News & Events

25 Latest Articles Current Articles | Archives | Search

Librarian of Congress James Billington to be Honored by AMU, Address Class of 2014

Friday, March 7, 2014

Commencement Will Be Held May 10

(March 6, 2014, AVE MARIA, FL) ---Librarian of Congress James Hadley Billington will be the commencement speaker this spring at Ave Maria University, Jim Towey, the university’s president, announced today.

“This remarkable man is one of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars, and when you consider the fact that he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and has served for 26 years at the helm of the Library of Congress, his ability to transcend the partisanship in Washington is simply amazing,” Towey said.

The University’s 10th Commencement Exercises for an expected 198 undergraduate and graduate students of the Class of 2014 will be held on Saturday, May 10 at 10 a.m. in the Golisano Fieldhouse on campus. The University will confer an honorary doctorate on Dr. Billington in recognition of his exemplary public service and lifetime achievements at home and abroad. 

Dr. Billington was sworn in as the Librarian of Congress on September 14, 1987 and is the 13th person to hold the position since the Library was first established in 1800.

Born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., Dr. Billington was educated in the public schools of the Philadelphia area. He was class valedictorian at both Lower Merion High School and Princeton University, where he graduated with highest honors in 1950. He earned his doctorate from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College. Following service with the U. S. Army, he taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962, and then moved to the faculty of Princeton University, where he was professor of history from 1964 to 1974. Between 1973 and 1987, Dr. Billington was director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the nation’s official memorial in Washington to America’s 28th president.

Dr. Billington is highly respected for preserving sacred history, particularly in the Middle East where religious rivalries can lead to the destruction of documents and other artifacts of faith.  In October 2004, as Librarian of Congress, Dr. Billington led a delegation to Tehran, Iran, that expanded exchanges between the Library of Congress and the National Library of Iran.  He was the most senior U.S. government official to openly visit Iran in 25 years.

Dr. Billington has received more than 40 honorary doctorates and in 2008 was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by U.S. President George W. Bush 

Dr. Billington was a longtime member of the editorial advisory boards of Foreign Affairs and Theology Today. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is on the Board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dr. Billington has championed the Library of Congress’s National Digital Library program which makes available online millions of American historical and cultural documents.

He is married to the former Marjorie Anne Brennan.  They have four children.  Dr. Billington and his daughter Susan are the first father and daughter to both be awarded Rhodes Scholarships and use them to earn doctorates at Oxford University.

“Dr. Billington’s remarks will be an inspiration to our students,” Towey said.  “They will be meeting a singularly unique individual who is both octogenarian and humanitarian, and a genuine man of faith.”