After 10 years on campus, the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy had cause to celebrate, even if its namesake could not attend the party.
Wednesday, a collection of students and faculty held a 10th anniversary celebration of the Baker Center, a building which serves as both a testament to one of UT's most distinguished alumni and a think tank for its current students.
Former Sen. Baker could not be in attendance, instead sending Fred Marcum, his assistant, to make an appearance. Marcum also snagged some chocolate cake – Baker's favorite dessert – for the Senator.
Despite Baker's absence, Baker Center Director Matt Murray said the Center embodies the former senator's innate sense of honor in politics.
"Sen. Baker is known as the 'Great Conciliator' who was very much a gentleman in all his dealings," Murray said. "He was able to work with Democrats in a constructive way to help solve the nation's problems.
"Today, if you look at Washington, if you look at Congress ... you find all the wrong language and tone in political discourse."
Looking around the Baker Center, memorabilia and relics from Baker's 49 years in public office demand attention.
Hannah Bailey, a senior in political science and one of UT's Baker Scholars, said that this legacy continues to influence the building's agenda.
"The programming that goes on in this Center is almost always focused on civility and bipartisanship," she said, "and if you look back at Baker's times, you see that's really what his trademark was."
She emphasized the Baker Center's untapped potential, which can only be nurtured by more student involvement.
Bill Park, the director of undergraduate programs at the Baker Center, echoed Bailey's sentiment.
"Our objective with the undergraduate programs," Park said, "is to provide an intellectually challenging and rich experience for students who are interested in public policy as a part of their academic program here at UT."
Those students are encouraged to contribute to the Baker Center's unique mission of political integrity; photographs of Baker and former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton decorate the walls.
As the Baker Center's director, Murray said that its purpose is continually evolving, enveloping student engagement as well as archival research.
"I think [the Baker Center] will grow slowly, and incrementally, and my dream would be that in 10 more years, we are a nationally recognized center for public policy," Murray said as the celebration drew to a close. "When there are issues related to global nuclear security, related to energy policy, environmental policy ... when you turn on the national news, I would like to see a representative of the Baker Center testifying before Congress."