Updated on 2/2/2011 4:24:39 PM.
The death of Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver (shown at right in photo) resonated at Vanderbilt, where he was remembered as a longtime friend and former National Advisory Board member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.
Shriver, 95, died Jan. 18 at a Washington-area hospital. Along with the Peace Corps, which he created under the auspices of his brother-in-law President John F. Kennedy, Shriver played a pivotal role in the creation of social programs such as Neighborhood Health Services, Foster Grandparents, Job Corps and Head Start.
Shriver credited the work of Susan Gray, co-founder of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, as the inspiration for Head Start, a national program that provides educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to pre-school children.
Shriver was a member of the Board of Trust of the George Peabody College for Teachers in 1979 during the critical period when it was merging with Vanderbilt. He also recruited Peabody’s Nicholas Hobbs as the first director of selection for the Peace Corps.
Carl Haywood, Ph.D., professor emeritus of Psychology and former director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (1971-83), worked with Shriver on a number of projects and remembers him as having a great interest in the innovative work taking place at the Center.
“Sargent Shriver was a great and constant friend of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center,” said Haywood. “During his many visits to the Center, he would always ask penetrating questions about specific research projects, and would sometimes be impatient with our restraint in generalizing our research findings to the world in general. Possessed of a lively sense of humor, he found potential for amusement in everything, an essential quality given that he was faced with some of the nation’s greatest challenges such as poverty, unequal access to social institutions, developmental disabilities, and the challenges of organizing America’s youth for humanitarian causes throughout the world. Concerned that the work of the Kennedy Foundation might not be carried on by the next generation, he asked me to write documents to be shared with his children, nephews, and nieces laying out the role of private philanthropy in social engineering and the unique contributions of the Kennedy Foundation, which I was happy to do. In very real ways the Kennedy Center owes its existence to the combined efforts and enthusiasm of Sargent Shriver, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Nicholas Hobbs.”
Shriver, along with wife Eunice Kennedy Shriver and mother-in-law Rose Kennedy, attended the Convocation marking the founding of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center on May 29, 1965. The Shrivers returned in 1996 to celebrate the Center’s 30th anniversary.
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