HELENA - The Mike and Maureen Mansfield Center at the University of Montana is undertaking a public service and leadership initiative that will sponsor some public service scholarships and lectures in honor of former nine-term U.S. Rep. Pat Williams.
These and some UM courses and seminars are being paid for by federal grants totaling $438,000 for 2009 and 2010 obtained by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., members of their chambers' respective appropriations committees.
A 1983 congressional act established an endowment to provide funding for the creation of the Mansfield Center in honor of Mike Mansfield, the long-time U.S. Senate majority leader from Montana and ambassador to Japan, and his wife, Maureen. The Mansfield Center was to study and teach about two topics: Eastern Asian affairs and public service.
While the center has done an admirable job with the first mandate, the new federal appropriations will allow it to do more with the second one through a public service and leadership initiative.
It will seek to foster interest and promote dialogue on public service and stresses the importance of civic leadership in society through supporting scholarships, college courses, internships, research projects and community lectures, UM said.
UM President George Dennison said the university will launch some public service scholarship and upcoming lectures in honor of Williams, a Democrat who represented Montana in Congress from 1979-97. Williams worked with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to sponsor the federal legislation for the endowment.
Williams has taught at UM for 14 years and is an emeritus senior fellow of the UM Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West.
"Pat Williams provided valuable assistance during the establishment of the Mansfield Center, and he also chaired the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee in Congress," Dennison said. "With his many years of public service, he embodies the ideals of civic engagement, and the university is pleased to honor him in this way."
The university will award the Pat Williams scholarships on a competitive basis to UM students pursuing internships and research related to public service in education, the environment, Native American issues, health care and the arts.
"I, of course, am more than pleased that President Dennison would take this step," Williams said. "I'm particularly pleased because it was my legislation in the House that created the Mansfield Center in the beginning. I've always honored the work the center had done internationally, but was disappointed they hadn't fulfilled the other initiative, and that was domestic public policy."
He applauded Tester and Rehberg for securing the appropriation.
"Many of us are frustrated by the current state of public affairs," said Terry Weidner, Mansfield Center director. "By engaging citizens in a balanced discussion, we hope both our citizens and our leadership will be become better informed and open to compromise. It is not our intent to impose any solutions. Rather, we want to foster debate around key public policy issues as a way of helping local voices direct debate toward concrete action."
This initiative will bring former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., to Missoula Friday to speak to some communications, journalism and law classes and speak to a local civic group.
Last year, the initiative supported 27 UM student scholarships totaling nearly $27,000, six courses in environmental studies, journalism and political science, two environmental law internships, one public lecture and community conversations in three cities.
Besides the scholarships this year, the initiative is paying for a public leadership seminar being taught by Missoula Mayor John Engen. It will also pay for five UM classes, a Mansfield Center global seminar for top Missoula high school students and their teachers and "Congress to Campus" visits in two former members of Congress, a Democratic and Republican, will come to UM and deliver lectures annually.