The Dick Thornburgh Papers

The Collection

Youth and Education (1932–1957)

Extent: 9 linear feet

Dick Thornburgh grew up in Rosslyn Farms, Pa., an upper-middle-class suburb of Pittsburgh. He attended Rosslyn Farms Elementary School (1937–45), a four-room schoolhouse for kindergarten through eighth grade and where eight to ten students to a class was the norm. In 1945, Thornburgh graduated from elementary school and subsequently enjoyed only one year at Carnegie High School. Thornburgh’s parents recognized that he was not being challenged academically, thus he continued his high school education at Mercersburg Academy (’50). “While even as a youth politics had been a major fascination for me, I had mapped out a career as a sportswriter. Editing the sports section of the [Mercersburg] school newspaper was going to lead to a career, I hoped, of covering the Pittsburgh Pirates, which I loved then as I do today” (“From Star Car to the Governor’s Office,” JFK School Bulletin, fall/winter, 1987).

Since the Thornburgh family had always been engineers it was no surprise that when he subsequently attended Yale University (’54), Thornburgh majored in engineering, although admittedly not suited to the math and science required. However, he did develop a love for writing, politics, and law, and went on to earn a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (’57). Academically Thornburgh lived up to his potential there and was soon second in his class. He earned a place on the law review, and was selected for the moot court team (Evidence, p. 11).

These earliest files in the Thornburgh archive are remarkable in several respects. Firstly they are surprising. How many of us have saved a diary from age 13, “Sportorials” for the school paper, college term papers and examinations, or class notes from graduate school? These items can be found here. Secondly, the class notes and annotated texts from law school set the stage for what became a brilliant law career, ultimately as the 76th attorney general of the United States.

The “Youth and Education” files are in four sections: “Youth,” “Mercersburg Academy,” “Yale University,” and “University of Pittsburgh School of Law.”


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