Eunice Kennedy Shriver Biography

(American Philanthropist and Founder of the ‘Special Olympics’)

Birthday: July 10, 1921 (Cancer)

Born In: Brookline, Massachusetts, United States

Eunice Kennedy Shriver was an American philanthropist, best remembered for her contribution to charities for intellectually disabled people and for starting the 'Special Olympics,' the first-ever sports and athletic event for people with special needs. A prominent member of the Kennedy family, Shriver began her philanthropical pursuits at the 'Federal Industrial Institution for Women.' After she joined the 'Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation' as the executive vice president, Shriver began focusing more on improving the lives of mentally disabled children. She was a founding member of numerous university programs, health-care facilities, and government initiatives in the U.S., working to treat such incapacitated people. Shriver's immeasurable contributions have been acknowledged by many institutes, universities, and organizations that have honored her with awards, recognitions, and honorary degrees.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Eunice Mary Kennedy, Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver

Died At Age: 88


Spouse/Ex-: Sargent Shriver (m. 1953–2009)

father: Joseph P. Kennedy Sr

mother: Rose Fitzgerald

siblings: Jean Kennedy Smith, John F. Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr, Kathleen Cavendish, Patricia Kennedy Lawford, Robert F. Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy, Ted Kennedy

children: Anthony Shriver, Bobby Shriver, Maria Shriver, Mark Kennedy Shriver, Timothy Shriver

Born Country: United States

Philanthropists American Women

Died on: August 11, 2009

place of death: Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States

Notable Alumni: Manhattanville College

Ancestry: Irish American

City: Brookline, Massachusetts

U.S. State: Massachusetts

More Facts

education: Stanford University, Manhattanville College

Childhood & Early Life
Eunice Mary Kennedy was born on July 10, 1921, in Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S., to renowned businessman and politician Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and his socialite wife, Rose Fitzgerald. Her eight siblings included John F. Kennedy, the 35th U.S. president; the 64th U.S. attorney general and former U.S. senator Robert F. Kennedy; former U.S. senator Ted Kennedy; and Jean Kennedy Smith, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
Shriver attended the 'Convent of The Sacred Heart' in Roehampton, London, and the 'Manhattanville College' in Upper Manhattan. She graduated with a major in sociology from 'Stanford University' in 1943.
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Early Career
Shriver served the ‘U.S. State Department,’ working for its 'Special War Problems Division.' She then joined the ‘U.S. Justice Department’ as an executive secretary.
After a year of working as a philanthropist with the 'Federal Industrial Institution for Women,' Shriver moved to Chicago in 1951, where she served the 'House of the Good Shepherd' women's shelter and the ‘Chicago Juvenile Court.’

In 1957, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was named the executive vice president of the 'Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation.' Founded by ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. in 1946, the foundation was named after her oldest brother, Joseph Jr., a World War II martyr.

After Shriver joined the foundation, it developed a more scientific and humane approach to mentally and physically disabled people. Working in that direction, Shriver eventually conceived the idea of the 'Special Olympics.'
In 1960, Shriver endorsed her elder brother, John, during his presidential run.

In 1961, Eunice Kennedy Shriver established the 'President's Panel on Mental Retardation,' which played a significant role in ensuring community integration in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. The following year, she became a founding member of the 'National Institute of Child Health and Human Development' (NICHD), which operated as part of the 'National Institutes of Health.' She started 'Camp Shriver' in her Maryland farm to aid special children. The camp eventually turned into the non-profit organization 'Special Olympics Inc.,' which was launched in 1968.

The first summer tournament of the 'Special Olympics' in Chicago, Illinois, was sponsored by the 'Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation.'
In 1969, Shriver began working with various Paris-based organizations in France to aid intellectually disabled people there. By the late 1970s and 1980s, she had expanded the 'Special Olympics' internationally.
In 1982, Shriver established the 'Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring' at the 'University of Utah,' Salt Lake City.
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Shriver was also associated with the special skating program started by former American figure skater Dorothy Hamill.
Shriver supported the anti-abortion movement and several pro-life organizations such as 'Feminists for Life of America,' the 'Susan B. Anthony List,' and 'Democrats for Life of America.'

As a ‘Democrat,’ Eunice Kennedy Shriver released a full-page advertisement on 'The New York Times' to oppose "abortion on demand" during the 1992 'Democratic Convention.'

Awards & Honors
Shriver received the nation's highest civilian award, the 'Presidential Medal of Freedom,' in 1984.
The 'United States Sports Academy' acknowledged her contribution to international sports with the 'Eagle Award,' the highest international honor awarded by the academy, in 1990. In 1992, 'Jefferson Awards' honored Shriver's works with the 'Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged.'
She received the 'Civitan International World Citizenship Award' for bringing in the concept of the 'Special Olympics.'

In 1995, Eunice Kennedy Shriver became the second American and the only woman in the country to be commemorated on currency coins. She was inducted into the 'National Women's Hall of Fame' in 1998.

The 'National Collegiate Athletic Association' (NCAA) honored her with the 2002 'Theodore Roosevelt Award' (the 'Teddy' recognition) and included her in the ‘NCAA’ centennial celebration in 2006.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI awarded her the papal knighthood and the title of the 'Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great' (DSG).
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The 'National Center for Health Research' honored Shriver with the 'Foremother Award' in 2008. The same year, the ‘U.S. Congress’ celebrated her achievements by adding her name to the 'National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.' In December that year, she was the first person to receive the 'Sportsman of the Year Legacy Award' from the journal 'Sports Illustrated.'
On May 9, 2009, Shriver got a historic portrait of herself at the 'National Portrait Gallery' (NPG) of the 'Smithsonian Institution' in Washington, D.C. She thus became the first person apart from a president or a “First Lady” to have achieved the feat. The portrait was painted by David Lenz.
The 'State University of New York' in Brockport, where the 1979 'Special Olympics' event was hosted, honored Shriver by renaming its football stadium after her in September 2010.
In July 2017, Shriver was posthumously honored with the 'Arthur Ashe Courage Award' at the 2017 'ESPY Awards.'
Personal Life & Death
Shriver was married to Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., former navy officer and the U.S. ambassador to France. They had five children: Robert Sargent Shriver III, Maria Owings Shriver, Timothy Perry Shriver, Mark Kennedy Shriver, and Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver.
Shriver supported her son-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a ‘Republican’ candidate, in the 2003 election for the position of the governor of California, despite her political differences with him.
Shriver shared a special bond with her cerebrally disabled sister, Rosemary Kennedy. Rosemary’s disability was one of the motivating factors behind the kind of work she did all her life.
On August 7, 2009, Shriver was admitted to 'Cape Cod Hospital' in Hyannis, Massachusetts. However, the reason for the admission was not revealed to the public. Her relatives were called to the hospital on August 10. She passed away on August 11.
A ‘Requiem Mass’ was organized on August 14, 2009, at the 'St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church' in Hyannis. She was then buried at the 'St. Francis Xavier' parish cemetery in Centerville.
Her brother, Ted, who was suffering from terminal brain cancer, died 2 weeks later.

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