• 1883John Gilmary Shea
  • 1884Patrick Charles Keeley
  • 1885Eliza Allen Starr
  • 1886General John Newton
  • 1887Edward Preuss
  • 1888Patrick V. Hickey
  • 1889Anna Hansen Dorsey

1883: John Gilmary Shea

John Gilmary Shea

Shea has been cited ‘The Father of American Catholic History’ largely because of his massive History of the Catholic Church in the United States, a four-volume study which he began three years after receiving the first Laetare Medal. He began his career as a historian of the Church at the age of 14, contributing a biography of Cardinal Alvarez Carillo de Arbonoz to The Young People’s Catholic Magazine. For the rest of his life his historical work, which produced more than 250 books and a 26-volume series on the Jesuit exploration of North America, was mostly self-subsidized.

1884: Patrick Charles Keeley

Patrick Charles Keeley

In the spring of 1869, Father Sorin asked this Catholic architect to draw plans for what is now the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Keeley envisioned a cruciform 200 feet long with a transept large enough to seat 2,000 people. A large dome would have crowned the intersection of the transept and nave, and the building would have been flanked by two bell towers. The cost of the project (over $100,000) alarmed even Father Sorin, who decided against the plan. But between 1847 and 1892, nearly 700 of Keeley’s other drawings became cathedrals, parish churches and monasteries. At the time of its construction, Keeley’s Brooklyn Cathedral was the largest building of its kind in the Western hemisphere.

1885: Eliza Allen Starr

Eliza Allen Starr

The first woman to receive a Laetare Medal was a descendant of the Puritans of New Engalnd. In 1854, after nine years of prayer and personal struggle, she was received into the Catholic Church. Well-educated in the arts, she decided to devote the rest of her life to the criticism, interpretation, and publicizing of Christian art. Several books of her criticism were greatly respected in secular circles, and for one, "Three Keys to the Camera della Segnatura of the Vatican," she received papal commendation. Much of her later life was spent as a teacher of art at Saint Mary’s Academy near Notre Dame.

1886: General John Newton

General John Newton

A graduate of West Point and a highly decorated veteran of several Union campaigns in the Civil War, Newton is remembered less for what he left behind than for what he took away. As Lieutenant-Colonel of Engineers for the United States Army, he supervised the removal of two huge and obstructive rocks, Hallet’s Reef and Flood Rock, from Hell Gate, and the main waterway between Long Island Sound and the East River. The impediments were destroyed in two large explosions in 1876 and 1885, and the project was internationally praised as an outstanding technological feat.

1887: Edward Preuss

Edward Preuss

No Laetare Medalist of was announced in 1887, and the selection of Edward Preuss, who declined to accept the medal, was not made public until 1916. An article in the 1908 issue of The Scholastic, Notre Dame’s student magazine, describes Preuss, without using his name, as “a convert from Protestantism (who) had written a book before his conversion in which he violently attacked the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin.” Although Preuss later edited Amerika, a popular St. Louis-based German Catholic daily newspaper, he made a repentant vow when he was received into the Church in 1872 that he would not accept any public distinction.

1888: Patrick V. Hickey

Patrick V. Hickey

Born and educated in Ireland, Hickey emigrated to America in 1866 and worked for six years as a reporter, special correspondent, literary critic and editorial writer on the New York World. In 1872, having established himself as a prominent newspaperman, he left the paper and founded The Catholic Review of Brooklyn. Later in his career he founded two other Catholic magazines, The Catholic American and The Illustrated Catholic American.

1889: Anna Hansen Dorsey

Anna Hansen Dorsey

Mrs. Dorsey, perhaps the first unabashedly Catholic novelist in this country, was the author of more than 20 books. A Notre Dame Scholastic article describes her as ‘a pioneer of light Catholic literature.’ According to an article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, ‘while deeply religious in tone, her stories are full of a living interest gained by a clear insight and knowledge of the world around her.’

1890: William J. Onahan

William J. Onahan

Onahan, an Irish immigrant who settled in Chicago in the 1850’s, quickly became prominent in that city’s civil affairs. He was a member of the city school board, president of the public library, city collector for six terms, city comptroller and jury commissioner. He was the chief architect of the American Catholic Congress at Baltimore in 1889. This gathering of 1,500 Catholic lay people from all over the United States discussed and planned for the future of the Church in America.

1891: Daniel Dougherty

Daniel Dougherty

This Philadelphia attorney’s eloquence won many controversial acquittals for his clients. During the American Catholic Congress, he gave what his Laetare Medal citation described as ‘a magnificent apologia for your co-religionists.’ The defensive nature of Dougherty’s speech is suggested in this fragment of it: “Protestantism was unknown when America was discovered. Let the students, scholars, poets and historian search the archives of Spain, the libraries of Europe and the deeper the research the more the glory will adorn the brow of Catholicity. It was a pious Catholic who conceived the mighty thought!"

1892: Henry F. Brownson

Henry F. Brownson

Son of Orestes Brownson, whose body is entombed in the crypt of Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Henry Brownson fought on the Union side during the Civil War, was wounded and captured at Chancellorsville and later released by the Confederacy in a prisoner exchange. From 1855 on, he wrote, edited and translated a large number of philosophical works. He wrote a three-volume biography of his father and edited a 20-volume set of his father’s works. For translating Francesco Tarducci’s Life of Columbus in 1891, he was given the Laetare Medal. Tarducci’s book, incidentally, was illustrated by Luigi Gregori and inspired the murals in the Main Building.

1893: Patrick Donohoe

Patrick Donohoe

As a boy, Donahoe worked menial jobs on the presses of two Boston papers. In 1836, he began to publish the Boston Pilot, a weekly paper devoted to Irish American and Catholic affairs which in time became the principal organ of Catholic opinion of New England. Donahoe also established a Catholic publishing house, a bank and a church goods store.

1894: Augustine Daly

Augustine Daly

Fascinated by the theatre from an early age, Daly worked as a drama critic for several New York newspapers before forming his own theatrical company in 1869. In addition to his authorship of two very popular plays, Leah the Forsaken and Under the Gaslight, he presented, in 1888, a production of The Taming of the Shrew in several British theatres. Many believe that this was the first time an American theatre group had performed Shakespearean plays for an English audience.

1895: Mary Anne Sadlier

Mary Anne Sadlier

Sadlier wrote or translated more than 60 books, most of them concerning the plight of Irish Catholics in their native land and in the New World. A Scholastic biographer noted that she wrote most of her books at a time when "Catholic books, and more especially Catholic stories, were comparatively scarce, while anti-Catholic tales and tracts were many and multiform."

1896: General William Starke Rosecrans

General William Starke Rosecrans

While teaching philosophy and engineering at West point, ‘Old Rosey’, as he was nicknamed, was received into the Catholic Church. During the Civil War he earned a reputation as a skillful military strategist, an image shattered at the battle of Chickamauga, which was won by the Confederacy because of a tactical error for which Rosecrans was held responsible. After the war, he became active in Ohio politics but declined to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor. He prospected in Mexico and California, later becoming one of the state’s Congressional representatives.

1897: Thomas Addis Emmet

Thomas Addis Emmet

This physician became locally famous in New York City for his work on Ward’s Island, where he treated thousands of Irish immigrants who suffered from typhus or ‘ship fever’. Twice during his residency there he contracted the disease, but survived to become an internationally famous gynecologist. His 1879 book, The Principles of Gynecology, became the definitive textbook of the period and was translated into German and French.

1898: Timothy Edward Howard

Timothy Edward Howard

The first graduate of the University to win its highest honor, Howard, for whom a residence hall at Notre Dame is named, interrupted his undergraduate career to fight on the Union side of the Civil War. Within a month of enlistment, he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, and after a period of convalescence he returned to Notre Dame. Here he became a professor of rhetoric, but taught history, mathematics and astronomy as well. From 1886 to 1892 he served as an Indiana state senator; in 1892 he was elected to the Supreme Court of Indiana and served three terms as the Court’s chief justice. In addition to several books on grammar, law and history, he wrote a volume of poetry.

1899: Mary Gwendolin Caldwell

Mary Gwendolin Caldwell

Well-known in the Church for her many acts of philanthropy and for her close friendship with John Lancaster Spalding, the first bishop of Peoria, Caldwell in 1891 received the Golden Rose, the papal award from which the Laetare Medal is derived. Her gift of $300,000 to the Plenary Council of Baltimore made possible the establishment of Catholic University, whose first building was named after her in 1888.

1900: John A. Creighton

John A. Creighton

The benefactors of the Creighton brothers, John and Edward, made possible the establishment of Creighton University in Omaha. John Creighton built the first two monasteries of the Poor Clares order in the United States as well as the Saint Joseph-Creighton Hospital in Omaha. In addition to his philanthropy, he, with his brother, was instrumental in the completion of America’s first transcontinental telegraph system in 1861.

