By Kayla Reeves
Chet Edwards’ career sounds like a distinguished game of muscial chairs, the former statesman going from one illustrious seat to another.
Named as the W. R. Poage Distinguished Chair for Public Service, former Rep. Chet Edward’s new position includes giving the annual spring lecture for the W.R. Poage Legislative Library, aiding Baylor’s long-standing Washington Internship Program by serving as host for special events in the capitol city and helping to process the Edwards Archive, a huge catalogue of materials from his two decades of government work which will then become available for research purposes.
In addition to these duties, Edwards said he will offer lectures to large audiences but also hold small-group and one-on-one sessions with students to encourage open discussion of leadership, decision-making and other aspects of public service.
Edwards said he plans to use his government experience to encourage political conversation among the Baylor community.
As a congressman, Edwards represented Central Texas, North Texas and the Brazos Valley from 1990 to 2011.
He was the co-chair of the House Army Caucus and the vice chair of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, in addition to serving on several other committees.
While in office, Edwards wrote a $17.7 billion funding increase for veterans’ benefits, the largest ever, and played a major part enacting the 21st-century GI Bill.
During his time in Washington, Edwards received national awards from both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
He also received the T.B. Maston Christian Ethics Award and the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award from the Interfaith Alliance, among others.
Edwards will divide his time between Baylor and Washington, spending two weeks on campus per semester.
Ben Rogers, director and archivist at Poage Library, said Edwards will be a resource for anyone who wants to learn more about public service.
“Public service can be a noble venture,” Rogers said. “You can serve the public whether you’re elected or not.”
Rogers suggested that business students in particular could benefit from talking to Edwards, who attained an MBA from Harvard Business School.
In a recent press release, Edwards said he found it “a personal privilege to be able to teach and work with Baylor students, and to do so in conjunction with the university’s outstanding faculty” and he is “deeply excited about this opportunity and humbled to hold a Chair named in honor of Congressman Bob Poage, who dedicated his life in distinguished service to Baylor, Central Texas, our state and nation.”
Dr. Kevin Jackson, vice president for Student Life, said he is eager to work with such a distinguished public servant.
“When you meet Chet Edwards and engage in conversation with him, you immediately sense an individual who cares deeply for others and wants to give back,” Jackson said.
According to Jackson, the university will try to allow as many students as possible to interact with Edwards, including casual settings like the weekly Dr. Pepper Hour or other campus social events