JFK Presidential Library Opens Papers of Jarold Kieffer First Executive Director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

For Immediate Release: May 8, 2006
Further information: Brent R. Carney (617) 514-1662, Brent.Carney@JFKLFoundation.org

Boston, MA – The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum announced today that it has processed and made available for research the personal papers of Jarold Kieffer, first Executive Director of the National Cultural Center, which was later renamed the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in honor of the late President.  The papers, a collection of approximately 4.25 cubic feet, primarily relate to Kieffer’s involvement in the establishment of the National Cultural Center, Kieffer served as the secretary to the Board of Trustees (1959-1961), Executive Director (1961-1963), and as a consultant after leaving his official position as Executive Director (1964-1965). The collection spans from 1958 to 2004.

Though plans for a National Cultural Center were initiated by the Eisenhower Administration in 1958, support from President and Mrs. Kennedy helped bring the struggling project closer to fruition. At the dedication of the Robert Frost Memorial Library at Amherst College on October 26, 1963, President Kennedy offered these words in support of the arts:

I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.…I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.

Among the many items included in this newly released collection are notes, press releases, articles, and correspondence discussing the creation of the National Cultural Center (NCC), annual reports, budgets and financial information, proposed fundraising ideas, and legislation pertaining to the Center. Also included are correspondence on the role of media in the NCC, building plans and photographs of the proposed site, and clippings and correspondence regarding an important NCC telecast. Of note is material relating to the Military Band Recording Project, a unique fundraiser that brought the U.S. Military Bands (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines) together for the first time.

Jarold Kieffer, who currently resides in Fairfax, Virginia, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 5, 1923. He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946 stationed in the South Pacific and the Philippine Islands. Upon his return, he attended the University of Minnesota, receiving his B.A. in 1947 and Ph.D. in 1950. He served in a variety of positions in the Eisenhower administration, including involvement in the Office of Defense Administration, the Committee on Government Organization and the second Hoover Commission.

In September 1958, Congress passed the National Cultural Center Act which called for a Board of Trustees to raise money, build, maintain, and operate a national center for the performing arts on a designated site in Washington, D.C.  Arthur Flemming, the newly appointed Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, was appointed Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Cultural Center,  and Kieffer, who was serving as executive officer to Flemming, was elected Executive Secretary. Kieffer also served as the Center’s liaison with the architect, Edward Durrell Stone. In January 1961, prior to President-elect Kennedy’s assumption of office, Kieffer became the first Executive Director of the NCC. In this capacity he worked successfully to gain support for the Center from the new Administration.  He also oversaw numerous fundraising efforts, including a closed-circuit telecast and a Military Band recording project, and continued to work with Edward Durrell Stone to create an affordable architectural plan for the Center. Kieffer left the Center in June 1963 to become Professor of Government and Assistant to the President of the University of Oregon, where he served until 1969.

Kieffer returned to national service in the 1970s, working for the Department of State, the Department of Transportation, and the Social Security Department, as well as serving on a variety of special committees and panels. In 1976, Kieffer was a founding member of the Advanced Transit Authority (ATRA), where he served as treasurer, secretary, chairman, and member of the board of directors. That same year, Kieffer became the Deputy Commissioner for the Social Security Administration. Kieffer is the president and publisher of Kieffer Publications, and in 2004 he wrote and published a book entitled From National Cultural Center to John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: At the Front End of the Beginning. 

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s Archives include 48 million pages of documents from the collections of 340 individuals, organizations, or government agencies; oral history interviews with 1,300 people; and more than 30,000 books.  The Audiovisual Archives administers collections of more than 400,000 still photographs, 7,550,000 feet of motion picture film, 1,200 hours of video recordings, over 7,000 hours of audio recordings and 500 original editorial cartoons.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through scholarship, educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.

The Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the exceptions of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.  The Research Room is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each weekday, and is closed on weekends and Federal Holidays.  Appointments may be made by calling (617) 514-1629.  The Library is located in the Dorchester section of Boston, off Morrissey Boulevard, next to the campus of the University of Massachusetts/Boston. Parking is free. There is free shuttle-service from the JFK/UMass T Stop on the Red Line. The Museum is fully handicapped accessible. For more information call (866) JFK-1960.