Theodore C. Sorensen, an alumnus and constant supporter of the university, known for his historic career as adviser and counselor to John F. Kennedy and international law expert, died Oct. 31 in New York at age 82.
Sorensen was born in Lincoln May 8, 1928 and graduated in 1949 from the University of Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in law, and in 1951, he earned his juris doctor from the NU College of Law.
After law school, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he would ultimately work for Kennedy, first as a researcher for the newly elected senator, then political strategist and trusted adviser. He collaborated with Kennedy on his 1956 book “Profiles in Courage” which won Kennedy a Pulitzer Prize. In 1962 he drafted Kennedy’s letter to Nikita Khrushchev which helped to end the Cuban Missile Crisis. He left the White House soon after JFK’s death, and in 1966 joined a New York City law firm, where as a prominent international lawyer, he advised governments, multinational organizations and major corporations around the world. He also wrote a bestselling biography of JFK, “Kennedy.”
Up until last week when he reportedly suffered a stroke, Sorensen remained active in political and international issues, and was a frequent visitor to UNL, including his selection as a lecturer at the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues. On Nov. 18, 2008 he delivered “America and the World, 1962 to 2008: Contrasts and Contradictions” as part of the Thompson Forum. The video can be downloaded at http://enthompson.unl.edu/2008-09.shtml#sorensen
In 1991 he established an endowed fellowship fund that supports students in the College of Law who are committed to public service. In 1993 he received the law college’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, and in 2008 established the Theodore C. Sorensen Public Service Scholarship to seniors in the College of Arts and Sciences demonstrating superior academic performance and a commitment to public service. He delivered the commencement address at College of Law commencement in 2009.
His memoir and the last of his eight books, “Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History,” was published in 2008, coinciding with his gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to create the Public Service Scholarship. He said he felt strongly that his upbringing and education in Nebraska was a basis for his accomplishments, and he hoped that his fellowship and scholarships would help other young Nebraskans in the future who share his interest in public service.
“Ted was a great Nebraskan who recognized and valued his Nebraska roots,” chancellor Harvey Perlman said. “He was a distinguished alumnus of the university who always acknowledged the role the university played in his success. He was a personal and deeply admired friend and I am deeply saddened by his death.”
Sorensen “was a warm and kind man with an enormous intellect who brought his grounding in Nebraska and values to bear on the most significant events of his time,” said College of Law Dean Susan Poser.
Sorensen’s survivors include his wife Gillian, a daughter, Juliet; and sons Eric, Stephen and Philip. No announcement has been made yet on services.
- Kelly Bartling