The Heritage Foundation never has been more important than it is today, especially in raising up “the next generation of conservative leaders,” says the first new chairman of the Board of Trustees since Bill Clinton ended George H.W. Bush’s residency at the White House.

The founders of the think tank, Heritage Chairman Thomas A. Saunders III recalls, “realized there was a void of conservative thought in America in the aftermath of the policies of the New Deal and the Great Society.”

That was early 1973, eight years before Ronald Reagan won the presidency while reminding Americans of the vitality of conservative principles championed by Heritage — and then set out to govern by them. Today, President Barack Obama seeks to discredit and brush aside those principles.

As we see a resurgence of New Deal-type policies today,” Saunders told Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner and fellow Heritage trustees April 2 upon his installation as chairman, “it is paramount that those who compose legislation and others at the heart of policy creation and implementation employ thoughtful, rational analysis to guide their dialogue.”

Saunders (at left in photo with Feulner) added:

We must also identify the next generation of conservative thinkers and leaders, and arm them with critical analysis to advance those policies that best serve this great nation. But we can’t stop there. It is equally important that the American people understand the issues facing the nation, and the consequences of their actions. The Heritage Foundation has never been more important.”

Saunders, a board member since 2005, is a New York investment banker who champions the importance of American history and higher education. He succeeds David R. Brown of Oklahoma, a retired orthopedic surgeon who had served as board chairman since 1992.

“Thanks to David’s wise counsel and generosity, Heritage has grown into a permanent rampart for the defense of freedom,” said Feulner, president of Heritage since 1977 and a board member since he co-founded the think tank. “Tom couldn’t ask for a better example as he takes the gavel as chairman.”

Saunders previously headed Heritage’s Investment Committee and oversaw the “Leadership for America” campaign. He is president of Ivor & Co., a private investment company. In 1990, he co-founded Saunders Karp & Megrue, a private equity firm that merged in 2005 with Apax Partners of London. From 1974 to 1989, he was a managing director of Morgan Stanley & Co.

Brown, a board member since 1978, assumed the title of chairman emeritus. The passing of the gavel came 10 days after Brown accepted the Clare Boothe Luce Award, Heritage’s highest honor, for his distinguished contributions to the conservative movement.