Following the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, an appeal was launched in the United Kingdom to enable British citizens to donate to a fund in the late president’s memory. This money was used to grant a fund to enable British post-graduate students to study at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and to create a landscaped memorial at Runnymede.
The Runnymede Memorial was opened by the Queen in May 1965, and the first group of Kennedy Scholars went over to Harvard and MIT to begin their courses of study in September 1966. While Jacqueline Kennedy made few public appearances after President Kennedy’s death, she attended the Runnymede Memorial in President Kennedy’s honor, along with her children Caroline and John Jr.
Since then, 468 British students have been awarded Kennedy Scholarships. Many have gone on to distinguish themselves in academia, public service, the professions, politics, the media, business and other varied careers. The scholarship can be used to fund a wide variety of programs at MIT and across all the graduate schools within Harvard - from PhD to LLM, from MPH to MA.
The Kennedy Memorial is situated at Runnymede, the meadow on the banks of the Thames where King John sealed the Magna Carta in 1215. Although the Kennedy Trust is responsible for the Memorial, it is maintained by the National Trust of the United Kingdom. The Memorial was designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, who drew on Pilgrim's Progress and Bunyan's allegory of life as a journey, as inspiration for the design of the site.
The Kennedy connection to the UK dates back to Joseph Kennedy Sr., who, in December 1937, was appointed the new ambassador to the Court of St. James, the United States' representative to Great Britain. Joseph, his wife, Rose, and all nine Kennedy children visited the UK after Joseph's appointment and were greeted with enthusiasm by the British public.