INDIANAPOLIS - As his 36-year U.S. Senate career reaches its close, Richard Lugar is joining the University of Indianapolis faculty to launch an internship program for students in Washington, D.C.
The school announced the new program on Friday, which university president Robert Manuel said will be called the Richard G. Lugar Academy. It will add an office and a full-time staff member in the nation’s capital.
For Lugar, whose annual symposium on the university’s campus draws hundreds of students, including those from at least 79 counties who will be there this weekend, the move means he will lecture at the university and also play a key role in launching the new internship program.
“It’s difficult to imagine another individual with such a wealth of experience and such a willingness to share it with young people,” Manuel said. “With his help, we can provide an unparalleled opportunity for students pursuing careers in public service.”
The six-term senator is lining up new work because his re-election bid was stopped by Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in Indiana’s May 8 primary. Mourdock then lost the Senate race to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly in November.
The university is a natural fit for Lugar, whose interns for years have heralded his willingness to spend time getting to know them and serving as a mentor – and later, a boss, since he hired many of them onto his Senate staff.
Lugar’s connection with the University of Indianapolis dates back to 1970, when he joined its board of trustees while serving as mayor of Indianapolis. In 1976, as he campaigned for the U.S. Senate, Lugar taught political science there.
He remained on the university’s board of trustees until 2002, when he retired with the designation of “Distinguished Trustee.”
Lugar said he views the new program as an opportunity to continue mentoring future leaders, and also working on what he views as key issues – especially world hunger and security matters such as his signature issue, nuclear disarmament.
“I really love the Senate and I thoroughly enjoyed each of the years that were tremendously valuable in terms of new friends, new challenges in this country and this part of the world,” Lugar said.
But remaining in the office he’s held since 1976 “was not to be, and I understand that. Now we have new opportunities. We’re going to work creatively as possible to further ideas I have found important for many years.”
It’s one of the first post-Senate moves that Lugar has announced. He said the University of Indianapolis will partner with Georgetown University in Washington on the program, and that a new initiative with Indiana University is also in the works.
“We will try to introduce them to people in Washington, D.C. as well as to problems,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lugar has also indicated that he intends to work with the German Marshall Fund in the United States. It’s a public policy and grant-making institution founded in 1972 through a gift from Germany as a memorial to Marshall Plan assistance.
Lugar’s approach to politics is a departure from many other senators who complain about the institution’s slowness and its partisan makeup. He said he was surprised to learn this week that Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina was quitting to lead the Heritage Foundation.
“As opposed to the consternation of my colleagues, I really liked the Senate,” Lugar said.
He was honored this week by President Barack Obama for his work alongside former Democratic U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia on a major nuclear disarmament program. Obama said Lugar “took me in as a pupil” on issues of national security.
The president said Lugar took him on his first foreign trip, to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
“The first thing I learned is that when Dick Lugar travels overseas, it's not a junket. We didn't stop and look at a lot of beautiful sights and sort of lounge around on some shopping excursions. He wore out every 25-year-old staffer that was part of this delegation,” Obama said.
“What you also learn is that Dick Lugar -- the more remote the place is and the more obscure the facility is, the bigger a rock star Dick Lugar is.”
Lugar said because of Senate ethics rules, he can’t announce new jobs in the business world until after Jan. 3, his final day in office.
His University of Indianapolis program was announced at a news conference on the university’s campus that was attended by its full political science department, as well as a number of students and staffers there.
“I’ve been excited about things to do next,” Lugar said, “because of wonderful opportunities like this one.”