From Kelley to Capitol Hill
Evan Bayh BS'78
U.S. Senator, Indiana; former Governor of Indiana
“When asked what makes a good preparation for public life, I say economics and an understanding of business markets. It’s what makes everything else possible.”
U.S. Senator Evan Bayh is well-known for his strong ties to his Hoosier heritage and his service to the state of Indiana. While he served as governor of Indiana for two terms, he maintained a high approval rating. This is no surprise when you look at his record: eight years without raising taxes; more than 350,000 new jobs; the greatest single tax cut and largest budget surplus in state history; and more dollars for schools every year. And this is just a sample of his achievements. A fiscally conservative Democrat, Bayh, who was one of the nation’s youngest governors, established Indiana as one of the strongest, most financially secure economies in the United States.
Though his commitment to “Hoosier values” stems largely from his family background (he is a lifelong native of the state and his father, Birch Bayh, is a former U.S. senator and 1976 candidate for the Democratic nomination for president), it is also deeply rooted in his Hoosier education. Bayh graduated from Kelley in 1978 with honors in business economics and credits much of his political success to his business background. “When asked what makes a good preparation for public life, I say economics and an understanding of business markets,” he says. “It’s what makes everything else possible.”
While at Kelley, Bayh excelled in urban economics, studying with Bruce Jaffee, professor of business economics and public policy. He also took several MBA courses, a common track for Kelley honors students in the 1970s. His strong understanding of economic efficiencies is reflected in his leadership as a fiscal conservative, to which he gives Kelley much of the credit. “If you were in the honors program, you’d get as good an education as anywhere in the country,” he says, noting that having accounting as part of the core curriculum was particularly helpful. “It helps to understand how to read a balance sheet.”
A business education certainly comes in handy when you preside over 36,000 employees and a several-billion-dollar budget, as Bayh did for eight years as governor of Indiana. And as a senator, he continues to utilize his Kelley economics background, calling on “Hoosier frugality” to get the country out of debt: “If we continue at this pace of reckless spending, we risk becoming the first generation to leave our children with a country less prosperous than we inherited,” he wrote in The Indianapolis Star on June 6, 2008.
Committed to Kelley: In 1996, after serving two terms as governor, Bayh returned to Kelley as a visiting professor—the Harold A. “Red” Poling Chair of Business and Government—where he shared his experience in public service with IU students. “The great thing about teaching students is that it gets you back to first principles,” he says. “Students ask fundamental questions that force you to go back and readjust in your mind the positions that you have.”
Bayh’s IU: If he wasn’t at Kelley, you could find Bayh at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, where he lived during his four years at IU. He was also a member of the Debate Club and experienced IU’s reign as 1976 NCAA basketball champions.
Family: Married to Susan; twin sons Beau and Nick
Hometown: Shirkieville, Indiana
Earliest IU memory: Attending the IU kindergarten (his father was attending law school at the time)