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About The Center

What is the David M. Kennedy Center?

Our Mission

The David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies is the heart of international engagement for the BYU community.

By supporting and implementing interdisciplinary international experiences on campus and abroad, the Kennedy Center raises global awareness and competency, and equips the community with international perspectives and tools to promote intellectual, physical, and spiritual well-being throughout the world.

Who is David M. Kennedy?
Kennedy Center Inauguration
Kennedy Center Dedication

David M. Kennedy

Meet the namesake of the BYU Center for International Studies and former Secretary of the Treasury: David M. Kennedy. A self-sacrificing man, Kennedy agreed to serve as a cabinet member when he was on the verge of retirement.

The Kennedy Way

Statement by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

David M. Kennedy had impressive careers in both government and banking and was also a valiant servant of the Lord in his various callings for the Church. After serving as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and carrying out diplomatic assignments for the government, he spent several years in another type of ambassadorial role, as a special representative of the First Presidency. His efforts were instrumental in gaining recognition of the Church in many nations. He lived a full and productive life, but will still be missed by his family, friends, the nation, and the Church. We extend our thanks to his family for sharing him with us.

David Matthew Kennedy: Banker, Statesman, Churchman
by Martin Berkeley Hickman

When David Matthew Kennedy took his place as Secretary of the Treasury in the cabinet of the president of the United States, he stood second only to the Secretary of State. No other native of Utah or member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has held a higher position in the United States government. How did this Mormon farm boy, born of second-generation Americans in a small isolated ranching community, reach this position?

In this illuminating biography, published in cooperation with the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at Brigham Young University, author Martin Hickman traces David Kennedy’s early life, his mission to Great Britain, his marriage to Lenora Bingham, and his entry in to the world of banking after he obtained a law degree. From employment at the Federal Reserve board in Washington, D.C., he went on to Continental Illinois Bank and Trust Company in Chicago and rose to become chairman and chief executive officer. And after two years in the cabinet of Richard Nixon, he became ambassador-at-large for the United States, where his negotiations on monetary and trade matters took him to many international capitals.

Parallel with his professional career, Kennedy has served in key positions with the Church in Washington and Chicago. And just when he had decided to retire to a small town in Utah, he was called to serve as special representative to the First Presidency of the Church, an ambassadorial assignment that again took him to all parts of the world to meet with government and ecclesiastical leaders.

Deep faith and commitment to righteous principles have motivated David Kennedy and provided the basis for his outstanding achievements. When as a small boy he asked his father about the purpose of life, the answer was simple and succinct: “Your purpose in life is to serve God and your fellow man, period. That’s it. That’s all you have to remember.” It was a lesson David Kennedy never forgot—a lesson that underscores his life and accomplishments as told in David Matthew Kennedy: Banker, Statesman, Churchman.

Published by Deseret Book in cooperation with the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, 1987.

"I think everything that should be said has been said, and maybe more too. But the thing that impresses me is this: It is not the David M. Kennedy Center, but Brigham Young University and what it can do, in and through this center, to increase understanding and a greater appreciation of men and women everywhere. There are good people in all the world who need what we have and what we have to offer, and it is interesting that the trustees of the university have seen this vision."

Kennedy’s response at the ceremonial opening of the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, 1 October 1985, Brigham Young University

The Mission of the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies

by Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU’s president
17 November 1983
[brackets indicate changes since this talk was given]

On 19 October 1982, I announced that the center for international and area studies would be given a significantly expanded role on our campus and off. I explained that it would be “a central office which will have full responsibility for coordinating all of the multifaceted involvements of the university in international affairs.”

In September of this year that center was officially designated the “David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies” in recognition of Elder Kennedy’s distinguished global contributions in finance, trade, diplomacy, government service, home and family life, and in the expansion of the Church.

We are here this afternoon to mark the official inauguration of this important center at Brigham Young University and to honor the man whose name it bears. I would like to speak of the mission of the center, to explain its purposes, and to say something of the hopes and dreams I have for it.

The David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies has been established to strengthen and improve our many contacts with governments, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and with our own varied academic programs in international affairs. Its mission also includes a primary concern for people-to-people activities. There is a great need in our world for the examination and understanding of cultures and societies and languages and peoples other than one’s own, including the religious, moral, and aesthetic aspects of life. We need in these troubled times, on a smaller and smaller globe, to understand others in their terms, as they are, as well as to improve our efforts to bring representatives of different cultures together in an exchange of experiences and ideas so that such understanding can move from individuals to nations.

