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Patriot Spotlight: Book by UT Tyler Professor Highlights State Politician’s Career

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January 20, 2017

Media Contact:  Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at Tyler
903.565.5769 or 903.539.7196 (cell)

Ratliff book front cover

UT Tyler associate professor of political science Dr. Robert Sterken has written a book celebrating the career and influence of former Texas State Senator and Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff.

A private reception to honor Ratliff and recognize Sterken's work, "Bill Ratliff: A Profile of Courage and Leadership in American Politics," will be 4 – 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26 in the UT Tyler Ratliff Library, located on the fourth floor of Ratliff Building South. The UT Tyler Bill Ratliff Engineering and Science Complex, which houses the College of Engineering, bares the politician's name.

"Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff is an engineer, a widely respected senator, and according to Caroline Kennedy, he is 'an inspiration to all who serve in government, and to all Americans,'" Sterken said. "Senator Ratliff, nicknamed 'Obi Wan Kenobi' by his colleagues, was a revered and much loved leader in Texas for more than a decade. He singularly wrote the Texas Robin-Hood school finance law, a major Ethics reform law, a Texas tort reform law; and held a great disdain for narrow partisanship and politics."

"This is the inspirational story of a great man doing good work in a time when many are cynical about political leadership and government. His courageous stand on principle brought him to a showdown with powerful forces in the Bush White House and earned him the public vitriol of right-wing billionaires," Sterken added.

This is Sterken's second book and first political biography.

"Writing the Ratliff story was a real challenge," said Sterken, who completed the book in four years. "I did not want to write a textbook-like flat story about American politics and a Texas politician. Instead, I felt compelled to try to write a book that was worthy of the man. I wrote it to inspire the freshman college students and the freshman legislator. I wanted the book to inspire others to serve as Ratliff did."

For more information, contact Sterken, 903.565.5908 or rsterken@uttyler.edu.

Serving UT Tyler since 2000, Sterken has more than five years of direct legislative experience, which inform his teaching of power and politics. His work in the international arena has afforded him many opportunities to teach, travel and study around the world.

He previously served as the UT Tyler associate provost for international programs and as the university's special assistant to the President for legislative and external affairs. Sterken was also instrumental in forming UT Tyler's Quality Enhancement Plan during its successful Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation reaffirmation in 2010.

Sterken's areas of specialization include international law, Asian politics and international relations, while his research interests focus on religion and politics. His other book, "Teaching Barefoot in Burma," shares his adventures and insights as a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Southeast Asia.

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