Gift for William H. Crook Chair in International Affairs Will Fund Research on Economic Development

May 13, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas — A gift from Mrs. Eleanor Crook to the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin will create an endowed chair dedicated to promoting global economic development and fighting poverty.

The William H. Crook Chair in International Affairs will strengthen and expand the university's contribution to the national debate on development. It will sponsor research on global poverty with the aim of generating concrete, practical recommendations that policymakers and the public can embrace. The Chair will also develop undergraduate and graduate programs that will give students the opportunity to tackle development issues on their own.

"Extreme poverty remains a pressing global challenge," Strauss Center Director James M. Lindsay said. "An estimated 2.6 billion people—or roughly 40 percent of the world's population—live on less than $2 a day. In many countries, people battle disease, malnutrition and a lack of clean water on a daily basis.

"The William H. Crook Chair in International Affairs gives the Strauss Center the means to address these issues. It is a fitting tribute to Bill Crook, who devoted much of his life to combating poverty. We are all indebted to Eleanor Crook for her generous gift and for her commitment to improving the lives of others."

The Chair is named for Ms. Crook's husband, William H. Crook, a prominent public figure in Texas politics and a pioneer in global development. President Lyndon B. Johnson tapped Crook in 1965 to organize the poverty program in Texas by establishing the Austin regional office of the Office of Economic Opportunity. In 1967, after two years supervising various economic programs in five states, Crook became the national director of Volunteers in Service to America, a national program to fight poverty now known as AmeriCorps. He was later named ambassador to Australia.

After returning to Texas, Crook had a distinguished career in business and remained active in poverty relief, establishing two orphanages in Ethiopia during the 1985 famine. He died in 1997.

Honoring Crook's impact on the fight against poverty, the Crook Chair is sponsoring summer fellowships for graduate students working for nonprofit organizations in developing countries. Here are this year's William H. Crook Fellowship recipients:

Akram Al-Turk will be conducting field research assessing the effectiveness of loans to microfinance clients for FINCA International in Amman, Jordan. Al-Turk will also work in the West Bank for the Palestinian Hydrology Group, which aims to improve the socio-economic conditions of families living in poverty through microfinance loans and raise awareness of water-related issues in the Palestinian territories.

Shannon Dugan will be working with an emerging fund raising and operational services non-governmental organization called Operation O.F. that is focused on expanding global capacity to prevent, treat and reintegrate victims of obstetric fistula. Through visiting different hospitals throughout Africa, Dugan will analyze and evaluate different service delivery models, support new partnerships and record the narratives of afflicted women.

Benjamin Ford will be conducting research on public policy issues related to the mining industry in Mongolia for the Asia Foundation's Securing Our Future program. This will involve spending some time in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, and some time in the countryside, conducting interviews and gathering data.

Nirav Shah and Rebecca Carson will develop and implement a micro-health insurance program for the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children that increases access to health care in a rural village in Uganda. Along with providing medical services, the program encourages healthy behaviors by incorporating health education courses and preventative health care measures.

Todd Smith will be working with Impumelelo Innovations Award Trust in Cape Town, South Africa, which identifies, funds and promotes good governance, innovative service delivery and poverty reduction by granting awards to public sector programs or public-private partnerships. Smith will assist with reviewing and evaluating the award-winning programs from the last few years and synthesizing lessons learned and best practices.

Joyce Zhao will conduct research on community transformation for the Institute for Sustainable Communities in its China branch in Guangzhou. She will work on several projects focusing on improving energy efficiency and environmental protection in south China.

The students will write about their experiences and participate in a fall event at the Strauss Center offering guidance to other students interested in working for nonprofits in the developing world.

The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law engages the best minds in academia, government and the private sector in developing practical solutions to the pressing problems of an increasingly globalized world.

For more information, contact: Jill Angelo, 512-471-8936.