Richard Norton Smith, the first full director of Kansas University's Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, says the institute must raise more money if it is to keep on track.
"The critical long-term survival of that institute really depends on success in fundraising," he said. "That is an issue the university is going to have to confront."
Smith, now executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., led the Dole Institute from 2001 to 2004. He will return for the first time since his departure to lecture at the institute on Wednesday.
He will give a preview of his upcoming book about Nelson Rockefeller, "On His Own Terms." The book had been slated for 2006 publication, but Smith said it would be closer to 2008.
He will read from the book's prologue, an account of the 1964 Republican National Convention.
Smith said he looks forward to the visit and catching up with friends.
Smith oversaw the completion of the institute and its dedication on former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole's 80th birthday on July 22, 2003. When he left in 2004, Smith was vocal about his frustrations as the Dole Institute director.
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He complained about the institute's lack of proper funding and "the dead weight of academic bureaucracy."
He said at the time: "Whatever the academic temperament is, I don't have it."
But Smith appears to want to put that behind him.
"I think that's pretty much ancient history," he said.
The next stage
Smith said it wasn't that he was happy to leave the institute post, but that it was the appropriate time to move on. Bill Lacy now leads the institute.
"Bill was the perfect person to take it to the next stage of its evolution," he said.
But, he said, it's critical for the institute to strengthen its endowment and reach out to friends across the country.
Lacy said Smith considered a $25 million endowment sufficient for the long-term sustainability of the institute. Currently, the institute's endowment is $5.7 million, with an additional $700,000 in expendable private funds. Income from the endowment and the expendable funds covers programming and operations, and the university also chips in more than $500,000 for salaries, Lacy said.
University support is not as stable as an endowment.
Lacy said raising $25 million for an endowment was daunting.
"There are concerns because it is a very, very tough undertaking," he said. "It is not an easy thing to do."
Bob Dole, in a statement released by his spokesman, Michael Marshall, said: "I'm confident the Endowment Association will meet the commitment they made to me and be able to get the job done, and I'd be disappointed if they didn't."
Dole said he was happy to see Lacy in the top post.
"That's going to go a long way to help reach the goals," he said.
Still building support
Officials broke ground on the institute in 2001.
Dale Seuferling, president of KU Endowment Association, said the institute is relatively young and it takes time for the community and potential donors to form connections and make major gifts.
"There's no question these initiatives and the need for the Dole Institute are legitimate and need to be funded," he said.
Scholarships for minorities and funds for the libraries are among the many other needs the university has, he said.
"This is one of many that we work on every day," he said, adding that building support for the Dole Institute is a priority.
The Endowment Association has hired a new development director charged with building support for the institute. Shawn McDaniel starts Oct. 3.
"We're counting on them to get this new development director up to speed and to really start making some inroads with fundraising," Lacy said.
Lacy said the institute owes much gratitude to Smith for his early work opening the institute and establishing key programs.
Lacy has only made small changes to the institute's signature programs: the Dole Lecture, the Dole Leadership Prize and the Presidential Lecture Series.
For example, the lecture series initially took place over a series of Sundays in November and it featured historians. Lacy moved the series to February - the month that includes Presidents Day - and expanded the lineup to include other contributors to the political scene.
Lacy said the ultimate goal was to turn the institute into a prestigious venue, like the Harvard University Institute of Politics, where public leaders want to visit.
"We've taken the first step," said Lacy, who started last September. "It's the step that we had to take in the first year."
- Staff writer Sophia Maines can be reached at 832-7155.