Dye Foundation Keeps Memories of Aide Alive
Parents of Hill Staffer Who Died at 27 Pay Tribute to Him by Helping to Give
By Amy Keller
From the painting that hangs in his Arkansas home to the musical he wrote about a “hardheaded Texan” who loves politics and dies too young, Dennis Dye relies on art to work through his grief and remember his son, Jeffrey.
And through the art of giving, Dye and his wife, Janell, are making sure that others remember Jeffrey, too.
Several years ago the couple formed the Jeffrey J. Dye Leadership Foundation in honor of their only son, who passed away suddenly in 1997 at the age of 27. Dye, who suffered from epilepsy, is described by his family as a passionate Texan with an unquenchable thirst for politics and an up-and-coming star behind the scenes in Democratic politics.
With their non-profit foundation,
the Dyes have been helping to send students with a love for politics to
As Dye explains it, “We realized that helping other youngsters get into the political fray” was the best way to honor Jeff’s memory. So the couple established the foundation, raised some money and set out to select students they felt were “smart enough and obsessive enough” to live up to Jeff’s example.
Who was Jeffrey J. Dye?
“He wanted to be like James Carville. He liked doing the thinking and the maneuvering and strategizing and arguing,” Dye reminisced in a recent interview. “His grandma would ask him if he would like to be president and [he] said, ‘No, I’m the guy who makes the president.’”
Dye launched his career
in politics while attending the
In 1993 he moved to
Clearly, Jeffrey Dye made a distinct impression on all those whose lives he touched.
“Never was there an operative so constitutionally fitted for the rock and roll of modern, media-age politics as he,” Sen. Daniel Akaka D-Hawaii) said in a floor tribute to his former staffer after his death in 1997.
“Jeff loved the ups-and-downs of elections, the eat-or-be-eaten nature of the democratic process, whether in the form of a presidential campaign or a race for the local school board,” Akaka continued. “He had a Texas-sized appetite where these things applied.”
Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-Texas), who came to know Dye when he worked on his first House campaign, described him as a “crack researcher, a spectacular fundraiser and a cunning political strategist.”
Because of Jeffrey’s successes
Since 1998, 15 students
have benefited from the Jeffrey J. Dye Leadership Foundation’s ‘Washington
Experience” program, and two more students are slated to go through the program
this fall. The students selected by
the foundation arrange internship experiences in Washington through either
In addition to providing money to students to help them realize their political ambitions, the foundation also assigns each student a “personal mentor” to provide one-on-one advice on everything from protocol on the Hill to how to network and make it in the capital.
“It’s wonderful,” remarked Joanne Rising, a senior legislative assistant for Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) who serves on the board of directors of the JJDLF and also fills the role of mentor coordinator for the organization.
‘These kids are so impressive and so smart. It’s a great program,” remarked Rising, who was a close friend of Jeffrey’s and has watched more than a dozen students travel to Washington and complete the program.
Emma Canno, a University of Texas honors student who majored in government and philosophy who came to Washington in 1998, spent her semester in American University’s justice program and did her internship at Ayuda Legal Aid. During this time she be came involved in immigration issues and was able to capitalize on her bilingual talents.
Also in 1999, Tracy Walraven,
a political science major from
She recently left the Hill to become the grassroots and advocacy manager for the American Nursery and Landscape Association.
‘This was an awesome opportunity
and experience,” Walraven enthused. “Without the program, I would never have
gotten the opportunity and never would be here. Opportunities are just not
lying around in the middle of
‘This completely opened that door and is continuing to open more doors for students in my situation,” she added.
Rising cannot think of a better way to keep Jeffrey Dye’s memory alive.
“It’s the best way I know to show people the good side of politics,” she said. “He was the good side of politics.”