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Kennedy Scholarship

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Kennedy Scholarship

White House portrait of President John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy Scholarships provide full funding for six to eight British post-graduate students to study at either Harvard University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Susan Hockfield, the sixteenth President of MIT, described the scholarship program as a way to "offer exceptional students unique opportunities to broaden their intellectual and personal horizons, in ways that are more important than ever in an era defined by global interaction.”[1]

The creation of the Kennedy Memorial Trust

Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, set about creating a national British memorial in his memory. He consulted with Harold Wilson (the Leader of HM's Loyal Opposition), Sir David Ormsby-Gore (British Ambassador to the United States), Dean Rusk (United States Secretary of State) and the Kennedy family. It was agreed that Douglas-Home would establish a committee, chaired by Lord Franks (former British Ambassador to the United States of America), to make recommendations on the form of the memorial to President Kennedy.

The influential membership of the Franks Committee included:

1. Lord Franks - (chairman)
2. Lord Mayor of London
3. Lord Mayor of Belfast
4. Lord Mayor of Cardiff
5. Lord Provost of Edinburgh
7. Raymond Evershed, 1st Baron Evershed - Master of the Rolls (1949–1962), Law Lord
8. Roger Makins, 1st Baron Sherfield - Former British Ambassador to the United States of America (1953–1956)
9. Victor Feather - General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (1969–1973)
10. Lord Harcourt - Chairman of the Harkness Fellowship Trust
11. Sir Phillip de Zulueta - Foreign Affairs Private Secretary to Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan
12. Oliver Lyttelton, 1st Viscount Chandos - former Secretary of State for the Colonies (1951–1954)
13. Margot Fontaine - Ballerina
14. John Freeman - British Ambassador to the United States of America (1969–1971)

Following wide consultation, Franks wrote to the Prime Minister to recommend that the memorial should be in two parts:-

1. A living memorial, in the form of a scholarship to attend either Harvard or MIT. This would assist to perpetuate the values and ideals of President Kennedy; act as a spur to closer Anglo-American relations; and develop future leaders in politics, academia, public service, business and law. Franks hoped that it would be “a Rhodes scholarship in reverse”.

These universities were selected for two reasons. Firstly they were located in Massachusetts, the State represented by President Kennedy when a junior Senator and the home state of the Kennedy family. Secondly, President Kennedy had attended Harvard.

2. A permanent memorial site in Runnymede, England, the site of the Magna Carta. This location was chosen because it was regarded as the birthplace of British Liberty.

The recommendations of the committee were agreed and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Act 1964 was passed into legislation to enact and manage the two memorials.

Kennedy family

JFK Memorial designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe

The Kennedy family have been strong supporters of the British Kennedy memorial since its creation. Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom unveiled the memorial at Runnymede in 1965. It consists of a Portland stone memorial tablet inscribed with the famous quote from his Inaugural Address:

Senator Edward Kennedy described the program as the most ambitious of all the memorials to his brother, and he was a passionate supporter of the Kennedy Scholarships until his death in August 2009.[2][3]

Former trustees

Since 1964, all Kennedy Memorial Trust trustees have been appointed by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.[4] Various prominent individuals have previously served as trustees on the Trust. These include:


The current trustees are:


The Lord Mayor of London
The Governor of the Bank of England


In total, 488 individuals have been awarded a Kennedy Scholarship. The selection process is highly competitive, with a national competition which begins each autumn. Following a long-list and short-list process, around twenty-five individuals are invited to London for interview by the trustees.

When evaluating applications and interviewing candidates, the trustees take into consideration:

  • intellectual ability
  • personal and communication skills
  • wider interests and attainments
  • the focus and value of the candidate's proposed study at Harvard or MIT
  • capacity for future influence and leadership

The selection aims, criteria and standards are comparable to the Rhodes Scholarship program.[5] William Waldegrave, Baron Waldegrave of North Hill, the current chairman of the Rhodes Scholarship program and Provost of Eton College, studied at Harvard as a Kennedy Scholar. All successful applicants are invited to an annual reception in their honour.

Notable Kennedy Scholars

Prominent former scholars include:

Politics, government and civil service

The Right Honourable Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary (2011 -). She was the first woman and the second Kennedy Scholar to hold the Cabinet post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury
The Right Honourable David Miliband, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (2007 - 2010), one of four Kennedy Scholars in the Cabinet of Gordon Brown.

Economics and finance




External links

  • Kennedy Memorial Trust website


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