Former House Speaker Thomas Foley leaves profound public service legacy
After three decades of distinguished public service, former Washington State Congressman and 57th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Thomas S. Foley left a powerful legacy in public policy and education at WSU, throughout Washington, and nationwide. Widely admired for his quiet commitment to respectful leadership, Foley died October 18 at age 84.
Foley’s extensive work history and dedication to political and educational ideals are embodied in two significant resources at WSU: the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service and a collection of his Congressional papers (1964-1995) housed in the WSU Libraries’ Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections. Both are available to the public on the WSU Pullman campus.
“Our country has lost a true statesman with the passing of Speaker Foley,” said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. “During his tenure in office and long afterward, he personified the intelligence, civility, humility, and bipartisanship necessary to make wise public policy happen.
“His commitment to research and education was evident in everything he did; we are dedicated to honoring and advancing that legacy at the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service,” Floyd said.
“Speaker Tom Foley was an inspirational politician whose commitment to civility and to honor in politics and public service underpins the philosophy of the institute that bears his name here, in the College of Arts and Sciences at WSU,” said Cornell Clayton, director of the Foley Institute.
A native of Spokane, Foley was a Democratic representative of the Fifth Washington District from 1965 to 1995 and House speaker from 1989 to 1995. He later served as U.S. ambassador to Japan (1997-2001). During his 30 years in Congress, Foley built a reputation for not only responding actively to his constituents’ concerns but also skillfully bringing Democrats and Republicans to the table to resolve issues of the day. This strength of character held him in great stead with voters and fellow politicians alike.
His memorial service at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., was attended by some 500 people, including major U.S. political figures of all stripes. President Obama and President Clinton were among those who spoke of Foley’s “uncommon fairness.” Many also paid tribute to his widow, Heather, who served as his unpaid staff member throughout his Congressional tenure and was “a force herself.”
Advancing the Foley legacy
The Foley Institute fosters civic education, public service, and public policy research in a nonpartisan, cross-disciplinary setting. Its threefold mission includes public affairs programming and education, public policy research and Congressional studies, and student involvement in public policy and public service.
Located on the third floor of Bryan Hall, the institute hosts a variety of public presentations and panels featuring high-profile speakers, policymakers, scholars, and leaders. Each academic year, thousands of students, faculty, and members of the community are exposed to important new ideas and insights.
Gifts to support these “beyond-the-classroom” educational events can be made online to the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy & Public Service Fund.