James A. Kennedy, chair of the Board of Trustees at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), brought his 97-year old father to campus with him. Standing before a group of students, Kennedy recalled how his father, also named James A. Kennedy, never had the chance to attend college.
“My father’s formal education ended in eighth grade,” Kennedy said. “Yet he went on to work at Bell Labs, in both Murray Hill and Holmdel, and was able to hold his own with scientists there. Had my father been able to afford to have gone to a college such as NJIT, in those days known as Newark College of Engineering, God knows what his career could have been.”
NJIT named three new rooms in its Albert Dorman’s Honors College after the elder Kennedy. His son, a major benefactor and donor to the Honors College, asked that the suite of rooms - a lounge, a computer room and a study center - be dedicated to his father.
It’s not the first time that the younger Kennedy’s generosity has helped NJIT. Every year, the Kennedy Scholarship enables three students to attend NJIT. One of the scholarship recipients, Ian Lafond, of Bogota, a 21-year old senior majoring in electrical and computer engineering, attended the dedication. Lafond, who received a Kennedy scholarship to NJIT, comes from a family of modest income. He is one of 14 children. His parents have eight biological children, and adopted six more. All six of their adopted children were handicapped.
Lafond has limited use of his right hand, which is missing the radius bone. But he’s a bright student and a talented fencer who recently applied to medical school. He wants one day to be a pediatrician - to help handicapped children the way his pediatrician helped him. Lafond spoke during the dedication, expressing his gratitude.
“Mr. Kennedy [the younger] has given so much to the Albert Dorman Honors College,” Lafond said. “A scholarship in his name has allowed me to pursue my education here at NJIT. He is responsible for the new lounge, the study room and the computer lab you see behind me. For students at the Honors College, who are enrolled in one of the most rigorous curricula in the country, these have been places of great refuge.”
The younger Kennedy has been chair of the Board of Trustees at NJIT since September of 2000. Before that, he was chair of the Board of Overseers, the board that oversees the university's Foundation. He also served as vice chair of The Campaign for NJIT, the university's $181 million fundraising effort. He served on the search committee that selected NJIT’s latest president, Robert A. Altenkirch, and served on the steering committee whose mission it was to reconfigure the state’s three research universities.
Kennedy retired as chairman and CEO of National Starch and Chemical Company and from the Board of Directors of Imperial Chemical Industries, PLC, in 1999. National, headquartered in Bridgewater, is a leading manufacturer of adhesives, specialty synthetic polymers, electronic and engineering materials and specialty food and industrial starches. During his 37 years with the company, Kennedy was instrumental in furthering its global expansion and continuing its 30-year record of consecutive annual increases in operating profit.
Kennedy is also a member of the Board of Directors for Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and Freedom House, a nonprofit group that helps drug addicts and alcoholics overcome addition. He earned his MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business and his bachelor's degree in Economics from College of the Holy Cross.