1901: William Bourke Cockran

William Bourke Cockran

Educated in Irish seminaries, Cockran emigrated to this country in 1871. Within five years he had established a successful law practice in New York City, where he became active in local politics. He gained national attention as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention with a speech opposingthe nomination of Grover Cleveland. In 1886, 1890 and 1892, he represented a New York City district in the House of Representatives. In his most celebrated legal victory he sought and gained the intervention of President Wilson in a client’s death sentence. He was also a legal advisor to three New York archbishops.

1902: John Benjamin Murphy, M.D.

John Benjamin Murphy, M.D.

After studying medicine in Europe, Murphy became an instructor in surgery at Rush Medical College and an attending surgeon at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, where the Haymarket rioting provided him with his first seriously wounded patients. His subsequent career as a teacher of medicine included several advances in the surgical field. In 1889, he performed an appendectomy which greatly improved that operation’s technique; in 1892 he invented a device which became known as ‘Murphy’s Button’, simplifying the mending of severed intestines and opening up a new field in surgery.

1903: Charles Jerome Bonaparte

Charles Jerome Bonaparte

The grandson of King Jerome, who was the brother of Napoleon I, Bonaparte graduated from Harvard Law School in 1874 and became active in Baltimore’s municipal affairs. He, along with William Onahan, Daniel Dougherty, and Henry Brownson, was prominent in the Catholic Congress of that city. During Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential administration he served as Secretary of the Navy and Attorney General. From 1906 to 1909, when Roosevelt left office, Bonaparte prosecuted more than 50 antitrust suits. Several times during his cabinet career he was employed as an intermediary between Church and government leaders. "No man," he said, "can be a good Catholic who is not a good citizen."

1904: Richard C. Kerens

Richard C. Kerens

Emigrating from Ireland and having joined the Union army at the age of 19, Kerens became ‘chief muledriver for the Army of the Potomac.’ For the rest of his life he was prominently engaged in transportation projects, helping establish a number of the nation’s earliest railroads. A well-known Republican party fundraiser, he was offered several ambassador posts in Republican administrations, but he never accepted until 1909, when he became Ambassador to Austria-Hungary under President Taft.

1905: Thomas B. Fitzpatrick

Thomas B. Fitzpatrick

Although his acts of philanthropy were less publicized than those of other Laetare Medalists, Fitzpatrick had a reputation for generosity in Boston, where he was president of Brown, Durrell & Company, a drygoods store. His gifts made possible the establishment of three Catholic orphanages in that city and the building of the Boston Catholic Union, a social organization.

1906: Francis J. Quinlan

Francis J. Quinlan

After graduating from Columbia University with a medical degree in 1878, Quinlan pursued advanced studies in Europe for a year. Returning to the United States in 1879, he served as a surgeon in the Army’s medical corps in the Dakotas, Montana and Idaho. From 1883 until his death, he practiced medicine in New York City, specializing in diseases of the ear, nose and throat. His numerous medical monographs were widely praised by his contemporaries.

1907: Katherine Eleanor Conway

Katherine Eleanor Conway

At the age of 33, this single woman joined the staff of the Boston Pilot, whose founder, Patrick Donahoe, had received the Laetare Medal in 1893. In 1908, she became the editor of The Republic, another Boston newspaper. During her career she was a member of the Massachusetts Prison Commission, author of more than 20 books, godmother to 150 children, and a faculty member at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind. Laetare Medalist William J. Onahan, at her reception of the medal, said, "Her pen has ever been employed in vindicating Catholic principles and pleading for all that is good, true and generous."

1908: James C. Monaghan

James C. Monaghan

In 1884, while still a student at Brown University, Monaghan was serving as a member of the Providence City Council and as a local campaign manager for the soon-to-be-elected President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland appointed him U.S. Consul at Mannheim, Germany, the following year. Returning to the United States five years later, Monaghan worked for several newspapers, served as editor of The Manufacturer, became chief of the ‘division of consular reports’ in the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor, was appointed to several university faculties (from 1906 to 1908, he taught economics and history at Notre Dame) and was U.S. Consul in Jamaica.

1909: Frances Tiernan (Christian Reid)

Frances Tiernan (Christian Reid)

An author whose works were inspired by faith and friendship with a community of prominent Catholic thinkers, Frances Tiernan’s prolific writing took on the accent of her American upbringing. Tiernan was received into the Catholic Church in 1868, and she spent most of her career publishing under the pseudonym Christian Reid. She wrote nearly 50 novels and hundreds of short stories, poems, and travelogues, some of which were featured in the Notre Dame-based literary magazine, The Ave Maria. Her writing was considered by many to be a moral antidote for the more sensationalist fiction read by many young people at the time, and her self-described aspiration was to author ‘distinctively Catholic books.’

1910: Maurice Francis Egan

Maurice Francis Egan

As a young man, Egan studied at several American universities (including Notre Dame, where hereceived an M.A. degree in 1879) in philosophy, literature, history, language and law. His consequent and enormous erudition came to bear in editorial jobs on several newspapers and magazines in Philadelphia and New York. He left his post as editor of the Freeman’s Journal in 1888 to fill a chair in English literature at Notre Dame. In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt appointment him minister to Denmark, a diplomatic post which he retained during the next two presidential administrations.

1911: Agnes Replier

Agnes Replier

By the time she was 16 and had begun her career as an essayist, Agnes Repplier had been expelled from Eden Hall and Miss Irwin’s School in Philadelphia. Her rebellious manner and the fact that she studied only those subjects (art and literature) which interested her, made her a far more successful writer than student. For more than half a century her essays appeared in nearly every prominent American periodical, and her literary reputation was responsible for several honorary degrees (including those given by Yale and Columbia) and her election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

1912: Thomas M. Mulry

Thomas M. Mulry

Inheriting from his father a successful New York City building contractor’s firm, Mulry devoted most ofhis spare time to charitable works among the poor immigrants of Manhattan Island’s lower East Side. From 1905 to 1915, he was president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and in 1910, he helped establish the National Conference of Catholic Charities.

1913: Charles G. Herberman

Charles G. Herberman

Emigrating to America from Germany, Herbermann taught at St. John’s College (which later became Fordham University) and at the College of the City of New York, for which he became the librarian in 1873. In 1905, he was chosen editor-in-chief of The Catholic Encyclopedia, in which capacity (and despite rapidly deteriorating eyesight brought about by glaucoma) he supervised the work of 1,500 contributors from 43 nations, producing 15 volumes by 1913.

1914: Edward Douglas White

Edward Douglas White

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1910 until his death, White was nominated to that body by President Grover Cleveland in 1891, arousing considerable controversy: he was a Louisiana Catholic, and he fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War. One of his most lasting judicial decisions (Arver vs. the United States) recognized the right of the United States to compel young men to serve in the military through a draft law.

1915: Mary V. Merrick

Mary V. Merrick

Crippled by a childhood accident, Merrick spent the rest of her long life confined to a bed and wheelchair. Although she had difficulty holding a pen, she managed to translate two French children’s books and to write two of her own (The Life of Christ in 1909 and The Altar of God in 1920). In 1886 she founded, in Washington, D.C., the Christ Child Society, which provided clothing and gifts for needy children at Christmas. By her death, there were 37 chapters of the society in as many cities and 12,000 members.

1916: James Joseph Walsh

James Joseph Walsh

For six years, Walsh studied to be ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus, withdrawing from the order to study medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and in Europe. He began his medical career in 1899 and soon found himself arguing with his colleagues’ assertions that the Catholic Church was the enemy of the natural sciences. He soon won a reputation, not only because of his cogent arguments, but also through his 45 published books and 500 articles as an erudite apologist for the Catholic faith.

1917: William Sheperd Benson

William Sheperd Benson

After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1877, Benson embarked on a very successful naval career. He was promoted to captain in 1909 and for three years commanded the battleship Utah. When Congress established the Office of Naval Operations, Benson was named its head and promoted to rear admiral. A destroyer in the United States fleet is named after him.

1918: Joseph Scott

Joseph Scott

Born and educated in England, Scott came to the United States in 1889 and taught rhetoric and English literature at St. Bonaventure College in Allegany, N.Y. In 1893, he moved to Los Angeles and was admitted to the California bar the following year. In addition to a successful legal career, Scott was elected five times to the Los Angeles Board of Education and served as its president from 1906 to 1911, the first Catholic to do so.

1919: George L. Duval

George L. Duval

Enormously wealthy from his import-export business, Duval contributed lavishly to Catholic hospitals, colleges, orphanages and charities. Apparently baffled by his selection for the 1919 Laetare Medal, Duval said, "Candidly, I am unable to see any great merit in the mere bestowal of money when it entails no substantial sacrifice." He accepted the award "as a tribute to good will rather than performance."

1920: Lawrence Francis Flick

Lawrence Francis Flick

Flick, who suffered from the disease himself, sparked a furious debate within the medical profession by insisting that tuberculosis was not hereditary but contagious. While most of this physician’s career was devoted to the study and cure of tuberculosis, his other great passion was history, and in 1919 he became founder and first president of the American Catholic Historical Association.

