap between theory and practice of public policy by drawing together experts from academic, government, media, business and nongovernmental organizations, the Institute has brought such notables as President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Henry Kissinger, Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright to speak to Houston audiences.
Located on the west side of the Rice University campus, Baker Hall was dedicated in 1997, giving the Institute a permanent home and a lasting presence. The striking building draws its inspiration from the original campus structures by Cram Goodhue and Ferguson and William Ward Watkin.
But there are so many other milestones for the Institute to celebrate this year. See a timeline with photos below.
Future articles in this series will cover special events for the 20th anniversary celebration.