JFK and MIT: Honoring the connection

Hear John F. Kennedy’s message delivered for MIT's centennial, read coverage of the campus response to the assassination, and more.


On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death, we remember the Massachusetts man who inspired — and continues to inspire — the country. Read the full Slice of MIT post for his MIT connections; here are a few:

Centennial Presence

Newly in office, President Kennedy recorded a message in 1961 congratulating MIT on its centennial and addressing the increasingly important role of education in the life of the nation. Recorded in the White House on April 6, Kennedy's voice was played two days later during MIT's Centennial celebration. Watch the video with Kennedy's message against footage of the centennial procession and images of Professor Walt Whitman Rostow, who Kennedy appointed as deputy special assistant to the President for national security affairs, and former MIT President Jerome Wiesner, who served as Kennedy's special assistant for science and technology.

Campus Aftermath

According to The Tech's article published on Nov. 26, 1963, MIT classes were cancelled at 3:15 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, shortly after the assassination. In observance of the day of national mourning proclaimed by President Lyndon Johnson, a memorial convocation was held in Kresge Auditorium Nov. 25. Here's an excerpt from the article:

Immediately after the death of President Kennedy had been announced, Dr. James R. Killian Jr., Chairman of the Corporation, issued the following statement: "Our nation and civilized men over all the world have suffered a catastrophic and incalculable loss. Nothing can mitigate the tragedy of this barbarous event or the overriding sorrow we feel for the family and friends of our late President. But as a great leader and a superbly dedicated man, he would have counseled us to stand steady, to re-affirm our deep commitment to all things noble and sacred in life, and to gather together in strong support of our new President."

The statement of President Stratton, issued Friday afternoon, read in part: "The assassination of President Kennedy is an enormous tragedy for the United States and the entire free world. This cruel and irrational act has taken from us a truly great President at the height of his powers. All Americans must feel a deep personal sorrow, and our hearts go out to Mrs. Kennedy and the Kennedy family. We have lost in a difficult hour the leader whose every approach to the great problems that beset us was guided by a keen intelligence and an ennobling vision of the highest aspirations of the American people."

Undergraduate Reaction

News of the assassination of the president spread quickly among the MIT undergraduate body. Shocked students clustered around radios and television sets, awaiting the grim developments. A staggering load of telephone calls went through the MIT switchboard. Professor Carleton Tucker, administrator of the Institute telephone system, stated that the load was "one and-a-half times any previous peak."

Were you there that day? Add your memories in the Slice of MIT comments or Facebook or Twitter.


Topics: Alumni/ae, Faculty, Government, History, History of MIT, Staff, Students

Comments

I was in middle school and just got home when I heard the announcement. It was unbelievable. JFK was so vibrant before the incident. In my opinion,he was the best president in my lifetine. I am now 64. I have thought of him often these past 50 years.
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