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Laetare Medal will not be awarded

Madeline Buckley | Friday, May 15, 2009

Judge John T. Noonan Jr., recipient of the Laetare Medal in 1984, will deliver an address “in the spirit of the award” at the Commencement ceremony Sunday, The University announced April 30.

The University will not award the medal this year, according to a press release.

Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, was selected to receive the award March 22, but she declined the medal in a letter to University President Fr. John Jenkins April 27, marking the first time the award has been accepted and then declined, according to an April 28 Observer report.

“I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award [President Barack Obama] an honorary degree,” Glendon wrote in the letter.

Glendon also said in the letter that implications that her speech would “balance” the event is inappropriate for a Commencement ceremony.

Jenkins said that since Noonan has already received the Laetare Medal, the University decided “upon reflection” not to give the award this year.

Dennis Brown, University spokesperson, told The Observer that the University decided against making a “hurried decision.”

“The Laetare Medal is our highest honor, and we annually take great care in selecting a recipient. While we have a list of individuals who are more than worthy of the award, upon reflection we decided against making a hurried decision,” Brown said.

He said Jenkins reflected on various options and decided to ask a former Medal recipient to speak to graduates.

Jenkins called Noonan the “ideal choice” in the press release.

“In thinking about who could bring a compelling voice, a passion for dialogue, great intellectual stature and a deep commitment to Catholic values to the speaking role of the Laetare Medalist – especially in these unusual circumstances – it quickly became clear that an ideal choice is Judge Noonan,” Jenkins said in the press release.

“This Commencement ceremony, more than anything else, is a celebration of our students and their families. Judge Noonan will join with President Obama and other speakers in that celebration, sending them from our campus and into the world with sound advice and affirmation.”

Noonan serves as a Senior Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was appointed to the Court in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan.

Noonan joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1961 as a professor of Law, and taught at the Law School until 1966. He has also taught at the University of California Law School at Berkeley.

Working as a consultant for agencies in the Catholic Church, Noonan has consulted for Pope Paul VI’s Commission on Problems of the Family and the U.S. Catholic Conference’s committees on moral values, law and public policy, law and life issues and social development and world peace.

Noonan was also a governor of the Canon Law Society of America and director of the National Right to Life Committee.

Noonan graduated from Harvard University in 1946 and received a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1954.

Aaron Steiner contributed to this report