1921: Elizabeth Nourse

Elizabeth Nourse

As a child in Cincinnati, Ohio, Nourse displayed an aptitude for drawing and decided upon an artistic career. Family financial trouble nearly prevented her from moving to Parish in 1887, but she managed to secure employment in that city as a designer, decorator and art teacher. Living there for the rest of her life, she produced nearly 200 canvases, most of them depicting the lives and struggles of poor people. She became an associate member of the Societe des Beaux Arts, and in 1901 was elected ‘societaire’, the highest honor the society bestowed.

1922: Charles Patrick Neill

Charles Patrick Neill

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and for a time a member of its faculty, Neill served as U.S. commissioner of labor during the Roosevelt and Taft administrations. He was instrumental in the passage of legislation promoting industrial safety and workmen’s compensation.

1923: Walter George Smith

Walter George Smith

In addition to his law practice in Philadelphia, Smith was active in several areas of public service and philanthropy. During World War I, he traveled extensively in the Middle East to investigate the plight of war refugees and to provide emergency relief. He helped found the Armenia-America Society, which publicized and sought to halt the genocide of the early 20th century. As a member of the Near East Relief Commission, he attended the Paris Peace Conference at the close of the war, and in 1921 he was appointed by President Harding to membership on the advisory board for the Washington Conference on the Limitation of Armaments.

1924: Charles D. Maginnis

Charles D. Maginnis

Among his other achievements as a Church architect, Maginnis drew the original plans for the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Two of his buildings, Trinity College Chapel in Washington and the Carmelite Convent in Santa Clara, Calif., were awarded gold medals by the American Institute of Architects. At Notre Dame he designed the Law School and Hurley and Cushing Halls.

1925: Albert Francis Zahm

Albert Francis Zahm

One of the prominent figures in the formation of the University of Notre Dame, Zahm spent much of his life here as an undergraduate, a professional student, a professor and an inventor. In addition to his considerable contributions to the study of science at Notre Dame, Zahm is famous for his discoveries in the field of aviation. In 1901, he designed and built the first wind tunnel in the United States.

1926: Edward Nash Hurley

Edward Nash Hurley

Hurley’s most notable achievement was the assembly — by requisition, purchase, construction and confiscation — of 14 million tons of ocean shipping in 1917. He did this as a member of President Woodrow Wilson’s administration when the United States entered World War I, and the merchant marine thus assembled by the Emergency Fleet Corporation, of which Hurley was president, made possible the Allied victory. His contribution to the University of $200,000 in 1930 made possible the construction of Hurley Hall.

1927: Margaret Anglin

Margaret Anglin

Anglin was born in the House of Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, during the time her father, Speaker of the House of Commons, was furnished with quarters there. By the time she was 18, she had established herself as a leading actress of the New York theatre world. In addition to her successful performances of many contemporary roles, she delighted audiences with her interpretations of the Greek classics.

1928: John Johnson Spalding

John Johnson Spalding

Spalding, a successful Atlanta lawyer, entrepreneur and Democratic Party politician, contributed generous amounts of money to Catholic churches, schools, and orphanages in Georgia. "Religious prejudice," his citations reads, "is slowly disintegrating in the Southland, and it is such leads as Jack J. Spalding of Atlanta who are in large part to be credited for this dawning era of religious tolerance."

1929: Alfred Emmanuel Smith

Alfred Emmanuel Smith

‘The Happy Warrior’ was the Democratic Party candidate for the presidency in 1928. Herbert Hoover defeated his big in a landslide electoral vote of 444 to Smith’s 87. Nevertheless, Smith obtained six million votes more than any previous Democratic candidate and was responsible for his party’s carrying the great metropolitan centers for the first time.

1930: Frederick Philip Kenkel

Frederick Philip Kenkel

Although he was a mining engineer by profession, Kenkel was for several years editor of Amerika, the St. Louis German Catholic daily newspaper. In 1924, he helped found the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. For his participation in many Catholic organizations and his patronage of Catholic sociologists and historians, he received several papal commendations.

1931: James J. Phelan

James J. Phelan

A lay trustee of the University, Phelan held executive positions at several corporations, banks and stock-brokerages. His extensive financial experience made him a capable administrator in Catholic charities, and he successfully raised large amounts of money for disaster relief. In 1906 he was instrumental in obtaining $1,000,000 for the victims of the San Francisco earthquake.

1932: Stephen J. Maher

Stephen J. Maher

Like Lawrence Flick, Dr. Maher was a prominent pioneer in the battle against tuberculosis. A year after receiving the Laetare Medal, he isolated and learned how to destroy the ‘A.Y. Bacterin,’ a discovery which proved to be a milestone in tubercular diagnosis and treatment. He also found time to write poetry and short stories, most of them reflecting his obsession with ‘the White Plague.’

1933: John McCormack

John McCormack

"The Golden Voice of Athlane," McCormack’s tenor was first heard in public at a concert in an Irish grade school when the singer was nine years old. Quickly establishing an international reputation, and having studied under Sabatini in Italy, McCormack made his operatic debut in New York in 1909. A few years later, he became an American citizen and star of several radio programs and phonograph recordings which made him legendary.

1934: Genevieve Garvan Brady

Genevieve Garvan Brady

During the first World War, Mrs. Brady purchased the Old Colony Club in New York City and allowed it to be used by the United States government as a mobilization center for nurses bound for the battlefields of Europe. She was decorated by the French and Belgian governments after the war and for her financial aid to refugees. Under Eleanor Roosevelt, she was vice chairman of the National Women’s Committee on Welfare and Relief Mobilization. She was the 11th woman to receive the medal.

1935: Francis Hamilton Spearman

Francis Hamilton Spearman

As a young man, Spearman worked in the wholesale grocery business in Chicago, but soon found that his primary vocation was writing. Nearly 50 of his short stories were published in Harper’s Weekly and Harper’s Magazine. In addition, he wrote more than a dozen popular novels. One of these, Robert Kimberly, was praised by his coreligionists as an impressive defense of the sanctity of marriage.

1936: Richard Reid

Richard Reid

Reid began his career as a high school teacher in New York City, but soon found journalism more to his liking. He worked for a time on the Augusta (Georgia) Daily Chronicle and the Daily Herald before becoming editor of The Bulletin, a Catholic newspaper serving the Southeastern region of the United States. His passion, both as a secular and a Catholic journalist, was racial equality. In 1939 he helped draft a pledge against racism for the Catholic Press Association. For the 21 years of his life, he edited The Catholic News, the weekly paper of the Archdiocese of New York.

1937: Jeremiah Denis M. Ford

Jeremiah Denis M. Ford

Ford went to Harvard University in 1895 as an instructor in French. In 1911, he became chairman of Harvard’s Department of Romance Languages. He contributed articles on Spanish and Italian literature and history to several encyclopedias, edited dozens of literary anthologies and won numerous scholarly awards. The citation of 1937 praised Ford for fostering ‘international understanding and respect, which is a vital basis of world peace.’

1938: Irvin William Abell

Irvin William Abell

After taking a degree in medicine from the University of Louisville in 1897, Abell stayed on there as a professor of clinical surgery. Later, he studied medicine in Europe at the Universities of Marburg and Berlin. Some of his most notable work was done outside the field of surgery, developing preventative and curative treatments for mental illness. He contributed many articles to surgical and psychiatric journals and served in 1938 as president of the American Medical Association.

1939: Josephine Van Dyke Brownson

Josephine Van Dyke Brownson

The awarding of the medal to Ms. Brownson was unusual in that her father, Henry F. Brownson, had received the honor 1892. She had resigned her position as a mathematics teacher in a Detroit highschool to devote more time to the establishment of the Catholic Instruction League in that city. Basing her catechetical program on Pope Pius X’s 1905 encyclical, ‘Acerbo Nimis,’ she had, by 1939, organized 400 teachers and 13,000 students.

1940: General Hugh Aloysius Drum

General Hugh Aloysius Drum

The third United States General so honored, Drum inherited an interest in military tradition from his father, who was an Army captain. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1898, won the Silver Star for ‘Gallantry in Action’ in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, served as General Pershing’s chief of staff during the First World War in France and, in 1944, succeeded a previous medalist, Al Smith, as president of the Empire State Building.

1941: William Thomas Walsh

William Thomas Walsh

Walsh began his career as a newspaperman, serving on papers in Waterbury and Hartford, Conn., and on the Philadelphia Public Ledger. In 1918, his activities took a more scholarly turn as he taught English in Hartford’s public high schools at the Roxbury (Massachusetts) School and at the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart. During the last 11 years of his life, he wrote historical biographies, a novel, a play, and several poems and magazine articles, most of them following Catholic themes.

1942: Helen Constance White

Helen Constance White

Graduated from Radcliffe with an A.B. in 1916 and a master’s degree in 1917, White joined the faculty ofthe University of Wisconsin in 1919 and stayed active there until her death. She was the first woman to serve as president of the American Association of University Professors. Of her many publications, The Mysticism of William Blake, The Metaphysical Poets: A Study in Religious Experience, and The Tudor Book
of Private Devotion are best remembered.

