MHS News

Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009
MHS honors Senator, Fellow

The Trustees and staff of the Massachusetts Historical Society were saddened to note the passing of a dear friend and Fellow of the Society, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.  Sen. Kennedy, who was elected a Fellow of the Society in 1968, was a staunch supporter of the MHS throughout the years, particularly when it came to presenting the award named for his late brother, the John F. Kennedy Medal.  The medal is awarded by the Society to a person doing outstanding service for history and is its highest honor.

Ted Kennedy reading excepts from John Adams letters. Sen. Kennedy and wife Victoria reading excerpts from the Adams correspondence in 2007.

Sen. Kennedy served as the keynote speaker at the Society’s bicentennial dinner at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on 17 May 1991, where he presented the Kennedy Medal to Oscar Handlin.  MHS Pres. Dennis Fiori recalled Sen. Kennedy’s attendance at the 25 October 2006 dinner honoring Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., with the Kennedy Medal.  Having just arrived from a rally for Gov. Deval Patrick, Fiori observed that the senator still had “plenty of the Kennedy fight in him.”  Sen. Kennedy then displayed his famed across-the-aisle conciliatory style by personally greeting all the guests, including noted Massachusetts Republicans George Lodge and the late Bill Saltonstall, and giving a poignant presentation reminding all of the ties and friendships among the great Massachusetts political clans.

“This is a great loss for the Massachusetts Historical Society, the state of Massachusetts, and the nation as a whole,” stated Fiori.  “Sen. Kennedy not only displayed a keen interest in our nation’s history, but helped form it.  He appreciated the need to have history inform our understanding of the problems we face as a nation today and help educate the citizens of tomorrow.”

Due to Sen. Kennedy’s long association with the Society, he filmed a piece for the Today Show at 1154 Boylston Street in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention in 2004.  Most recently, Sen. Kennedy and his wife, Victoria, gave a spirited reading from the letters of John and Abigail Adams as part of an evening celebrating the publication of My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams, edited by Margaret A. Hogan, Managing Editor, and C. James Taylor, Editor in Chief of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The event, held on 19 November 2007, drew a crowd of over 700 people to Boston's Faneuil Hall and included Gov. Deval Patrick and Diane Patrick and Gov. Michael Dukakis and Kitty Dukakis.  To see the event in its entirety, visit the WGBH Forum (

Published: Wednesday, 26 August, 2009, 12:00 PM