Today, the higher-education community in Massachusetts and throughout the nation marks the passing of one of its most powerful advocates: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. The senior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts was chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the second-longest-serving senator of all time.
“I join everyone in the Northeastern family today as we mourn the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy,” said Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun. “Sen. Kennedy was an unwavering ally of higher education in general and Northeastern in particular. He spoke on our campus many times throughout his remarkable career—both to impart his wisdom to our graduates and to engage our community in important public policy debates.”
Since the beginning of his accomplished career in the Senate, Kennedy maintained a close relationship with Northeastern. He became an official member of the university community on June 20, 1965, when he received the honorary degree Doctor of Public Administration and delivered his first Northeastern commencement address, in which he not only encouraged graduates to pursue a life of service and justice, but also urged them to look beyond American shores in shaping their political and social views.
In that address, he said, “Our foreign policy is the reflection of our people. It will be enlightened if you are enlightened—if you understand the people of other nations, what they need and how they think.”
Kennedy delivered a second address to the graduating class of 1977, and a third at the Northeastern School of Law commencement exercises in 1998. He also served as the escort for honorary degree recipient and Commencement speaker President Bill Clinton at Northeastern’s 1993 commencement ceremony.
Kennedy also served as a member of the Northeastern University Corporation from 1965 to 1990. Since then, he has continued to be a familiar face on the campus, especially in connection to his advocacy for student financial aid. He has spoken at student rallies, sought student testimonies regarding higher-education issues, and held press conferences and senate committee field hearings at Northeastern.
His most recent visit to campus was in March of last year when he held a hearing on the challenges of college costs in the declining economy. The Committee heard witness testimony from students, federal officials, and other financial-aid experts.
“The greatest tribute to the life of Ted Kennedy is for people of all political perspectives to work together toward improving our city, our nation, and the world,” added Aoun. “As the senator himself famously said: ‘The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.’”