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Former President Gira Joins Board of J. Glenn Beall Institute for Public Affairs at Important Moment in U.S. History
10/18/2016

Former President Gira Joins Board of J. Glenn Beall Institute for Public Affairs at Important Moment in U.S. History

Before retiring as president of Frostburg State University in 2006, Dr. Catherine Gira signed two agreements between the FSU Foundation, Inc., and former U.S. Senator J. Glenn Beall, Jr. The first, in 2001, established the J. Glenn Beall Archives in FSU’s Lewis J. Ort University Library.

The second agreement, in 2003, created Frostburg’s J. Glenn Beall, Jr. Institute for Public Affairs, which has become increasingly relevant during the historically unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election.

Gira recently joined the Board of Directors for the Institute, and she received a summary of its efforts over the past decade to fulfill Beall’s vision of inspiring citizen participation and exposing students to public service.

“The Institute has accomplished a great deal, even beyond what any of us could have imagined. ... When I look at the people who have been brought in as speakers, the opportunities that the interns have had to be placed on Capitol Hill as well as in Annapolis, with both Democratic and Republican party representatives, all of it has been very exciting,” Gira said.

Without Gira, the Institute itself might not exist. Beall originally proposed a scholarship to get young people involved in government and public service. Gira suggested instead a nonpartisan institute for public affairs, using Beall’s contacts in Washington and Annapolis to create a student internship program, outreach programs and more.

Since its 2005 dedication, the Institute has hosted several elected officials at campus events. It has also placed nearly 50 Frostburg students with Maryland and U.S. lawmakers as “Beall Interns.” Placements are divided as evenly as possible between Republican and Democratic representatives – a nonpartisan balance Gira said was intentional from the start.

Though Beall and his father each served as Republicans, the first Beall Intern was placed with U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes, the Democrat who in 1976 defeated an incumbent Beall, Jr.

Gira said Beall was very satisfied with that placement.

According to Tim Magrath, executive director of the Institute and former Western Maryland representative for Sarbanes, despite their political differences, Sarbanes and Beall, Jr., enjoyed a friendship for several decades founded on mutual respect. Following the 1976 election, Sarbanes and Beall even worked closely together to establish Cumberland’s C&O National Historical Park.

“I think (the Institute) bespoke that kind of dimension,” Gira said. “It was a comprehensive view of government service, not a partisan one.”

That message has resonated during the divisive 2016 election cycle. In the fall of 2015, the Beall Institute partnered with FSU’s Student Affairs Division and Office of Civic Engagement to promote democratic participation among students, including a campus-wide voter registration drive.

Election-related programming began with three Town Hall Meetings last fall, where students met with local and state elected officials to discuss various issues and potential solutions. Three additional Town Hall Meetings were held in the spring. The series culminated with a Caucus Night shortly before Maryland’s primaries, where students experienced an Iowa-style caucus, debating candidates’ merits before voting with their feet.

Programming this fall included another series of Town Hall Meetings, beginning with discussions of domestic issues and foreign policy during the first two meetings, and concluding with a Mock Election Night on Nov. 1. The Institute has also co-sponsored a Debate Viewing series, where students gather to watch each presidential debate with political science faculty before discussing the debate outcomes as a group.

The Institute will host a similar event on Tues., Nov. 8, for students to view coverage of the 2016 Election Night as the ballots are counted and discuss the results as a group.

“I think it’s a terrific year to do it, obviously given the nature of this year’s election cycle. ... It’s an opportunity to engage in civil discussions,” Gira said. “If students are gathered in one large place after watching a debate, they will divide as to who they prefer, who won ... but to foster listening to each other and exchanging those ideas in a civil way, a mature way, will be a wonderful learning experience.”

For more information on the Beall Institute, contact Magrath at tmagrath@frostburg.edu or 301-687-4080 or visit www.frostburg.edu/dept/posc/the-beall-institute-for-public-affairs.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

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For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
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Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589
E-mail: news@frostburg.edu