Before retiring in January, former U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby earmarked $10 million for the University of Alabama (UA) to create a “public service and leadership institute.” Now, UA has decided to name the institute after Shelby.
The UA System Board of Trustees approved the new Shelby Institute for Policy and Leadership on Friday. Along with it, the board used $100 million of federal funding marked by Shelby in the 2022 omnibus spending package to create an endowment also in Shelby’s name: The Shelby Endowment for Distinguished Faculty.
Alabamians elected Shelby, a UA alumnus, as a Democrat in 1986. He later switched to the Republican Party and chaired several committees during his time in Washington, D.C., including the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Banking Committee and the Senate Rule Committee. In January, his former chief of staff, Katie Britt, succeeded him.
During his almost 40 years in federal politics, Shelby obtained a reputation as a big spender. During last year’s omnibus budget ordeal, other Republicans blamed Shelby for the $1.7 trillion spending package, which passed right before Republicans obtained their majority in the U.S. House.
Shelby voted for the bill against his Alabama counterpart U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn). In the bill, Shelby earmarked over $600 million.
In 2021, Shelby revealed he would donate papers and records from his time as a Senator to the university, hoping to encourage UA to create an institute to produce policy professionals. Shelby spokeswoman Blair Taylor told Roll Call in December it would be up to UA whether the new institute would be named for Shelby.
According to UA’s Assistant Director of Communications Shane Dorrill, the Shelby Institute will select around 20 students every year and enter them into a Shelby Scholars Program, a two-year leadership program through which they will obtain a minor in public policy and a $1,000 scholarship. The Shelby Institute will also connect the cohort to internship opportunities and political leaders around the state and country.
UA predicts that the Shelby Institute will select its first scholars by Fall 2024.
The Shelby Endowment for Distinguished Faculty, on the other hand, will be a permanent endowment to support “the recruitment and retention of exceptional faculty members in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines.” It will be the largest contribution in the history of the endowment.
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