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New UW Initiative Honors Wallop, Aims to Educate on Democracy

November 1, 2010
Malcolm Wallop
Malcolm Wallop

Whether through statesmanship, discourse or love of state and country, Malcolm Wallop has been a symbol for democracy throughout his remarkable political and public service career.

A newly-created University of Wyoming initiative, founded by a group of former Wallop staffers, ensures his devotion to democracy will live on in the Cowboy State.

“This is our opportunity to say thanks to our beloved boss,” says Kristi Wallin, a former Wallop staffer who now serves as state director for Sen. John Barrasso. “The bottom line is, we want his legacy to be honored and remembered for many years to come.”

The Malcolm Wallop Fund for Conversations on Democracy will not only serve to honor the three-term Wyoming senator (1977-95) but provide opportunities -- through symposia, keynote speakers, student projects and workshops -- to add to the body of knowledge about democracy.

The fund’s inaugural event will be Tuesday, Nov. 9, at Sheridan College’s Presentation Hall.

“Riding Fence: Wyoming Governors on Wyoming and National Issues” will feature outgoing governor Dave Freudenthal, former governors Jim Geringer and Mike Sullivan and governor-elect Matt Mead (R-Cheyenne). Geoff O’Gara of Wyoming PBS will moderate the panel discussion.

The event, free and open to the public, will begin at 7:15 p.m. and be taped for broadcast on Wyoming PBS (7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 11). The audience will be encouraged to submit questions during the final portion of the program and have the opportunity to meet the speakers following the 90-minute event.

“Sen. Wallop has lived a life of ideas and has pursued those ideas and policy formation through the rigors of intellectual exploration,” says Kendall Hartman, a longtime Wallop staffer who recently retired from Barrasso’s state staff. “His life has indeed been about the conversations around ideas, and there was always a place in his world for those who made the effort to learn, to be thoughtful, to champion their beliefs.

“The senator is not unique in his love of country or for our democratic system, but he is thrilled that this passion he has lived might inspire others to reflect on, be aware of and pursue the hard work required for democracy to thrive.”

The 77-year-old Wallop has deep roots in Wyoming, where his family homesteaded some 130 years ago. He attended public school in Big Horn and later became a businessman, cattle rancher and politician in the Cowboy State. Today, Wallop’s children and grandchildren in Big Horn and Sheridan represent the fourth and fifth generations of the family in Wyoming.

Wallop won election in 1969 to the Wyoming House of Representatives, where he served two terms before serving from 1973-76 in the Wyoming Senate. In 1976, Wallop defeated three-term Democrat Gale W. McGee to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. He won re-election in 1982 and 1988. When Wallop alumni recently decided to develop a way to honor him, Wallin says they chose a conversation-based program because they believed it would have the “greatest long-term impact on our state and our nation.”

The family of Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Stebner Kite has provided the largest gift to date, directing a memorial gift honoring Charles and Mary Stebner to the Wallop Fund. Other Wallop alums also have made donations, both large and small, and fundraising will continue to ensure the initiative's future success. A second event is being planned for 2011 in Laramie.

The decision to house the program at UW was “a fitting way” to keep intact one of the state’s strongest congressional delegations, Hartman says. Wallop’s primary senatorial colleagues, Alan Simpson and Dick Cheney, are already represented at the university.

The Alan K. Simpson Institute for Western Politics and Leadership, housed in the American Heritage Center (AHC), opened in 2000 and focuses on the acquisition, preservation and research use of the papers of prominent individuals, businesses and organizations that have provided leadership for Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West.

The Cheney International Center, opened in 2009, is home to all of UW’s international offices -- the International Programs office, International Students and Scholars office and the International Studies degree program, as well as English as a Second Language programs. The Wallop Fund will collaborate primarily with the AHC, College of Arts & Sciences and Political Science Department to develop future events.

“We want these events to be recorded, to go into the historical record and to inform future generations about our great, precious and sometimes evolving democracy,” Wallin says.

Adds Hartman, also a major donor to the Wallop Fund, “‘Conversations on Democracy’ will provide a unique opportunity for students and Wyoming citizens, in general, to research and further their knowledge about democracy.”

For more information about the Wallop Fund, call Leslie Waggener at (307) 766-2557 or e-mail

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