Facebook Twitter

Sen. Orrin Hatch library, public policy institute to be built on South Temple in Salt Lake City

SHARE Sen. Orrin Hatch library, public policy institute to be built on South Temple in Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY — One of the most extensive collections of U.S. Senate papers will be housed at the new Orrin G. Hatch Center, which aims to become a hub for civility and bipartisan solutions in politics.

The University of Utah and the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation signed an agreement Wednesday on the center to be built at 427 E. South Temple, across the street from the Thomas S. Monson Center, home to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Groundbreaking is anticipated this summer.

"It’s no secret that the people up in Massachusetts wanted all my papers so they could put them in the Ted Kennedy Institute. I said, ‘No way,'" Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in an interview.

Washington's odd couple — Hatch the Utah conservative, Kennedy the Massachusetts liberal — argued, compromised and passed many laws while becoming the unexpected best of friends.

"Most of the social legislation that works in this country came during those years that Kennedy was working with me," Hatch said. "He could never have passed those things by himself, and neither could I."

It's in that spirit that the Hatch Center intends to make its name, bringing together the best ideas regardless of party affiliation.

"The initiatives of the Hatch Center will be the start of a movement, a movement that we hope will sweep the nation and mark our journey toward restoring a more civil and collaborative spirit to our nation's ethos," said Trent Christensen, Hatch Foundation executive director.

The Hatch Foundation has raised $10.5 million in cash and commitments so far, said Scott Anderson, chairman of the foundation's five-member board and president and CEO of Zions Bank.

Anderson said the foundation has an ambitious goal to raise at least $30 million to endow visiting fellows and cover programming, operations and maintenance of the building so the center is self-sustaining. The U. board of trustees has agreed to sell the foundation a parking lot on which the center will be built just east of the Monson Center, said Kem Gardner, a foundation board member and owner of Gardner Company.

Gardner, whose company will pay for and construct the building, said the plan calls for a three- or four-story granite building that fits in with the historic architecture on South Temple. "I hope we can afford it," he said.

The building will feature a replica of Hatch's Washington office where he can write his memoirs and provide space for meetings, lectures, debates, scholarly study and research. It will be a repository for the senator’s papers, legislative documents and other materials — now stored in more than 3,000 boxes.

"It's a significant treasure," Anderson said of the Hatch collection.

Hatch has served with seven presidents, headed three committees, including the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and passed nearly 800 pieces of legislation in his 42 years in office.

"If I was to pick one bill that I love more than anything else it’s the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We could not pass that today," the senator said. "That has protected religious freedom like never before. It’s something you would think you wouldn’t have to protect, but believe me you have to protect it."

Plans for the center also include a state-of-the-art library and digital archive for students, faculty, scholars and the public. The foundation intends to offer courses, seminars, fellowships and internships about political history and the legislative process.

U. President Ruth Watkins said the center has the potential to advance public service and civic leadership for generations to come. About 300 students from the U. Hinckley Institute of Politics, which will work in collaboration with the Hatch Center, have worked as interns for Hatch.