1943: Thomas Francis Woodlock

Thomas Francis Woodlock

Born in Ireland and educated in England, Woodlock was for several years a member of the London Stock Exchange before coming to New York City in 1892. He worked for the early Dow-Jones News Service, which then specialized in American railroads, and in 1902 became editor of the Wall Street Journal. In 1905, he resigned that post to become a member of the New York Stock Exchange. A prolific commentator on economic affairs, Woodlock was also a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

1944: Anne O'Hare McCormick

Anne O'Hare McCormick

McCormick’s only journalistic experience before she joined the staff of The New York Times in 1922 was with the Catholic Universe Bulletin in Cleveland. In 1936, she was enthusiastically invited by Arthur Hayes Sulzberger to be a foreign correspondent for the Times, and within a year she had won a Pulitzer Prize.

1945: Gardiner Howland Shaw

Gardiner Howland Shaw

Shaw, a Boston native and Harvard graduate, began his career in 1917 as a State Department bureaucrat. Three years later, he was appointed executive assistant to the secretary of state, the first in a series of diplomatic positions which resulted in his becoming the foremost American expert on Near-Eastern affairs. His knowledge led to his appointment as assistant secretary of state in 1941. While serving in Turkey, Shaw was horrified by the conditions in that country’s harsh prison system. He devoted much of his later life to penal reforms.

1946: Carlton J.H. Hayes

Carlton J.H. Hayes

Hayes was appointed by President Roosevelt as Ambassador to Spain in 1942 and charged with improving relations between the United States government and the Franco regime. He is generally credited with keeping Spain out of the Axis during World War II. He was also founder of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, serving as its Catholic co-chairman from 1928 to 1946.

1947: William G. Bruce

William G. Bruce

Bruce worked on Milwaukee newspapers as a young man and entered the publishing field in 1891, founding the American School Board Journal, The Industrial Arts Magazine, Hospital Progress and The Catholic School Journal. In 1920, his company began to publish textbooks, novels and religious biographies, its list growing to 800 titles by the time he received the Laetare Medal. He wrote several books on architecture, school administration and history.

1948: Frank C. Walker

Frank C. Walker

A 1909 graduate of Notre Dame’s Law School, Walker was elected to the Montana state legislature in 1913 and served in the United States Army during the First World War. In 1920, he met Franklin Delano Roosevelt and became a contributor to his campaigns. During the 12 years of Roosevelt’s presidency, Walker was one of the closet presidential advisors and served in a number of top executive positions, including Postmaster General.

1949: Irene Dunne Griffin

Irene Dunne Griffin

‘The first lady of the Talkies’ was five times nominated for the Academy Award. In addition to her careerin the movies, she chaired the Field Army of the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. During the Eisenhower administration she was appointed alternate United States delegate to the United Nations. She also served on the advisory council for Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters.

1950: General Joseph L. Collins

General Joseph L. Collins

The fifth military leader to be honored by the Laetare Medal, General Collins succeeded General Omar Bradley as United States Army chief of staff in 1949. Commissioned a second lieutenant when the U.S. entered the First World War, he fought in Germany and remained with the occupying Army there until 1921. Twenty years later he returned to Europe as chief of staff for the 7th Army Corps. For his service in both wars he was decorated by the British, Russian, French and Belgian governments.

1951: John Henry Phelan

John Henry Phelan

The first Texan to receive the Laetare Medal, Phelan was a pioneer in the oil business. His philanthropies, especially toward Catholic schools, hospitals and orphanages, ran into the millions of dollars.

1952: Thomas E. Murray

Thomas E. Murray

The company established by Murray’s father designed and built electric power plants. Murray, who in 1952 held some 200 patents in the electrical and welding fields, became chairman of the board of his father’s death in 1929. The Murray Manufacturing Company was prominent in military production during the Second World War, and, in 1943 Murray was given a citation for distinguished service by President Roosevelt. In 1950 he became a member of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. He was one of the first American officials to insist that nuclear military technology raised unprecedented moral problems.

1953: I.A. O'Shaughnessy

I.A. O'Shaughnessy

Active in the oil business, O’Shaughnessy established the Globe Oil and Refining Company, the Globe Pipeline Company and the Lario Oil and Gas Company. He contributed generously to several Catholic charities and academic institutions including the University of Notre Dame, where the O'Shaughnessy Hall is named after him. He was a trustee of the University.

1954: Jefferson Caffery

Jefferson Caffery

During the career in the U.S. Diplomatic Service, Caffery lived in 15 national capitals. In Paris, during the peace conference following the First World War, he served as a member of President Wilson’s staff. He played an important role in the implementation of the Marshall Plan following the Second World War and became Ambassador to Egypt in 1949.

1955: George Meany

George Meany

Meany was the first labor leader to receive the Laetare Medal. At 16, he was an apprentice plumber in New York City, and within five years he had become active in labor union politics. In 1952 he was elected president of the American Federation of Labor.

1956: General Alfred M. Gruenther

General Alfred M. Gruenther

A 1918 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Gruenther pursued a long and distinguished military career. He is credited with having planned the North African invasion and the Italian campaign during World War II, and in 1953 he became the Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Europe. Three years later, he relinquished his command and was appointed president of the American Red Cross.

1957: Clare Boothe Luce

Clare Boothe Luce

Luce was a playwright, author, war correspondent, Republican congresswoman and U.S. Ambassador. In 1946, following a course of instructions from Bishop Sheen, she was received into the Catholic Church and became, in the words of the citation which accompanied her medal, ‘a doer as well as a hearer of the Word.’ President Reagan presented Luce the Medal of Freedom.

1958: Frank M. Folsom

Frank M. Folsom

Decorated for his service in World War II, Folsom went to work at Radio Corporation of America and became its fourth president in 1949. While at RCA he was instrumental in the rapid growth of the American television industry. Active in several Catholic voluntary associations, he received honorary degrees from many Catholic universities including Notre Dame.

1959: Robert D. Murphy

Robert D. Murphy

Murphy served as Ambassador to Belgium and Japan and as Secretary of State during a diplomatic career of more than 40 years. He planned the Allied invasion of Africa during World War II, was active in the reconstruction of postwar Japan and undertook special diplomatic missions for the Nixon and Ford administrations after his retirement in 1959.

1960: George N. Shuster

George N. Shuster

Shuster was one of the earliest contributors to Commonweal magazine and served as its managing editor from 1929 to 1937. From 1939 to 1960 he was president of Hunter College. Graduating from Notre Dame in 1915, he returned to the University in 1961 and served for 10 years as special assistant to the president and director of a campus center coordinating research in the humanities and social sciences. He wrote several books on education, religion and politics.

1961: John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

Two years to the day before the assassination of President Kennedy, the Laetare Medal was presented to him in a special ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House. The citation saluted Kennedy for the "calm determination and imaginative courage of your statesmanship in this age of prolonged and ever-increasing danger."

1962: Francis J. Braceland, MD

Francis J. Braceland, MD

Braceland was a clinical professor of psychology at Yale and psychiatrist in chief at the Institute for Living in Hartford, Conn., when he received the Laetare Medal. Four years earlier he had been named a rear admiral in the United States Navy Medical Corps. In 1955 he had been elected president of the American Psychiatric Association. In 1979 he became a contributing editor to MD Magazine.

1963: Admiral George W. Anderson Jr.

Admiral George W. Anderson Jr.

Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and commissioned an ensign in 1927, Anderson became a naval aviator three years later, advancing through the grades to vice admiral by 1957. In 1961 he became Chief of Naval Operations. His citation praised the ‘swift tact and brilliance you have brought to your most recent publication, the Cuban blockade.’

1964: Phyllis McGinley

Phyllis McGinley

When asked to assess the poetry of Phyllis McGinley, W.H. Auden responded, "Where do you place work like Pope’s Rape of the Lock? You could equally call it light verse or marvelous poetry." McGinley received the Pulitzer prize for poetry in 1961. Her first poem was published in Commonweal.

1965: Frederick D. Rossini

Frederick D. Rossini

The bestowal of the Laetare Medal in 1965 was unique in that the person honored was simultaneously serving on the University faculty as dean of the College of Science. During his career, Rossini was also a member of the National Academy of Science; president of Sigma Xi, the national professional society for the encouragement of scientific research; and president of the Albertus Magnus Guild, a national association of Catholic scientists. He is author of 11 books and 252 papers, most of them about thermodynamics and thermochemistry.

1966: Patrick F. and Patricia Caron Crowley

Patrick F. and Patricia Caron Crowley

The founders of the worldwide Christian Family Movement (CFM) were the first couple to receive the Laetare Medal. Patrick Crowley, who was graduated from the University in 1933, is memorialized in the building which houses Notre Dame’s Department of Music. The CFM, which he and his wife establishedin 1949, rapidly grew from a local discussion group into a national forum for lay Catholic social action. The couple was on Pope Paul VI’s special commission on the problems of the family.

1967: J. Peter Grace

J. Peter Grace

A trustee of the University, Grace has been president of W.R. Grace, Inc., since 1945. Among his Notre Dame benefactions are the 11-story Grace Hall on the north side of Notre Dame’s campus, and graduate townhouses for women. He received several honorary degrees, including one from Notre Dame.

