TERRE HAUTE —
A who’s who of Indiana Democrats paid tribute to Evan Bayh and several generations of the Bayh family Friday during a dedication of a new interactive display at Indiana State University.
The Bayh Family Legacy Wall chronicles four generations of the west-central Indiana family whose connections with ISU go back more than 100 years. “I’m very humbled by this and my entire family is,” said Evan Bayh, former Indiana governor and U.S. senator, who represented his family at the event.
The Legacy Wall is located in the Bayh College of Education. About 250 people attended the dedication.
The accomplishments of the Bayh family in education, public policy and service “are indeed significant,” said Brad Balch, dean of the College of Education.
The Bayh family has had a significant impact on education for ISU, the state and nation, said ISU president Dan Bradley. “ISU is so proud to be forever part of the Bayh family legacy,” he said.
Bob Baesler, representing the ISU board of trustees, noted that ISU has about 1,200 21st Century Scholars, more than any other university in Indiana. Evan Bayh cites the program, created while he was governor, as his proudest education-related achievement.
The 21st Century Scholars Program began in 1990 as Indiana’s way of raising the educational aspirations of low- and moderate-income families. It aims to ensure that all Indiana families can afford a college education for their children.
Bayh pointed to the passage of Title IX as his father’s most significant education-related legacy. His father, former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, could not attend the dedication for health reasons.
“He very much regrets he couldn’t be here,” Evan Bayh told the audience in the University Hall auditorium. “He’s with us in spirit and he wanted me to give you his heartfelt thank you and regards to each and every one of you.”
The display features a timeline that chronicles the Bayh family’s ties to Indiana State as well as significant accomplishments in public service. It notes the Indiana General Assembly’s 1958 passage of school consolidation legislation Birch Bayh authored as a state lawmaker, and the launch of the 21st Century Scholars program during Evan Bayh’s tenure as governor.
Kate Ward, former Sen. Birch Bayh’s grandmother, attended Indiana State Normal School as did her daughter, Leah Ward Hollingsworth, who was Birch Bayh’s mother. The former senator’s father, Birch Bayh Sr., served as the school’s first athletic director and as a coach for multiple sports while Birch Bayh and his wife, Marvella, both attended Indiana State Teachers College in the 1950s.
A series of videos includes features on Birch and Marvella Bayh’s marriage, Birch Bayh meeting with Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter and jogging with female runners to commemorate the passage of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972. That’s a measure he authored that has led to greater opportunities for women in professional and graduate degree programs and in athletics.
There are also videos from Evan Bayh’s time as governor and senator.
Evan Bayh said that education has been a priority for the family because “it’s the best ticket to a better life, particularly for kids who come from less fortunate backgrounds.”
As he reflects back on his life, he recognizes “the things that are truly special are the moments you’ve been able to lift other people up.”
He shared a story in which he spoke at a dinner in Indiana a few years ago, and recalled there was a man in a wheelchair who wanted to have his picture taken with him. The man was missing both legs and one arm.
The man had a big smile, and they each put an arm around each other. The man was an IUPUI student and told Bayh, “I’m a 21st Century Scholar.”
Despite the man’s obstacles, the program was helping him fulfill his potential and make the most of his life. “At the end of the day, isn’t that what a decent, compassionate and just society ought to be all about?” Bayh said.
After the dedication, when asked if he plans a return to public office at any point, Bayh responded, “It’s impossible to predict the future.”
While he has no current plans to do so, “I do love public service, so in some capacity I suspect I’ll try to get back to devoting myself to that — but what form that will take I have no idea.”
He also noted there are ways to serve the public other than running for elective office.
Installation of the Bayh Family Legacy Wall was made possible by donations from more than 70 individuals and organizations, including a lead gift from the Herbert Simon Family Foundation.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.