By Dorian Martin ’06
Originally published on July 11, 2021 on the Texas A&M Foundation website.
Over the years, Barbara Bush served as the consistent anchor that helped her family—well known for its long and extensive commitment to public service—remain grounded. As wife, mother and grandmother to elected national and state officials and policymakers, the former First Lady was known for her no-nonsense, caring and bipartisan approach as well as her commitment to the nation, her family and causes that she cared about, including adult and child literacy.
Two years following her passing in 2018, Bush’s legacy still burns brightly. Her memory is being honored by two foundations—the Robertson Foundation for Government (RFG) and the Jack and Carolyn Little Family Foundation—that have created The Women in Public Service Fellowship in Honor of Barbara Bush through the Texas A&M Foundation. This fellowship will support deserving students pursuing a master’s degree with a focus on intelligence studies and public policy from Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service.
As a nonpartisan family foundation dedicated to educating future federal leaders, honoring the Bush matriarch’s expansive influence was an easy decision. RFG President Cynthia Robinson noted, “We felt that creating a fellowship in her honor for students interested in public service would be a wonderful way to celebrate her legacy and attract more students to careers in policy and government service.”
THE NEXT GENERATION OF FEDERAL LEADERS
The Women in Public Service Fellowship deepens RFG’s partnership with the Bush School, which started in 2011. “Our foundation is focused on public service and leadership development with an emphasis on federal government service in the areas of foreign relations, international relations and national security,” Robinson said. “RFG funds three areas of activity—education, training and networking for career development for future federal leaders; enhancing the federal workforce; and promoting the value and importance of government service.”
The nonprofit, which was founded in 2010, supports graduate fellowships at five higher education institutions across the nation. The organization already established four annual fellowships at the Bush School prior to creating the Women in Public Service Fellowship. Every RFG fellowship requires recipients, who are pursuing a master’s degree, to commit to working in the federal government for a three-year period within seven years of graduation.
RFG’s latest gift to the Bush School is also part of the foundation’s 10th anniversary initiatives. “We’re celebrating the fact that this spring marked the anniversary of 10 classes of Robertson Fellows,” Robinson added. “As part of that, we’re looking forward to other ways we can enhance our impact, scale and scope. Since one of our primary areas of funding is individuals who will be future leaders, we have been looking at ways to expand the number of fellowships we offer.”
In addition to these fellowships, the foundation offers extensive opportunities for RFG Fellows to learn once they enter the workforce and develop a network of strong relationships that will span the course of their policy careers. “We help recipients throughout their careers to continue to build their capacity, knowledge and circles of influence to make a difference in foreign policy, international relations and national security,” Robinson said. “We’re looking for people who will be future federal leaders with a global mindset.”
The creation of this latest fellowship also opened the door for Carolyn H. and Dr. Jack E. Little ’60 to step into a new funding role with the Bush School. The couple’s foundation, The Jack and Carolyn Little Family Foundation, already had displayed its commitment over a period of two decades to Texas A&M by providing scholastic assistance each semester to five undergraduate students with strong academic backgrounds but limited financial capacity.
After attending a presentation last fall by Bush School Professor Jim Olson, an internationally recognized counterintelligence expert, the Littles decided they wanted to support a graduate student who was focusing on national security. Knowing that four of their five scholarship recipients would graduate in spring 2020, the couple began to work with the Texas A&M Foundation’s staff to reallocate those funds to support a Bush School fellowship.
Soon, RFG’s interest in creating the fellowship in honor of Barbara Bush using matching funds came to the Littles’ attention. “We knew the Bushes for many years and had supported Mrs. Bush’s literacy foundation,” said Carolyn. “She was a very special woman, so we are tremendously happy to be involved in this fellowship.”
The Littles were also attracted to this fellowship because it aligned with President Bush’s belief that citizens want to give back to their country. “We admired his great commitment to service,” Jack added. “We are honored to do something to help carry on his legacy.”
CREATING MORE ENGAGED CITIZENS
Since its inception, RFG has financially supported 170 past and current fellows from five U.S. universities. Of those, approximately 75 percent of the alumni are working in government. Others have completed their required service and moved into other sectors, although some continue in government through serving on panels or as advisors later in their careers. “The fellowship brings people into the federal government early in their careers so they learn about many opportunities that are available,” Robinson said. “Then they can continue to be involved during their career, even if they move outside of a direct-hire government position. That experience not only creates future government leaders, but also much better informed and more engaged citizens.”
The joint gift is already making a difference at the Bush School. “The importance of the fellowship can’t be understated for me,” said Autumn Clouthier ’20 ’22, its first recipient. “I would have had to take out several loans to put myself through graduate school. With my determination to go into public service after graduation, I would have had those loans burdening me for most of my adult life. The fellowship was an unexpected gift; I am still dazed by the suddenness of it all. The creators of the fellowship are providing me with the essential resources and support I need to be successful.”
To learn how you can join in this important cause to provide fellowships or support for Bush School graduate students, contact Alexandra González Rainey ’15, director of development.