The names of major Texas politicians are easy to find on the University of Texas at Austin campus. There’s the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, named for the ambassador, and, of course, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
The university announced on Wednesday that there will also be the William P. Clements Jr. Center on History, Strategy and Statecraft, named for the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction and the state’s longest-serving governor not named Rick Perry.
“It will be nice to add the name Bill Clements to that pantheon,” said William Inboden, the UT professor who will serve as the center’s director.
As the name suggests, the center’s research and activities will focus on diplomatic and military history and national security policy. Inboden said it would take an interdisciplinary approach.
“The university wanted it to be set up in a way that would allow it to cut across the usual silos you might find at a university,” he said.
Inboden served at the State Department and on the staff of the National Security Council under President George W. Bush before joining the faculty of the LBJ School. He is also a distinguished scholar at the Strauss Center.
In addition to serving as both the 42nd and 44th governor of Texas, Clements was a noted oil industry entrepreneur and former U.S. deputy secretary of defense. He died in May 2011 at the age of 94.
Inboden never met Clements, but knows his grandson, George Seay, chairman of the Dallas-based investment management firm Annandale Capital LLC and an active Republican donor.
After Clements' death, Inboden recalled thinking, “Here’s a guy who loved to read history, he’s a great Texan, and he had a very notable career at the Pentagon. Since I want to work on these issues, why don’t we talk to the family about setting up a center to memorialize his life and legacy?”
The family liked the idea and agreed to provide financial support for the center. Seay will serve as chairman of the new center’s board of advisers.
In a statement, Seay said his grandfather would be “humbled and honored that a leading international center named for him would be established at the leading state university of his beloved Texas to honor his legacy."
The process of making the idea a reality took about a year and a half, which in academic terms is fairly quick.
“This would not have happened without [UT President] Bill Powers,” Inboden said. “He really has put a lot of personal support into this.”
Powers issued a statement saying he believed the new center would “elevate UT Austin to be the preeminent institution in the nation for the study of history, strategy and statecraft.”
Inboden said he hoped the new center would be up and running this spring.