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When Jay Hein first met President Ronald Reagan at the White House in the 1980s as a member of the inaugural group of "Reagan Fellows," little did he know that someday he would return to work there.
Hein, 42, a 1987 graduate of Eureka College and member of the school's first Ronald Reagan Fellows was appointed by President George W. Bush as director of the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives last year.
As director, Hein said his office is in charge of establishing faith-based initiatives throughout all 50 states by attempting to get governors, mayors and other lawmakers behind a cause of setting up state offices designed to help people with substance abuse problems, find jobs or help prisoners re-enter society in a productive manner, among other things.
Hein said there are 34 governors with offices dedicated to faith-based initiatives. Illinois is not one of them.
"There is so much interest in this," Hein said. "A lot of attention in the media and debating circles is on church and state separation, but what is most on the minds of governors, mayors and the president is how do we solve more problems like treating diseases, stopping the tide of dropouts in America and dealing with complex issues of homelessness.
It's really the great challenges in society that faith-based community groups are uniquely positioned to fix." Hein's rise to a job in the White House originated, he claims, from the experiences he got as a Reagan Fellow.
"I entered Eureka thinking I'd pursue a career in ministry," Hein said.
"Midway through my campus experience, I felt public service could be a specific way I could use the abilities I had."
Hein's mentorships, which are offered through the Reagan program, focused on the ministry. He first spent a summer in Minnesota at the headquarters of the United Church of Christ to see how it was administered. The next summer, Hein was in New York City at an outreach organization for the homeless.
During his third summer at Eureka College, Hein traveled to Europe and visited a variety of countries exposing him to church leadership. While on the European trip, Hein studied the story of William Wilberforce, who was a member of the British
Parliament in the late 1700s. It was a story that influenced Hein's future career choices.
"His conclusion is that to be the most effective in that position of influence is to seek (public service)," Hein said. "I found that to be a remarkably inspiring story."
After college, Hein spent five years working in Springfield with then-Gov. Jim Thompson's office on legislation revolving around welfare reform. He also returned to his home state of Wisconsin to continue working on welfare reform in that state.
Hein is the founding president of the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, an international public policy research firm based in Indianapolis. He directed the institute's research portfolio concentrating on a range of community-based policies such as welfare-to-work, access to college, affordable health care and crime
prevention, according to his official White House biography.
Hein has also embraced his past as a Reagan Fellow. In May, he gave the college's commencement address, and next year, he will host a White House reception for a traveling group of Eureka College alums.
"There are 25 years of Reagan influences working all across the country and the world," Hein said. "All are based on the original idea that you can be a leader in your place of vocation. Those values were instilled in each of us in the program and it was Ronald Reagan's idea that these values be instilled on a small campus requiring participation where you can be known individually."
John Sharp can be reached at 686-3234 or email@example.com.