The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies was inspired by the vision of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., and philanthropist Joan B. Kroc of a world free from the threat of nuclear holocaust. During his 35 years as president of Notre Dame, Father Ted was a leading national voice for civil and human rights and the abolition of nuclear weapons. Joan Kroc was deeply concerned about the nuclear arms race and committed to world peace.

Founded at the University of Notre Dame in 1986, the Kroc Institute focuses on research on a wide range of issues relating to peace and justice and the causes of violent conflict. The Kroc Institute also offers degrees in peace studies to Ph.D., master's, and undergraduate students.

Milestones in Peace Studies at Notre Dame

Peace studies and peace research at Notre Dame began well before the establishment of the Kroc Institute, with individual faculty in the College of Arts & Letters conducting research and teaching on a range of issues related to peace, justice, and human rights.

In 1983, the College of Arts & Letters established a 15-hour undergraduate Concentration in Peace Studies. The curriculum responded to the U.S. Catholic Bishops' pastoral letter, "The Challenge of Peace," which focused in particular on nuclear weapons. The program featured popular team-taught courses such as "The Nuclear Dilemma," "War, Law, and Ethics," and "Introduction to Peace Studies."

In April 1985, Mrs. Kroc was in the audience when the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus of Notre Dame, gave a lecture in San Diego, California. He urged scientists and religious leaders to work together to halt the nuclear arms race and emphasized the role of universities in training a new generation of leaders. Impressed by his visionary and practical approach, she offered to help.

In July 1985, at Mrs. Kroc's request, Dick Starmann, a senior vice president at McDonald's Corporation and a close advisor to Mrs. Kroc, arranged the first in a series of meetings between Fr. Ted and Mrs. Kroc. Over the course of the next few months, including several visits to Notre Dame, Mrs. Kroc and Fr. Hesburgh continued their conversations about peace. 

In December 1985, Mrs. Kroc made a $6 million gift to establish an institute at Notre Dame that would be "a center for multidisciplinary research and teaching on the critically important questions of peace, justice, and violence in contemporary society."

From its inception in 1986, the Kroc Institute offered an interdisciplinary minor in peace studies for undergraduates and a master's degree in international peace studies. 

In 2002, the Institute added a supplementary (second) major for undergraduates.

In 2003, when Mrs. Kroc passed away, she left several extraordinary bequests that reflect the issues she cared about most deeply. Her $50 million bequest to the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame was at the time the single largest gift in Notre Dame's history.

In 2008, the Kroc Institute launched a Ph.D. program, the capstone on the development of academic programs in peace studies at every level (undergraduate, master's and Ph.D.)

In 2011, the Kroc Institute observed its anniversary, "25 Years of Research, Teaching, and Strategic Peacebuilding," celebrating Mrs. Kroc's legacy and the work of faculty, students, and more than 1,000 alumni building peace around the world.