John J. Brennan, chairman, Notre Dame Board of Trustees: Citation for the 2021 Laetare Medalist

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Madam,

In high school, a counselor told you not to apply to Ivy League schools because they were too competitive, but you transformed that limitation into motivation to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard University and later from Harvard Business School.

Even as you climbed the corporate ladder on Wall Street, you passed along your own mantra “don’t count yourself out” to younger associates when they needed a loan of courage. In so doing, you have championed the conviction that through hard work and principled fortitude, a servant leader can find both great success in the tumult of corporate America and personal satisfaction in a life well lived.

Through your singing, you give voice to a living, authentic faith as much at home in a boardroom as in a church choir loft or the solitude of your car. A faithful parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Harlem, and a titan of American high finance, you bring your joyful generosity to every encounter.

As you have said, “We are blessed so that we may be a blessing to others.” Your words are followed by action, and this generosity of spirit has emboldened hundreds of underrepresented people to realize their dreams in business and beyond. 

For your determination to lift others with your hard-won pearls of wisdom; for your steadfast commitment to worship and the fellowship of your community of faith; for your witness to the power of prayer that knows no bounds, the University of Notre Dame rejoices to confer on you its highest honor, the Laetare Medal.