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A Noble Calling

By Dr. Chuck Hermann

Founding Director, The Bush School of Government and Public Service

On September 10, 1997, Lyle Lovett ’79 gave a concert in Rudder Auditorium to cap the dedication celebrations of Texas A&M University’s new Bush School of Government and Public Service. That concert followed a two-day academic conference and formal dedication ceremony that involved President George H.W. Bush, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, university regents, officials, faculty and hundreds of enthusiastic citizens. The inaugural class of graduate students also attended—all 18 of them.

As the founding director, I was honored to lead the school during its initial years. At the time, I only dared dream that its visibility and reputation would rise so fast. Two decades later, the Bush School ranks among the nation’s top graduate professional schools of public and international affairs, while most of our top peer schools are much older. The school is one of my passions, so much so that I recently co-authored and published a book with Sally Dee Wade titled “Called to Serve: The Bush School of Government and Public Service,” which chronicles its first two decades.

The project gave me time to reflect on what makes the Bush School experience so unique, and here’s the simple answer: It has never strayed from President Bush’s philosophy that public service is a noble calling. In sum, our country and the world need talented and principled men and women who are educated to become leaders in nonprofit organizations and all levels of government. An extraordinary number of individuals and groups have embraced this vision and made contributions to its realization, including Aggie former students, friends of the president, foundations, and faculty, staff and administrators. 

Former President George H.W. Bush (center) celebrates the graduation of students from the Bush School.

Those who have invested so much in the rapid emergence of the school have been inspired by the determined, active engagement of President Bush. He and Barbara have engaged and vigorously promoted the school and its mission, from visiting classes and thanking donors to writing letters to prospective faculty and hosting meetings of the school’s board. And nowhere has President Bush’s engagement been more evident than in the visits of world leaders he has brought to College Station and into school classrooms. For example, the president and Mikhail Gorbachev once engaged in a class Q&A. Students have also participated in a panel discussion with former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl; attended a reception with the late Senator Edward Kennedy; and listened to Condoleezza Rice teach a class. Experiences like these make it abundantly clear how much President Bush cares about the school and its students.

Culture Speaks Volumes

Over the years, President and Mrs. Bush have also admired the school’s faculty and showed an immense interest in the students and their career plans. And rightly so! Bush School faculty are at the forefront of addressing critical public policy issues ranging from cost-effective public education and the successful practice of nuclear security to estimating water resources. In addition to researching policy questions, faculty also advise governments and nonprofit organizations.

Equally compelling are the public service positions that graduates fill in local and state government, nonprofit organizations and all branches of the federal government. For example, the Bush School has been remarkably successful in placing graduates in the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service and even more so in critical areas of the U.S. intelligence community. (In our book, Sally Dee Wade and I profile a sample of Bush School graduates working in the U.S. intelligence community. For security reasons, these individuals must remain anonymous, but we received permission to create a profile that combined the intelligence work of multiple graduates under the pseudonym, “Ms. Zoe Zebra.”)

Support the Bush School

You can help continue the legacy the Bush School has established in its first 20 years. With 409 graduate students and 49 full-time faculty members, the school needs student scholarships and fellowships as well as faculty fellowships, professorships and chairs. These gifts help recruit and retain outstanding students and faculty and support important research in the policy arenas.

Additionally, the school seeks support for its three institutes, which are dedicated to innovative policy-oriented research on international affairs; trade and economics; and areas of science, technology and policy analysis. An initiative is also in place to advance the startup of several centers, including a new Center for Grand Strategy of the United States, an intellectual hub for the critical re-examination of current U.S. grand strategy. With your support, graduates and faculty of the school can make public service and leading by example their life calling.

