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May 12, 2010: News, Research & Events from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update: Happy Birthday, Mr. Baker

Happy Birthday, Mr. Baker

This year marks the 80th birthday of The Honorable James A. Baker, III, and the Baker Institute celebrated his many accomplishments and public service with a beautiful gala. Nearly 700 people attended the April 24 event, which featured dinner, dancing and tributes from President George H.W. Bush and Baker Institute founding director The Honorable Edward P. Djerejian. Mr. Baker's daughter, Mary Bonner Baker Perrin, led the audience in singing "Happy Birthday" to her father.

"Barbara and I of course are pleased to be here to help salute one of our dearest friends in life on this august occasion," said President Bush, pictured above congratulating Mr. Baker at the event. "The evening is indeed a fitting manner to help fête one of the most distinguished Houstonians who has done so very much for this city, for the country and, I would say, for our world."

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, who also addressed the crowd, said that Mr. Baker has been "the greatest friend George and I have ever had. And Susan, God bless her, she’s the most wonderful person I know."

The evening was also made special by a $1 million donation to the institute by lawyer and philanthropist Joseph D. Jamail. The west wing of Baker Hall, the Baker Institute’s home, will be named in honor of Jamail and his late wife, Lee. "This important gift will soon enable us to provide much needed physical space for Baker Institute fellows, scholars and Rice students, and expand our research programs and activities across the Rice University campus," Djerejian said.

In addition to the gift, $2 million was raised for the gala, which was chaired by Isabel Lummis, Courtney Sarofim and Aliyya Stude. The Honorable Hushang Ansary and Mrs. Shahla Ansary served as honorary chairs. A special 80th birthday book retracing Mr. Baker's personal and public life, authored by Françoise Djerejian in collaboration with Rice University Director of Creative Services Jeff Cox, was presented as a gift to the donors attending the gala.

"I have been privileged, thanks to President Bush, to have met with the world's leaders, famous and and infamous," Mr. Baker said in his remarks. "But in all candor, those experiences pale in comparison to what I consider to be a couple of the most important components of a life well-lived: family and friends. I hope that all of you can appreciate how rewarding it is for me to be surrounded by family and friends who have shared with me the many peaks and valleys of my life.

"I am really one extraordinarily lucky guy."

View photos from the gala and videos of President George H.W. Bush's toast to Mr. Baker, Mr. Baker's remarks to guests at his birthday party, and Ambassador Djerejian's tribute to Mr. Baker.

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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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