Daley speech emphasizes UI's desire for Washington ties

Daley speech emphasizes UI's desire for Washington ties

As President Obama's chief of staff comes to Champaign for University of Illinois commencement, the UI is in turn stepping up its efforts in Washington.

William M. Daley will deliver the commencement address at the 140th commencement exercises on Sunday. He will speak at both the 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. campuswide ceremonies at the Assembly Hall.

Getting Daley "is a great coup for the university," UI President Michael Hogan said.

Another member of a political dynasty, UI Board of Trustees Chair Chris Kennedy, made the actual reaching out to Daley, said UI spokesman Tom Hardy.

Hogan said maintaining connections in Washington has never been more important to the UI.

"We get about $800 million externally funded," he said. "A good chunk of that is (federal) National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation grant money."

With less coming from state coffers, that money becomes even dearer.

"It's very important to sustain and nourish those funding sources," Hogan said. "We need boots on the ground."

Attorney Jonathan Pyatt heads the UI's Capitol Hill operation from an office in the Hall of States. The office was not open for two years.

Hogan said Terry McLennand, the associate director of federal relations, will be Pyatt's "utility man" in Washington and Springfield.

Hogan will meet with legislators and alumni in Washington in June.

The Washington metro area is home to more than 8,000 alumni who hail from the UI's three campuses. The Illinois Alumni Club of Greater Washington, D.C., is the largest club in the United States outside of Illinois, UI spokesman Hardy said.

There are at least 45 alumni who work on the Hill, Hardy said.

There are 25 known alumni who were appointed to the Obama administration, including Tom Lamont, an assistant secretary at the Department of Defense; Gordon Heddell, inspector general for the Department of Defense; and a handful in the White House (including a White House fellow).

Hardy said some are on national advisory councils for Obama, such as HIV/AIDS and environmental and technology policy.

Hogan said he had met Daley, the son and brother of two Chicago mayors, three or four times in Chicago before he joined Obama's team.

Interim Chancellor Robert Easter led the search for a potential commencement speaker.

Hogan said he and Easter "batted it around a little bit, and in the end we decided on Mr. Daley."

"He's well-known in Illinois and Chicagoland," Hogan said. "What we liked about him in particular, besides being a son of Illinois, is his vast experience in politics and business."

Previously, Daley served as chairman of the Midwest Region, and head of the Office of Corporate Responsibility for JPMorgan Chase & Co. He served as president of SBC Communications from 2001 to 2004.

He was the campaign chairman for Al Gore's presidential run in 2000. Before that, he served as U.S. secretary of commerce from 1997 to 2000, overseeing a department of more than 40,000 people.

He also served as special counsel to President Clinton in 1993, focusing on international trade issues.

Hogan met Obama, who has no UI connection himself, when the former was president of the University of Connecticut. UConn won the national women's basketball championship, and Hogan spoke briefly with Obama.

"I also watched him shoot baskets in the back yard," he said.


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