The veteran lawmaker was a guest speaker on campus dozens of times over the years. For four decades, the school has hosted the Kennedy Political Union -- a student-run lecture series. And last year, Kennedy and his niece, Caroline, made AU's Bender Arena the stage for their endorsements of presidential candidate Barack Obama.
"That day, we had people in line for three blocks trying to get into the auditorium that couldn't get in, and it was a wonderful day for American University and the senator," said Prof. James Thurber.
Thurber lived three doors down from Kennedy in Northwest and described him as a generous, helpful and kind neighbor.
More than 100 AU students have served as interns and staff for Kennedy.
The Kennedy Political Union sponsors about 20 speaking engagements a year, hosting the likes of Buzz Aldrin, Benazir Bhutto, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Strom Thurmond, Colin Powell, George McGovern, Mikhail Gorbachev, Newt Gingrich and Joe Biden
The late senator also reached out to other young people in the D.C. area. Former U.S. Rep. Connie Morella, D-Md., said he urged Montgomery County teens to dedicate themselves to service.
"He wanted to touch these young people, to let them know this is something that we're here for, to help others, and public service is why our country is so great, and you will help make it great and it will make you great," Morella said.