In honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009) and her many accomplishments, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
(MFA), has placed on view three iconic black and white photographs of Mrs. Shriver by renowned photographer Herb Ritts (19522002). These photographs― taken in Los Angeles in 1995―are displayed in the MFAs Linde Family Wing outside of the Herb Ritts Gallery. The portraits, part of a gift of more than 200 works from Herb Ritts and the Herb Ritts Foundation, will be on view at the MFA through September 2009.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a member of the Kennedy family and founded the Special Olympics in the 1960s as a national organization. Her husband, Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr., was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in the 1972 U.S. presidential election. She actively campaigned for her elder brother, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, during his successful 1960 U.S. presidential election. In 1968, she helped Ann McGlone Burke nationalize the Special Olympics movement. Her daughter, Maria Shriver, is married to actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A longtime advocate for children's health and disability issues, Shriver was a key founder of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a part of the National Institutes of Health, in 1962, and also helped to establish numerous other health-care facilities and support networks throughout the country.
In 1982, Shriver founded the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring at The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. The Community of Caring is a grades "K-12, whole school, comprehensive character education program with a focus on disabilities...[that] has been adopted by almost 1,200 schools nationwide and in Canada".
She was awarded the nation's highest civilian award, the (U.S.) Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1984 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, because of her work on behalf of those with mental retardation.
For her work in founding the Special Olympics, Shriver received the Civitan International World Citizenship Award. Her advocacy on this issue has also earned her other awards and recognitions, including honorary degrees from numerous universities.
Shriver received the 2002 Theodore Roosevelt Award (the Teddy), an annual award given by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to a graduate from an NCAA member institution who earned a varsity letter in college for participation in intercollegiate athletics, and who ultimately became a distinguished citizen of national reputation based on outstanding life accomplishment.
In addition to the Teddy recognition, she was selected in 2006 as part of the NCAA Centennial celebration as one of the its 100 most-influential individuals in its first century; she was listed ninth.
In 2006 she received a papal knighthood from Pope Benedict XVI being named a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. Her mother had been created a papal countess in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.
In 2008, the U.S. Congress changed the NICHDs name to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
On May 9, 2009, the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington, D.C., unveiled an historic portrait of her, the first portrait the NPG has ever commissioned of an individual who had not served as a U.S. President or First Lady. The portrait depicts her with four Special Olympics athletes (including Loretta Claiborne) and one Best Buddies participant. It was painted by David Lenz, the winner of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition in 2006. As part of the Portrait Competition prize, the NPG commissioned a work from the winning artist to depict a living subject for the collection. Lenz, whose son, Sam, has Down syndrome and is an enthusiastic Special Olympics athlete, was inspired by Shrivers dedication to working with people with intellectual disabilities.