1968: Robert Sargent Shriver

Robert Sargent Shriver

Shriver was the first director of the United States Peace Corps. Later, as director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, he was prominent in the Johnson administration’s ‘War on Poverty.’. He served as Ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970 and two years later became George McGovern’s second running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket.

1969: William J. Brennan Jr.

William J. Brennan Jr.

When he became an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court in 1956, Brennan was the court’s only Catholic. Although a Democrat, he was appointed to the high court by President Eisenhower. Widely considered one of the most liberal of the Supreme Court justices, he is one of those who influenced the court during the years when Earl Warren was chief justice.

1970: Dr. William B. Walsh

Dr. William B. Walsh

Dr. Walsh founded Project HOPE in 1958, sending the world’s first peacetime hospital ship around the world. Project HOPE (an acronym for ‘Health Opportunity for People Everywhere’) was the principal activity of the People to People Health Foundation, Inc., an independent nonprofit corporation of which Dr. Walsh was president.

1971: Walter Kerr & Jean Kerr

Walter Kerr & Jean Kerr

Walter Kerr became the drama critic of the New York Times in 1966. In addition to his essays for the Times, he wrote several plays and books about the theater. Of Jean Kerr’s many plays and books, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies is the most remembered title.

1972: Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day

Universally acknowledged as the matriarch of American Catholic radicalism, Dorothy Day, with the itinerant French epigrammatist Peter Maurin, founded the Catholic Worker movement in 1933. Her Catholic Worker newspaper, and the loose confederation of the more than 50 hospitality houses it inspires, advocate a Christian anarchist communitarian philosophy based on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. She was often praised for ‘comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.’

1973: Rev. John A. O'Brien

Rev. John A. O'Brien

The first priest to receive the Laetare Medal, Father O’Brien was a popularizer of church renewal before the Second Vatican Council. In addition to numerous articles and pamphlets on Catholic affairs, he wrote more than 25 books and edited another 12. A pioneer of the Newman Club movement, he is most remembered for his ability to translate crucial theological issues into the everyday language of theaverage Catholic layperson.

1974: James A. Farley

James A. Farley

Although Farley never held a high elective political office, he was a major influence in Democratic Party politics during the 1930’s. ‘Gentleman Jim’ Farley was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s floor leader during the 1932 convention which nominated the New York governor for the presidency. After the election of Roosevelt, he became Postmaster General and national chairman of the Democratic Party. Leaving the cabinet, Farley was elected chairman of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation.

1975: Sr. Ann Ida Gannon, BMV

Sr. Ann Ida Gannon, BMV

Sister Ann Ida, the first woman religious to receive the Laetare Medal, became a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1932. In 1975, she retired from 18 years as president of Mundelein College in Chicago to devote more time to teaching philosophy there. She was the first woman in many positions, from corporate boards to education associations in which she was invited to serve.

1976: Paul Horgan

Paul Horgan

Horgan’s numerous novels, histories, stories and poems have earned him permanent distinction as an American man of letters. In 1955, his Great River: The Rio Grande in North American History, won the Pulitzer prize. In addition to his nearly 50 books, he has written the definitive biography of John Baptist Lamy, the first bishop of Santa Fe.

1977: Mike Mansfield

Mike Mansfield

In 1977, the former U.S. Senator from Montana became the ambassador to Japan. After 10 years in the House, he served nearly a quarter of a century in the Senate and was for five years its majority leader. In that capacity he welcomed change in that body; in his term, the stranglehold of the filibuster was broken and younger senators given influential roles.

1978: Msgr. John Tracy Ellis

Msgr. John Tracy Ellis

Monsignor Ellis has taught American Catholic Church history for half a century, and his former students staff Catholic schools, colleges, universities and seminaries across the country. Several of his many books are considered indispensable to an understanding of American Church history. An advisor to several bishops, religious superiors and university presidents, he teaches history now at Catholic University of America.

1979: Helen Hayes

Helen Hayes

Following her professional debut as Prince Charles in a 1905 production of The Royal Family, Ms. Hayes earned an international reputation as an actress. While most of her fame derives from theatrical performances, she also appeared in several popular films and television programs and received an Academy Award for best supporting actress. She was active in the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and was for more than 60 years a member of the Catholic Actors’ Guild of America.

1980: Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr.

Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr.

Elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1977, O’Neill was the grandson of an immigrant bricklayer from County Cork, Ireland. After being graduated from Boston College in 1936, he was elected on the Democratic ticket to the Massachusetts legislature. In 1952, he succeeded John F. Kennedy as Representative from Massachusetts’ 11th Congressional District.

1981: Edmund Sixtus Muskie

Edmund Sixtus Muskie

Muskie, the first Polish American to receive the Laetare Medal, served two terms as Governor of Maine before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958. During his 22 years there, he served on the Foreign Relations, Governmental Affairs, Environment and Public Works, and Budget committees. In 1968, he ran unsuccessfully on Hubert Humphrey’s ticket against Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. In 1980, he was made Secretary of State following the resignation of Cyrus Vance.

1982: Cardinal John Francis Dearden

Cardinal John Francis Dearden

Cardinal Dearden, the retired Archbishop of Detroit, played an active role in the shaping of the Second Vatican Council’s most innovative documents, especially the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. An outspoken advocate of increased recognition and development of lay ministries, he hosted the 1976 Call to Action Conference in Detroit, an unprecedented consultation of Catholic bishops, priests, religious and laypeople. He voted in the conclaves which elected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II.

1983: Edmund & Evelyn Stephan

Edmund & Evelyn Stephan

The architect of the changeover to lay governance at Notre Dame in 1967, Stephan was the first chairman of the reconstituted Board of Trustees. As Father Hesburgh observed, “Ed Stephan was a bridge-builder in a time of change. He and Evie spent long hours — on campus and off — doing the sorts of things necessary to keep intact the confidence of our lay constituencies. The two served the University as a gracious and effective team.” Stephan, an influential Chicago attorney, assumed the position of chairman emeritus of the Board in 1982.

1984: John Thomas Noonan Jr.

John Thomas Noonan Jr.

A Boston-born lawyer, educator, scholar and author, Noonan published a wide variety of definitive books and articles in the areas of Church history, canon law, theology and jurisprudence. During his tenure at Notre Dame, and at the University of California, Berkeley, whose faculty he joined in 1966, Noonan became respected not only as a legal scholar, but as a theologian, historian, medievalist and classicist as well. During the Reagan administration, he became U.S. Judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Perhaps his most significant work has been done on the issue of legal abortion. His book on the subject, A Private Choice, is considered indispensable to any serious discussion of it by scholars on both sides of this painful controversy. At the 2009 Commencement Exercises, Judge Noonan gave an address in the spirit of the Laetare Medal.

1985: Guido Calabresi

Guido Calabresi

Dean of Yale Law School and author of several definitive works on legal scholarship, Calabresi was born in Milan and emigrated to this country as a child in 1939. After graduating from Yale in 1953, Calabresi studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He received his law degree in 1958, served a one-year clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, and returned to join the faculty at Yale Law School. His 1970 book The Cost of Accidents was influential in the establishment of no-fault accident insurance policy in many states.

1986: Thomas & Mary Elizabeth Carney

Thomas & Mary Elizabeth Carney

A 1937 alumnus of the University, Thomas Carney formed Metatech Corporation in 1976 after more than 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry. A scientist as well as a businessman, his work has been instrumental in the development of many of the drugs which have deeply affected 20th century life, from antibiotics to cancer chemotherapies. A member of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees since its establishment in 1967, he served as Board chairman from 1982 to 1986. He married Mary Elizabeth McGuire in 1942. Active in several philanthropic associations, Mrs. Carney served as hostess to a wide variety of official University functions.

1987: Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., the 15th president of the University of Notre Dame, stepped down from that position on May 31, 1987, after 35 years of service. His was the longest tenure among active chief executive officers of the nation’s institutions of higher learning. He entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1934, was ordained in 1943, and became president of Notre Dame in 1952. He soon achieved recognition in American higher education, in the Church and in public life. In education, he served on several prestigious study groups and received many honors and awards, including 112 honorary degrees. In the Church, he served four popes, three as permanent representatives to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. His distinguished career in public service included 14 presidential appointments involving him in virtually all the major social issues of the day. For his contribution to the United States Civil Rights Commission, on which he served 15 years (three as chairman), President Lyndon Johnson gave him the Medal of Freedom. A man of many jobs, he had one vocation — that of a priest.

1988: Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Founder and chair of Special Olympics International, Eunice Kennedy Shriver chaired the International Special Olympics Games at Notre Dame during the summer of 1987. More than 4,000 mentally handicapped athletes from 60 countries took part. As director of her family’s foundation, she supported several efforts to improve the manner in which mentally handicapped citizens are treated in their societies. Her brother, President John F. Kennedy, received the Medal in 1961; and her husband, Sargent, received it in 1968.

