The founding of the Baker Institute in 1993 represented the culmination of a long-standing relationship between the Baker family and Rice University. James A. Baker’s grandfather and namesake was the first chair of the Rice Board of Trustees, a post he held from 1891 to 1941. “Captain” Baker, as he was called, was also instrumental in saving the university’s endowment after a valet murdered its benefactor, William Marsh Rice, in his sleep.
Decades later, Rice would offer to create a policy think tank named after Secretary Baker, who for 12 years was one of the most powerful non-elected officials in Washington. He served as President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff and later as his secretary of the treasury, and four years as secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush. At Rice, Baker envisioned a public policy institute where “statesmen and scholars work in an atmosphere of intellectual excellence and strict nonpartisanship to develop fresh, informed approaches to policy,” while students gain valuable experience by assisting in research and participating in the dialogue, going on to be better scholars and leaders as a result.
The Baker Institute quickly became a leading voice in the nation’s policy deliberations — ranking No. 1 among the world’s top university think tanks under the leadership of founding director Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian. The institute is now led by Ambassador David M. Satterfield, who has more than four decades of diplomatic and leadership experience.
Our distinguished speakers have included every U.S. president from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama; the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela to Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev and Israel's President Shimon Peres; NASA astronaut Sally Ride to Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan, and many more.
More than 200 Baker Institute fellows, scholars and researchers study a wide range of foreign and domestic policy issues; our Center for Energy Studies consistently ranks as the world’s leading energy think tank. And students, the next generation of decision-makers, are enriched by internships in Houston, Washington, D.C., and beyond.
While the institute has come far since the groundbreaking ceremony for the stately building that is now Baker Hall, its commitment to independence, accuracy and civility remains unchanged. “We will continue to seek new opportunities to make a difference in guiding policymaking and political dialogue through trustworthy research,” Secretary Baker said.