The University of Notre Dame said Thursday that it will not award its Laetare Medal for the first time in 120 years, after having the first recipient reject the award over the university’s decision to honor President Obama and its subsequent defenses of its actions.
Instead, the university will have Judge John T. Noonan Jr., a previous Laetare recipient and noted legal scholar, “deliver an address in the spirit of the award” at the May 17 commencement ceremony, said the Rev. John Jenkins, university president.
Because Judge Noonan is a previous winner of the Laetare Medal, “we have decided, upon reflection, to not award the medal this year,” Father Jenkins said in a statement.
Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, said Monday that she was rejecting the medal because of Mr. Obama’s pro-choice actions as president and because the university cited her presence as justifying the Obama invitation. Father Jenkins said then that “it is our intention to award the Laetare Medal to another deserving recipient.”
Judge Noonan, a Notre Dame law professor from 1961 to 1966, received the Laetare Medal in 1984. He also has been a visiting law professor at Harvard, Stanford and the Angelicum in Rome. He was appointed by President Reagan to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1985 and has served there since.
The Laetare Medal, approved by the university’s founder, the Rev. Edward Sorin, was first awarded in 1883 and had been given every year since that time. It is the university’s most prestigious honor, given to Catholics “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”
Its past recipients include President Kennedy and sainthood candidate Dorothy Day.