PPI director search drawing to close

By Gus Bode

Recommendation making way up ladder

A recommendation for a new director of the Public Policy Institute was made last week by its Board of Counselors, bringing the institute’s search for a director one step closer to completion.

After a nine month search, John Jackson, who headed the search committee, said several levels of approval must be reached before the person’s name can be revealed.


The first approval must come from the provost and chancellor. Provost John Dunn said Chancellor Walter Wendler and he are still conversing with the lead candidate.

“Obviously we want to make sure that we are conferring appropriately,” Dunn said. “We have to make sure we have an understanding with the lead candidate.”

Although he could not give a specific time frame, Dunn said he believes it will not be long before he and Wendler send the revised recommendation to acting University President Duane Stucky. The final decision lies with the Board of Trustees, which might announce the new director in October.

The institute has been without a director since the death of former Sen. Paul Simon. Simon, who was also the institute’s founder, died in December.

Mike Lawrence, former associate director under Simon and a University instructor, has been acting as interim director since that time. He was selected as one of the four final candidates vying for the permanent position. There were 17 original applicants.

The other candidates include former ambassador Johnnie Carson, policy director for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington D.C., Richard Sims and National Security Affairs special assistant to the U.S. president, Thomas M. Newcomb.

Each of the candidates underwent two days of interviews with the Board of Counselors and other University officials. During this time, they presented their ideas for improving the institute and forwarding its mission.


Carson, the most recent interviewee, visited campus the first week of school. In his letter of intent, he said he was looking forward to beginning a new career after his time as an ambassador to three African countries.

Education of future government leaders and public officials was one on Carson’s reasons for applying, according to the letter.

Economic policy is Sims’ area of expertise. During an interview with the Daily Egyptian, he said he worked with policymakers and civic leaders in his former jobs. He said the institute was a place where the public policy process happens.

Working with intelligence agencies for much of his career, Newcomb has had experience getting people involved with issues. He told the Daily Egyptian his goal was to continue the institute’s strategy of taking action on issues, as opposed to halting with discussion.

He brought several concerns to the table in his interview, which ranged from prison-related economics in Southern Illinois to the progress since Brown v. Board of Education.

Lawrence’s main concern for the institute is continuing Paul Simon’s tradition. He gained experience in the political arena first as a journalist, then as press secretary for former Gov. Jim Edgar.

Recruited by Simon, Lawrence has been working to improve the institute since his appointment. A forum on AIDS in Africa is one of the events Lawrence has helped plan for this semester.

University Spokeswoman Sue Davis said it would be a few more weeks before the recommendation becomes official.

“We’re not ready to make any announcements yet,” she said.