Remembering Fr. Theodore M. “Ted” Hesburgh and the 1961 Notre Dame Laetare Medal

by Maryrose Grossman, Audiovisual Reference Archivist

Aside from being born four days apart (in May 1917), President John F. Kennedy and Fr. Theodore M. “Ted” Hesburgh had other things in common. Both were steeped in Catholic tradition as well as committed to public service. They were also charismatic leaders who exhorted generations to combat the world’s problems and to achieve personal success in the service of others. President Kennedy’s career in public service began in 1946, first as a U.S. Representative and later as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Fr. Hesburgh served as President of the University of Notre Dame from 1952-1987; he was also a charter member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a champion of higher education and other causes throughout his long life.

During the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy directly addressed anti-Catholic bias and misconceptions about his religion; he triumphed over this obstacle to win the presidential election. The question of his potential allegiance to the Pope over the U.S. Constitution was of particular concern to many, and Kennedy quelled those fears at an address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960. Kennedy stated:


I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters—and the Church does not speak for me.” [1]


Fr. Hesburgh later spoke of the anti-Catholic issue, perhaps somewhat humorously:


That was talked about far and wide. It was really a bigoted kind of thing. There was no sense to it. The last thing in the world the Kennedys would do is go to the Pope for advice.” [2]


Every year the University of Notre Dame offers the Laetare Medal to a prominent American Catholic layman. Since 1883, the University has provided “by tradition and general acceptance, the most honored and outstanding lay award in the United States.” [3] It is not surprising that the 1961 Laetare Medal was awarded to President Kennedy. However, the award was not a fait accompli; aware of lingering anti-Catholic sentiment, Fr. Hesburgh did not want to risk further alienating President Kennedy from certain circles by giving him the medal; he therefore offered the President the choice of whether to accept the 1961 award. Fr. Hesburgh wrote in a letter to the President on February 14, 1961:


As I see the alternatives, some vocal non-Catholics might raise their eyebrows; on the other hand, I am sure it would be rather incomprehensible to the more than forty million Catholics in this country if anyone but yourself were given the award this year… It seems to me only proper that you yourself should make the this decision.” [4]












View the entire folder related to Fr. Hesburgh, here.










President Kennedy decided to accept the Laetare Medal and Fr. Hesburgh sent a handwritten note expressing his delight that the President would be receiving the award for 1961.



 View the entire folder related to Fr. Hesburgh, here.



The ceremony took place in the Oval Office on November 22, 1961. President Kennedy did not offer prepared remarks, perhaps in concession to any vocal non-Catholics who might disapprove.














                                                  View the entire folder of photographs related to the 1961 Laetare Medal, here.



Two years later, to the day, President Kennedy was assassinated; Fr. Theodore Hesburgh lived another 51+ years and died on February 26, 2015, at the age of 97.

Just four days after President Kennedy’s death, Fr. Hesburgh published an essay in the University of Notre Dame’s campus magazine, Scholastic. In it he stated:


If John F. Kennedy’s death has any message for America and all the world, it is this: ‘Get on the road, because the hour is late’.” [5]


Hesburgh’s words resonated with those of President Kennedy in his Inaugural Address:


All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.” [6]


The significance of President Kennedy’s award of the 1961 Laetare Medal was reflected in the following statement by Fr. Hesburgh following the President’s death:


The truest tragedy is not that some like John Kennedy fall victim along the way, but that so many others lack both the commitment and dedication to get started. Those who fall along the way do indeed become great beacons of light for those that follow them.” [7]



[1] The Speeches of Senator John F. Kennedy Presidential Campaign of 1960 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office), p. 210.

[2] Margaret Fosmoe, “Hesburgh Reflects on JFK,” South Bend Tribune, 21 November 2013.

[3] JFKPOF-030-011-p0008

[4] Ibid.

[5] Fosmoe.

[6] Public Papers of the President of the United States: John F. Kennedy 1961 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office), p. 2.

[7] Fosmoe.



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Newly Processed Materials: Nancy Tuckerman Files of the Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis Personal Papers

by Jennifer Marciello, Processing Archivist

We are pleased to announce that the Nancy Tuckerman Series of the Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis Personal Papers is open and available for research.

The papers contain personal and professional materials relating to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s public and private life and her role as First Lady of the United States. They document her interest in such topics as the redecoration of the White House, travel, State visits, arts and culture, press coverage, as well as her involvement in a variety of cultural projects, organizations, and associations. The collection spans the years 1926 to 2002, and the materials consist principally of staff files, correspondence, clippings, photographs, scrapbooks, and albums as well as other materials accumulated by Mrs. Kennedy during the course of her life.

