Forty years ago, a group of young Texans from the business, professional and academic communities came together at Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas to discuss an idea. The idea: that Texas was at a turning point in its history and had an opportunity—indeed, a responsibility—to become a great state. These leaders concluded there was a need to bring together the various segments of state in a nonpartisan, nonpolitical and non-adversarial setting to solve the problems facing Texas.

The result: The Texas Lyceum.

Forty years later, the Lyceum concept endures.

The Lyceum Concept

“Lyceum” is a name proud in history and rich in promise. The Lyceum concept itself is more than 2,500 years old and dates back to ancient Greece, when Aristotle and the leadership of Athens would gather to discuss, debate, and define the critical issues of the day.

In the United States, the idea of a “lyceum” has been alive since 1826 when Josiah Holbrook of Connecticut dreamed of “seeing established in every town and village a lyceum for the discussion of issues and the dissemination of knowledge.” By 1834, his dream was realized with some 3,000 lyceums established. These early lyceum iterations were intended to be the focal point of a community’s educational base, providing not only forums for speeches and debates but also libraries. In 1839, a lyceum was established in Austin, the Republic of Texas, with Sam Houston as an honorary member. This forerunner to the present Texas Lyceum debated questions concerning annexation, slavery, temperance, and Indians—the philosophical and practical concerns of life on the frontier.

What Does the Lyceum Do?

The Lyceum acts as a catalyst to bring together diverse opinions and expertise to focus on national and state issues and seeks to emphasize constructive private sector, public sector and individual responses to the issues.

The Lyceum seeks to:

  • Identify and develop the next generation of top leadership in the State of Texas
  • Educate its Directors by identifying and exploring the interrelationships of the major issues facing Texas
  • Help bring a better understanding of these issues to the state’s key decision-makers
  • Promote an appreciation of the responsibilities of stewardship of the values, traditions, and resources of Texas.

To accomplish these purposes, the Lyceum hosts conferences, conducts the nationally acclaimed Texas Lyceum Poll, convenes programs at which Directors explore, offers public administration graduate students an academically centered opportunity through the Texas Lyceum Fellowship, and discusses key economic and social issues of the state and nation. The Lyceum also cultivates the next generation of Texas leadership through its scholarship and fellowship programs.

Who Belongs to the Lyceum?

The Texas Lyceum is governed by a 96 member Board of Directors. These Texans who have demonstrated leadership abilities not only in their own communities but also statewide. They are active, involved and interested; they are eager to contribute their talents and time to the betterment of Texas. A Lyceum term begins on January 1st of each year. No person's first term as a Director may begin on or after that person's 46th birthday.

Among its alumni, the Lyceum counts those who have served our state and our nation at its highest echelons, including President George W. Bush, Senators Ted Cruz and Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, multiple U.S. congressmen, Governors Rick Perry and Greg Abbott, and U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Don Willett.

Today’s Texas Lyceum

At that 1980 gathering at Bent Tree, the Lyceum's founders focused on the inherent potential for Texas to be a "great state." To achieve that destiny, however, the state had to overcome problems common to vibrant, growing societies, such as water, transportation, support for education, long-range planning, and others. The decision was made to bring together stakeholders to address these problems in a nonpartisan, nonpolitical, and non-adversarial setting. Thus, The Texas Lyceum Public Conference was born, with the first held at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas.

In 1981, Tieman H. Dippel Jr., the first Chairman of The Texas Lyceum, wrote:

“The best description one might give the Texas Lyceum concept is that it is an idea in evolution about a state in transition. It is many things to many different people, all attracted by a common tie: the belief that Texas is a unique place and that it has the opportunity to play a major role in the evolution of American society.”

More specifically, the Lyceum concept suggests that for Texas to survive and prosper, we must develop an agenda and mobilize the will of her citizens to carry it through. To do so, Texans must be educated as to the choices they face in nonpartisan and nonpolitical forums of depth and integrity that involve all of the state’s institutions, both public and private. In such a setting, trends can be identified, information provided, and thoughtful discussion can be had—leading to a broad consensus that forms the future agenda for Texas.

Texas is a great state; it is also a great state of mind. Texas is successful because of the “can-do” attitude of her citizens and the care each brings to planning her future. Without the active participation of Texas citizens, there is no future for Texas, and without your active participation, there is no Lyceum. Texas gives us rich and proud traditions to uphold and a challenging future to accept.