University of South Carolina

U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy talks with USC President Donald Russell in May 1957.

U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy, May 1957

John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. When he visited USC in May 1957, he was the junior senator from Massachusetts, but was already being talked about as a possible candidate for president in the 1960 election. Here is an account of Kennedy’s visit as reported in June 1, 1957, edition of The State newspaper of Columbia:

USC Commencement

Kennedy Urges Graduates to Enter Politics; Says US Needs Talents

By Bob Ackerman

Graduates of the University of South Carolina should consider entering politics, said Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts in his commencement address yesterday on the University campus, adding the nation needs “the application of your talents to the solution of the great problems of our time.”

He was one of the 720 who received degrees or certificates from the hands of President Donald Russell. Senator Kennedy was honored with an LL.D. degree along with four other honorary recipients in a short but impressive ceremony to which perhaps 2,000 visitors and alumni came.

The junior senator from Massachusetts appeared boyish and charmed his listeners with praises of the common historical ties of his native state with South Carolina.

“I urge each graduate to consider entering politics at some stage of your career,” he said.

“We stand in serious need of the fruits of your education, broad fields of knowledge.”

Noting that the world of politics and scholarship has been drifting apart, he cited the many facets of the early leaders of the United States who mixed politics with law, agriculture, architecture and military service.

Both South Carolina and Massachusetts had put forward eminent sons, he said, and noted that South Carolina’s John Calhoun, Daniel Webster of his native Massachusetts and Henry Clay of Kentucky, had recently been chosen as three of America’s foremost senators.

“Politics is one of the most abused and neglected of professions,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. He criticized the tendency on the part of some to consider politics as only fit for the smoke filled room.

“Will you become the anvil or the hammer,” he asked his listeners.

Then he listed some of the issues confronting political leaders today _ the solution of the problem of farm foreclosures during a time of plentiful crops, the problems of international trade, of war and peace, of nuclear war, of mutations resulting from radiation exposure.

The slightly freckled, blonde, handsome Massachusetts Senator said that his state and South Carolina had an inseparable destiny.

Noting that patriots of both states had fought the common tyranny of the Revolution, he cited the contributions of John Adams, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, of Christopher Gadsden, John Rutledge and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina. He noted the bitter Senate debates between Calhoun, Webster and Clay, but of their kindred service to the nation.

“The North and South are indispensable to each other.”

Among his listeners on the special platform erected for the commencement exercises were Governor George Bell Timmerman Jr. and former Governor James F. Byrnes. While the long line of graduating students came up to President Russell to get their diplomas or certificates Senator Kennedy could be seen amiably chatting with Governor Timmerman and other honorary degree recipients. Clouds helped to keep the usual heat of commencement from making uncomfortable the hundreds of graduates, their families, friends and the University faculty.

The ceremonies were opened by playing of the University Concert Band, under the baton of Pat Garnett. To solemn and dignified music the academic procession filed to their seats followed by distinguished guests and visitors.

The invocation was asked by the Rev. A.B. Ferguson, pastor, Main Street Methodist Church.

The granting of degrees commenced with citations of four of the honorary degree recipients.

Dr. William Weston Sr., noted Columbia physician, author and public benefactor, was presented by Dean Robert L. Sumwalt of the school of Engineering for the LL.D. degree.

Roger Craft Peace, publisher of newspapers in Greenville, was introduced for his LL.D. degree by Dean Robert H. Wienefeid of the College of Arts and Science.

David Lawrence, publisher and editor of the United States News and World Report news magazine of Washington, D.C., was presented by Dean George A. Buchanan of the School of Journalism for the LL.D. degree.

President Russell presented honorary doctor of laws degrees to each of these men and the introducing dean placed the academic hood over the shoulders of the recipient.

Before Senator Kennedy made his commencement address, President Russell introduced him to the graduates and the audience.

President Russell noted Senator Kennedy’s “courage in service to his nation” and “bravery beyond the call of duty,” of Kennedy’s historical scholarship and a “character that was made for greatness.”

“I introduce South Carolina’s finest to the junior Senator from Massachusetts and I present Senator Kennedy to South Carolina’s finest,” President Russell said.

At this the commencement audience arose and applauded the commencement speaker.

After Senator Kennedy spoke, Dean W.H. Callcott, dean of the University, read the citation for Senator Kennedy’s degree of honorary doctor of laws and after receiving the diploma from President Russell the academic hood was placed on the Senator’s shoulders by Dean Callcott.

Prior to the commencement exercises, the University Naval ROTC unit commissioned 23 students into the ranks of the Navy, or Naval Reserve as ensigns or as second lieutenants into the Marines or Marine Reserves; and second lieutenants into the ranks of the United States Air Force Reserve.

The benediction was given by the Rev. Lauren E. Brubaker Jr., the, University chaplain.

President Russell gave each graduate or commissioned officer his appropriate diploma or certificate when presented by his dean.

Degrees were granted for the College of Arts and Science in arts and science, in chemistry, nursing; in the School of Business Administration in business administration; in the school of engineering and mechanical engineering, civil engineering , electrical engineering and mechanical engineering; by the School of Journalism in journalism; by the School of Law in law.

The graduate School presented degrees for master of arts, the master of education, master of science, master of business administration.

There were two Ph.Ds granted, to Wilbur Dubose Livingston in the field of education with a dissertation, “An Evaluation of Requirements for the Certification of Secondary-School Teachers”; and to Benjamin D. Wyse Jr. in the field of chemistry with a dissertation “The Decomposition of 2- (4-Methylbensoyl) Benzenediazonium Bisulfate in Methanol Containing an Acetate Buffer.”

At the end of the ceremonies the band played the University Alma Mater.

President Russell, immediately after handing out the many degrees and certificates, asked for the parents of graduates and for the wives or husbands of graduates to stand and be recognized. A number of friends or relatives approach the platform and took candid photos of the graduates. After the ceremony the graduates mixed with faculty members, relatives and friends in congratulatory groups.

Many foremost South Carolinians were present at the ceremony including Senator Olin Johnston of South Carolina. Alumni toured the campus inspected the many familiar buildings and haunts of school days. They also saw many new buildings erected during the presidency of Dr. Russell.

The festivities of the day commenced with a breakfast at the home of President and Mrs. Russell. An alumni luncheon was given at Russell House, the new University student union building.

Visitors inspected a special exhibit of items form the collection of the late August Kohn in the South Caroliniana library.


Posted: 09/01/11 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 09/01/11 @ 2:47 PM | Permalink



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