The Laetare Medal, established in 1883, is an honorary award of the University of Notre Dame. The award is considered the most prestigious honor for American Catholics. Counselor to the University President, Father Peter Jarret said in 2005, "The award is meant to recognize the contributions of men and women whose faith energizes their work," and "A candidate for the Laetare Medal must be a practicing American Catholic who is said to have made a distinctively Catholic contribution to his or her intellectual or professional life. Ideally, the person's professional life would be one of service to others."
The inscription on the medal reads “Magna est Veritas et Praevalebit”, "Great is Truth and it Shall Prevail."
The medal recipient is chosen by a committee, the final decision rests with Officers of the University.
Barack Obama did not receive the prestigious Laetare Medal on the May 17th, 2009 commencement. He did wear the school’s traditional doctoral robe—which is emblazoned with a cross and a prayer to the Virgin Mary. Obama's commencement speech stirred anger and resentment at the University for honoring a big supporter of abortion, against Catholic doctrine. More Than 350,000 people have signed a petition protesting this decision, sponsored by The Cardinal Newman Society.
1883 John Gilmary Shea, historian 1884 Patrick Charles Keeley, architect 1885 Eliza Allen Starr, art critic 1886 General John Newton, engineer 1887 Edward Preuss, publicist 1888 Patrick V. Hickey, founder and editor of the Catholic Review 1889 Anna Hansen Dorsey, novelist
1890 William J. Onahan, organizer of the American Catholic Congress 1891 Daniel Dougherty, orator 1892 Henry F. Brownson, philosopher and author 1893 Patrick Donohue, founder of the Boston Pilot 1894 Augustine Daly, theatrical producer 1895 Mary A. Sadlier, novelist 1896 General William Starke Rosecrans, soldier 1897 Thomas Addis Emmet, physician 1898 Timothy Edward Howard, jurist 1899 Mary Gwendolin Caldwell, philanthropist
1900 John A. Creighton, philanthropist 1901 William Bourke Cockran, orator 1902 John Benjamin Murphy, surgeon 1903 Charles Jerome Bonaparte, lawyer 1904 Richard C. Kerens, diplomat 1905 Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, philanthropist 1906 Francis J. Quinlan, physician 1907 Katherine Eleanor Conway, journalist and author 1908 James C. Monaghan, economist 1909 Frances Tiernan (Christian Reid), novelist
1910 Maurice Francis Egan, author and diplomat 1911 Agnes Replier, author 1912 Thomas M. Mulry, philanthropist 1913 Charles B. Herberman, editor-in-chief on the Catholic Encyclopedia 1914 Edward Douglas White, jurist and chief justice of the United States 1915 Mary V. Merrick, philanthropist 1916 James Joseph Walsh, physician and author 1917 William Shepherd Benson, admiral and Chief of Naval Operations 1918 Joseph Scott, lawyer 1919 George L. Duval, philanthropist
1920 Lawrence Francis Flick, physician 1921 Elizabeth Nourse, artist 1922 Charles Patrick Neill, economist 1923 Walter George Smith, lawyer 1924 Charles D. Maginnis, architect 1925 Albert Francis Zahm, scientist 1926 Edward Nash Hurley, businessman 1927 Margaret Anglin, actress 1928 John Johnson Spalding, lawyer 1929 Alfred Emmanuel Smith, statesman
1930 Frederick Philip Kenkel, publicist 1931 James J. Phelan, businessman 1932 Stephen J. Maher, physician 1933 John McCormack, artist 1934 Genevieve Garvan Brady, philanthropist 1935 Francis Hamilton Spearman, novelist 1936 Richard Reid, lawyer and journalist 1937 Jeremiah Denis M. Ford, scholar 1938 Irvin William Abell, surgeon 1939 Josephine Van Dyke Brownson, catechist
1940 General Hugh Aloysius Drum, soldier 1941 William Thomas Walsh, journalist and author 1942 Helen Constance White, author and teacher 1943 Thomas Francis Woodlock, editor 1944 Anne O’Hare McCormick, journalist 1945 G. Howland Shaw, diplomat 1946 Carlton J. H. Hayes, historian and diplomat 1947 William G. Bruce, publisher and civic leader 1948 Frank C. Walker, Postmaster General and civic leader 1949 Irene Dunne, actress
1950 General Joseph L. Collins, soldier 1951 John Henry Phelan, philanthropist 1952 Thomas E. Murray, member U.S. Atomic Energy Commission 1953 I.A. O’Shaughnessy, philanthropist 1954 Jefferson Caffery, diplomat 1955 George Meany, labor leader 1956 General Alfred M. Guenther, soldier 1957 Clare Boothe Luce, diplomat 1958 Frank M. Folsom, industrialist 1959 Robert D. Murphy, diplomat 1960 George N. Shuster, educator 1961 John F. Kennedy, President of the United States 1962 Francis J. Braceland, M.D., psychiatrist 1963 Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr., Chief of Naval operations 1964 Phyllis McGinley, poet 1965 Frederick D. Rossini, scientist 1966 Mr. and Mrs. Patrick F. Crowley, founders of The Christian Family Movement 1967 J. Peter Grace, industrialist 1968 Sargent Shriver, diplomat 1969 William J. Brennan, Jr., jurist and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
1970 Dr. William B. Walsh, physician 1971 Walter Kerr, drama critic, and Jean Kerr, author 1972 Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, journalist and author 1973 Rev. John A. O’Brien, author 1974 James A. Farley, business executive and former Postmaster General 1975 Sister Ann Ida Gannon, B.V.M., educator 1976 Paul Horgan, author 1977 Mike Mansfield, United States Senator 1978 Msgr. John Tracy Ellis, historian 1979 Helen Hayes, actress
1980 Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House 1981 Edmund S. Muskie, former United States Senator and Secretary of State 1982 Cardinal John Francis Dearden, retired Archbishop of Detroit 1983 Edmund A. and Evelyn Stephan, chairman emeritus of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees and spouse 1984 John Noonan, legal scholar 1985 Guido Calabresi, dean of Yale University Law School 1986 Thomas P. and Mary Elizabeth Carney, chairman of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees and spouse 1987 Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., educator 1988 Eunice Kennedy Shriver, humanitarian 1989 Walker Percy, novelist
1990 Sister Thea Bowman, Gospel singer and evangelist 1991 Corinne C. “Lindy” Boggs, former United States Congresswoman 1992 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, United States Senator 1993 Donald R. Keough, chairman emeritus of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees 1994 Sidney Callahan, psychologist and author 1995 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago 1996 Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., social activist 1997 Rev. Virgil Elizondo, theologian 1998 Dr. Edmund D. Pellegrino, doctor 1999 J. Philip Gleason, historian
2000 Andrew J. McKenna, chairman of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees 2001 Msgr. George G. Higgins, labor priest 2002 Rev. John P. Smyth, executive director of Maryville Academy 2003 Peter and Margaret O’Brien Steinfels, editors of Commonweal 2004 Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, theologian 2005 Dr. Joseph E. Murray, surgeon 2006 Dave Brubeck, jazz musician 2007 Patrick F. McCartan, chairman emeritus of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees 2008 Martin Sheen, actor and human rights activist
- Laetare winner named The Observer Online, March 18, 2005
- More than 250,000 Sign Petition Protesting Notre Dame’s Invitation to Obama CNSNews, April 08, 2009