The recently opened Nancy Tuckerman Files contain subject-based files and personal correspondence spanning Mrs. Kennedy’s last few months in the White House until her death in 1994. Nancy Tuckerman was the White House Social Secretary from June of 1963 until Mrs. Kennedy left Washington D.C. for New York in 1964, when Tuckerman then became Mrs. Kennedy’s personal secretary and chief of staff.

The subject files—the majority of material—are arranged alphabetically by type and are composed of memos, notes, and correspondence relating to general information on the First Lady and members of her family, projects and organizations with which she was associated, as well as memorials to President Kennedy.





Jacqueline Kennedy, Caroline, and John, Jr. were present at the christening of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. John F. Kennedy on May 27, 1967, in which Caroline Kennedy did the honors of christening the carrier in honor of President Kennedy.


























Jacqueline Kennedy was interested in finishing the work started by President Kennedy on June 1, 1962 regarding redevelopment of the Federal Triangle in Washington D.C. (Right) Letter from New York Senator Daniel P. Moynihan informing Mrs. Onassis that the work had been completed.











Pushinka was a dog that Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the Soviet Union (USSR), gave to President Kennedy. (Left) Pushinka’s original paperwork from Russia and the records for other family dogs can be found within Tuckerman’s subject files.








The series also contains the White House files that Tuckerman kept in her role as White House Social Secretary. Included are materials relating to the White House redecoration project and the Fine Arts Committee, requests of the Social Office, state gifts, and state dinners such as the Nobel Prize winners dinner, which includes the guest book signed by invitees such as Pearl Buck, Robert Frost, and Robert Oppenheimer. Of note are extensive handwritten notes from Mrs. Kennedy to Chief Usher J.B. West regarding the upkeep and running of the White House.











(Right) Memo for Chief Usher J. B. West from Mrs. Kennedy outlining her specific instructions for how to photograph an official state dinner.


















(Left) Memo from Chief Usher J.B. West to Mrs. Kennedy regarding her introduction of the first White House Guidebook.


















(Right) Example of a White House menu from January 18, 1962. The Tuckerman Series contains menus from February 1961 to October 1963.











Also included in this opening is material relating to President Kennedy’s gravesite and condolence mail received by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (and personally handled by Nancy Tuckerman) after the assassination of the President. A small segment of condolence mail includes general mail addressing requests from the public, gift acknowledgments, and tributes and memorial projects. Other condolence mail includes anniversary remembrances, flower card enclosures, and V.I.P. mail from government officials and heads of state. Of note are files relating to the volunteers who helped answer the large amount of condolence mail received after President Kennedy’s assassination. For additional condolence mail received by Mrs. Kennedy’s office please consult Series 1.2. Condolence Mail.












(Left) Mass service booklet on the Day of Burial for John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Saint Matthew’s Cathedral, Washington D.C.












(Below) Letter from John Carl Warnecke to Jacqueline Kennedy regarding the design of President Kennedy’s gravesite, as designed by John Carl Warnecke and Associates, Architects and Planning Consultants.





























(Left) Condolence telegram to Mrs. Kennedy from Martin Luther King, Jr.














(Right) Condolence telegram to the Kennedy Family from Bob Hope.

















(Left) Draft of a press release thanking the public for their messages of sympathy and recognizing the thousands of volunteers who answered Mrs. Kennedy’s condolence mail.









For additional information about the Personal Papers of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis please refer to the full finding aid of the collection.



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Newly Opened Collection: Ace of Clubs Records

by Lauren Wallace, Graduate Student Intern (Simmons College GSLIS)

We are pleased to announce that the Ace of Clubs Records is now open and available for research. This collection features the administrative, social, and photographic records of the Ace of Clubs Charitable Organization. From charity events to by-law revisions, President’s books to Secretary journals, the collection documents the charitable activities of the organization, founded in 1911 by Rose Fitzgerald (later known as Mrs. Rose Kennedy) and Miriam Finnegan. The object of the Club was to foster its membership’s interest in social, educational, cultural, and charitable activities.

Initially founded as a limited membership club for unmarried Catholic women who had traveled or been educated abroad in the early 1900s, it later grew into a club of social elites, with up to 400 members. The Ace of Clubs gave women a chance to expand their intellectual, social, and cultural enrichment by hosting guest speakers, balls, fundraisers, art auctions, fashion shows, and many other activities.

To facilitate educational enrichment, the Ace of Clubs hosted a series of lectures for its members. Among some of the more notable speakers were: John F. Kennedy during his time as Senator of Massachusetts; John F. Fitzgerald, former Mayor of Boston and father of Rose Kennedy; and Letitia Baldrige, former White House Social Secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy. Included here are various documents that highlight the important records within the collection.

