Terry Branstad Named Ambassador-in-Residence at Drake University

Former U.S. Ambassador to China and Nation’s Longest-Serving Governor Will Host Office Hours and Lead Lectures for Drake Students

Terry Branstad, the United States ambassador to China from 2017 to 2020 and the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, has been named ambassador-in-residence at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He will be available to meet weekly with Drake students, clubs, and faculty, and will lead lectures in a variety of classes each semester. In addition, the ambassador will host an annual symposium on U.S. relations with China. The symposium will bring high ranking government officials and thought leaders to campus with the first one anticipated to take place in the Fall 2022 semester.

Branstad’s engagement on campus complements plans to create a new Center for Public Democracy at Drake University, an interdisciplinary center focused on renewing a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. More information on the Center for Public Democracy is available at ​​theones.drake.edu.

“We are creating the Center for Public Democracy to build on the unparalleled opportunities Drake offers to students interested in public policy and politics,” Drake University President Marty Martin said. “In addition to having a front-row seat for the Iowa Caucuses and multiple opportunities to get involved in the political process and public service, Drake students will now be able to confer with a former ambassador to China and the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.”

In 1972, while attending Drake Law School, Branstad decided to run for the Iowa House of Representatives. He chose blue and white for his campaign colors as a tribute to the Drake school colors.

“I’m most looking forward to engaging with Drake students,” Branstad said. “It will bring me tremendous joy to pass on my experiences, engage in discussions of ideas, and help enrich their academic experience.”

In addition to his ambassador-in-residence role, Branstad will donate records from his 45-year political career to Drake. Branstad’s papers join a growing bipartisan political archive at Drake that includes records from five-term U.S. Senator and five-term Congressman Tom Harkin, five-term Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray, 19-term U.S. Congressman Neal Smith, and seven-term Iowa Representative Wayne Ford. Branstad graduated from Drake University Law School in 1974.

“We’re honored to have Ambassador Branstad and his papers at Drake,” said Dean of the Drake University Law School Jerry Anderson. “It is an exceptional academic opportunity to have not only primary source materials, but also a prominent figure in U.S. and Iowa history on our campus. Drake students and faculty can hear the perspective, reasoning, and experiences of someone who helped shape Iowa and U.S. history.”

Branstad was appointed ambassador to China in part due to his long-standing relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Then-governor Branstad met Xi in 1985 when the future Chinese president led a delegation visiting Iowa.

Branstad adds to a distinguished list of former U.S. ambassadors working with Drake students. Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp, LW’74, will co-teach a Drake Law School class in international criminal law this summer. In addition, Senior Adviser to the President for the United States Institute of Peace and former U.S. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, LA’65, is a long-time member of the Drake University’s Board of Trustees and continues to be instrumental in programs such as the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative.

Steve Churchill, who served as Branstad’s chief of staff at the embassy in Beijing and served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1993­–1999, is supporting Branstad’s partnership with Drake and ensuring his success as a resource to the entire University community.

About Drake University
Drake University is recognized as one of the finest national liberal arts universities. A distinctive and distinguished private university in Des Moines, Iowa, Drake enrolls nearly 3,000 undergraduate and more than 1,800 graduate students. Students choose from more than 70 majors, minors, and concentrations and 20 graduate degrees offered through seven colleges and schools. In addition, Drake offers a range of continuing education programs serving working professionals, community members, and area businesses. Drake recognizes the importance of its location in Iowa’s capital city and seeks to connect its teaching and learning to the wealth of cultural, recreational, and business resources it provides. At the same time, it integrates global thinking and intercultural learning into everything it does, preparing students to lead in an increasingly interconnected world.