During his 91 years of life, Birch Bayh was a U.S. Senator, a House Speaker, and even a Presidential candidate. But for many people here in the Valley, Bayh was, above all, a champion of education and equal rights.
Birch Bayh was born in Terre Haute in 1928, and while his career led him far away from home, he is still a household name in many Hoosier homes.
“Even today, when I do Title IX presentations to people on campus to faculty, staff, and students, I have a Power Point slide and I always introduce it by saying “by a show of hands, who recognizes the name Birch Bayh?” and Indiana residents will usually raise their hand,” said ISU Senior Deputy Title IX Coordinator Stephannie Gambill.
In light of his passing Thursday at the age of 91, representatives from ISU share the legacy he leaves behind in his hometown.
“We do mourn his passing as he was a champion for education and educational rights, and we are proud that the Bayh College of Education carries his name and honors his legacy,” said Bayh College of Education Dean Janet Buckenmeyer.
During his tenure as a legislator, Bayh pioneered several educational movements, including one piece of legislation that changed the tides of educational history.
“The Title IX legislation that he authored and got through Congress and passed nationally allowed me not only equal opportunity to go to college but graduate school and complete a further degree,” said Buckenmeyer.
As lead sponsor of the Title IX Section of the Higher Education Act, Bayh spearheaded the ban of discrimination against women in college admission and sports. But Gambill says the law does much more than that.
“It’s gender-based discrimination so it protects everyone, faculty, staff and students, and it protects that ability to access all educational opportunities that are affiliated with school,” said Gambill.
Former WTWO anchor Tom McClanahan fondly remembers an encounter with Bayh at a forum he worked PR for.
“I remember him coming up to me afterward and he says you really did a nice job Tom, and I don’t have a trophy or a plaque or anything like that but I do remember him shaking my hand and he had a lot more of a genuine persona than you’ll find somewhat these days,” said McClanahan.
And Bayh’s legacy is one that many Hoosiers won’t soon forget.
“It’s a great source of pride for the state of Indiana, and I have to believe that if I, 40 years after its implementation, still have his name on my Power Point slide, that in 40 years they’ll still give him that credit and people will still talk about Birch Bayh and what he did for equal rights and higher ed, and education in general,” said Gambill.
Bayh also helped to craft the 25th Amendment regarding presidential succession and the 26th Amendment, which sets the national voting age at 18.
To honor Bayh, Governor Eric Holcomb directed flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on the day of his funeral.