In recognition of her efforts in creating the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver will be posthumously honored as the 38th recipient of Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Elizabeth Blackwell Award in a ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 27. Timothy P. Shriver, Special Olympics Board of Directors Chair and Chief Executive Officer, will accept the award in his mother’s honor at 7:30 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center. Shriver will then give a President’s Forum speech.
After visiting institutions for people with intellectual disabilities across the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Kennedy Shriver was appalled by their treatment. She believed that, given the same opportunities and experiences as others, they were far more capable than commonly believed.
Shriver put that vision into action in 1962 by inviting children with intellectual disabilities to Camp Shriver, a summer day camp in her backyard, to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activities. The Camp Shriver concept – that through sports people with intellectual disabilities can realize their potential for growth – began to spread, and in July 1968, the first International Special Olympics Games were held in Chicago, Illinois.
What began as one woman’s idea evolved into a global movement that today serves three million people with intellectual disabilities in nearly 200 nations around the world. There are now both World Winter Games and World Summer Games. Documentaries, “Wide-World-of-Sports” presentations, after-school television specials, feature films, cross-aisle Congressional teamwork and relentlessly positive global word of mouth have educated the planet about Special Olympics and the capabilities of the individuals it serves.
“Schooling, medical treatment and athletic training have all changed for people with intellectual disabilities as a result of Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s vision,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “Critically, so have minds, attitudes and laws.”
The Elizabeth Blackwell Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Colleges, is given to women whose lives exemplify outstanding service to humankind. It is named for Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in modern times to receive the Doctor of Medicine degree. Blackwell earned her degree in 1849 from Geneva Medical College, Hobart College’s precursor. The Colleges confer the Elizabeth Blackwell Award whenever a candidate of sufficient stature and appropriate qualifications is identified. The first award was given in 1958; it was presented most recently in 2009 when it was bestowed to the First Woman Rabbi ordained in the United States, Rabbi Sally J. Priesand. Other notable recipients include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai, P’94, P’96, Sc.D.’94, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, professional tennis legend Billie Jean King and anthropologist and author Margaret Mead.
It is fitting that the Colleges recognize Kennedy Shriver during this academic year, throughout which HWS will honor and encourage the advancing of ideas for change within the campus community and beyond. As steward of the legacy of his mother’s powerful idea, Shriver will present a President’s Forum lecture that pays homage to her memory and vision.
“It is through her relentless determination, passion, courage and the hard work of her and many others that her vision is being realized by millions of people the world over. She has inspired people around the globe to become believers and follow in her footsteps,” explains Shriver, who has expanded the Special Olympics to countries such as China, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Herzgovina and Iraq. He has further harnessed the power of Hollywood to share stories of inspiration and change through films, television shows and TV appearances.
After taking the helm at Special Olympics in 1996, Shriver launched the organization’s most ambitious growth agenda, leading to the recruitment of more than two million new athletes around the world. He has worked with the leaders of China, Afghanistan, Bosnia Herzegovina and Iraq to initiate a thriving Special Olympics Program in those countries. Shriver has also created new Special Olympics initiatives in athlete leadership, cross-cultural research, health, education and family support. Among them, Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® has become the world’s largest public health screening and education program for people with intellectual disabilities, and Special Olympics Get Into It®, together with Unified Sports®, promotes inclusion and acceptance around the world. In addition, he has worked to garner more legislative attention and government support for issues of concern to the Special Olympics community.
Before joining Special Olympics, Shriver was and remains a leading educator focusing on the social and emotional factors in learning. He has worked in substance abuse prevention, violence, dropout prevention and teen pregnancy prevention. He created the New Haven Public Schools’ Social Development Project, now considered the leading school-based prevention effort in the United States, and co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the leading research organization in the United States in the field of social and emotional learning. Shriver currently chairs CASEL.
Shriver earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University, a master’s degree in religion and religious education from Catholic University, and a doctorate in education from the University of Connecticut.