With his first major lecture series complete, the director of the Dole Institute of Politics has his sights set on the future.
Richard Norton Smith, director of the new Kansas University-based institute, said reaction to the Presidential Lecture Series, with speeches by well-known historians, proved there was a niche for such programs.
"I was very pleased, qualitatively and quantitatively - by just about every measurement possible," he said. "It was more success than we could have wished."
Smith plans to make the Presidential Lecture Series an annual event, and already has selected the first speaker. Robert Caro, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York" and several books on Lyndon Johnson, will kick off the series.
Smith is considering a panel discussion of former White House press secretaries. He's even hoping former presidents will lecture.
This year's inaugural event featured three historians. Edmund Morris and Michael Beschloss each drew about 1,800 people, and David McCullough drew about 2,000 people, Smith said.
"It was pleasantly surprising," he said. "There were people from Garden City, Salina, Wichita, Emporia - literally all over the state. That tends to confirm my hunch there's a statewide audience for these kinds of programs."
Dole Institute officials also are planning two spring events - a leadership prize and a lecture. Those details haven't been finalized.
Smith is focusing on finishing exhibits for the Dole Institute building under construction on West Campus. It is set to be completed this spring, with dedication July 22, 2002 - former Sen. Bob Dole's 80th birthday.
Smith is planning a three-day dedication event focusing on Dole's World War II generation.