Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Dame Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Born Eunice Mary Kennedy
(1921-07-10)July 10, 1921
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died August 11, 2009(2009-08-11) (aged 88)
Hyannis, Massachusetts, U.S.
Cause of death Stroke[1]
Resting place St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church parish cemetery
Centerville, Massachusetts[1]
Nationality American
Education Manhattanville College
Alma mater Stanford University
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sargent Shriver
(m. 1953; her death 2009)
Children Bobby Shriver
Maria Shriver
Timothy Shriver
Mark Shriver
Anthony Shriver
Parent(s) Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.
Rose Fitzgerald
Relatives See Kennedy family

Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver, DSG (July 10, 1921 – August 11, 2009)[2] was the founder in 1962 of Camp Shriver which started on her Maryland farm known as Timberlawn and, in 1968 evolved into the Special Olympics. She was a member of the Kennedy family, sister of President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy; her husband, Sargent Shriver, was United States Ambassador to France and the Democratic vice presidential candidate in the 1972 U.S. presidential election.


Early life

Born Eunice Mary Kennedy in Brookline, Massachusetts, she was the fifth of nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and Rose Fitzgerald.

She was educated at the Convent of The Sacred Heart, Roehampton, London and at Manhattanville College in Upper Manhattan (the school later moved further North to Purchase, New York). After graduating from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology in 1943,[3] she worked for the Special War Problems Division of the U.S. State Department. She eventually moved to the U.S. Justice Department as executive secretary for a project dealing with juvenile delinquency. She served as a social worker at the Federal Industrial Institution for Women for one year before moving to Chicago in 1951 to work with the House of the Good Shepherd women's shelter and the Chicago Juvenile Court.[4]

In 1969, Shriver moved to France and pursued her interest in intellectual disability there. She started organizing small activities with Paris organizations, mostly reaching out to families of kids who had special needs to provide activities for them, laying the foundation for a robust international expansion of the Special Olympics in the late ’70s and ’80s.[5]

Political career

Shriver actively campaigned for her elder brother, John, during his successful 1960 U.S. presidential election. In 1968, she helped Anne McGlone Burke nationalize the Special Olympics movement and is the only woman to have her portrait appear, during her lifetime, on a U.S. coin – the 1995 commemorative Special Olympics silver dollar.

Although Shriver was a Democrat, she was a vocal supporter of the pro-life movement. In 1990, Shriver wrote a letter to The New York Times denouncing the misuse of a quotation by President Kennedy used out of context by a pro-choice group.[6] During Bill Clinton's 1992 Democratic U.S. presidential campaign, she was one of several prominent Democrats – including Governor Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania, and Bishop Austin Vaughan of New York – who signed a letter to The New York Times protesting the Democratic Party's pro-choice plank in its platform. Shriver was a supporter of several pro-life organizations: Feminists for Life of America,[7] the Susan B. Anthony List,[8] and Democrats for Life of America.

A lifelong Democrat, she supported her Republican son-in-law Arnold Schwarzenegger's successful 2003 Governor of California election. On January 28, 2008, Shriver was present at American University in Washington, D.C., when her brother, U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, announced his endorsement of Barack Obama's 2008 Democratic U.S. presidential campaign.[9]

Charity work and awards

In 2008, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development was renamed in honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

A longtime advocate for children's health and disability issues, Shriver was a key founder of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a part of the National Institutes of Health in 1962. She has also helped to establish numerous other university programs, government initiatives, health-care facilities, and support and support service networks throughout the country. In 1961, she championed the creation of the President's Panel on Mental Retardation which was significant in the movement from institutionalization to community integration in the US and throughout the world, a major public policy challenge.[10] In 1982, Shriver founded the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring at University of Utah, Salt Lake City. The Community is a "grades K-12, whole school, comprehensive character education program with a focus on disabilities... adopted by almost 1,200 schools nationwide and in Canada."[11]

She was awarded the nation's highest civilian award, the (U.S.) Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1984 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, because of her work on behalf of those with intellectual disability.[12] In 1990 Shriver was awarded the Eagle Award from the United States Sports Academy. The Eagle Award is the Academy's highest international honor and was awarded to Shriver for her significant contributions to international sport.[13]

In 1992, Shriver received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[14]

For her work in nationalizing the Special Olympics, Shriver received the Civitan International World Citizenship Award.[15] Her advocacy on this issue has also earned her other awards and recognitions, including honorary degrees from numerous universities.[16][17] She is the second American and only woman to appear on a US coin while still living. Her portrait is on the obverse of the 1995 commemorative silver dollar honoring the Special Olympics. On the reverse is the quotation, "As we hope for the best in them, hope is reborn in us."