To meet these goals, the David M. Kennedy Center will foster faculty and student exchange, several kinds of symposia, scholar/diplomat lectures and discussions, research projects both on campus and overseas, and a variety of scholarly publications. In short, the center will provide an open and dignified forum for cross-cultural learning, where what we hope will be some of the world’s best minds and hearts can express themselves. Let me mention some of these principal tasks we will now address even more vigorously.

Citizenship and Careers. A strong central purpose of the center will be to prepare students for responsible citizenship and constructive careers in areas of their personal interest. BYU will be a special place for such study, where students can respond to the divine admonition to learn “things which have been, . . . things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and perplexities of the nations . . . and a knowledge also of countries and kingdoms” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:79). It must always be a university where students can “become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues and people” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:15).

An example of student training for such citizenship is the student-oriented Asian [now Intercultural] Outreach program based in the center. It has prepared teaching aids and learning resources for public school teachers at both the elementary and the high school levels and this past year sponsored a well-attended conference on campus which focused on the needs of newly-arrived refugees from southeast Asia as they adjust to school life in the United States.

The center will provide other specialized academic offerings and professional training within multidisciplinary courses of study. Majors will be prepared with a generous emphasis on a student’s individual interests such as business, communications, economics, religion, history, and social work within an international framework. The student will be encouraged to become proficient in foreign languages and to participate in international internships. In doing so, we hope to address the declared national need noted by the President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies:

We are profoundly alarmed by what we have found: a serious deterioration in this country’s language and research capacity, at a time when an increasingly hazardous international miliary, political, and economic environment is making unprecedented demands on America’s resources, intellectual capacity, and public sensitivity. . . . At a time when the resurgence of forces of nationalism and of ethnic and linguistic consciousness so directly affect global realities, the United States requires far more reliable capacities to communicate with its allies, analyze the behavior of potential adversaries, and earn the trust and the sympathies of the uncommitted. Yet there is a widening gap between these needs and the American competence to understand and deal successfully with other peoples in a world of flux.

Added to traditional classes in international politics, there have been significant developments in the study of international economics, comparative world religions, and world history on campus in recent years. The David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies anticipates having joint professional degrees in cooperation with, for example, the School of Management and the J. Reuben Clark Law School.

The David M. Kennedy Center is charged with providing a sound university education for all its students, including the several hundred undergraduate students now enrolled in its seven [six] academic programs—International Relations, American Studies [now in Humanities], Asian Studies, Canadian Studies [minor only], European Studies, Latin American Studies, and [Ancient] Near Eastern Studies, [Middle East Studies/Arabic has been added]. The center is responsible for the academic content of study abroad programs, with residential centers in London, Vienna, and Jerusalem [administered independently]. Plans are under way to develop a stronger graduate offering, emphasizing these international and area studies. In addition to these, the center has now begun to develop an important international internship program, through which forty-seven students have been placed in thirteen countries during the last eighteen months, and thirty-nine more are scheduled to be place in 1984 [currently over one thousand annually].

The center has already established itself nationally as a quality publisher of briefing pamphlets and materials for use by those fostering international understanding. It provides the university community with CultureGrams [licensed to Proquest] that are used in all of BYU’s major international operations, including Study Abroad [International Study Programs], Travel Study, and our music and dance performance groups. Over 150,000 CultureGrams were made available upon request last year to educational institutions, international banks and businesses, libraries, and government and military operations throughout the United States. Also, the center is developing a specialized resource library which will have a cultural and communications emphasis as one of its distinguishing characteristics and will be accessible for university use after the David M. Kennedy Center occupies its new facilities within the Herald R. Clark Building on campus.

Research and Publications. Primarily because of the early generous support of Glenn and Olive Nielson, the David M. Kennedy family, Mr. C. F. Koo and associates of the Republic of China, and others who have committed or already given funds totaling almost two million dollars (of our four-million-dollar endowment goal), the Kennedy Center for International Studies will now be able to develop a quality program of research and scholarly monographs and publications. This will be a major ingredient in the establishment of the center, for if it is to gain recognition and influence in the world at large, it must foster research. We must study the major issues obstructing peace, prosperity, and understanding in the world. We must also consider subjects which can be of benefit to the Church and the blessings it wishes to extend to all mankind. We will consider topics which other nonreligious institutions of higher learning may choose not to investigate, but which, from our LDS perspective, are worthy and important. It will be our view that nothing will be as significant in drawing the positive attention and respect of fairminded peoples of the world to the center, the university, and the Church as solid publications on serious issues that have been professionally researched and wisely interpreted. We will proceed from the position that the gospel gives us a world view by which to evaluate and interpret our experience and research, and we will not hesitate to apply that insight in our work, wherever it can cast a special light.

