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Dr. John T. Wenders

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By Melanie Hildreth

Liberty lost a friend when Dr. John T. Wenders passed away last November. This fall, IJ was honored to receive a very generous gift from Dr. Wenders, who preferred to go by Jack. Jack shared our commitment to advancing individual liberty, and he made IJ a beneficiary of his individual retirement account, giving us vital resources to keep fighting for the fundamental freedoms he valued.

A gifted economist and researcher, Jack spent more than 30 years as a professor of economics. He was an ardent proponent of free markets and individual rights, writing a regular column for his local paper in Idaho, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. His columns often focused on the problems of government and the importance of individual freedom. After retiring from teaching at the University of Idaho, Jack worked with a variety of people and organizations to advance educational choice in Idaho.

He wrote, “I have never understood why, in a nation founded on market competition and where monopolies are abhorred, we continue to embrace monopoly for our public schools–arguably our most important industry . . . . The time has come to break the monopoly and the solution is very simple: scholarships for students that parents can spend at any school, public or private, instead of subsidies to monopoly schools. If schools didn’t perform, parents and students would vote with their feet and take their scholarships elsewhere.”

Because Jack's students were some of the greatest beneficiaries of his time and talent, the Institute for Justice has established the Jack Wenders Scholar Award as a tribute to the values Jack embodied for many years and as a memorial to his generosity. As you may know, each year, a group of the nation’s best and brightest law students come to IJ’s headquarters to learn how we practice public interest law and extend the benefits of freedom to those whose full enjoyment of liberty is denied by the government. The Jack Wenders Scholar Award will recognize the one student each year who best demonstrates a commitment to pursuing and embodying the ideals that Jack and IJ shared, and who does it the “IJ Way”–with an attitude that is positive and open, resilient, principled, entrepreneurial, and committed to achieving real-world results.

The Institute for Justice is honored to further Jack’s legacy of liberty and will continue to strive to make his goals of choice in education and expanded individual freedom a reality.

Melanie Hildreth directs IJ’s Four Pillars Society.

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