1989: Walker Percy

Walker Percy

“If the first great intellectual discovery of my life was the beauty of the scientific method,” this novelist and physician once told an interviewer, “Surely the second was the discovery of the singular predicament of man in the very world which has been transformed by science. An extraordinary paradox became clear: that the more science progressed, and even as it benefited man, the less it said about what it is like to be a man living in the world.” In such widely read novels as The Moviegoer, The Last Gentleman, Love In The Ruins, Lancelot, The Second Coming, and The Thanatos Syndrome, Percy attempted to address that paradox.

1990: Sister Thea Bowman (posthumously)

Sister Thea Bowman (posthumously)

The granddaughter of a slave, a native of Canton, Mississippi, and a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Sister Thea Bowman was the first African American to receive the Laetare Medal. She grew up in Canton, where her father, a doctor, was not allowed to practice medicine in the local hospital. At 15, impressed by the witness of priests and nuns working in the Diocese of Jackson, she joined the Franciscan Sisters. She taught in Catholic grade schools, high schools and colleges, earned a doctoral degree in rhetoric and literature from Catholic University of America and published scholarly articles on the writings of Saint Thomas More. Though suffering from bone marrow cancer for much of her life, she adhered to a rigorous schedule as a scholar, Gospel singer and preacher to deepen the Church’s awareness and appreciation of African-American culture. Seven weeks before she was to receive the Laetare Medal, Sister Thea died. Hers was the first Laetare Medal to be awarded posthumously.

1991: Corrine Lindy Boggs

Corrine Lindy Boggs

Joining Congress in a special election in March 1973, Ms. Boggs served nine terms as a representative of Louisiana’s 2nd District, succeeding her husband, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, who was a passenger on a plane which disappeared over Alaska in October 1972. A Democrat and the first woman sent to Congress from Louisiana, in 1976 she became the first woman to chair a major political convention. She was a member of the Appropriations Committee, where she became especially interested in issues of housing, scientific research and technology development. For her support of veterans affairs programs, she became the first woman to receive the Congressional Award of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in March 1986.

1992: Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Serving in four successive presidential administrations, Moynihan had established a reputation for independence, prescience and iconoclasm long before he became a New York Senator. He grew up in a fatherless household with his mother, brother and sister in the slums of New York City. Although his mother worked as a nurse and Moynihan and his brother sold newspapers and shined shoes, the family also relied on public assistance, a memory which may have been responsible for the eloquence with which he spoke of the poor and disenfranchised. Moynihan’s journey from those mean streets included periods of research and teaching at several universities, including Harvard, where he was a professor of government. Elected to the Senate in 1976, he received the Laetare Medal while in his third term.

1993: Donald R. Keough

Donald R. Keough

Former president and chief operating officer of The Coca-Cola Company, Keough has lent his support to the University as the father of five Notre Dame graduates, an advisory council member, chairman of the Sorin Society, University trustee and fellow, chairman of the trustees from 1986-92, and chairman emeritus. He presided over the selection of Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., as the University’s 16th president; officiated at the University’s first-ever presidential inauguration; and served as a national chairman of the most successful fundraising campaign in the history of American Catholic higher education. Himself a generous benefactor of the University, with his wife Marilyn he has established and endowed both the center and the professorship in Irish studies, which bear their names.

1994: Sidney Callahan

Sidney Callahan

“In Sidney Callahan’s writing and teaching, the wisdom of Catholicism and the insights of contemporary psychological scholarship embrace,” said Father Malloy as he announced the 1994 Laetare Medalist. A columnist for Commonweal magazine and a professor of psychology at Mercy College, Callahan has written numerous articles in popular and scholarly magazines on a variety of issues including medical ethics, the role of women in the Church and society, popular culture, politics, marriage, sexuality, child rearing, prayer, and ecumenism. Among the books she has written or edited are “In Good Conscience: Reason and Emotion in Moral Decisionmaking”; “With All Our Heart and Mind: The Spiritual Works of Mercy in a Psychological Age”; “Abortion: Understanding Differences,”; “The Working Mother”; “Beyond Birth Control: Christian Experience of Sex”; “The Illusion of Eve: Modern Woman’s Search for Identity”; “The Magnificat: The Prayer of Mary”; and “Christian Family Planning and Sex Education.” She served as a consultant at the Hastings Center, an ethical research foundation established by her late husband, Daniel Callahan. In 1991 she received an honorary degree from the University.

1995: Cardinal Joseph Bernardin

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin

A native of Columbia, S.C., Cardinal Bernardin was ordained a priest in the diocese of Charleston in 1952. In 1966, at the age of 37, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Atlanta, becoming the youngest bishop in the country. He was appointed Archbishop of Chicago in 1982, and a member of the College of Cardinals the following year. Among the most active and visible members of the American hierarchy, Cardinal Bernardin was one of the principal architects of the American bishops’ 1983 letter, The Challenge of Peace, which opposed several assumptions of U.S. policy on nuclear weapons. He was a prominent expositor of the Catholic Church’s “seamless garment” teaching on life, which ethically links such issues as abortion, embryo experimentation, euthanasia, capital punishment, and warfare.

1996: Sister Helen Prejean

Sister Helen Prejean

A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, Sister Prejean served death row prisoners and the families of murder victims as a spiritual counselor, advocate and friend. The critical acclaim received by her autobiography, Dead Man Walking, and by the film which it inspired, made her one of the nation’s most prominent and articulate opponents of capital punishment. “The most profound of moral question of our violent society,” she said, “is not what to do with the innocent, but what to do about the guilty. We ask, ‘Don’t they deserve to die?’ But the real question should be, ‘Do we deserve to kill them?’”

1997: Rev. Virgilio Elizondo

Rev. Virgilio Elizondo

A native of San Antonio, Texas, where his Mexican immigrant parents owned a grocery store and where he himself spent most of his life, Father Elizondo is the pastor of San Fernando Cathedral there. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese of San Antonio in 1963 and was appointed archdiocesan director of religious education in 1965.

During the early 1970s, Father Elizondo became prominent as an advocate for the underpaid and exploited Mexican-American laborers in his archdiocese. In 1972, as an increasingly self-conscious Mexican-American community began to assert itself politically and culturally, Father Elizondo established the Mexican-American Cultural Center at Assumption Seminary. He received two doctoral degrees in theology from the Insitut Catholique in Paris in 1978, and in 1979 he became an editor of the international theological journal “Concilium.”

Father Elizondo has written nine books, including “The Future is Metizo,” “Galilean Journey,” and “The Human Quest.” His books, essays, interviews and homilies attract international attention, and the Sunday Spanish Mass at which he presides is televised and carried via satellite from San Fernando Cathedral to more than a million households.

1998: Dr. Edmund Pellegrino

Dr. Edmund Pellegrino

A champion of what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of life,” Pellegrino's scholarly interests included the history and philosophy of medicine, professional ethics and the physician-patient relationship. He has written more than 500 articles and 17 books.

A native of Newark, N.J., Pellegrino graduated from St. John’s University in 1941 and received his medical degree from New York University in 1944. He served residences in medicine at Bellevue, Goldwater Memorial and Homer Folks Tuberculosis Hospitals before becoming a research fellow in renal medicine and physiology at New York University. He became professor and chairman of the department of medicine at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in 1959. He joined the medical faculty of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook in 1966 and was appointed dean of the SUNY medical school two years later. From 1975-78, he was president of the Yale New Haven Medical Center, and from 1978-82, he was professor of philosophy and biology at Catholic University of America in Washington. Pellegrino is the former director of Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Center for the Advance Study of Ethics and Center for Clinical Bioethics.

1999: Philip Gleason

Philip Gleason

Gleason, a native of Wilmington, Ohio, received a master’s degree in history from Notre Dame in 1955, joined the University’s history department faculty in 1959, and received his doctoral degree the following year. He chaired Notre Dame’s history department from 1971-74, was a visiting professor of American Catholic history at Catholic University of America in 1982 and chair of The Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs from 1986-88. In addition to setting a rigorous standard for faith-inspired teaching and research at Notre Dame, he earned an enviable reputation among historians worldwide. While principally concerned with the Catholic Church in the United States, his scholarship includes U.S. intellectual and social history. He is the author of the widely praised history, “Contending With Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the 20th Century,” as well as of “The Conservative Reformers: German-American Catholics and the Social Order,” “Contemporary Catholicism in the United States,” “Catholicism in America,” “Documentary Record of Early American Catholicism,” “Keeping the Faith: American Catholicism Past and Present,” and “Speaking of Diversity: Language and Ethnicity in 20th Century America.”

2000: Andrew McKenna

Andrew McKenna

McKenna served as chairman of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees from 1992-2000. A 1951 Notre Dame graduate in business administration and marketing, he is chairman and chief executive officer of Schwartz, an international distributor of paper packaging and allied products and also a printer and converter of paper products with headquarters in Morton Grove, IL. After earning a law degree from DePaul University in 1954, McKenna joined Schwartz in 1955 and became president in 1964. The Center for Continuing Education at Notre Dame was named McKenna Hall in 1998 in recognition of McKenna and his wife, Joan, for having made the largest single gift for student scholarships in the history of the University. The McKennas are the parents of seven children, four of whom are Notre Dame graduates.

