Townsend is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow

Stephen F. Austin State University will welcome a member of the Kennedy family to campus for a weeklong visit in February.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, is the eldest child of Ethel Kennedy and the late U.S. Senator and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. She will arrive in Nacogdoches on Feb. 3 and will participate in a public interview at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom.

Townsend, a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, will be interviewed by Judy McDonald, former president and CEO of the Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation. McDonald served on the Nacogdoches City Commission for 18 years and was the first female mayor of Nacogdoches. Townsend is expected to address topics including volunteerism and public service, poverty, and religion's role in politics. She will meet with students and speak to classes each day throughout the week.

McDonald said Townsend's experiences during one of America's most turbulent times gives her an interesting perspective on both historical events and current issues.

"As a 12 year old, she lived through the death of her uncle, President John F. Kennedy, and as a 17 year old she faced the death of her father, Robert Kennedy," McDonald said. "Immediately following the death of her uncle, her father sent her a note challenging her as the oldest grandchild to 'work for your country.' She accepted that challenge and has worked for social justice, peace, and above all, service to others."

During her years of public service, Townsend's work focused on issues including public safety and improving access to higher education. As the first female lieutenant governor of Maryland, Townsend led a variety of major cabinet departments, and in the attorney general's office, she worked diligently on the Police Corps, a program granting higher education scholarships to those who pledged to work as police officers.

For the past six years, Townsend has worked in the private sector. After two years at Lehman Brothers, she is now a senior adviser at a hedge fund managed by the former treasurer of the World Bank. She is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the Inter-American Dialogue and serves on the boards of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the Robert Kennedy Memorial and the Brady Campaign.

Townsend is the author of "Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Mixed God with Politics and Lost Their Way" and has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Maryland, Harvard University and St. Mary's College in Maryland. She has appeared on "Meet the Press," "The Colbert Report," "Larry King Live," and "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren."

The movie theatre in the Baker Pattillo Student Center at SFA will show free screenings of two movies that chronicle the history of the Kennedy family. "Ethel" will air at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23, at 5 and 7 p.m. Jan. 28 and at 1 and 3 p.m. Jan. 30. "RFK" will air at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. Jan. 24 and Jan. 29. SFA students who attend screenings of both movies will be eligible for selection to have dinner with Townsend during her visit.

For more than 35 years, the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program has brought prominent artists, diplomats, journalists, business leaders and other nonacademic professionals to campuses across the United States for substantive dialogue with students and faculty members. Through a weeklong residential program of classes, lectures and informal discussions, the fellows create better understanding and new connections between the academic and nonacademic worlds.

The visiting fellows program is sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges, a national service organization that advances independent liberal arts colleges and universities by forming collaborations to strengthen programs and foster institutional effectiveness.

For more information about the event, call (936) 468-2605.