The Baker Institute dedicated the Lee and Joseph D. Jamail West Wing of Baker Hall on Tuesday evening, Jan. 18, at a ceremony marked by gratitude and good memories.
"It is a particular honor for me to know that the names of Lee and Joe Jamail will be a permanent fixture right next to mine here in Baker Hall," said James A. Baker, III, the institute's namesake and honorary chair. "Now each time I look at its west wing, I will be reminded of how blessed I am to have such a friend as you, Joe."
A $1 million gift from the legendary Texas lawyer, donated in honor of Baker's 80th birthday, will enable the institute to expand into an area currently occupied by another Rice University department. As a result, "our research and policy programs will be enhanced," said Baker Institute founding director Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian. "We'll be able to hire new fellows, open new workspaces for graduate students and Rice student interns, and take our existing policy research programs to new heights. We are profoundly grateful for (Jamail's) generous support over many years."
Jamail said he never expected the institute to name a wing after him and his late wife, Lee. "It's a great honor for me, and I know for Lee, to have our names associated with Rice University and the Baker Institute, and with Jimmy and Susan Baker," he said. "You've made me and my family very proud, and I know Lee would be proud of this honor."
Baker noted that although he is a Republican and Jamail is a Democrat -- and neither has "shied away from brass-knuckle partisan political scrapes" -- theirs is a decades-long friendship. Both were born and raised in Houston, served at different times in the U.S. Marine Corps, attended The University of Texas Law School and carpooled their children to and from the Kinkaid School, Baker said. When Jamail represented Pennzoil in a landmark lawsuit against Texaco, he teamed up with lawyers from Baker Botts.
"There are few people on this good Earth with whom I feel more comfortable than Joe Jamail," Baker said. "I'm sure that's one of the main reasons, if not perhaps the main reason, that we're naming the west wing for Lee and Joe Jamail. Joe is a man of crisp intellect, a terrific lawyer, a man of unfettered passions and unlimited energy. Sharing a drink and a good conversation with Joe is as close to good as it ever gets to me."