2001: Msgr. George G. Higgins

Msgr. George G. Higgins

A scholar, activist and the foremost “labor priest” of the Catholic Church in America, Msgr. Higgins served for many years on the staffs of the United States Catholic Conference and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and on the theology faculty of Catholic University. He has been a forceful and occasionally controversial advocate for organized labor, often appearing on picket lines to rally and support striking workers. A participant and speaker at numerous international meetings, including the first congress of Solidarity in Poland, he has been published widely in scholarly and popular journals and written a weekly syndicated column in the Catholic press and a book entitled “Organized Labor and the Church: Reflections of a Labor Priest.” Among his numerous awards from labor, academic and religious organizations is a 1979 honorary degree from Notre Dame, where a labor studies center was named in his honor in 1993. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.

2002: Rev. John Smyth

Rev. John Smyth

A 1957 Notre Dame graduate, Father Smyth was captain of the University’s basketball team and an honorable mention All-American. Forgoing a professional basketball career, he was ordained a priest of the Chicago archdiocese in 1962. He was assigned to Maryville Academy, a residence for orphaned and homeless children which had been founded in 1883. He has worked there as a priest, teacher, coach, counselor, administrator, manager and fund-raiser ever since.

2003: Peter and Margaret O'Brien Steinfels

Peter and Margaret O'Brien Steinfels

Chicago natives Peter Steinfels and Margaret O’Brien both graduated from Loyola University in 1963 and married the same year. They then pursued postgraduate studies in New York City, where Peter served as editor of Commonweal magazine from 1979 to 1988, when he became senior religion correspondent for the New York Times. Margaret succeeded her husband as editor of Commonweal, remaining in that position until 2003. Margaret was the University’s commencement speaker in 1991, and Peter was a visiting professor here in 1994.

2004: Rev. J. Bryan Hehir

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir

A priest of the Boston archdiocese and longtime adviser to the Catholic bishops of the United States, Father Hehir was the principal architect of the bishops’ 1982 pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Peace,” which called for the reduction of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. He joined the faculty of Harvard Divinity School in 1993 and from 1998 to 2001 was the first Catholic priest to lead Harvard Divinity School, forgoing the title of dean and residence in the dean’s mansion to demonstrate the priority of his duty to the Church. He also serves as president and treasurer of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Boston.

2005: Dr. Joseph E. Murray

Dr. Joseph E. Murray

In 1954, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, then called Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Dr. Murray made medical history by successfully transplanting a donated kidney from one brother to his genetically identical twin brother. In 1962, administering immunosuppressive drugs, he performed the first successful kidney transplant using a kidney from a donor not related to his patient. In 1990, he received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work in lifesaving organ and tissue-transplant techniques, becoming one of only four surgeons to have received the honor. He was appointed to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of the Sciences in 1996.

2006: Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck

A legendary jazz pianist, composer and bandleader, Brubeck returned from World War II to study classical music under the G.I. Bill before becoming a popular performer in San Francisco nightclubs. His Brubeck Quartet dramatically transformed both the sounds and the audiences of American jazz music, and its 1954 album, “Jazz Goes to College,” offered what a Time magazine cover story described as “some of the strangest and loveliest music ever played since jazz was born.” In addition to such signature works as “Blue Rondo a la Turk” and “Take Five,” he has written, performed and recorded numerous solo piano pieces, ballets, compositions for jazz combos and orchestras, a musical, an oratorio, cantatas, and a Mass.

2007: Patrick McCartan

Patrick McCartan

A 1956 graduate of Notre Dame who earned a law degree from the University in 1959, McCartan is a senior partner of the Jones Day international law firm, one of the largest in the world. A specialist in appellate litigation and corporate governance matters, he is among the nation’s most respected and influential lawyers. He became a member of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees in 1989 and was elected Board chairman and University fellow in 2000. His tenure as chairman included the election in 2004 and inauguration in 2005 of Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., as Notre Dame’s 17th president.

2008: Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

A screen and television actor whose baptismal name is Ramon Gerardo Antonio Estevez, he later adopted his stage name in honor of the pioneering televangelist Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Among his numerous award-winning roles, one of the most celebrated was in the television series “The West Wing,” as a soulful American president who was a Notre Dame graduate. He also is a peace activist, an opponent of abortion and a student of Catholic social teaching who has used his celebrity to draw attention to issues of human rights and dignity.

2009: n/a


2010: Dana Gioia

Dana Gioia

A renowned poet, translator and author, Gioia retired in 1982 as an executive of the General Foods Corporation in New York to devote himself entirely to his poetry. He had already published widely celebrated collections of poems, opera libretti, translations of Italian, German and ancient Roman poets and a book, “Can Poetry Matter?” which helped revitalize the role of poetry in American public life. From 2003 to 2009 he served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, strengthening public support and funding of the arts, championing jazz as a uniquely American art form and promoting Shakespeare readings and performances nationwide.

2011: Sister Mary Scullion, R.S.M., and Joan McConnon

Sister Mary Scullion, R.S.M., and Joan McConnon

The co-founders of Project HOME, an organization devoted to the prevention of homelessness in Philadelphia, Sister Scullion and Joan Dawson McConnon began their ministry in 1989, first providing rudimentary overnight shelter for some 50 homeless men, then forming a community and establishing a more permanent and resourceful residence for chronically homeless men who sought food, clothing, medical care, employment and a sense of dignity. Now recognized as a national model, Project HOME administers the cultivation of the inner city vacant lots, economic development of low-income neighborhoods and home-ownership initiatives and is credited for having reduced Philadelphia’s homeless population by half.

2012: Ken Hackett

Ken Hackett

After joining the staff of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in 1972, Hackett worked in posts in Africa and Asia as well as in the CRS headquarters in Baltimore before becoming its president in 1993. During his 18-year tenure, the annual operating budget of CRS Group grew from $300 million to $800 million, and the agency became one of the world’s most effective, efficient and respected humanitarian organizations. It now has a global staff of 5,000 people working in more than 100 countries.

2013: Sister Susanne Gallagher, S.P.; Sister Mary Therese Harrington, S.H.; and Rev. James H. McCarthy

Sister Susanne Gallagher, S.P.; Sister Mary Therese Harrington, S.H.; and Rev. James H. McCarthy

Begun in 1960 as a ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Special Religious Education Development Network (SPRED) was founded by Father McCarthy and Sisters Gallagher and Harrington, to make Catholic liturgy and teaching more accessible to people with developmental disabilities. SPRED soon expanded far beyond Chicago and today administers faith formation and sacramental initiation programs in 28 Catholic dioceses and 200 parishes nationwide, including Notre Dame’s own Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and in more than 200 small parish faith groups in England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, South Africa, Malta, and Mexico.

2014: Kenneth R. Miller

Kenneth R. Miller

Pursuing distinct but harmonious vocations in biology and religious belief, Miller has shown how science and faith may mutually flourish. A scholar of cell and molecular biology, he is an outspoken critic of the creationism and intelligent design movements which argue that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is inherently atheistic and incompatible with Christian faith. In addition to teaching biology at Brown University, he has written two books on the subjects: Finding Darwin’s God and Only a Theory, appeared frequently on television, and defended in court the teaching of evolution in public schools.

2015: Aaron Neville

Aaron Neville

A rhythm and blues and soul artist, Neville has had four platinum-certified albums and four Top 20 hits in the United States, including three that went to No. 1 on Billboard's adult contemporary chart and one that topped the R&B chart. He is also a member of the musical group The Neville Brothers with his brothers Art, Charles and Cyril.

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Neville attended St. Monica’s Catholic School. He credits successfully surviving trying times of drug addiction and other hardships to God’s grace. He is a devotee of St. Jude, one of the original 12 Apostles known as the patron saint of hope and impossible causes. Neville dedicates each of his albums to St. Jude and one of the earrings he wears is a St. Jude medal. (Photo credit: Sarah A. Friedman)

2016: Joe Biden & John Boehner

Joe Biden & John Boehner

At age 29, Joe Biden became one of the youngest people ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He represented Delaware for 36 years before his election as vice president in 2008.

In the Senate, Biden served as chairman or ranking member of the Judiciary Committee for 17 years and played an integral role in the 1994 Crime Law and the Violence Against Women Act. He also served for 12 years as chair or ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helping to guide issues and legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

As the nation’s 47th vice president, Biden oversaw the $840 billion stimulus package in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and leads the Ready to Work Initiative, among many other initiatives.

John Boehner is the second child in a family with 12 children and modest means. After graduating from Xavier University, he worked in business and served in the Ohio legislature. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990, serving the 8th District of Ohio, and was re-elected 10 times.

Among House Republicans, Boehner served as conference chairman, minority leader and majority leader. He also served as chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee where he authored several reforms, including the Pension Protection Act and a school choice voucher program for low-income children in Washington, D.C.

