While President George W. Bush entertained British Prime Minister Tony Blair in April at the Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, Baylor was entertaining an idea of its own -- to be the site for the future George Walker Bush Presidential Library Center.
In late spring, Baylor submitted initial reports about the proposal to the White House. Although there is no official timeline for submissions or selection, past sites have been decided in the third year of a president's term.
If Baylor's proposal is selected, it will bring a third presidential library to the Central Texas area, creating a tourism and research triangle among Waco, Austin and College Station. The latter two cities are home to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum and the George Bush Library and Museum, respectively.
"We estimate between 350,000 and 450,000 people a year might visit the Bush Library Center in Waco, pumping more than $200 million a year into the Central Texas economy within the first few years of the center's opening," says Dr. Thomas L. Charlton, vice provost for administration and Baylor's coordinator for the Bush center proposal.
Baylor already has established an ongoing relationship with Bush's administration and family. The University hosted the international media when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Bush at the ranch last fall. This spring, Baylor hosted former first lady Barbara Bush at its President's Forum Lecture Series and awarded her an honorary doctorate. In 1998, then-Gov. Bush and his wife, Laura, also were guests of the University, with the governor receiving an honorary doctorate and Laura Bush an Alumna Honoris Causa award for her work in literacy.
At least four other Texas universities -- Southern Methodist, Texas A&M, University of Texas-Austin and Texas Tech -- along with the city of Arlington, Texas, also have announced plans to submit proposals for the library. Neverthe-less, Baylor officials believe they have a strong case for the president to consider.
The University's proximity to President Bush's ranch, about a half hour away, and to Interstate 35, which runs adjacent to the campus, makes Baylor an attractive location for the center, Dr. Charlton says. Additionally, Baylor proposed several site options, including some near I-35 on the banks of the Brazos River. With Waco's location just two hours from College Station, tourists and scholars could visit father-son presidential libraries in one easy day trip.
Baylor's proposal includes a library, which would house Bush administration White House records, a museum containing exhibits of events from Bush's term and from terms of previous presidents, a school of public affairs and a major conference center. An optional component of the proposal is a conference hotel.
Three campus committees have been researching the project's major elements since fall 2001. They are led by faculty members Leah W. Jackson, Law School, library committee; Tommye Lou Davis, classics, museum committee; and Dr. James A. Curry, political science, school of public affairs committee.
Library and museum
The new Bush library would contain presidential papers, mementos and other items from the president's term in office. By law, these records become the property of the federal government once a president's term ends and are administered by the Office of Presidential Libraries, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration.
"A presidential library, in addition to drawing people from the public community, also draws scholars interested in presidential policy and the presidency," says Dr. Donald D. Schmeltekopf, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "It's a magnet for people ... doing research and writing."
The museum would feature displays of major events that occurred during Bush's presidency. Because of the global impact of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America, Dr. Charlton expects the museum would be of historical significance for decades to come.
School of public affairs
The proposed school of public affairs would complement Baylor's historically strong emphasis on public service and leadership and its tradition of involving undergraduate students in graduate-level work, Dr. Curry says.
"Most schools of this sort are found in public institutions. Given that we are a private institution, and especially a Christian institution that has a clearly defined mission and sense of purpose, that would be reflected in the school, as well," he says.
Once a president selects a site for his library, a foundation is established to raise money for the construction and endowment. The estimated cost of establishing the center at Baylor ranges between $90 million and $100 million, Dr. Charlton says. Typically, presidential library centers are open to the public within two years of a president's leaving office.
"We firmly believe the core values of Baylor University are very similar to the core values of the Bush administration and family ... making Baylor a highly appropriate place for the George Walker Bush Presidential Library Center," Dr. Charlton says.