Below are Club meeting minutes that document a speech given by John F. Fitzgerald. He appeared as a guest speaker for the Ace of Clubs and spoke on the “Future of Boston” on November 28, 1932.[1]





The Second meeting of the Ace of Clubs was held at the Hotel Somerset on Monday, November twenty-eight at one o’clock. A complimentary luncheon for the members was greatly enjoyed. The president, Mrs. William B. Burkes introduced the guest speaker. The Honorable John F. Fitzgerald who made an appeal to the Catholic Women to assist in the future of Boston. It was voted to hold a dance, the date left to the discretion of the board. An interesting exhibit of handicraft followed. Prizes being voted to Miss Hannah Reardon, first prize, Miss Katherine Manning, second prize, and two honorable mentions, one to Miss Marie Quinlan and to Miss Gladys Carew. The new members introduced to the club were Miss Hannah Reardon, Mrs. Nom Blakes, Virginia Manning, Isabel MacDonald, Marion Maloney, Margaret Quinn. Mme. Joly spoke to the members about forming a French class. A group was formed. Respectfully submitted, Gladys Carew. Secretary.”


During his term as U.S. Senator, John F. Kennedy spoke to the Ace of Clubs on “Current Events” at the Harvard Club of Boston on May 13, 1957. Below is the meeting minutes entry by Club Secretary, Esther F. Ronan:[2]






“The Seventh meeting of the 1956-1957 year was held at the Harvard Club of Boston. The Club was most fortunate to hear Senator John F. Kennedy Speak on ‘Current Events.’ This evening meeting was well attended by members and their guests. Respectfully submitted, Esther F. Ronan.”

View the entire folder here.






The Ace of Clubs hosted an annual fundraising event to sponsor a selected charity. Events included balls, art auctions, and fashion shows. Several charities of note sponsored by the Ace of Clubs were the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American Diabetes Association, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.




The 1963-1964 Ace of Clubs scrapbook documents the Club’s activities. Featured right are materials from monthly meetings in February and March 1964. Included are programs and clippings from the newspaper column, “Social News,” covering luncheons and charity events. The collection holds several scrapbooks documenting the organization through the late 1990s.

View the entire folder here.










Featured right is the Club’s charity fundraising event, “Gentleman’s Night.” The event was postponed for two months in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s death. The Club President at the time was President Kennedy’s cousin, Pauline Fitzgerald.

View the entire folder here.





Overall, the Ace of Clubs supported many charities and institutions over its ten decades of service.[3] As seen above, the Club continually supported the Kennedy family, whether by staying in contact with Rose Kennedy long after she stepped down as an officer, or sponsoring activities in support of the family during times of mourning. In May 1964 the Club received thanks from Jacqueline Kennedy for its donation to the John F. Kennedy Library in memory of President Kennedy. Additionally, the Club received several thank-you letters from Rose Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy for its continued support, examples of which are featured below.[4, 5]




[Left] Letter from Rose Kennedy to Mrs. John Reilly thanking Mrs. Reilly for her recent note and update on the program activities of the Ace of Clubs, December 6, 1968.

View the entire folder here.


[Right] Letter from Edward M. Kennedy to Mrs. John M. Slattery thanking her for the Club’s recent contribution toward the establishment of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, January 15, 1970.

View the entire folder here.




Over the years, the Ace of Clubs strove to maintain and to stay true to the founding goals established by Rose Kennedy and Miriam Finnegan in 1911. Due to declining membership, the Club was disbanded in 2011 after celebrating 100 years of service. During those 100 years, the Ace of Clubs succeeded in providing financial support to local charities as well as educational and cultural enrichment to its membership.



1. Box 12, Folder: “Scrapbook: 1963-1964 (1 of 2 folders),” pages 11-12 [AOCR-012-004-p0015 and -p0016].
2. Box 4,  Folder: “Correspondence: Signed letter from Rose Kennedy, 6 December 1968″ [AOCR-004-014-p0001].
3. Box 4, Folder:  “Correspondence: 1954-1981″ [AOCR-004-013-p0037].
4. Box 15, Folder: “Secretary’s Journal: 1925-1939″ [AOCR-V0015-001-p0018].
5. Box 16, Folder: “Secretary’s Journal: 1953-1969″ [AOCR-016-001-p0047].




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The Kennedy Library Remembers Warren Cikins

We are very sad to report that Warren I. Cikins, whose personal papers reside at the Kennedy Library, passed away on December 13, 2014. Cikins was a dedicated public servant at both the federal and local levels. He began his lengthy career as a legislative assistant to Congressman Brooks Hays of Arkansas, and went on to work for several federal agencies. He was a White House staffer during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations (1962-1966). In 1975, Cikins was elected to the Board of Supervisors in his local community of Fairfax, Virginia. He also worked for the Brookings Institution for nearly two decades.


