JOHNSON CITY - Former U.S. Sen. and White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr. will be the keynote speaker at the first of East Tennessee State University's two spring graduation ceremonies on May 5.
Baker will speak at 10 a.m. in Memorial Center. Composer and Johnson City native Kenton Coe will deliver the address at the 2 p.m. ceremony.
Baker's public service career began in 1966 when he became the first Republican popularly elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. He gained national recognition in 1973 as vice chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee.
Three years later, he was keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, and he was a 1980 candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
He concluded his Senate career in 1985 after two terms as majority leader from 1981-85 and two terms as minority leader between 1977 and 1981.
From February 1987 until July 1988, he served as President Ronald Reagan's chief of staff.
Beginning as a delegate to the United Nations in 1976, Baker developed extensive foreign policy experience. He served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Board from 1985-87 and again from 1988-90.
A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, he serves on the board of the Forum of International Policy and is an international counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Baker served as the 26th U.S. ambassador to Japan, an appointment made by President George W. Bush in 2001.
Since retiring from political life, Baker has been senior counsel to the firm at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, founded by his grandfather in Huntsville.
Baker formerly practiced at the firm with his father, the late U.S. Rep. Howard H. Baker. Baker focuses his practice on public policy and international matters.
He is the recipient of the 1984 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, and the 1982 Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Performed by an Elected or Appointed Official. In addition, he has received honorary degrees from such institutions as Yale, Georgetown, Bradley and Pepperdine universities and Dartmouth and Centre colleges.
Coe began his musical training at the Cadek Conservatory in Chattanooga and continued his studies in Knoxville before attending Sewanee Academy.
After studying at Hobart College in upstate New York, he graduated from Yale University with a degree in music history. He worked privately in France with Nadia Boulanger both at the Paris Conservatory and the American School at Fontainebleau, receiving two French government scholarships at her request.
Sponsored by noted composer Aaron Copland, Coe received two fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, where he began his first full-length opera, "South," which was premiered in 1965 by the Opera of Marseilles. Since then, he has composed numerous operas and musical plays, including the one-act comedy "Le Grand Siecle"; "Rachel," based on the tragic love story of Andrew and Rachel Jackson; "The White Devil," based on the Jacobean play by John Webster; "The River," about early Tennessee settlers; "The Morning Watch"; "The Legend of Candy's Creek"; and "Summer Gardens."
Coe's compositions have been performed in such prestigious venues as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Church of the Holy Trinity and Trinity Church-Wall Street in New York; and the international Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C.
In addition, Coe has composed musical scores for numerous films including Universal's "Birds in Peru" and all of the documentaries by Johnson City native Ross Spears.