A true believer in the importance of public service, Terry Lierman (MA ’71) has dedicated his life to serving his community and improving policies and outcomes with a focus on the health, energy, and education fields.
He joined the school’s Board of Visitors in 2019.
“I think there’s nothing more noble than public service,” says Terry. “And I think if people understand the government and how it can work for them and our country, they won’t have the divisiveness and problems we’re having in American politics today.”
Originally from Shopiere, Wisconsin, a small community near Beloit, Terry attended Winona State University in Minnesota for his undergraduate studies and went on to complete a Master of Administration from the Center for the Study of Public Policy and Administration. At the time, the founder of the center that is now part of the La Follette School, Professor Clara Penniman, was director.
“Clara Penniman changed my life like nobody else has,” says Terry, who found a strong mentor in Penniman. “Her whole goal was to get students involved in effective government.” He was so inspired by Penniman that in 2005, he established the Clara Penniman Fund, which supports students who secure internships in Washington, D.C., in her honor.
Terry started his career in the health field at the National Institutes of Health, where he gained experience in budget and policy development, grants, and contracts. Within a year, he became the chief administrator for drug research and development at the National Cancer Institute. Following his passion for improving health outcomes, he later founded the Children’s Research Institute, one of the top three children’s research programs in the country, and PanCAN (Pancreatic Cancer Action Network).
At the age of 26, Terry had the incredible opportunity to serve as the Staff Director of the Committee on Appropriations, the largest committee in the U.S. Senate, responsible for developing the funding levels for all federal programs through the various departments and agencies. Later, he also worked as Chief of Staff to both the Democratic Whip and the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. During that time, he oversaw and directed management of staff and policy and floor initiatives, and was liaison to the White House.
Terry has three children who are all deeply involved in public service. In November, his daughter Brooke was elected to the second highest office in the State of Maryland as the comptroller, making her the first woman in history of Maryland to win statewide state office. His son Trent is the chief organizer for the state of Maryland for CASA, a program that supports immigrant families, and his son Kyle served in the Obama-Biden White House as senior policy advisor and now runs the nonprofit Civic Nation, which leads high-profile organizing initiatives, including Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote effort.
Over the years, Terry has demonstrated his dedication to educating future leaders by sharing experiences from his wide-ranging career in the federal government and public service with La Follette School students to inspire their interest in public service. He also helped bring Congressman Jamie Raskin to the university for a recent campus visit to speak to over 1,200 people. The La Follette School is grateful to Terry for sharing his passion for public service and his extensive expertise with the La Follette School Board of Visitors, which provides important guidance to the school.