Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver yesterday joined officials from the University of Maryland Baltimore County to launch a new public service center devoted to combating urban decay.
The Shriver Center will bring under one umbrella several existing programs, including the Choice mentoring program for inner-city youths, with a current budget of $4.6 million from public and private sources.
The center also plans new initiatives focused on urban problems, including one to send returning Peace Corps workers into community assignments while they attend graduate school.
Faculty will also work through the center to research urban problems and assess the effectiveness of efforts to cure them.
"This is the first time in any city, in any country, where all the academic institutions have gotten together cooperatively to solve the problems of the central city," said Mr. Shriver. "Unless we address all the problems of the central cities, we have a very dangerous future ahead of us."
Students and faculty from 10 public and private colleges in the Baltimore area will be able to take part in the center's programs. The colleges are UMBC, Loyola College, the Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, the University of Baltimore, Towson State University, Goucher College, Coppin State College, the University of Maryland at Baltimore and the College of Notre Dame.
At the moment, the center's creation represents little more than a change in campus organization charts. But UMBC officials were clearly ecstatic to link up with the Shrivers. The sister of the late President John F. Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, now 72, launched the Special Olympics in 1968 and has long done volunteer work on behalf of the mentally disabled.
R. Sargent Shriver, 78, served in the administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, was the first director of the Peace Corps and ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 1972.
Their credentials and long history of leadership in public service will give the center national recognition and increase its fund-raising prospects, UMBC officials said.
"It gives us prestige, momentum and lets everyone know that what we're doing is serious," said John S. Martello, executive director of the Shriver Center. The Shrivers, along with a Kennedy family foundation, have informally pledged an undisclosed sum to the center and have recruited several nationally known people to the board to help with fund raising, Dr. Martello said.
The Shrivers' son, Mark K. Shriver, founded the Choice program, which is headquartered at UMBC and accounts for nearly all of the center's current budget.
The program, which is largely funded by the state Department of Juvenile Services, hires recent college graduates who each serve as combination mentor, watchdog and role model for a handful of disadvantaged youths. The graduates work in poor neighborhoods in the Baltimore area and Prince George's County for a year.
The Shrivers, who live in Potomac in Montgomery County, have helped raise money for their son's Choice program. But it took several years for UMBC officials to persuade them to set up a formal relationship with the university.
"The Shrivers had to feel the university was committed to service," said UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski 3rd.
Yesterday's program in a UMBC ballroom concluded with the unveiling of a 10-foot banner bearing the Shriver Center name and one of Eunice Shriver's favorite quotes, from Jesuit philosopher Teilhard de Chardin: "After conquering the winds and the waves, the tides and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire."