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CGU President Emeritus John D. Maguire Awarded Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Award

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The Fulbright Association will award educator and civil rights activist John D. Maguire the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal on May 12 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Poet Rita Dove, composer Philip Glass, and entrepreneur Ruth Owades will also receive the honor. The award recognizes distinguished Fulbright Program alumni for their career achievements and civic, educational, and cultural contributions.

Dr. Maguire was named president emeritus of Claremont Graduate University in 1998 after serving as president for 17 years. He is engaged in racial and social justice community building projects as director and senior fellow in the Institute for Democratic Renewal in the University’s School of Politics and Economics.

Dr. Maguire was a colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and is a life director of the King Center where he served in its initial year (1968-69) as chairman of the board. He also serves on the boards of Union Theological Seminary, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, and the Claremont Museum of Art. He is co-creator of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Awards.

After graduating from Washington and Lee University, Dr. Maguire received a Fulbright fellowship to Scotland in 1953. He graduated summa cum laude from the Yale Divinity School, then completed a Yale doctorate in theology and psychiatry.

In 1965, while a Wesleyan University faculty member, he was a Fulbright scholar engaged in post-doctoral research at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

“Coming directly after college to a lad that had never been abroad, my Fulbright in Edinburgh made me ever-thereafter a thoroughgoing internationalist. It set a new lifetime’s context for my thinking and my work,” said Dr. Maguire. “My Fulbright award in Germany helped define my life: I knew after that year that I did not want to become a professional theologian, that my interests were broader and lay elsewhere. I owe more to my Fulbright experiences than I can ever adequately portray.”

The Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange initiative administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. It was created in 1946 by legislation sponsored by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. There are Fulbright exchanges between the United States and more than 150 other countries. There are more than 275,000 Fulbright alumni throughout the world.

The Fulbright Association is a private, nonprofit organization of Fulbright alumni and friends committed to advancing international education and people-to-people diplomacy. It has 46 chapters throughout the United States and collaborates with more than 70 sister Fulbright alumni organizations abroad. The Fulbright Association inaugurated the biennial Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal Dinner in 2000 to recognize the important role Fulbright grantees have had in creating a better future for communities throughout the world.

“Since my Fulbright fellowship (1953-1954) marked the beginning of my adult professional life, this Lifetime Achievement Medal is a kind of bookend,” said Dr. Maguire. “It crowns over 50 years of work and is an overwhelming validation of a varied, exhilarating life. I cherish the affirmation that accompanies it and shall treasure it the rest of the way.”

And, Dr. Maguire noted, there is a Claremont connection to this year’s awards. Ruth Owades is an alumna of Scripps College and the Master of Ceremonies this year is Garret Utley, a Pomona College graduate.

“We’re going to have a strong Claremont presence at the ceremony in May,” Dr. Maguire noted.

Maguire's acceptance speech:

Lifetime Achievement Medal Acceptance Speech
Fulbright Association – Washington, DC – May 12, 2009


My real adult life was formed in the decade bookended by our two Fulbrights: 1953 to 1964. Billie and I had been married two-and-one-half weeks before we set sail for the United Kingdom in September 1953, the first time either of us had been abroad. We occupied rent free the apartment on the third floor of divinity school Principal John Baillie’s house in Edinburgh in exchange for sweeping the steps daily, top to bottom, attic to basement, and keeping the furnace going through the winter (neither of which we did perfectly, providing the Baillies’ opportunity to live out the venerable doctrines of grace and forgiveness.) Dr. Baillie let us both sit in on visits to their house from Paul Tillich, Emil Brunner, Tom Torrance, John Macmurray – theological and philosophical stars of that day – on the condition that we listen and say nothing, a discipline I found almost as impossible then as I do today.


Returning in 1954 to New Haven, we met in the next few years those pals who were to be our running mates for the rest of the course: Bill Coffin, Norman Mailer, Andrew Young, our beloved Marian, all of us becoming comrades of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Montgomery Bus Boycott onward.


When Billie and I embarked a decade later with our then three daughters for a post-doctoral Fulbright Fellowship in Tübingen to join Professor Ernst Käsemann and his new way of searching for ‘the historical Jesus,’ the two paths of our life’s journey were set: scholarship (and later administration) and social justice activism. And an international context for our thinking and work was also set, forever, so that we resonated profoundly when Dr. King said after our return that, “Ultimately ‘beloved community’ is the global human family.”


Twenty-eight years combined as a university president at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury and at the Claremont Colleges never kept us from pursuing our passion for politics, poetry, painting, and the arts in general and it’s never required cooling that fundamental, primary passion for racial justice. Opportunities to act upon our loves and our convictions kept coming up and we grabbed them as we could. Nothing has been more gratifying and transformative than this work. And the seeds for it all – internationalism, education and the arts, social action – were planted in our youthful, cherished Fulbright years, 1953-64, for which we are forever grateful.


Early on I adopted Whitman’s preface to the first edition of Leaves of Grass as my credo. I have commended it countless times to students, colleagues, comrades as I shall close tonight doing so with you.

Thank you for including me tonight with such a noble company of fellow Fulbrights – Ruth Owades, Rita Dove, and Phillip Glass – colleagues whose lives are an inspiration and whose ‘very flesh is a great poem.’


About Claremont Graduate University

Founded in 1925, Claremont Graduate University is one of the top graduate schools in the United States. Our nine academic schools conduct leading-edge research and award masters and doctoral degrees in 22 disciplines. Because the world’s problems are not simple nor easily defined, diverse faculty and students research and study across the traditional discipline boundaries to create new and practical solutions for the major problems plaguing our world. A Southern California based graduate school devoted entirely to graduate research and study, CGU boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio.

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