History of the Institute

Kennedy Institute History

The Kennedy Institute was founded in 1971 to "bring expertise to the new and growing ethical problems in medicine today," according to Dr. André Hellegers, its first director.

The Institute's primary goals were quickly identified: in-depth theoretical research informing public policy; undergraduate and professional education at the highest level; and establishment of the first comprehensive information center for bioethics.

A generous $1.35 million grant from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation endowed two Chairs and help found the Bioethics Research Library.

The Institute and Library soon outgrew their initial endowment, and have since benefited from the generous support of Georgetown University, as well as various governmental, public and private grants.

In the early years, a succession of scholars joined the Institute from various disciplines - LeRoy Walters from Theology, Tom Beauchamp from Philosophy, Jim Childress from Religious Studies, Ed Pellegrino from Medicine, Bob Veatch from Medical Ethics.

Together with other early scholars, this "first generation" helped to found the field of bioethics as they shaped the Institute and its mission.

The Bioethics Research Library began when LeRoy suggested to André that a research institute should really have a library. André agreed.

As a first step, they purchased one unfinished pine bookcase: three feet wide by six feet high. Shortly after the bookshelf arrived, LeRoy and André made a cross-campus trek to the Medical School bookstore. There they purchased six or seven hefty medical textbooks.

After lugging the textbooks back to the Institute, André and LeRoy carefully loaded them onto the otherwise empty shelves of the bookcase, then turned to each other and exclaimed, "Now we have the beginnings of a Kennedy Institute library!"

The library was formalized in July 1973 with the hiring of Doris M. Goldstein, former Director of Library and Information Services for the Bioethics Research Library.

Building on its core collection of 16 file folders of materials from LeRoy's graduate school days, and those first armloads of books that André and LeRoy had purchased, she and her team of librarians launched a collection development effort that now comprises almost 33,000 monographs on all areas of bioethics.