It is in connection with these expanding developments in international research and publications that I am pleased to inform you we have recently organized a Kennedy Center Research Committee, the members of which have been selected and appointed from various departments of the university under the leadership of Provost and Academic Vice President Jae R. Ballif. A coordinator of research for the center has been named, and he will serve as chairman of the committee. This group, in consultation with the advisory deans of the center and with the endorsement of the Executive Committee of the center, is now prepared to announce the recipients of the first three research proposal grants by the Kennedy Center, as follows:

  1. An in-depth analysis of the laws of six countries as they bear on religious institutions and religious freedom. Project director is W. Cole Durham, and his associates are Robert E. Riggs, Larry C. Farmer, and Stephen G. Wood, all are J. Reuben Clark Law School faculty.
    2. A second project will address “Poverty and Development: Industrialization in Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan.” A contract has already been signed for the publication of the finished manuscript. Project director is W. Ladd Hollist.
    3. We will hold a conference and produce publications on conflicting pressures for economic and sociocultural development in multiethnic states. Project director is Dennis L. Thompson, chairman of the Political Science Department.

In addition to these scholarly projects, I am happy to acknowledge that funds have been designated for the collection and cataloging of the David M. Kennedy papers and the writing and publication of the Kennedy biography. This will be the first volume in a Kennedy Center monograph series. I am delighted to note that Brother Kennedy has chosen Dr. Martin B. Hickman, a former United States foreign service officer and presently the dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, to author his biography.

Further announcements regarding Kennedy Center research grants and how members of the faculty may submit proposals will be forthcoming in the near future.

Service. As we consider the fundamental functions and goals of the David M. Kennedy Center, none should be more important than the commitment, not only to study, but also to serve. In the Kennedy Center I hope we will teach the fundamental importance of service and that we will promote the cause of peace and friendship through very personal effort. As we enlarge our circle of understanding, we will enlarge our circle of concern. We will strive to promote prosperity and dignity and to combat poverty and degradation wherever they may be found—monumental as that task is. Perhaps above all else, we will proceed on the conviction that gospel values and gospel ideals are the surest foundation upon which to build genuine understanding and establish permanent peace among the peoples of the earth.

This perspective and these principles are obviously shared by Brother Kennedy, and we are pleased to announce on this inaugural occasion the establishment of the David M. Kennedy International Service Award, which will be given annually to a person who has manifested extraordinary humanitarian service to his fellow man in an international setting, and who has also contributed in a nonecclesiastical way to the expansion of gospel principles in an international setting. Upon the recommendation of the leaders of the Kennedy Center and with the approval of the university administration, I am pleased to announce that Alexander B. Morrison, assistant deputy minister of health of the government of Canada, who has spent many years of service in helping eradicate poverty, malnutrition, and sickness among peoples in Third World countries, will be the first recipient of this significant award. Brother Morrison will formally receive this award at a dinner in his honor early next year.

Building on Our Strength. When I first arrived on campus as a new president three and one-half years ago, I declared publicly that we couldn’t do everything here, that which we chose to do we intended to do superbly well. Because of natural strength and unique need, we have chosen to make international activity and expertise one of our pinnacles of excellence. Perhaps no other university in the world has on its campus the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty experience in the international arena that BYU has. In the development of the David M. Kennedy Center, it is imperative that we capitalize on the now tens of thousands who do now, and will yet, spend long periods engaged in direct interaction with people in all accessible nations of the world through the far-flung missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We would miss one of the unique and most readily available natural strengths of this campus if we did not build upon this breadth of experience, upon the foundation of genuine love for peoples with whom both students and faculty have lived, and labored, and spoken in their language. We must now build a university superstructure in which we better understand the history, culture, and institutions of these people and by which BYU will move into the forefront of the world as an informed facilitator of international understanding, communications, and peace.

A University Commitment

by Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU’s president
1 October 1985

It is a thrill for me as president of the university to extend a special greeting to all of you. We are especially grateful to the Kennedy family. The history of the center and its work and our conversations with David and Lenora and their family go back a good while. Their financial generosity, and the financial generosity of many of you, as their friends and as friends of BYU, have finally made this physical setting for an already important academic function on this campus a reality. We are delighted to have everyone here, especially the VIPs who have been introduced. We suggest that all of you, for your warm and wonderful support of BYU, are VIPs.

When I became president of the university, now half a dozen years ago, it seemed to me that it was incumbent upon us in some increasing state of maturity, to choose what we could do and to do that well. I did not think we could do everything. We have a fixed number of resources, and only so many people, buildings, and dollars. It just seemed very important to progressively and increasingly choose, refine, magnify, and capitalize on natural abilities and strengths, things that BYU could do well. Some things any university has to do. Some things Brigham Young University has to do, largely because of our religious heritage and our Latter-day Saint sponsorship. Then moving outside that, there are some things that a good university could do, maybe should do, if it can find a way to do them.