Boehner became Speaker of the House in January 2011 and was re-elected in January 2013 and January 2015. He stepped down as speaker and resigned from Congress last fall.

2017: Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J.

Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J.

Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J., is founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. Homeboy was founded in 1988 and is now the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. Homeboy's holistic approach — including therapeutic and educational offerings, practical services like tattoo removal and work readiness and job training-focused social enterprises — serves 10,000 men and women a year. The organization offers an exit ramp to those stuck in cycles of violence and incarceration and helps them develop the strength and skills to transform their lives and become contributing members of society.

While Homeboy’s achievements are myriad — including the Global Homeboy Network that facilitates best practice sharing among 85 like-minded organizations around the world — Father Boyle insists that meaningful life change requires kinship, or welcoming ourselves and others into radical, mutual acceptance.

2018: Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J.

Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J.

Sister Pimentel, a religious sister of the Missionaries of Jesus, has overseen the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville (Texas) since 2008, providing a range of services that includes emergency food and shelter, housing assistance, clinical counseling and pregnancy care to all four counties in the Rio Grande Valley. She was instrumental in organizing local response to the 2014 surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States. This included helping to establish the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.

In 2015, Pope Francis recognized and thanked Sister Pimentel personally for her work with immigrants in a virtual town hall meeting that was featured on ABC’s “20/20.” Also in 2015, she was named one of “Our Sunday Visitor’s” 2015 Catholics of the Year and won a nomination for “Texan of the Year.”

In response to learning she had been named the 2018 Laetare Medalist, Sister Pimentel said: “I am truly honored to receive this award. This year’s Laetare Medal brings forth the cries of the suffering for the world to hear. I would like to thank the University of Notre Dame for this recognition and for being a voice for immigrants in our midst.”

Herself the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Sister Pimentel grew up crossing back and forth from Brownsville to Matamoros, Mexico, to be with family on both sides of the border. It was while her parents were awaiting response from U.S. authorities on their application for residency that Sister Pimentel’s mother gave birth to her in Texas.

In her reflection on immigrants in “A Pope Francis Lexicon,” Sister Pimentel wrote: “I am a U.S. citizen by chiripa — sheer chance. I grew up entre dos fronteras, enjoying life in two countries, Mexico and the United States.”

Sister Pimentel received a bachelor of fine arts degree from Pan American University, a master’s degree in theology from St. Mary’s University and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Loyola University Chicago.

Sister Pimentel said some of her most formative and pivotal experiences took place shortly after she professed final vows with the Missionaries of Jesus. Border patrol agents would bring immigrant families to the sisters’ convent, often late at night. Sister Pimentel said Sister Juliana Garcia, her religious superior at the time, “would immediately prepare a room to welcome the family when they arrived. The mother and her children would become part of our community family for about a week or so, and I quickly learned the importance of living out our faith by how we welcome and protect those who need us.”

For Sister Pimentel, the call to compassion to those in need extends to all Christians—and results in radical transformation.

“Scripture comes to life and our faith becomes flesh,” she said. “It is not until you find yourself in front of the face of the immigrant child or mother that you will understand this. It is a moment of realizing we are all one human family.”

2019: Norman Francis

Norman Francis

During Francis’ 47-year tenure as president of Xavier University, enrollment nearly tripled, the endowment grew eightfold and the university became the leading producer of African-American undergraduates who complete medical school. Xavier also ranks first nationally in the number of African-American students earning undergraduate degrees in biology and life sciences, chemistry, physics and pharmacy.

At a time when the U.S. Supreme Court — based on a legal challenge to Louisiana law regarding “separate but equal” — upheld segregation as the law of the land, St. Katharine Drexel founded Xavier, America’s only historically black and Catholic university, in 1925. Heir to a banking fortune, Drexel also founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and used her entire inheritance to advance racial equality for African-Americans and Native Americans, especially through education. Drexel’s influence permeates Francis’ achievements.

“I did not build Xavier; I was part of Katharine Drexel’s mission to provide a quality education for all,” Francis said. “All the people I worked with were part of this plan and mission, which was not only honorable, but was totally necessary when you look back at what the United States was at the time.”

2020: Kathleen McChesney

Kathleen McChesney

Kathleen McChesney’s myriad law enforcement achievements began in the 1970s as a police officer in King County, Washington. As a detective, she investigated sex crimes and homicides, including the case involving the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. McChesney joined the FBI in 1978 as a special agent, eventually reaching the third-highest position within the bureau as executive assistant director for law enforcement services.

In 2002, McChesney was recruited by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to establish and lead its Office of Child Protection, where she helped the nation’s 195 dioceses and eparchies implement the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” She established protocols for responses to allegations of abuse, prevention of abuse, transparency and accountability. Over the course of three years, McChesney also worked with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to develop an unprecedented study of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church, which was released in 2004. She is the founder of Kinsale Management Consulting, through which she continues to serve dioceses, religious organizations, and others around the world in the protection of children and vulnerable adults and in preventing ministerial misconduct and abuse.

Throughout her work with the Catholic Church, McChesney has emphasized the necessity of listening to victim-survivors, independent and professional investigations of abuse, transparency regarding cases of abuse and offenders, and thorough screening for clergy and laypeople involved in Catholic ministries. In Sept. 2019, McChesney spoke on some of these themes as a guest panelist in “The Church Crisis: Where Are We Now?’, which launched the 2019-2020 Notre Dame Forum, “Rebuild My Church: Crisis and Response.”

2021: Carla Harris

Carla Harris

Carla Harris, vice chairman of wealth management and senior client adviser at Morgan Stanley, began her career at a time when very few of her colleagues were Black or women, and her trajectory has been steadily ascendant. She was chair of the Morgan Stanley Foundation from 2005 to 2014 and is a member of the boards for Harvard University and the Walmart Corp.

In 2013, Harris was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council, an independent counsel to the president, Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Characteristic of Harris’ approach to her own success has been a mantra that has carried her beyond many obstacles and naysayers: “Never count yourself out.” Harris coaches others with a “negative motivation” approach, leveraging what people say cannot be done into energy to prove them wrong. She likewise understands her successes as a responsibility to help others, saying, “We are blessed so that we may be a blessing to others.”

2022: Sharon Lavigne

Sharon Lavigne

Sharon Lavigne is the founder and director of Rise St. James — a faith-based grassroots organization fighting for environmental justice in St. James Parish, Louisiana. A retired special education teacher, she has lived her entire life in St. James Parish and has watched the region transform from idyllic farmland into an embattled community living in the shadow of the petrochemical industry and plagued by industrial pollution.

Located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, St. James Parish is in the midst of an area nicknamed Cancer Alley, an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River that has more than 150 petrochemical plants and refineries. Thirty-two of those plants are in St. James Parish alone and are highly concentrated in districts in which the majority of residents are both Black and lower income.

“Why would they put the plant over here? Because they knew that people weren’t going to speak up,” Lavigne said. “And they were right. The people weren’t going to speak up. That’s when God touched me and told me to fight — and that’s what I did.”

2023: Sister Rosemary Connelly, R.S.M.

Sister Rosemary Connelly, R.S.M.

Sister Rosemary Connelly is the former executive director of Misericordia, a Chicago-based not-for-profit agency offering a community of care that maximizes potential for people with mild to profound developmental disabilities, many of whom are also physically challenged. Misericordia means “heart of mercy” in Latin.

When Sister Connelly came to Misericordia as executive director in 1969, the nonprofit on Chicago’s south side provided a home and custodial care for children with disabilities from birth to age 6. Though the children were well cared for, they did not have access to educational and enrichment activities — as was typical at the time.

Sister Connelly, however, believed passionately that the children were capable of more and deserved a higher quality of life. She began seeking out special education programming for them and when she found that nothing yet existed, she developed her own.


2024: Claire Babineaux-Fontenot

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot often says that one of her greatest gifts came in “an ugly package.”

In 2015, she was diagnosed with cancer. And as she was sitting in the doctor’s office, letting those words wash over her, she came to a realization.

She’d been living as though she had all the time in the world and, in that moment, she was forced to acknowledge that none of us does.

“I asked myself, ‘What if the best thing I could do in my career was the best thing I could conceivably do in my current job. Would that be OK?’” she said. “And in my heart I knew the answer was no. In that moment I decided, right there in that office, that I was going to leave the job that I was in.

“For the first time in my career, I was going to take a leap of faith.”

At the time, Babineaux-Fontenot was the executive vice president of finance and global treasurer at Walmart—the culmination of 13 years on Walmart’s leadership team and a career spanning three decades of increasingly high-profile positions in government, law firms, and corporations.

But she felt a strong calling from God that she was being led to a higher purpose.

“I was a tax lawyer—I’m about dotting i’s and crossing t’s. I do five-year plans. I do three-year strategies. I thought, ‘Why am I not scared?’” she said. “But I truly did not feel afraid, and I am so grateful for that guidance. I just trusted that He would take me to where He wanted me to be.”

That moment led her to Feeding America, where she became chief executive officer in 2018.

Read her story