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Senator Richard G. Lugar (1932-2019)

Senator Richard G. Lugar (1932-2019)

Author: Whitney Wilgus/Tuesday, August 13, 2019/Categories: Featured Alumni

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By Jim Patterson, AZ Alumni

Alpha Zeta members eager to learn about a great fraternity member, a great statesman, and a global leader for U.S. agriculture and U.S. Foreign Policy, should consider the long, distinguished, and productive life of Indiana’s U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar, who died aged 87 in April 2019. Lugar was an Honorary member of Alpha Zeta.

As Vice President and, often, Secretary and Treasurer of Alpha Zeta’s Alumni Association at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 7 years (1987-1993), I learned Lugar was an Honorary Alpha Zeta Member. Since I worked as an economist at the Indiana Employment Security Division prior to relocating to Washington DC to serve as economist with the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Reagan administration, I often stopped by Lugar’s Capitol Hill office to learn of his work on behalf of Hoosier and U.S. farmers.  Enjoyably, I often sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” with Senator Lugar and his family at Indiana State Society events in Washington, D.C.

Richard G. Lugar graduated Denison University and the University of Oxford. A Rhodes Scholar, Lugar served in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1960. Afterward, he was mayor of Indianapolis and U.S. Senator. As mayor, Lugar was a visionary who created Unigov, a system of unified government services for the City of Indianapolis and Marion County government. Indianapolis is in Marion County, the most populous county in the state. Lugar’s leadership on Unigov led to his selection to chair the National League of Cities. 

Lugar’s Unigov simplified government operations and made Indianapolis and Marion County economically attractive for new businesses and industries. In his book “Indianapolis: Crossroads of the American Dream,” Lugar wrote, “The Unigov initiative thrust the city into the forefront of Midwestern business centers.” Indianapolis is in the center of Marion County which is centered in Indiana. Indianapolis’ state motto, since 1937, is Crossroads of America.

In the U.S. Senate, Lugar chaired two powerful committees: Foreign Relations (1985-1987 and 20003-2007) and Agriculture (1995 and 2001). From his family farm background, Lugar understood the importance of global consumer markets to Hoosier and U.S. farmers. Lugar, who served in the Senate from 1977 to 2013, is the longest serving U.S. Senator in Indiana history.  President Barack Obama awarded Lugar the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

John T. Shaw, in his book “Richard G. Lugar: Statesman of the Senate, Crafting Foreign Policy from Capitol Hill” (Indiana University Press, 2012), wrote that Lugar’s leadership in agriculture and food security led to policies that boosted “agricultural productivity and incomes, promot[ed] research and technology, focus[ed] on the special role of women farmers, and the nutritional needs of children.”

On foreign policy, Shaw wrote of Lugar’s concerns that Congress was “not sufficiently attentive to constructing a coherent national strategy to tackle threats.” Of great importance to Lugar was international arms control and according to colleagues, he worked tirelessly on it. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, arms proliferation posed significant challenges to Washington. Lugar recognized the threat and was instrumental in developing policies and programs to locate, secure and destroy the former Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Lugar is of German ancestry and was instrumental in creating the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program, supported under the authority of the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961 by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State, as well as the German Bundestag. Since its inception, over 16,000 students have participated in the CBYX exchange. For more information on the program, visit

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Lugar and Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy co-sponsored the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program. The high school exchange program fosters relationships and cultural exchange among young people from countries with significant Muslim populations.  

Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel called Lugar “the most complete public servant I’ve met.” Hagel said Lugar, “has great character. Integrity, courage, and judgment. The breadth of his experience and knowledge is remarkable.”

In 2008, Lugar was recipient of the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award and spoke about how to become a successful lawmaker. Lugar spoke of respect, civility, and love of country. Lugar’s advice on continual study was highlighted in his talk. “[Y]ou should allow your thinking to evolve as circumstances and evidence evolve,” the senator said. I believe this excellent advice for continued lifetime career success for AZ members.

“Lugar takes the long view on projects and believes that patient, dogged work can solve most problems,” Shaw writes. Patience is a great partner when your success depends on the work of others.  As the Book of Romans teaches: Patience produces character. 

After Lugar’s death, the Indianapolis Star published an op/ed titled, “Richard Lugar is the single most important public servant in the history of Indiana.” It went to say, “Lugar’s legacy is leaving his city, his state, and his world better than he found it.”

On a personal note, I heard Lugar speak on many occasions where he mentioned his Indiana farm heritage and his German ancestry. He often said the thought it important for American youth to participate in his Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange program. He was a proud Hoosier who was proud of his German ancestry and his work to promote international education through diplomacy.

Lugar was the type of speaker whose speeches I recall due to his passion for agriculture and diplomacy. I encourage members to read the books I have mentioned in this tribute to the live and legacy of Alpha Zeta member Richard G. Lugar.


Jim Patterson is a life member of the American Foreign Service Association and a life member of Auburn University Alumni Association. Aside from his work with AZ’s Alumni Association at USDA, he worked with AZ members at the University of Maryland. 



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