EC to remember Nancy Reagan with memorial service

Mar 07 2016

Eureka College will join the nation and the world in remembering former first lady Nancy Reagan, who died Sunday, March 6 in her Bel-Air, Calif. home. She was 94 years old.

The college will hold a public memorial service Wed. March 9 at 1 p.m. in Becker Auditorium of Eureka College followed by a wreath ceremony in the Ronald W. Reagan Peace Garden. A reception will follow in the Moser Lobby of the Cerf Center. The service will be a remembrance of her life and how the college’s story intertwined with hers through her beloved husband.

“The Reagan Leadership Program was established here and through that program, Mrs. Reagan had the opportunity to interact with our students,” said President of Eureka College, J. David Arnold. “At Eureka College we believe in servant leadership and Nancy Reagan was a role model in terms of her public service and servant leadership.”

Mrs. Reagan visited the Eureka College campus seven times from 1957 to 1992, accompanying her husband Ronald W. Reagan, who was a 1932 graduate.

Mrs. Reagan’s visits to campus included:

  • 1992: President Reagan’s commencement address delivered upon the 60th anniversary of his graduation;
  • 1984 – President Reagan’s Time magazine Distinguished Speakers Series address;
  • 1982 – President Reagan’s Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) address at commencement;
  • 1980 – a pep rally near the end of Mr. Reagan’s presidential campaign;
  • 1977 – a capital campaign kick-off;
  • 1970 – the opening of the Reagan Physical Education Center named for Mr. Reagan and his brother, Neil;
  • 1957 – Mr. Reagan’s commencement address delivered upon the 25th anniversary of his graduation.

“Nancy Reagan dearly and deeply loved our most famous alumnus, Ronald W. Reagan, as he loved her, and together they made a difference to his alma mater,” said Director of The Ronald W. Reagan Society, John D. Morris. “Mrs. Reagan’s roots in Illinois, her Midwestern values and her life of public service offers a shining example to young people today about how the virtues of loyalty and love can help change the world.”

The college awarded Mrs. Reagan an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in a private ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., on March 31, 2009, in recognition of her public service.

President Arnold, John D. Morris and a current Reagan Leadership Fellow will be available for interviews after the service.

The following biographical information was supplied by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, Calif.:

Nancy Davis Reagan was born on July 6, 1921, in New York City. Raised in Chicago, she graduated from Girls’ Latin School and went on to Smith College, Northampton, Mass., where she graduated in 1943.

In her early career, Nancy Davis worked as an actress in stage, film and television productions. In 1949, she signed a seven-year contract with MGM. During this time, she met Ronald Reagan and they were married on March 4, 1952. She made eleven films in all, including three after her marriage. Her last film, at Columbia in 1956, was Hellcats of the Navy, the only film in which she and her husband appeared together.

Shortly after Ronald Reagan became Governor of California in 1967, Mrs. Reagan began visiting wounded Vietnam veterans and became active in projects concerning POWs and servicemen missing in action. While First Lady of California, she made regular visits to hospitals and homes for the elderly, as well as schools for physically and emotionally handicapped children. During one of these hospital visits in 1967, she observed participants in the Foster Grandparent Program, a program which brings together senior citizens and handicapped children, and she soon became its champion. Later, as First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Reagan continued to help expand the program on a national level and promote private funding in local communities.

Upon becoming First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Reagan’s primary focus was fighting drug and alcohol abuse among youth. To spotlight the problem, she traveled nearly 250,000 miles throughout the United States and abroad in conjunction with her campaign to fight substance abuse. She appeared on television talk shows, taped public service announcements, wrote guest articles, and visited prevention programs and rehabilitation centers to talk with young people and their parents.

After leaving the White House on January 20, 1989, Mrs. Reagan established the Nancy Reagan Foundation to continue her campaign to educate people about the serious dangers of substance abuse. In 1994, the Nancy Reagan Foundation joined forces with the BEST Foundation For A Drug-Free Tomorrow and developed the Nancy Reagan Afterschool Program, a drug prevention and life-skills program for youth.

For ten years, Mrs. Reagan’s priority was caring for her husband at home as he battled Alzheimer’s Disease. Following his death in 2004, she was devoted to projects related to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, where she served on the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, and promoted her husband’s legacy of leadership and freedom.

Nancy Davis Reagan was the only daughter of Dr. Loyal Davis and Edith Davis of Chicago and Phoenix. She is survived by her brother, Dr. Richard Davis, and two children with Ronald Reagan – Patti Davis and Ronald Prescott Reagan, along with numerous nieces and nephews.