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New center at law school to honor Rudman’s legacy

From left: Tom Rath, David Souter and Warren Rudman talk in an undated photo.

From left: Tom Rath, David Souter and Warren Rudman talk in an undated photo. Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

When Tom Rath remembers the late senator Warren Rudman, his friend and mentor, he describes a leader who was not afraid to be combative when tackling serious issues, and someone who believed legal training provided key tools for approaching policy problems from fresh angles.

The University of New Hampshire’s School of Law is aiming to produce young lawyers with those same skills and honor Rudman’s legacy by creating the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy. The fundraising goal stands at $10 million, which will go toward endowing a chairmanship in Rudman’s name and creating student fellowships that focus on the intersection of law and public policy, among other things. Plans for the center began in 2011, and Rudman was involved before his death in November.

“There’s a need for a center like this,” said former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey, who is raising money for the center. “America needs more people that are prepared to lead in these areas, (with) the combination of experiences and educational background that Warren had.”

Kerrey is one of a group of current and former senators who have signed on to raise money. John Broderick began brainstorming a way to honor Rudman in 2011, shortly after he became dean of the law school. Through conversations with Kerrey, Rath and others, the idea for a center encouraging law students to work in public service or policy jobs came together.

“We talked a lot about the idea of how do we get more capable young lawyers to spend some of their formative years working inside the state and local and even the federal government,” said Rath, who served with Rudman in the state attorney general’s office in the 1970s.

The center will have four main components: an endowed chairmanship in Rudman’s name that will generate scholarship on public policy; yearlong and summer fellowships for students; an annual conference on an issue of national importance; and a speaker series open to the public on policy topics such as the federal deficit. The plan is to hold the first conference this spring and award the first fellowships to students entering the law school in 2014. The center will be located within the law school’s existing campus.

Student fellows will be broken into categories, such as justice or business and entrepreneurship. Those students will receive scholarships toward their tuition and assume a one-year fellowship after graduation. Following that fellowship, they will be expected to work for three years in a government or public interest job, which could range from working in an attorney general’s or public defender’s office or with a group such as the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that promotes fiscal responsibility (Rudman was its co-founder).

Rudman granted his permission to endow a chair and fellowships in his name but was not directly involved in raising money or setting up the center.

“He was cautious about lending his name to things,” Rath said. But “when this opportunity came around, he embraced it and told his friends it was something he would like to see done.”

UNH’s law school is a great place for such a center, both Rath and Kerrey said. Its location in New Hampshire’s capital will provide opportunities for fellows in local and state government. In addition, New Hampshire’s status as the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state will help attract national attention to the center, they believe.

Both said they’d like to see the center produce a new group of leaders who share Rudman’s qualities of persistence and willingness to go against the grain. Some leadership skills aren’t teachable, but others are, such as the idea that failure and mistakes happen and good leaders find a way to get past them, Kerrey said. The country needs more leaders who tackle issues in that way, as Rudman did, he said.

“It’s not enough to have the courage required to have the idea; not enough to have the courage required to express that idea,” Kerrey said. “The most impressive courage is the courage to persevere through disappointments and setbacks.”

Kerrey first suggested the center’s full name when Broderick shared the idea with him in August 2011. Rudman signed off, and the drive to find big names to help with fundraising began.

Concord developer Steve Duprey got Arizona Sen. John McCain involved, and former Maine senator Olympia Snowe expressed interest when the law school gave her an honorary degree last year. The list of fundraisers – a mix of Republicans and Democrats – also includes former senators Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, Sam Nunn of Georgia, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, William Cohen of Maine and Phil Gramm of Texas, and Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. A handful of other people, including former Washington senator Slade Gordon and former New Hampshire House speaker Donna Sytek, have expressed interest in joining the center’s advisory board, Broderick said.

That wide net of interest is a tribute to the legacy that the Republican Rudman left in politics and policy.

“I don’t know if there’s a person in public life today that remains as widely respected by people in both parties as Senator Rudman,” Broderick said.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

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