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‘Deep Commitment’: Former Interim IOP Director William Delahunt Remembered For Mentorship, Public Service

Longtime U.S. Representative William D. "Bill" Delahunt (D-Mass.) died at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, on Saturday. He was 82.
Longtime U.S. Representative William D. "Bill" Delahunt (D-Mass.) died at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, on Saturday. He was 82. By Amy Y. Li and Sami E. Turner
By William C. Mao and Dhruv T. Patel, Crimson Staff Writers

Longtime U.S. Representative William D. “Bill” Delahunt (D-Mass.) — a member of the Harvard Institute of Politics’ Senior Advisory Committee and the interim director of the IOP from 2016 to 2018 — died at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, on Saturday. He was 82.

Delahunt was remembered among IOP affiliates for his commitment to the organization and to students considering careers in public service.

In a statement posted to X Sunday, IOP Director Setti D. Warren praised Delahunt’s service to the IOP.

“He embodied the IOP’s core missions of public service, civic engagement, and political leadership,” Warren wrote. “His dedication to students during his time with us at the IOP will leave a lasting impression on all of us.”

Delahunt served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years. Despite announcing plans to retire in March 2010, Delahunt postponed his retirement to 2011 to help advance former President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda.

Prior to working in Washington, Delahunt served as District Attorney in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, for over two decades, where he founded the country’s first prosecutorial body for sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

Delahunt’s family issued a statement on Saturday saying the former congressman passed away “peacefully from a long-term illness.” In the statement, his family called him a “cherished father, fiancé, grandfather, and former husband.”

In his various roles at the IOP, Delahunt was remembered as a committed mentor to students, sharing his decades-long experience in public service and coaching IOP members through law school applications and prospective careers.

Kathryn A. Bussey ’17, former president of the IOP Student Advisory Committee from November 2015 to December 2016, called Delahunt “an enthusiastic mentor.”

“He was ready to engage with students and discuss a novel policy idea or political strategy, meeting students with his decades of experience but while never making them feel young or comparatively inexperienced,” Bussey wrote in an email.

Bussey also praised Delahunt’s humor, writing that “he was always ready to lighten the mood with a funny quip or an encouraging word.”

IOP Executive Director Morgan S. Brown ’06 — who took a class with Delahunt while a student at the Kennedy School — praised Delahunt’s interactive teaching. He recounted a class in which Brown and his classmates had to act as if they were testifying before Congress.

The exercise spoke to Delahunt’s ability to apply his experience in Congress to the classroom, Brown said.

During his tenure as the IOP’s interim director, Delahunt expanded IOP’s stipend program for students pursuing internships in public service, according to former IOP Director Mark D. Gearan ’78.

“He was very focused on internships, having been a member of Congress,” Gearan said.

Several members of Congress issued statements praising Delahunt’s legacy and service on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) called Delahunt “a man of strong character” and praised his commitment to bipartisanship in a statement published Monday.

“Bill was adept at working across the aisle to deliver results not only for his constituents but for all Americans,” Hoyer wrote.

“Generous, humble, and willing to put his country over himself, Bill had all the traits of a terrific legislator,” he added.

In a statement released on Sunday, U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) praised Delahunt’s focus “on tomorrow, rather than just today.”

“Bill Delahunt understood the unlimited capacity of the human heart to love and nurture, and as Congressman, he created countless families who are celebrating their own American Dream,” Markey wrote.

Austin E. Sowa ’17, former vice president of the IOP SAC from 2016-2017, wrote in an emailed statement that the “only thing more remarkable than Rep. Delahunt’s extensive record of service was his deep commitment to inspiring, mentoring, and nurturing the next generation of public servants.”

“He will be dearly missed by his peers at the IOP and beyond, but his legacy will live on in the hearts, minds, and service of the countless IOP alumni he inspired,” Sowa wrote.

—Staff writer William C. Mao can be reached at william.mao@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @williamcmao.

—Staff writer Dhruv T. Patel can be reached at dhruv.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @dhruvtkpatel.

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IOPHarvard Kennedy SchoolObituaryUniversity