Waggonner Center lectures to be initiated Sept. 22

Sep 3, 2009 | General News

The legacy Joe D. Waggonner, who served as a U.S. congressman for 18 years, will continue to flourish at his alma mater, Louisiana Tech, with the beginning of the Joe. D. Waggonner Center for Bipartisan Politics and Public Policy lectures.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, national political analyst Charlie Cook will be featured as a guest lecturer at 10:15 a.m. in Howard Auditorium. Charlie Cook is publisher of The Cook Political Report, political analyst for the National Journal Group, and is a political analyst for NBC News.

The event will be streamed online at

Waggonner served as the United States congressman from Louisiana’s Fourth Congressional District from 1961 to 1978. During his years of public service, Waggonner worked to create a spirit of bipartisanship in the United States House of Representatives and left behind a significant legacy due to his unique approach to public policy. Tech currently houses a collection of his papers and photographs. The papers and photographs are in the process of being digitized so they can be available for the public to view online.

“We have his congressional papers here, and we want to digitize the documents for research,” said Dr. Kenneth Rea, vice president for academic affairs. “Joe Waggonner was a great congressman and an outstanding supporter of the university. We’re very pleased to have his papers at Louisiana Tech. Our students certainly will be beneficiaries of the center.”

Rea added that the lectures are open and free for students, faculty, staff and the public to attend.

“The center is devoted to working with students and preparing them to be productive, informed and active citizens so they can preserve this great democracy we have, and bipartisanship is one of the keys to do that,” Rea said. “Charlie Cook’s lecture will introduce the Waggonner Center to the students and to the public. Charlie Cook is a well-known expert in this area.”

Bill Willoughby, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the hope of the center is to promote bipartisan policies and give students and the public a chance to learn about public policy.

“Joe Waggonner was one of the few politicians who could cross party lines and move policy along,” Willoughby said. “Those are the attitudes we want to instill in students – the restoration of bipartisan politics as well as consider issues of public policy.”

Willoughby added that he hopes the center will be able to bring in an annual lecturer every year, sponsor internships and, with time, place an endowed chair over the center.

“This is a place to focus on student learning,” he said. “If the center were to spawn another person as instrumental in public politics as Joe Waggonner, it will be worth the investment and good for Louisiana.”

Waggonner was instrumental in maintaining funding and resources for critical projects and programs in the Fourth Congressional District, including Barksdale Air Force Base, General Motors and the Interstate 49 project. His dedication to his constituency and sense of commitment to public service through a bipartisan approach to policy made him an effective national legislator.

“The Department of Social Sciences is very excited about the establishment of the Waggonner Center,” said Dr. Jason Pigg, head of the social sciences department. “I believe it is going to help provide tremendous opportunities for the development of our students, especially with its focus on civic engagement.”

In 1977, Tech inducted Waggonner into the Hall of Distinguished Alumni, the university’s highest alumni honor, and he was also listed as one of the 100 Distinguished Alumni in Tech’s First 100 Years. He continued to support the work of the university and its varied programs and athletics until his death in 2007.

“He loved Louisiana Tech,” said Tech President Dan Reneau. “You always could depend on him, and he always wanted to support us. I think it’s very appropriate that we have the Joe Waggonner Center and initiate these lectures.”

Written by Judith Roberts