Known nationally as the "Lion of the Senate" and as one of the most effective legislators in the nation's history, Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy—who died last Tuesday night of complications from terminal brain cancer—will also be remembered by the Harvard University community as one of its own, the Harvard Crimson reports.
As a child and young adult, Kennedy attended nearly a dozen different schools before graduating from Milton Academy in 1950 and subsequently enrolling in Harvard as his father and three brothers had done before him. But at the end of Kennedy's freshman year, the university suspended him after catching him cheating on a Spanish exam. For the next two years, Kennedy served in the U.S. Army as a military policeman in Paris before re-enrolling at Harvard in the fall of 1953.
Both before his suspension and upon his return, Kennedy was a reputable member of Harvard's football team. As a senior, he scored the only Harvard touchdown in that year's Harvard vs. Yale game. Instead of pursuing an offer to play professional football for the Green Bay Packers, Kennedy chose to attend law school at the University of Virginia.
In the half century following Kennedy's graduation from Harvard, he remained passionately connected to the university. He helped found the Institute of Politics, a center designed to commemorate the life and work of his brother John through research and scholarship. While serving on the institute's senior advisory committee, Kennedy hardly ever missed a meeting. He even joined in by teleconference when his declining health did not allow him to attend in person.
"We have been privileged and proud to have him as a member of the Harvard family, and I am one of the many, many people who will deeply miss his leadership, his courage, and his friendship," Harvard University President Drew G. Faust said in a statement released Wednesday morning.
In December 2008, Harvard awarded Kennedy an honorary degree in a special ceremony. He was supposed to receive the award at Harvard's June 2008 commencement ceremony but could not attend because of his battle with cancer.
"I hope that in all the time since [the 1950s] I have lived up to the chance Harvard gave me," Kennedy said after receiving his honorary doctorate. George Washington, Nelson Mandela, and Winston Churchill are the only other individuals to receive an honorary degree from Harvard at a special ceremony. "Now I know I have something in common with George Washington, other than being born on February 22," Kennedy said. "[Though] it is not being president, as I had once hoped."
Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of America's Best Colleges.