Graduating seniors pursuing service careers
Mon., December 4, 2023
The purpose of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award is to encourage student leaders 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:
- a commitment to making a significant contribution to the public through a career in government or other form of public service;
- potential for such contributions as demonstrated by past experience in public service either on or off campus;
- academic achievement.
Students contemplating their futures have many good options, among them academic careers, professional training, entry into private sector employment and a wide variety of public service careers in government, the non-profit sector and elsewhere. The Class of 1964 believes that service in the public interest has never been more necessary and that there remains a critical need for intelligent and dedicated graduates devoted to addressing the public good and working to solve such pervasive problems as hatred, fear, prejudice, injustice, poverty, ill health and the degradation of our environment.
The recent years’ turmoil in our civic life has prompted the Class of 1964 to return to the focus of the award’s early years and to put special emphasis on government service and public policy. The Class of 1964 JFK Board especially welcomes applications from students who seek to shape public policy by active engagement with government at any level and by channeling their service aspirations through a career in government.
The John F. Kennedy Memorial Award is intended to help the recipient get started in a public service career where remuneration may be low or slow to accumulate.
Alumni Panel Recording: Learn about how alumni were impacted by this award and their careers in public service.
Please visit the Class of 1964 website to learn more about the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award and to hear from past recipients.
Two letters of recommendation are required. One should be from a faculty member or other person qualified to attest to your academic achievements, the other from a professional who can speak to your character, goals and experience in public service.
Only complete applications, including letters of recommendation and a copy of your official transcript, that are received by the due dates will be considered.
Please email email@example.com with any questions.
Q: I graduated or will graduate early. Am I eligible to apply?
In most cases, you are not eligible, as the winner must commit to being on campus or be enrolled in full-time study during senior year to participate in award-related activities, including attendance at the year-end awards event. If you are otherwise eligible and have remained on campus as a grad student or are otherwise living and working at Cornell, you are eligible. Your application should provide full details of your situation.
Q: Owing to study abroad or other approved absence from the university, I will graduate a semester after the rest of my class. Am I eligible to apply?
That depends on when your absence took place. As long as you are considered a member of this year’s graduating class when you graduate, and as long as you conform to the university’s requirements for enrolled but off-campus students, the on-campus presence requirements during senior year as set forth above, you are eligible. Your application should include a description of your activities during your absence from campus.
Q: Are international students eligible to apply?
Yes and no. International students on J-visas, which reflect home-country or US Government sponsorship and include a two-year home residency requirement on completion of the academic program, are not eligible. Other international students should identify their visa status and any scholarships they may hold, with information on post-graduation terms and conditions. Applicants should describe how their plans address the award’s mission, to serve the US public interest. There is an extra burden of persuasion on students planning to leave the US after graduation.
Q: My plans include work overseas. Am I eligible to apply?
Yes. Many past winners have had careers in international organizations, with the US Foreign Service, with non-profits working overseas, and in other institutions entailing research and work outside the US.
Q: I have an unusual major. Am I eligible to apply?
Any student, any study. The award is open to graduating seniors in all schools, departments and majors. See the booklet, The JFK Memorial Award, History and Grantees, available for consultation in the Einhorn Center and in the university library, for examples of past winners.
Q: Is the award need-based?
A student’s financial status is not taken into account in evaluating applications. What does matter is the likely value-added of the award to each applicant. The JFK Award is intended to facilitate entry into a public service career where remuneration is low or slow to accumulate. The existence of student loans or the prospect of high-cost graduate study do not in and of themselves constitute a compelling argument for the award. What matters are the applicant’s past activities demonstrating convincing evidence of leadership, a commitment to a career in public service, a proposal that lays out a feasible path toward a goal and a persuasive description of how the award funds would help to realize it.
Q: Is there a GPA requirement for application?
JFK awardees are expected to demonstrate high academic standing. In particular, the review committee looks for candidates showing steady progress over the student’s Cornell career. A minimum 3.5 GPA in the applicant’s final two years is required.