Shriver received the 2002 Theodore Roosevelt Award (the Teddy),[18] an annual award given by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to a graduate from an NCAA member institution who earned a varsity letter in college for participation in intercollegiate athletics, and who ultimately became a distinguished citizen of national reputation based on outstanding life accomplishment. In addition to the Teddy recognition, she was selected in 2006 as part of the NCAA Centennial celebration as one of the 100 most-influential individuals in its first century; she was listed ninth.[18]

In 2006, she received a papal knighthood from Pope Benedict XVI, being made a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (DSG). Her mother had been created a papal countess in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.[citation needed]

In 2008, the U.S. Congress changed the NICHD’s name to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. In December 2008, Sports Illustrated named her the first recipient of Sportsman of the Year Legacy Award.[19] On May 9, 2009, the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington, D.C., unveiled an historic portrait of her, the first portrait the NPG has ever commissioned of an individual who had not served as a U.S. President or First Lady. The portrait depicts her with four Special Olympics athletes (including Loretta Claiborne) and one Best Buddies participant. It was painted by David Lenz, the winner of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition in 2006. As part of the Portrait Competition prize, the NPG commissioned a work from the winning artist to depict a living subject for the collection. Lenz, whose son, Sam, has Down syndrome and is an enthusiastic Special Olympics athlete, was inspired by Shriver’s dedication to working with people with intellectual disabilities.

Shriver became involved with Dorothy Hamill's special skating program in the Special Olympics after Hamill's Olympics Games ice-skating win. In September 2010, the State University of New York at Brockport, home of the 1979 Special Olympics, renamed its football stadium after Shriver.[20]

Personal life

On May 23, 1953, she married Sargent Shriver in a Roman Catholic ceremony at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.[21] Her husband served as the U.S. Ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970 and was the 1972 Democratic U.S. Vice Presidential candidate (with George McGovern as the candidate for U.S. President).[21] They had five children:

With her husband, she had nineteen grandchildren, the second-most of any of her siblings (her brother Robert had eleven children who have produced thirty-four grandchildren).[22] Her daughter Maria Shriver is separated from actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As executive vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation in the 1950s, she shifted the organization's focus from Catholic charities to research on the causes of intellectual disabilities and humane ways to treat them.[23] This interest eventually culminated in, among other things, the Special Olympics movement.

Upon the death of her sister Rosemary Kennedy on January 7, 2005, Shriver became the eldest of the four then-surviving children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. Her sister Patricia Kennedy died on September 17, 2006, and her brother Edward M. Kennedy died on August 25, 2009, leaving former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith as the only surviving sibling.[24]

Later years and death

Shriver, who was believed to have suffered from Addison's disease,[25] suffered a stroke and a broken hip in 2005, and on November 18, 2007, she was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where she spent several weeks.[26][27] On August 9, 2009, she was admitted to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, with an undisclosed ailment.[28] On August 10, her relatives were called to the hospital.[29] Early the following morning, Shriver died at the hospital; she was 88 years old.[2][30] No other Kennedy, with the exception of her mother, Rose, has, to date, lived longer.

Shriver's family issued a statement upon her death, reading in part

"Inspired by her love of God, her devotion to her family, and her relentless belief in the dignity and worth of every human life, she worked without ceasing—searching, pushing, demanding, hoping for change. She was a living prayer, a living advocate, a living center of power. She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more. She founded the movement that became Special Olympics, the largest movement for acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in the history of the world. Her work transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe, and they in turn are her living legacy."[31]

President Barack Obama remarked after Shriver's death that she was "an extraordinary woman who, as much as anyone, taught our nation—and our world—that no physical or mental barrier can restrain the power of the human spirit."[32]

Funeral and burial

On August 14, 2009, an invitation-only Requiem Mass was celebrated for Shriver at St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in Hyannis. Following the Requiem Mass, she was buried at the St. Francis Xavier parish cemetery in nearby Centerville.[1] Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter of condolence to her family.[33] Because her brother Ted had terminal brain cancer, he was unable to attend the funeral,[34] and their sister, Jean Smith (now the sole surviving child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy), stayed with him. Ted died two weeks later.[24][34]

