The History of the Baker Institute
In 1993, James A. Baker, III, gave a speech at Rice University that laid out the mission of the Baker Institute. Above, Baker and E. William Barnett, now chair of the Baker Institute Board of Advisers, cut the ribbon at the Oct. 15, 1997, Baker Hall building dedication ceremony.
On June 2, 1992, Richard J. Stoll, director for the Center for the Study of Institutions and Values and a professor of political science, sent a memo to then Rice University president George Rupp.
In this memo, Stoll suggested that Rice approach Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, to approve the concept and establishment of a “James Baker Institute.” Rupp responded favorably to Stoll’s memo, and thus the Baker Institute was born.
On March 31, 1993, Baker gave a speech at Rice in which he accepted the university’s offer of an institute in his honor. In this speech, titled “Ideas Into Action," he charged the Baker Institute to “draw together statesmen, scholars and students ... and ... build a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action.” These founding words were later used as building stones in the external architecture of the building.
Between 1993 and 1994, the Baker Institute was coordinated by John Rogers, former under-secretary for management at the Department of State. In August 1994, Rice appointed a founding director for the institute: distinguished diplomat Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian. Djerejian continues to serve in the post of founding director.
On Oct. 20, 1994, ground was broken on the Baker Hall building site. Four U.S. presidents participated in the ceremony (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush), setting the bipartisan tone that Baker had mandated from the institute’s beginning. More information on the institute’s groundbreaking ceremony can be found in the inaugural Baker Institute Report. This was a major step forward for the institute. As Djerejian noted, “The building itself symbolizes, in both form and function, the integrative nature of the Baker Institute. Within its walls the faculty and students of Rice University will interact with visiting scholars and practitioners to address the major issues our nation faces in the future.”
Stoll was selected as the first associate director for academic programs in 1995. In January 2001, he resigned from that position to take on more responsibility as Rice’s associate dean of social sciences. The current associate director is Allen Matusow.
In October 2003, the Baker Institute celebrated its 10th anniversary with a gala on Jamail Plaza. The gala featured Vice President Richard Cheney as the guest of honor. More than 700 people turned out to raise their glasses in tribute to the occasion.
In 2006, the institute celebrated Secretary Baker’s 75th birthday year with the “7.5 Million for the 75th” fundraising campaign in recognition of both Baker's career achievements and his longstanding commitment to the institute. The purpose of the campaign was to help fund existing research programs at the Baker Institute and to attract new funding for several new programs and projects. The event, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Secretary,” was held at the institute and raised more than $4.5 million to support ongoing public policy research. Tributes to Baker were given by former President George H.W. Bush, Ambassador Djerejian, longtime friend and event chair Mrs. Ford Hubbard, Jr., and members of the Baker family. In addition to the $4.5 million in proceeds from the birthday event, the Baker Institute raised almost $3.5 million to exceed its $7.5 million fundraising goal for the 2005 campaign.