Photograph of Warren I. Cikins





The collection guide to the Warren I. Cikins Personal Papers is available on our website.

Warren Cikins’ obituary and memorial service (click “on demand viewer”) are also online for those who would like to learn more about this most interesting gentleman.






Those of us at the Kennedy Library who had the good fortune to work with Mr. Cikins knew him to be a very kind, compassionate, and generous man who took great pains to ensure that his papers and his long political career were described accurately. He provided great assistance to the Archives staff and always did so with good humor and warmth.

We will miss Warren Cikins, though are heartened to know that his legacy will live on for generations to come.

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Newly Processed Collection: James Saxon Personal Papers

by Christina Lehman Fitzpatrick, Processing Archivist

We are pleased to announce that the James Saxon Personal Papers are open and available for research. Saxon served as Comptroller of the Currency during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations (1961-1966). As an independent bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department, the Office of the Comptroller is charged with regulating and administering the system of national banks.

James Joseph Saxon was born on April 13, 1914, in Toledo, Ohio. After studying economics and finance, he joined the Treasury Department in 1937 as a securities analyst in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. During World War II, Saxon served as Treasury attaché in the Philippines, where he dealt with seized Japanese assets and advised the Army commanders on financial issues. After several years representing the Treasury abroad, Saxon returned to Washington and was appointed assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury in December 1947. He received a law degree from Georgetown University in 1950, then became special assistant to the Treasury’s General Counsel. After a brief stint with the Democratic National Committee, Saxon was named assistant general counsel of the American Bankers Association in 1952. In August 1956, he was hired as an attorney by the First National Bank of Chicago. Saxon was appointed Comptroller of the Currency by President Kennedy on November 16, 1961, and was confirmed by the Senate on February 7, 1962.

Soon after I began processing the collection, I started seeing clues that Saxon was not just another mild-mannered banker. The press dubbed him “that feuding comptroller” and the newspaper headlines blared:


“Saxon, Comptroller of US, Keeps Banking in a Whirl”

“Currency Comptroller is Most Controversial”

“U.S. Comptroller Flaunts Tradition”

“Comptroller Saxon Seems to Enjoy Maverick’s Role”


Who was this government official and how had he caused such an uproar?

I discovered that Saxon’s term as Comptroller was actually quite exciting. He took a much more active role than his predecessors and instituted many reforms in both the agency and the national banking system. These included expanding bank powers, overhauling and streamlining procedures, and lifting restrictions on certain banking products; granting approval to many new banks and branches to encourage expansion and increase competition; creating a network of regional comptrollers with more authority, as well as an international banking unit; adding a new department of trained economists; and raising hiring standards for bank examiners.




(Left) Chart showing the high number of new banks chartered during Saxon’s term. View the entire folder here.





(Right) Saxon discusses his mission and goals in this draft speech. View the entire folder here.







As Saxon explained in one speech (shown above at right):


“When I came into the office of the Comptroller of the Currency, my object was [to] see the commercial banking business inoculated with a spirit of progress, initiative, and innovation. It seemed at the time that unless the commercial banking business could be unshackled and got off dead center, it would continue to stagnate and that the economy and the society would thereby suffer. It appeared that a massive effort should be made to modernize the archaic banking structure and its operational powers and capacity, so as to make it more dynamic and competitive. This program had President Kennedy’s support, without which the controversial forward-looking program which was developed over a period of years would not have been possible.”


Saxon’s innovative approach soon caught the attention of the U.S. Congress, which was worried that he was approving charters for too many new banks. After a string of high-profile bank failures, Saxon was called to testify before Congress and defend his policies. He also butted heads with the other regulatory agencies (most notably, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC) while asserting the authority and independence of the Comptroller’s Office. Even though several of his regulatory initiatives were later overturned by the courts, Saxon left a lasting mark on the banking industry that can still be seen today.







(Right) Sample question from the briefing book Saxon used to prepare for the Congressional investigation into national banks. View the entire folder here.



(Below) Memo from Saxon to G. d’Andelot Belin, General Counsel for the Treasury Department, expressing his displeasure at perceived encroachment on the Comptroller’s authority. View the entire folder here.




















Upon his resignation at the end of 1966, Saxon received an outpouring of congratulations from bankers around the country. David Rockefeller of the Chase Manhattan Bank wrote:


“I am sure that when the final version of the history of banking in the United States is written, your role as a stimulating, activating, organizing force will loom large. These past few years have been turbulent and exciting. The industry needed to be stirred up and modified, and you [helped] to do both. Congratulations on the fine services you have rendered our country!”






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