That same day, U2 performed at Wembley Stadium as part of their U2 360° Tour. As part of the encore, the band performed "With or Without You", which Bono dedicated to Shriver; a recording of the performance is available on their album U22.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Staff writer (August 14, 2009). "Special Olympians, Family Celebrate Eunice Kennedy Shriver". The Associated Press (at WJAR television's website Retrieved August 16, 2000.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Grinberg, Emanuella (n.d.). "Eunice Kennedy Shriver dies". Retrieved August 11, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Smith, J.Y. (August 11, 2009). "Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Founder of Special Olympics, Dies at 88" The Washington Post. Retrieved August 11, 2009.
  4. Baranauckas, Carla (August 12, 2009). "Eunice Shriver, Founder of Special Olympics, Dies". The New York Times. (website registration required)
  5. Cooper, Chet. "Timothy Shriver — Special Olympics". ABILITY Magazine. Retrieved 18 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Biofiles: Eunice Kennedy Shriver [1]. Retrieved August 11, 2009.
  7. Shriver, Eunice Kennedy, "Remarkable Pro-Life Women" (PDF format) The American Feminist, The Quarterly Magazine of Feminists for Life of America, Vol. 5, No. 4, Winter 1998–1999, p. 18. Accessed May 28, 2008.
  8. Susan B. Anthony List, Notable Names Database. Accessed May 28, 2008.
  9. Alexander, Amy, "A Torch Passed", The Nation, January 28, 2008. Retrieved August 11, 2009. Archived December 6, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Braddock, D. (2010, February). Honoring Eunice Kennedy Shriver's legacy in intellectual disability. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 48(1): 63-72.
  11. "About Community of Caring". Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring. Undated. Retrieved August 14, 2009.
  12. "Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom", Archives – Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. March 26, 1984. Accessed May 28, 2008.
  13. "News 21/01/08 - FISU President Receives USSA Award". 2008-01-21. Retrieved 2011-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Armbrester, Margaret E. (1992). The Civitan Story. Birmingham, AL: Ebsco Media. p. 95.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Eunice Kennedy Shriver – Doctor of Public Service" The Shriver Center, The University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Accessed May 28, 2008.
  17. "Eunice Kennedy Shriver". Special Olympics. Archived from the original on 2008-01-28. Retrieved August 12, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 Staff writer (August 11, 2009). "2002 Teddy winner Shriver dies at 88". NCAA News (at the National Collegiate Athletic Association). Retrieved August 15, 2009.
  19. Eunice Kennedy Shriver's legacy lives on with Special Olympics
  20. [2][dead link]
  21. 21.0 21.1 Archives. R(obert) "Sargent Shriver: An Inventory of His Personal Papers, 1948–1976, Papers (#214) – J" John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, John F. Kennedy Library National Archives and Records Administration
  23. Smith, J.Y. (August 12, 2009). "Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics Founder, Dies at 88". Retrieved 2010-03-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 Staff writer. "Ted Kennedy Dies of Brain Cancer at Age 77 — 'Liberal Lion' of the Senate Led Storied Political Family After Deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy". ABC News. Retrieved August 26, 2009.
  25. Dallek, Robert (2003). An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. London: Penguin Books. pp. 105, 731. ISBN 978-0-14-101535-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Eunice Kennedy Shriver Hospitalized". Associated Press. November 25, 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Beggy, Carol and Mark Shanahan, "She's loyal to father's 'Ideal'", The Boston Globe, January 14, 2008. Retrieved August 11, 2009.
  28. McGreevy, Patrick. "Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver at Eunice Shriver's bedside", Los Angeles Times. August 7, 2009. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  29. Staff writer (August 11, 2009). "Eunice Kennedy Shriver's relatives called to hospital". Retrieved August 11, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Allen, Mike (August 11, 2009). "Eunice Kennedy Shriver dies". Politico.Com. Retrieved August 11, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Statement from The Shriver Family". Eunice Kennedy Shriver's website. 2009-08-11. Retrieved 2009-08-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Farr, Michael (August 11, 2010). "One year ago: Eunice Kennedy Shriver". Los Angeles Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "Pope's Letter to Kennedy-Shriver Family". Retrieved 2009-08-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. 34.0 34.1 McMullen, Troy (August 26, 2009). "The Last Kennedy — Death of Ted Kennedy Leaves One Surviving Child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy". ABC News. Retrieved August 26, 2009.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
William Cohen
Theodore Roosevelt Award (NCAA)
Succeeded by
Donna de Varona