Rev. Michael Sheeran, S.J., Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
February 4, 2014
Contact: Deanna I. Howes, AJCU Director of Communications
(202) 862-9893, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, DC - On Monday, February 3rd, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) awarded the AJCU Lifetime Achievement Award to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) for his exceptional advocacy for Pell grants and campus-based aid, and support of Jesuit higher education. Senator Harkin received the award from AJCU President Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J. at the annual AJCU board dinner in Washington, DC.
In his acceptance speech, Senator Harkin expressed his appreciation for the Jesuits, and their contributions to higher education and social justice in the United States. He said, "Catholic social teaching asks us to lift up the poor, and Jesuit colleges and universities are committed to that. But, they can't do it alone, and that's why government [funding] has to be part of it. Government and religion are both about lifting people up and giving them hope."
Senator Harkin also expressed his admiration for Jesuit Pope Francis, whose commitment to helping the poor has deeply resonated with him, the son of a Slovenian immigrant mother and Irish coal-miner father who worked tirelessly to provide for Harkin and his five siblings in spite of their limited means and education.
Senator Harkin's upbringing influenced the issues that he has championed during his 40 years spent in the United States Congress, including 30 in the Senate. He has demonstrated his commitment to education by serving as Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, where he oversaw passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA); increased the Pell Grant maximum award twofold between 1989-1990 and 2009-2010; and secured $17 billion in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Senator Harkin is also noted for crafting the legislation that became the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); in his remarks to the AJCU Board, he described his brother's struggles with hearing impairment as his inspiration for helping others with disabilities.
For nearly two decades, AJCU has had the honor of working closely with Senator Harkin, who will retire at the end of his current term. The Association and its members, the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, thank him for his dedication to helping the poor and vulnerable, and appreciate his support of the initiatives of the Society of Jesus. At the end of his remarks on Monday, with his trademark sense of humor, Senator Harkin said, "I've always admired Jesuits and I've always said that they're so smart, I could never aspire to be one!"
Please click here to view more photos from the AJCU Board Dinner.