Daniel Patrick Moynihan
headshot of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Alumnus Daniel Patrick Moynihan dies

The nation lost a political giant on March 26, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan—a four-term senator from New York, ambassador and senior official in four presidential administrations—died of complications from a ruptured appendix. He was 76.

Moynihan, who earned three degrees from Tufts University, underwent an emergency appendectomy on March 11 and developed an infection. He was considered by many to be the leading scholar-politician of his time. He served in the Navy during World War II before entering Tufts on a GI Bill scholarship.

"Rarely has a man changed society with his ideas," U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a eulogy he delivered on the Senate floor. "The idea that one man can change a society for the better—Senator Moynihan's life is a testament to that…He was truly a giant, giant as a thinker, giant as a senator and giant as a human being."

"The whole Senate loved and respected Pat," U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said in a statement. "Whether serving in the Navy or as a professor, ambassador or senator, Pat brought out the best in everyone he touched."

During his 24-year career in the Senate, Moynihan was a leader on welfare issues, transportation, Social Security and foreign policy.

"Rising from the depths of Hell's Kitchen in New York, he became one of America's true leading intellectuals, whose foresight and whose ability brought to public attention a mass of critical issues long before others even realized these issues existed," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

Moynihan announced in 1999 that he would not seek a fifth term. The next year, the Tufts graduate, who holds an undergraduate degree and two degrees from Tufts' Fletcher School, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

"At the end of his final news conference as a senator in 2000, Moynihan bade reporters goodbye," reported Newsday. " 'On that note, class is concluded,' said the former college professor and professorial politician. It could serve as his epitaph. Those who learned at his knee for more than a half-century lamented his death…and noted that there will be no more lessons from the man who could expound on everything from Mexican trade to the origins of Social Security to the beauty of magnetic levitated trains."

Moynihan was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.