Some stats about the Bush School:

  • 12 Fulbright Scholars
  • Ranks 19th among public U.S. universities for public affairs programs, U.S. News and World Report (2016)
  • The Master of International Affairs program ranks in the top 5 of public international affairs programs, Foreign Policy magazine
  • 1st in the nation for Best Value in Master of Public Affairs Programs, Value Colleges

To support the Bush School, contact Michael Bottiglieri '88, director of development, at (979) 458-8035 or

  • Where Dreams are Built

    The feature wing of the Bush School under construction in 1996 behind Maurice East, dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and Lorraine Eden. Photo used with permission of Chuck Hermann.
  • Larger than Life

    A ceremony celebrates the opening of the Bush School and the unveiling of President Bush's bust. Photo courtesy of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Photographer: Chandler Arden.
  • Father and Son

    George W. Bush, governor of Texas, and President George H.W. Bush engage in a question-and-answer session with the first Bush School class after conclusion of the formal dedication ceremony in September 1997. Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Photographic Services. Photographer: Michael Kellett.
  • Wishing for Good Luck

    In one of the school's most unique traditions, students rub the bust of President Bush for good luck on exams. Photographer: Chandler Arden.
  • 5 Years

    The Bush School’s fifth anniversary celebration. Left to right: Chuck Hermann, Barbara Bush, President Bush and Richard Chilcoat. Photo courtesy of the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Photographer: Chandler Arden.
  • Public Service

    President and Mrs. Bush volunteer for a project of the Bush School's Public Service Organization that involved teams of students regularly reading at an early learning school in Bryan, Texas. Photo courtesy of the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Photographer: Chandler Arden.
  • A Fitting Role

    President Bush interacts in a classroom discussion with Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union from 1985-1991. Photo courtesy of the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Photographer: Chandler Arden.
  • Developing Connections

    Senator Edward Kennedy in conversation with President Bush and Bush School students. Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Graphic Art Services.
  • Meet the President

    The fishing pond between the Presidential Library and the Bush School proved a good place for casual encounters with President Bush. Photo courtesy of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Photographer: Chandler Arden.
  • Wise Words

    President Bush responds to questions in a Bush School class discussion. Photo used with permission of Lorraine Eden.
  • Skydiving

    President Bush completes a parachute jump in front of the Presidential Library. Photo used with permission of Lorraine Eden.
  • 20 Years

    President Bush views a photo book, created by Chuck Hermann, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Bush School. From left to right: Chuck Hermann, President Bush and Sally Dee Wade. Photographer: Lorraine Eden.

Of course, while academics provide the most essential experience for students at the Bush School, it’s not all work and no play. The school has an important culture—an Aggie one, yes, but also some traditions entirely its own. One of my favorites is the student custom of rubbing President Bush’s bronze bust for good luck on exams, much like the main campus tradition of leaving pennies on Sully’s boots.

For years, Bush students have also participated in an annual softball game against members of their in-state rival school, the University of Texas’ Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. For years, the winning team claimed a stuffed likeness of Texas’ small state mammal—an armadillo. While not particularly good-looking, the “Dillo Award” (now replaced by a golden victory cup) is representative of the spirit of camaraderie that our students look to cultivate not only while on the field, but also as graduates working toward a bipartisan society. By the way, Texas A&M's Bush School has won 11 of the 18 annual games.

A Storied School

Twenty years have passed and memory fades, but I like to remind people how we got here. As President Bush sought a location for his presidential library, multiple universities bid for the opportunity. Only Texas A&M administrators and faculty cleverly recognized a core interest of the president. “Place your library on our campus,” they proposed, “and we will build adjacent to it the George Bush School of Government and Public Service.”

In their proposal to President Bush, Texas A&M officials devoted as many pages to describing a school of public service as to advancing their concept for a presidential library. In his letter choosing Texas A&M, President Bush mentioned the school as the first reason for accepting their offer. Since then, he has been a vigorous and active advocate engaging faculty and students in what he characterizes as the “noble calling” of public service. Undoubtedly, that notion of serving others—as much a part of the man as the school—will remain a distinguishing component of the Bush School’s DNA as its legacy continues.

Read President Bush's Letter Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the BUsh School:

A Noble Calling: Morgan Gray's Story