Medal for Eminent Service

May 26, 2024

With grace and consistency, John Kirkpatrick ’51 has contributed to Amherst’s thriving for more than seven decades. Passionately devoted to the endeavors and people that he cares about, he is discerning in his commitments and brings his deep intelligence, integrity and insight to all he does. The College is fortunate indeed that, from the day he set foot on campus, Kirkpatrick has concerned himself with what is best for Amherst.

There is no area of service to the College in which Kirkpatrick hasn’t been a steady, deliberate and transformational leader. In addition to serving as class agent, president, associate agent, reunion chair, planned giving chair and 1821 Society chair for his class, he has been an active member and leader of the Amherst Association of Chicago. Kirkpatrick has a perfect record of annual donations to the College since graduation. His philanthropic generosity has been marked by an unwavering faith in Amherst’s evolution. His funding of a professorship focusing on the nexus of law, religion, philosophy and society, with an emphasis on ethics in a U.S. context, and also of the Kirkpatrick Lecture Hall in the new Science Center, reflect his exceptional attunement to what Amherst needs to be in a changing world.

Looking back, it is telling that Kirkpatrick graduated (Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude) as one of Amherst’s first American studies majors. To major in a department that hadn’t existed when you arrived on campus takes intellectual agility, a forward cast of mind and tremendous aplomb. Kirkpatrick was also, even then, unerringly perceptive about what was most exceptional about Amherst. He recalls, “American studies was a real window into the liberal arts. I took courses in American history, economics, political science, literature and the sciences, and my professors were brilliant men.”

Kirkpatrick—who holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and enjoyed a long and successful career in corporate, tax and estate law—has, time and again, quietly but with purpose, raised his hand for Amherst. His long-standing record of thoughtful and multifaceted support for his alma mater has impacted his class, the faculty and students of today and tomorrow, and the College as a whole.