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The Edgar Fellows Program

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It’s been four decades, but Jim Edgar often reflects on that character-honing moment. As a young aide to W. Russell Arrington, the Senate Republican leader and most dominant force in the Illinois General Assembly, Edgar tried to comfort his distraught boss at the close of a legislative session by suggesting the impasse on a critical transportation issue actually might benefit the leader politically.

“That’s not the point, Jim,” replied Arrington. “We’re here to solve problems, and we didn’t solve the problem.”

When Edgar became Illinois’ 38th governor in 1991, he inherited what was then the largest budget deficit in the state’s history. Eight years later, he left a $1.5 billion cushion for his successor. The Republican chief executive worked with Democratic legislative majorities for six of his eight years in office to erase the deficit, balance the budget and move the state forward in education and other key areas. The downstate governor worked on a bipartisan basis with representatives and senators from every corner of Illinois – including the four legislative leaders from the Chicago metropolitan area.

Now he is sharing the lessons from his distinguished career in public service with emerging leaders from public and private sectors throughout the state. Crises in state finance and other crucial areas frequently result from crises of leadership – paralysis caused by political posturing and provincialism. Edgar’s initiative focuses on the requirements and responsibilities of leadership and governing. It emphasizes the need to forthrightly address major policy issues without permitting partisan, ethnic and regional rivalries to trump statesmanship. It is designed to influence attitudes and foster mutual understanding. It holds the promise of facilitating bipartisan and cross- regional cooperation as participants – diverse in race, gender, political persuasion and geography – assume more influential roles.

As many as 40 up-and-comers are selected annually to become Edgar Fellows. They participate in an intense five-day executive leadership-training program. Among their teachers are Governor Edgar and others who have excelled in the public arena— practitioners as well as researchers and scholars. The fellows learn about leadership skills, strategies and expectations through sessions designed to inform and inspire. In addition to the workshop, the participants are afforded opportunities to continue their education through social networking and other forms of high-tech communication. They also are invited to join sessions designed to brief them on crucial policy issues.

Edgar Fellows will bear no cost for the workshop except for transportation to and from the gathering. Click here to learn more: Frequently Asked Questions.

The Edgar Fellows Program builds upon, expands and more sharply focuses successful training programs conducted by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. It also features even greater involvement by Edgar, who has been a distinguished fellow at the institute since he left the governorship.

Nominations can be sent to:

Institute of Government and Public Affairs
University of Illinois
1007 West Nevada Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801
ATTENTION: Sue Grace Rominger

Click here for frequently asked questions.