Honoring Ethel Kennedy’s humanitarianism

Manhattanville College’s first Ethel Kennedy Award for Human Rights Leadership.

Ethel Kennedy is best known as the wife of Robert Kennedy Jr., the slain U.S. senator from New York and presidential hopeful, with whom she had 11 children. 

But she was also a human rights leader in her own right as well as an alumna of Manhattanville College in Purchase (Class of 1949). (The former Ethel Skakel – from a large, prosperous Roman Catholic family in Greenwich – roomed at college with Robert Kennedy’s sister Jean, which is how the couple met.) 

Now her alma mater has honored her and her work with the first Ethel Kennedy Award for Human Rights Leadership. The award was presented Sept. 29 to doctoral candidate Jennifer Wesolowski of White Plains for her work promoting human rights in the field of education.   

Wesolowski is a student in educational leadership at Manhattanville’s School of Education.   

At the virtual event where the college also welcomed new doctoral students, Kerry Kennedy – one of Ethel and Robert’s 11 children – addressed the group, acknowledging the bright futures of all the doctoral candidates. “You are going to transform the next generation,” Kennedy said.   

“When I told my mother about this award, she was as happy and surprised and delighted as I have ever seen her,’’ Kennedy added. “Especially when she learned about Jen (Wesolowski), the award recipient this year. When I think about my mother, I think about someone who has really devoted her life to two things – to service to her community and her country and to the next generation. And that’s really a great description of Jen as well.’’   

For mville.edu. 

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