About the Program
It’s been five 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 in-person program, 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.
“I represent Central Illinois. However, I think those who elect me want me to understand the complexity of our entire state, not just where I’m from. The opportunity the Edgar Fellows program has provided me is to learn and build some of those relationships that will be helpful for me in serving my district.” -Jason Barickman, State Senator
“The program was unique in that it provided unparalleled access to leaders who are shaping public policy in our state and nation today. In a very short time, our class formed a strong camaraderie and professional relationships that I believe will last our lifetimes.” -Anna Bicanic Moeller, State Representative
“The Edgar Fellows program was a great forum to meet and develop relationships with other young leaders from different backgrounds and political persuasions. You learn that even though others may have differing perspectives, they are good people who only want the best for Illinois.” -Mike Marron, State Representative
“The Edgar Fellows program was phenomenal. I left inspired and ready to help organize Illinois for improvement!” -Teresa Ramos, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, Illinois Action for Children
“I appreciate the care in selecting speakers and curriculum. It was Illinois government and politics on steroids.” -Genita C. Robinson, Former Executive Director, Lawyers-Lend-A-Hand to Youth
“The Edgar Fellows program offers the perfect mix of pragmatic policy, bipartisan cooperation and aspirational leadership. The program offered a deeper understanding of the state’s problems, are newed hope for solutions and a reminder of both the incredible history and vast potential of our great state.” -Dr. Pat Basu, Partner, Chicago Pacific Founders Private Equity and former White House Fellow
“The Edgar Fellows is the most impactful leadership program I have participated in. It is a transformational and serious effort to foster real bipartisanship.” -Josina Morita, Commissioner, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
"I loved every part of the Edgar Fellows Program. I met people from all over the state and with different backgrounds, and we have become friends and helpful resources to each other. The program truly teaches you the value of compromise, civility and compassion in our politics." -Emanuel "Chris" Welch, Speaker, Illinois House of Representatives.
Alexander Lerner (Chair)
CEO, Illinois State Medical Society
President, Metropolitan Planning Council
Government Policy Advisor, Dykema Law Offices
Director, Hanson Professional Services and former Illinois Secretary of Transportation
Chief of Staff, White House Office of Management and Budget
Vice President, Operations, State Farm
Miguel del Valle
Former State Senator and Chicago City Clerk
President & CEO, Illinois Manufacturers Association
Retired Partner in the Mayer Brown LLP Law Firm
Director, Government Affairs, John Deere
Legislative Director, Environmental Law and Policy Center
Retired partner at Hendren Taylor Consulting, who was the chief of staff for the Illinois Senate Republicans
Partner, Turing Strategies
Former Director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU, who was the press secretary and senior policy adviser to Governor Jim Edgar
Honorable Lisa Madigan
Partner, Kirkland & Ellis law firm; Former Attorney General, State of Illinois
Janet M. Mathis
Executive Director, Edgar Fellows Program
Executive Vice President and President, Government Business Division, Anthem, Inc., and former Director, Illinois Department of Health and Family Services
Howard A. Peters III
HAP Incorporated, who was the first Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services
Chief Strategy Officer, Globetrotters Engineering Corporation
Executive Director, Latino Policy Forum
Independent Consultant on Regional Projects, and Former Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority
Chairman and Founder, Hawthorne Strategy Group
President, Advance Illinois and Board Chair, Steans Family Foundation
Managing Principal, Systima Capital Management
Leadership and Staff
Governor Jim Edgar
As the 38th Governor of Illinois, Jim Edgar inherited what was then the largest deficit in the state's history. He made hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts. He found ways to deliver services more efficiently and effectively, reducing the state workforce by 2,500 employees. He eliminated a backlog of $1 billion of unpaid health care bills. He provided income tax relief and left an unprecedented $1.5 billion in the treasury for his successor. Governor Edgar also reformed welfare through innovative initiatives to move recipients from dependence to independence. He saved homeowners billions of dollars by proposing and winning legislative approval for caps on property taxes. He fought for––and won––legislation to assure an adequate funding level for each and every school child in Illinois. He and First Lady Brenda Edgar won national recognition for their adoption initiative that took Illinois from the bottom to the top among states in placing children in loving homes. Edgar was elected governor in 1990 and re-elected by the widest plurality any incumbent Illinois governor has received, carrying 101 of the state's 102 counties, including Cook. His announcement that he would not seek a third-term surprised the Illinois media and political insiders who cited poll numbers that indicated he had earned the highest approval rating of any Illinois chief executive and was in a strong position to win again. As he was leaving office, the Chicago Tribune stated that Governor Edgar’s “instincts and motives were as sound as those of any governor the state has had.” Edgar's stewardship capped three decades of public service. He distinguished himself as a key aide to government leaders, a member of the General Assembly and as Secretary of State, where he led a crackdown on drunk drivers, won approval for a law requiring lllinois motorists to carry insurance. After retiring from elective office, Governor Edgar was a resident fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He has continued his commitment to responsible and responsive government as a distinguished fellow at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs. He spearheads the Edgar Fellow program, which brings together emerging leaders from all parts of Illinois to foster the statesmanship that will address major challenges across regional, partisan and ethnic lines. Governor Edgar also lectures to students at the U of I and in colleges and universities throughout the state and serves on several corporate and non-profit boards. He is president emeritus of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.
