John F. Kennedy Memorial Award

The purpose of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award is to encourage well-qualified students to enter careers in government or other public service fields. The Class of 1964 urges graduating Cornellians to consider careers in public service and invites them to apply..

This $15,000 award endeavors to further President Kennedy's intense interest in realizing the leadership potential of America's youth, as evidenced by the creation of such programs as the Peace Corps and the White House Summer Seminar. Throughout his presidency, Kennedy sought to bring together the intellectual power of the country's college and university scholars with the practical skills of politicians and statesmen in the service of national leadership.  The Cornell Class of 1964 feels that the United States will remain strong only if it is ably led, that our leadership must be constantly rejuvenated, and that the solutions to our nation's problems require the practical application of the knowledge and analytical abilities derived from a college education. 

With this purpose in mind, the Class of 1964 established the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award, to be bestowed annually upon a graduating senior from any of Cornell's undergraduate schools and colleges, based on the following criteria:

  1. A commitment to making a significant contribution to the public through a career in government or other form of public service;
  2. Potential for such contributions as demonstrated by past experience in public service either on or off campus;
  3. Academic achievement.

The award is intended to help the recipient get started in a career where remuneration may be low or slow to accumulate.

To some college graduates, “politics” is a dirty word, “foreign service” is dangerous and uncomfortable, and “patriotism” is equated to misguided chauvinism.  To some, a college education is a steppingstone to a potentially lucrative career.  For often justifiable reasons, many college graduates choose to remain in academia or to enter into traditional private sector employment.  Thus, there remains a critical need for intelligent and dedicated college graduates devoted to addressing the public good, and helping to solve such pervasive problems as hatred, fear, prejudice, injustice, poverty, ill health, and the degradation of our natural resources.

Please visit the Class of 1964 website to learn more about the John F Kennedy Memorial Award and to hear from past recipients. 

The application form is available online through org sync. You will be prompted to make an account if you have not done so already. We also require two letters of recommendation. One should be from someone who is qualified to attest to your academic achievements and another from someone who can speak to your character, goals and experience in public service. Application due dates are forthcoming for spring 2018.  

Only complete applications, including letters of recommendation, which are received by the due dates, will be considered.  Please consult the FAQ for answers to most of your questions, or consult the PSC at

The award will be bestowed at the PSC's year-end awards event. Date to be announced.