2009 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award
Michael D. Kennedy ’79
Michael Kennedy carries on a distinguished family tradition of service to the University of North Carolina. Over the last two decades, he has made tremendous contributions through his organizational leadership, his talents and his personal generosity.
Michael graduated from Carolina summa cum laude in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in history and went on to earn his master’s in business administration from HarvardBusinessSchool. He began his financial services career in investment management at J.P. Morgan & Company in New York, became a vice president at Wachovia Corporation in the U.S. corporate group and then moved on to a position as vice president in the Corporate Finance Group at GE Capital. He is now a senior client partner in the Atlanta office of Korn/Ferry International, the largest executive search firm in the world. The company’s first African American partner, he is a founding member of its diversity practice.
During the Bicentennial Campaign for Carolina, Michael stepped forward as a regional volunteer, and ever since, the University’s development office has counted on his vision and skill in guiding new projects.
When the Carolina First Campaign began, he was asked to join the National Steering Committee and to establish and chair the Minority Alumni Committee. Through focus groups with racially and ethnically diverse alumni, he gathered input and perspectives that paved the way for a wide range of graduates to engage with UNC in unprecedented ways. He created a strategic plan for the committee and established the direction of its fundraising efforts. Through the committee’s efforts, UNC also increased its diversity membership on various boards, created the CarolinaAmericanIndianCenter, and established the Alumni Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, which Michael co-chairs.
Michael was also instrumental in raising funds for the SonjaHaynesStoneCenter. He helped mobilize a core group of African American alumni in Atlanta, hosted events, identified potential donors and shepherded the overall effort there.
With his brothers Harold and Harvey, who are also Carolina alumni, he established the Willie Hall Kennedy Scholarship, a merit-based award in the School of Education which honors their grandmother, a long-time teacher in ForsythCounty. It benefits a student committed to teaching in North Carolina public schools.
Michael has also served on the board of directors for the UNC General Alumni Association and as a trustee for PhillipsExeterAcademy. He currently serves on the board of trustees for the Employees Retirement System of Georgia pension fund. And following in the footsteps of his mother, who served on the forerunner to UNC’s Board of Visitors, he has served in that important volunteer role. He now chairs the board.
Under Michael’s leadership the board started a pilot project in four cities to target top-performing high school students for recruitment to Carolina through personal contact with board members and prominent citizens in their cities.
Michael has turned his deep passion for all that is Carolina into stellar leadership and service as a role model and organizer. For more than 20 years, he has been a dynamic supporter and dedicated friend of the University.