Janet M. Mathis
Executive Director, Edgar Fellows Program
Sue Grace Rominger
Coordinator of Edgar Fellows Program
Associate Director, University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs
Sue Grace Rominger
Edgar Fellows Program
Institute of Government and Public Affairs
1007 W. Nevada St.
Urbana, IL 61801
Edgar Fellows have the potential to help lead Illinois in the crucial decades ahead. As part of this initiative, they learn about leadership skills, strategies and expectations through interactive sessions designed to inform and inspire. Among their teachers are former Governor Jim Edgar and others who have excelled in the public arena, as well as researchers and scholars. In addition to the executive leadership-training program, Fellows learn as much from each other as they do through the formal classes. Fellows have opportunities to continue their education through social networking and peer mentoring. Fellows also are invited to join sessions throughout the year designed to brief them on crucial policy issues.
Who should be nominated for an Edgar Fellowship?
Residents of Illinois who have demonstrated the desire and capability to make a positive difference in their communities and the state are eligible. We are seeking a group from the public, civic, nonprofit and private sectors that reflects the great diversity of our state. Candidates must be able to work well with the other class participants in an intensive five-day training program, which they are required to attend. The initiative generally targets emerging leaders under the age of 40, but there is no rigid age requirement.
What are the features of an Edgar Fellows class?
As many as 40 up-and-comers are selected annually to become Edgar Fellows. They include leaders from state and local government, community groups, civic organizations and the private sector. Each class includes fellows from Chicago, the suburbs and downstate Illinois and reflects the gender, racial, political, and geographic diversity of Illinois.
The Edgar Fellows Program focuses on developing leadership and governing capacity in Illinois. It emphasizes the need to forthrightly address major policy issues without permitting partisan, ethnic and regional rivalries to undermine statesmanship.
At no cost to them -- other than transportation to and from Urbana-Champaign -- Edgar Fellows participate in an intensive five-day executive leadership training program scheduled August 1 through August 5, 2021 on the campus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Nominate a Leader Today
A selection committee brought together by the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs will review the nominations and select participants. Nominators may nominate a candidate for the Fellows Program by briefly identifying and describing the nominee and pinpointing why the nominee merits consideration, perhaps citing activities, projects or programs in which the nominee has stood out. Nominators should also include the nominee's résumé or similar document not to exceed two pages. If possible, they should determine whether their prospective nominee or nominees will be available to attend the August workshop.
Nominations should be addressed to:
Institute of Government and Public Affairs
University of Illinois
1007 West Nevada Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801
ATTENTION: Sue Grace Rominger
or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nominations are due no later than April 16, 2021.
More than ever, Illinois needs leaders who can address problems squarely and solve them by cooperating across party, regional and ethnic lines for the good of the state.
The Edgar Fellows Program produces such leaders.
We need your help to establish a solid financial future that will allow the Edgar Fellows Program to continue developing leaders for generations to come. The endowment we raise will keep the program independent of political pressures, conflicts of interest, and state budget cutbacks, ensuring that Governor Jim Edgar’s legacy lives long and Illinois’ future remains bright.
Financial support from people like you will secure the Edgar Fellows Program into the future. Your investment in leadership is an investment in a bright future for Illinois. Governor Edgar and this initiative need the support of you and others to fully realize its great potential. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss how you can help.
You can make your gift now by clicking in the box at the top of this page. When you click, you will be directed to the University of Illinois Foundation's secure online giving page for your credit card and other personal information, and to complete the transaction.
Contact Sue Grace Rominger at email@example.com or (217) 244-5871.