Children’s Advocate Victoria Reggie Kennedy Being Honored
Widow of Edward M. Kennedy will receive honorary Doctor of Laws
Victoria Reggie Kennedy, a tireless advocate on behalf of children, women, and families and the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (Hon.’70), will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws at Boston University’s 138th Commencement, on May 22, 2011. She will also deliver the convocation address at the School of Social Work, on Friday, May 20, at 4 p.m.
Cofounder of Common Sense about Kids and Guns, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce gun deaths and injuries to children, Kennedy has championed many of the social causes—including universal health care—her husband fought for during his nearly 50 years in the U.S. Senate.
“I was surprised and deeply honored to learn that I was going to be awarded an honorary degree from BU,” says Kennedy. “BU graduates are making a difference in every corner of the globe. I’m proud that I’ll now be able to say that I have a BU degree.”
Kennedy, an attorney specializing in banking, earned a BA in English from Tulane University, and a Juris Doctor from Tulane University Law School.
Her family had been longtime friends of Kennedy’s, and she worked as a summer intern in his Senate office mailroom after graduating from college. They were reintroduced at the 40th anniversary party Kennedy threw for her parents in 1991. They wed a year later. Throughout their marriage, Kennedy was a key advisor in her husband’s campaigns and his senatorial work.
Since the senator’s death in August 2009, Kennedy has continued to carry on her husband’s mission, promoting causes that were important to him throughout his career.
“I share my husband’s belief that each of us can make a difference, and I’ve tried to do that in part by being involved and encouraging others to be involved in what Oliver Wendell Holmes called ‘the actions and passions of our time,” says Kennedy, who recently joined forces with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and its Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology to “celebrate the extraordinary work some truly heroic doctors are undertaking to improve women’s lives in some of the most troubled places in the world—Sierra Leone, Haiti, and Afghanistan, to name just a few.”
Much of Kennedy’s time has been spent recently working to create the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, an educational center that recently broke ground next to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, in Dorchester, Mass. Kennedy envisions the new center as a place that “will bring history alive for students of all ages” and inspire new generations of leaders “to enter the public square and devote their talents and energy to service.”
“My husband, Ted, believed that America’s future would always remain bright as long as men and women of good conscience are prepared to respond to the call to service,” says Kennedy. “We aim to motivate Americans to do what they can to make our country live up to its highest ideals.”
At the School of Social Work convocation, Kennedy says, she hopes to impress upon the school’s 181 graduates “that they can make a real difference in this world.”
“She has tremendous knowledge and understanding of individuals, families, and communities whom social workers service—those who are at great risk and in great need,” says Gail Steketee, dean of SSW.
Noting that a social work degree “is a very special and powerful tool for good,” Kennedy says she hopes that the graduates “each stay true to their passion, and that in times of uncertainty, they’ll never lose faith in their ability to help someone else, because at the end of the day, it’s what we do for others that helps makes us who we are.”
Victoria Reggie Kennedy is one of six honorary degree recipients at this year’s BU Commencement. Jacques Pépin, chef, television personality, author, and BU lecturer, will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters. Noted painter and sculptor Frank Stella will be awarded a Doctor of Fine Arts. National Public Radio journalist Nina Totenberg will be presented with a Doctor of Humane Letters. Baccalaureate speaker Ahmed Zewail, a Nobel Prize–winning scientist and a professor at the California Institute of Technology, will receive a Doctor of Science. Commencement speaker Katie Couric, an Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist and the first solo woman anchor of a network news broadcast, will be awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters.
John O’Rourke can be reached at email@example.com Comments