The city of Indianapolis recently honored Richard Lugar, a member of the Denison Class of 1954 and former Indiana senator. The city named a downtown plaza after Lugar, who also is a former mayor of Indianapolis. The Richard G. Lugar Plaza was dedicated by Mayor Joe Hogsett and former Mayor Greg Ballard to honor Lugar’s contributions to the city.
Lugar has been a leader since his days at Denison. He graduated first in his class, for which he served as class president. (He married the class co-president Charlene Smeltzer ’54.) After graduating from Denison, Lugar was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Pembroke College at the University of Oxford in England, where he studied philosophy, politics, and economics. Lugar volunteered for the U.S. Navy in 1957, ultimately serving as an intelligence briefer for Admiral Arleigh Burke, chief of Naval Operations.
In 1967, Lugar was elected mayor of Indianapolis, where he served for two terms. During his terms as mayor, his aim was to unify the city and county into one government and trigger economic growth in the area. Lugar was elected to serve as a U.S. Senator for Indiana from 1977 to 2013, and retired as the longest-serving senator from Indiana.
Lugar is respected both locally and internationally due to his leadership on critical issues such as food security, energy independence, free trade, and nuclear non-proliferation.
A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Lugar was granted the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding in 2016. In honor of Lugar’s work to secure the world from weapons of mass destruction and his commitment to the alliance between the U.S and U.K, the Queen of England bestowed the rank of honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Lugar is the fourth person in history to be named Outstanding Legislator by the American Political Science Association, and the 2005 recipient of the American Foreign Service Association Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award. He also served three terms on the U.S, Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, and as president of the National League of cities.
After his service as senator, Lugar created the Lugar Center, a nonprofit public policy institution located in Washington D.C. The Center’s mission is to propose solutions to global problems such as food and energy security, weapons of mass destruction, and bipartisan governance. It focuses on civil dialogue to bridge ideological divides surrounding important global issues.
Lugar and his wife are both engaged alumni of Denison University. In addition to his undergraduate degree, Richard received an honorary degree from Denison in 1978. Charlene was awarded an Alumni Citation in 1994. As an advocate and leader in the health of infants and children, including fighting birth defects, Charlene also has served on numerous boards such as the National March of Dimes and the Board of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She also established the Charlene S. Lugar Birth Defects Grant Fund.
Inspired by Lugar’s accomplishments, the Richard G. Lugar Program in Politics and Public Service at Denison University aims to attract students of any major who are interested in government and public policy. Since it was established in 1995, the Lugar Program has sent 150 student interns to Capitol Hill. The program has two tracks; one focuses on American national government and a congressional internship, while the other focuses on foreign policy and international affairs. Every other year, the Lugar Program hosts two former members of Congress, who come to campus to meet with students, faculty, and other members of the community. The Lugar Program also hosts the Richard G. Lugar Symposium in Public Policy, a speaker series that brings prominent public servants to campus to discuss national and international issues.