“Once again, Bethany students will have the opportunity to benefit from the shared wisdom of a national scholar,” Dr. Miller said. “Mr. Thornburgh’s extensive educational and professional background, along with the activist role he has played in promoting education, welfare and economic development, make him an ideal speaker as we open the new academic year.”
Thornburgh was born in Pittsburgh and received his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Yale University before returning to Western Pennsylvania to earn his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh. His service in the United States Department of Justice began in 1969 when he was appointed United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania by President Richard Nixon. He was named Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division by President Gerald Ford in 1975.
Thornburgh was elected Pennsylvania’s 41st governor in 1978 and served two consecutive terms. Following his tenure as governor, he returned to the Ivy League as Director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan appointed Thornburgh as the 76th attorney general of the United States and he was retained in that position when President George H.W. Bush was sworn into office in 1989. After leaving the Department of Justice, Thornburgh served as undersecretary general to the United Nations from 1992-93 before returning to private law practice. He is presently counsel of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, LLP, a national law firm, and works out of its Washington, D.C. office.
During his time as governor of Pennsylvania, Thornburgh put major reforms of education, welfare and economic development into action. Thornburgh helped transform the employment picture in Pennsylvania, turning a state with one of the nation’s 10 highest unemployment rates into a state with one of the 10 lowest rates in the country by the end of his second term. Thornburgh also put Pennsylvania’s financial house in order. Although he inherited a great deal of existing debt when he took office, Thornburgh was able to lower both business and personal taxes and left the state with a $350 million surplus.
Regarded as a staunch activist against white-collar crime, his tenure as attorney general was highlighted by the Department of Justice’s conviction of an unprecedented number of corrupt public officials. Thornburgh has also worked with law enforcement officials around the world to fight money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism. He was named an honorary Special Agent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), an honor he shares with only 19 other persons in history, seven of whom were United States presidents. Thornburgh also led the fight against racial, religious and ethnic hate crimes and took action in the enforcement of environmental laws during his tenure as attorney general.
He and his wife, Ginny, are parents of a son who suffered brain damage in an automobile accident and have been strong advocates for helping those with disabilities. Thornburgh worked to enact the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law while he was attorney general. Both remain dedicated to the cause, speaking at conferences around the world, and have received numerous awards for their contributions.
Bethany’s Fall Convocation is held annually to welcome students back to campus and engage the entire College community in celebrating the start of another academic year. In addition to Mr. Thornburgh’s address, the College will also announce the Dean’s List along with the recipients of the Anna Ruth Bourne and W.H. Woolery Scholarship Cups.