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Kroc estate donates $50 million to ND

Meghanne Downes | Wednesday, October 29, 2003

A speech promoting peace made 18 years ago by then University President Theodore Hesburgh inspired the late Joan Kroc to leave $50 million – the largest single gift in Norte Dame history – in her will to the peace institute she helped establish and fund.

Kroc, a philanthropist and the widow of McDonald’s Corp. founder Ray Kroc, specified in her will that the money should be used to strengthen the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies graduate program and towards the Institute’s strategic plan, Scott Appleby, director of the Institute, said.

“We intend to build a program that will be a pioneer in the field of peace studies and public policy regarding justice, peace and human rights issues,” Appleby said. “The program will be distinctive because it will bear the marks of Notre Dame, namely specific expertise in religious and cultural dimensions of conflict and a long-term commitment to various conflict settings.”

Kroc, who had no connection to Notre Dame prior to hearing Hesburgh’s speech, previously made a series of gifts to establish the Institute and to build the Hesburgh Institute for International Studies. She donated a total of $69.1 million to the University.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said it was unusual for someone who did have a direct relationship with Notre Dame to make such a large gift; however, Hesburgh’s speech propelled Kroc to focus her philanthropy in the past 15 to 20 years on peace issues and human rights.

Brown said though Kroc was not directly involved with the day-to-day operations of the institute, she did maintain close relationships with Hesburgh and the institute directors.

Kroc’s gift parallels the second-largest single gift made by Thomas and Kathy Mendoza to enhance the academic curriculum of the College of Business Administration, Brown said.

The gift will endow the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh Fund for Graduate Peace Studies and the institute’s strategic plan. Appleby said the strategic plan will expand the graduate program both in size and to a two-year degree, which will incorporate a semester of field research and a final semester in which lessons learned both in the classroom and the field are integrated.

“Students [currently] don’t have the sufficient time to reflect what they are learning, and there is no true research component in the field,” Appleby said.

The current program has 24 students from 17 different countries, who range in age from their early 20s to late 30s, and consists of an 11-month program without field research.

Kroc’s gift will cover the cost of both supervising fieldwork and providing courses in strategic peace building.

“[This will] prepare our students to work at the governmental, non-governmental and local grass roots levels to resolve conflicts nonviolently and to provide education for peace and justice,” Appleby said.

Appleby said Kroc’s gift will strengthen Notre Dame’s peace studies program in comparison to its peer institutions and the improvements in the graduate program will carry over to the undergraduate program.

Appleby said he hopes the additional faculty hired for the graduate program will also teach undergraduate courses and intends to foster interaction between undergraduate and graduates students within the program.