From namesake McCain Institute to cybersecurity and sustainability projects, senator was connected throughout university
John McCain represented Arizona for 35 years, and his legacy has touched Arizona State University through philanthropy, public service and community projects.
McCain died Saturday after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. The war hero, who was a Republican, was 81 years old.
“The entire Arizona State University community joins the nation in mourning the loss of Sen. John McCain,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Sen. McCain had an extraordinary impact on this university, the state of Arizona, our nation and the world. He represented the best of America, and his passing leaves a void that will not easily be filled.
“It’s been said many times before, but bears repeating now: Sen. McCain is a true America hero. He dedicated his life to serving this great nation, never wavering in his belief in the inherent strength and goodness of America and its promise. He believed that our greatest assets could be found in the most unlikely places, and that the values that unite us as Americans are far greater than that which divides us.”
The U.S. senator met with students last summer as part of the Rio Salado 2.0 project, an initiative to transform the riverbed that runs through the Valley. He told the students he supported the project because he was starting to think about his legacy.
“We want to make this an example to the rest of the state, as well as the nation,” he said at the August 2017 event. “I’ll tell you whose plan it is, and who is going to make it work, and that’s ASU.”
McCain’s most visible connection to ASU is the namesake McCain Institute for International Leadership, a nonprofit and nonpartisan education and research center based in Washington, D.C. The center was launched in 2012 with a $9 million gift from the McCain Institute Foundation, a charitable trust founded by McCain, and provides internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. In 2017 it hosted 20 events on human trafficking, international security, and leadership, and partnered with 31 organizations in the U.S. and around the world.
“My heart is so deeply heavy given the passing of Sen. John McCain, who I am ever proud to have had as a dedicated mentor,” said Ambassador Kurt Volker, executive director of the McCain Institute. “He was a giant, the likes of which few our country have seen. His character, values and example impacted the world over, with much of his immense positive influence on leaders, emerged and emerging, still to come. Our prayers and condolences are with his incredible family, which sustained him, and endures.”
McCain visited ASU’s campuses several times in recent years to share his expertise on international and domestic politics, sometimes in blunt terms. In August 2017, he was at the Polytechnic campus to speak at the first ASU Congressional Conference on Cybersecurity, where he warned that the White House needs a plan to combat hacking: “I can assure you our enemies are not junior varsity. … If they’re able to change the results of a presidential election, then they’re able to change democracy.”
In February 2016, McCain sat for a public interview with Jeffrey Cunningham, host of the “Iconic Voices” video series, at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the downtown Phoenix campus.