One of the things that I thought we ought to do, and certainly there were many before my arrival on campus who also thought so, was to capitalize on what may be the most unique international and cross-cultural strength in an undergraduate population at any university, I think, maybe on this planet. I hope that is not hyperbole; I think it is true.

To demonstrate one aspect of that strength, we have 13,000 returned missionaries on this campus, men and women, who have spent two years, or near that figure, somewhere else in the world. Two-thirds of those 13,000 have a second language capability. A third of them have third language capability. It is not often that folks from Delta or Kanab or St. George or Scipio end up in Indonesia or Johannesburg or Oslo or Osaka. To have those students come back onto this campus, with something like a hundred returned mission presidents, seems to me to give per square inch probably the greatest concentration of international and cross-cultural experience that I could imagine in any comparable university anywhere in the world. That is not the only reason that we are interested in such matters, but it is a natural strength. It seems to me that we would be foolish not to use and to expand upon and to bless those same countries and kingdoms and peoples and languages with the work of the university. We want to support that kind of rather remarkable human experience which so many of our people have had and will continue to have.

It was in that spirit that we began to talk seriously about a center for international studies. That was about the time we began to talk to Brother Kennedy, and certainly the great work of Stan A. Taylor, Ray C. Hillam, and Spencer J. Palmer, several college deans, and a host of others, all working under the able direction of academic vice president and provost, Jae R. Ballif, have now made this a reality.

Two years ago, we officially inaugurated the center. We had a great day in the Tanner Building, brother Kennedy will remember, but we did not have a home. The work of the center was spread out over three or four or five buildings on campus. But we are delighted now that some twenty-four months later we are able to gather here in this lovely historic, and now newly renovated building on campus, and to have the activities of the David M. Kennedy Center brought under one central roof, very much in the center of this campus. I do not know that you could measure east and west and north and south, but this would be close to the very center of this campus, and I hope there is some significance to that for our future Intercultural Outreach.

This probably will not come to be known as the center of the universe, but it might, Brother Kennedy. We will at least extend that invitation to Brother Hillam and his associates to make it so. We hope and believe and already understand and anticipate that into this building will walk international figures of significant public and private performance, those who have made and shaped world opinion and who have made their own contribution to our international understanding, and will yet do so. Out of the building we hope will come many, many students and certainly a great many publications that will that will explore issues of international understanding, communication, and peace.

Just to note the movement on and off this campus, which we hope this building will symbolize, I think it is not inappropriate to announce that on Friday, 8 November the David M. Kennedy Center will host Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. He will deliver a public lecture here at BYU, and we invite all of you to be with us on that occasion. We hope this is simply representative of the many kinds of visits and visitors who will come to our campus.

We express appreciation to the Board of Trustees who so unfailingly, absolutely faithfully, support us in the kinds of recommendations and proposals we take. It requires a certain amount of money to sustain and maintain and pursue the mission of this campus, and we could not hope to have had more support for this project, or for any other, than we get from our Board of Trustees, those representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are grateful that Elder and Sister Faust have been invited to represent them here today. We thank you Elder Faust and ask you to thank your associates and brethren for the improvements that now make this building a reality for us.

We thank Broderick and Howell Construction, and all others who have made this such a wonderfully appointed and beautiful building. We hope you will come back this afternoon for an open house and enjoy the warm hospitality that this newly renovated building conveys to you and to me.

I have already expressed and need to reaffirm my love and appreciation for Brother Ballif. It has been under his supervision at the highest level of academic administration of the university that a host of colleges, a number of deans, a wide variety of departments, and a myriad of faculty members have been brought together. Maybe only at BYU can that really be done, I think, as well as it has been done here. I thank Brother Ballif and his associates in the academic vice president’s office for the untiring way in which that has been done, so cordially and so well.

We are committed to international studies; we are committed to international peace and understanding. We believe that BYU has some advantages and natural assets and opportunities about which we do not want to be smug. We certainly have no desire to convey anything that would be patronizing, but only a sense of mission and a sense of commitment to the purposes and opportunities for international peace and strength. Please know that you have our gratitude and admiration and appreciation by virtue of your attendance here this morning and all that you represent in helping us move toward a realization of our goals.

We hope that you will return to this campus often; we hope you will come to this building often—that you will see it as a home-away-from-home whenever you might be able to be in Provo. Come and be with us, counsel us and teach us, improve us, as we try to do the very best job we feel is at the very center of the purposes and strength and mission of Brigham Young University.