Philip A. Hart, U.S. Democratic Senator from Michigan


Senator Philip A. HartTo Philip A. Hart, U.S. Democratic Senator from Michigan, 1958-1976, politics was a public trust to be earned and kept by public officials. Senator Hart earned the title of “conscience of the Senate” in reflection of the way he conducted his politics. For Senator Hart, politics was the noble art of governing and governing was about building a better future for our children and our children’s children. Education, the environment, civil rights and economic opportunities for all citizens — these were his causes to build that future.

Just prior to his death from cancer in 1976, Senator Hart requested a single memorial. He chose a small state university a few miles from his Mackinac Island home. He chose a place where many students are the first in their families to attend college and often need financial assistance to pursue their college goal. In a state with many larger state colleges and universities, he chose one that matched his ideals of opportunity and service. He selected Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. In 1976 the University stated its purpose in a single sentence – a statement that holds true today – “To prepare students to function as effective citizens capable of making thoughtful, mature contributions to their society.” Maybe it was that sentence that caught Senator Philip Hart’s eye.

Senator Philip A. Hart

“I leave as I arrived, understanding clearly the complexity of the world into which we were born and optimistic that if we give it our best shot, we will come close to achieving the goals set for us 200 years ago.”

Senator Philip A. Hart

The Philip A. Hart Memorial Scholarship Endowment provides scholarship awards to LSSU students whose ideals and goals reflect those of the senator with selection based on academic achievement and demonstrated interest in public service, as reflected through leadership roles and volunteer activities in their school and community. The scholarship is a full-time tuition award and is renewable based on meeting the distinguished scholarship renewal criteria. Graduates of Michigan high schools or community colleges planning to attend Lake Superior State University are encouraged to apply.

In Memoriam…

Jane B.

Jane B. “Janey” Hart, recipient of an honorary doctorate at Lake Superior State University in 1999 and whose family established the Sen. Philip A. Hart Memorial Scholarship at LSSU in the name of her late husband, died Friday, June 5, in West Hartford, Conn. She was 93.

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Mrs. Hart was known as an anti-war activist, humanitarian, champion of women’s rights, and pilot who was once part of a group of women who were being considered for astronaut training in 1961. She flew her husband to campaign stops in a helicopter, drawing attention in many communities, according to her son, Michael.

She and her family established the Hart endowment at LSSU at the request of Sen. Hart just prior to his death with the idea of helping many students who may be the first in their families to attend college and who often need financial assistance. The full-tuition award has benefited many students since 1976. Students who apply for the scholarship must show their ideals and goals to reflect those of the senator, with selection based on academic achievement and demonstrated interest in public service, as reflected through leadership roles and volunteer activities in their schools and communities.

Over the years, Mrs. Hart met with recipients of the Hart Scholarship while visiting the LSSU campus. She met past and present recipients during a 20th anniversary fundraising event in 1997 in Detroit that was organized by the LSSU Foundation. In 1999, she spoke at LSSU’s commencement ceremony when she received an honorary doctorate.

Mrs. Hart earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at George Washington University when she was in her 40s. During her years in college, she was described as a strong liberal activist who was not afraid of speaking her mind and standing up for what she felt was a just cause.

“I expect to tell the truth as I see it,” she is quoted as telling some who questioned whether her causes would have a detrimental effect upon her husband’s political career. “The truth, as close as humans can come to it, is not a political disadvantage.”

A firm believer in women’s rights, she was an outspoken proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment. She presided over the founding meeting of the Washington D.C. chapter of the National Organization for Women in May 1967. She also fought for reform in the Catholic Church, becoming chair of the Center for Christian Renewal in 1968, and was involved with various causes to assist the less fortunate in the United States. She worked hand-in-hand with her husband in promoting issues such as environmental protection, consumer protection, ethics and more.

She was arrested during a Vietnam War protest at the Pentagon in 1969, and traveled to Hanoi to see the effects of the war for herself and meet with prisoners of war.

Hart was born Oct. 21, 1921, in Detroit, the youngest daughter of industrialist Walter O. and Jane C. Briggs. She married Phil Hart in 1943 when he was still in the Army. The couple had nine children; eight survive her.

Mrs. Hart will be buried beside her husband at St. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery on Mackinac Island, where she was a summer resident for many years. The family requests donations to the Hart Scholarship Fund at LSSU, or to Planned Parenthood.

“…Perhaps one of the most important things that needs to be said about Phil Hart is that he always kept a careful perspective on himself, his colleagues and the issues with which we were dealing. Never afflicted by an overgrown ego, Phil Hart commanded great respect for his interest, decency and self-effacing nature. It is ironic that in a world where one encounters some individuals who are a bit too self-important or a bit too impressed with themselves, that Phil Hart – so important to the Senate and so impressive an individual – has never fallen victim to those Washington maladies.”

Senator Birch BayhIndiana

“Phil Hart has set a standard to which every Senator should aspire. No other member of this body has expressed a greater moral force throughout his years of service here… One of the most human and endearing traits of Phil Hart is his natural inclination to assume the best in the behavior of others. Remember his frank and refreshing confession of error, when he said that members of his family had tried unsuccessfully to persuade him that our intelligence agencies were engaged in illegal and improper practices. When the evidence later proved them right, Phil Hart was unstinting in his efforts to expose the wrongdoing and to advocate remedies designed to better protect the liberties of the people in the future.”

Senator Frank ChurchIdaho