Michael Kennedy’s philanthropic parents instilled the importance of involvement in him at an early age.
“It was shared that in order to be taken seriously and feel included, it was important to contribute financially,” said Kennedy, who earned a B.S. in history with highest honors from UNC in 1979. “UNC played a vital role in my development as an adult and provided me with the tools to be successful. As a result, I’ve always been involved in volunteering for and contributing financially to UNC.”
Kennedy, who lives in Atlanta, has been tapped as one of three people to lead the closing phase of Carolina’s recently announced capital campaign, The Campaign for Carolina with a goal of $4.25 billion by Dec. 31, 2022. He’s also charged with establishing the Campaign’s Diversity Strategy Committee.
“I was excited when approached to be one of the nine leaders for the entire capital campaign,” said Kennedy, who earned his MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1985. “Since this will be an important initiative to benefit the entire University community, I’m excited to help play a leadership role. The establishment of the Diversity Strategy Committee will build upon the success of the original Minority Alumni Committee (now ACRED) from the previous Carolina First Capital Campaign …”
Kennedy had a leadership role in establishing the former Minority Alumni Committee, Carolina’s first organized effort to reach out to alumni of color.
Maribel Carrion, executive director of Student Administration and Enterprise Reporting, is a member of the Diversity Strategy Committee.
“I’m very excited about working with Michael Kennedy,” said Carrion, who is Puerto Rican. “He exemplifies what it means to be committed and personally engaged with UNC as an alum, ensuring Carolina will continue evolving as an institution serving and representing a diverse population. Michael has the experience and the interpersonal skills that ensure a committee like this is focused and engaged.”
Over time, the Diversity Strategy Committee will have about 20 members representing the American Indian, Hispanic, Asian/Asian-American and African-American communities.
“My vision is for all communities to be represented in fundraising at UNC,” Kennedy said. “It’s imperative for alumni of color to actively participate in making financial commitments to the University, which will allow us to be visible and to contribute in the discussions regarding the future of our institution.”
The Diversity Strategy Committee will identify and cultivate alumni of color who are capable of making significant commitments to the University, Kennedy said. ACRED will be part of the overall fundraising strategy by concentrating on building participation levels through smaller contributions. Strategies will be communicated through websites, videos, tweets, written correspondence and email.
Because of ACRED’s success, Kennedy doesn’t anticipate having difficulty convincing diverse constituents to embrace the campaign.
“During the establishment of the original Minority Alumni Committee, we conducted focus groups with diverse constituencies to determine what their experience had been while at UNC and what their view/interest was at that time toward the University,” he said. “The overwhelming majority of alumni had a great deal of pride in attending UNC and were open to becoming involved.”
Carrion, who earned a bachelor of science in mathematics from Carolina in 1977 and an MBA in 1986, said she’s excited about “finding ways to engage and encourage diverse alumni and other constituents to give back to UNC.”
If Kennedy has his way, that’s exactly what they’ll do for the campaign he says will be a defining moment in Carolina’s history.
Reyna S. Walters-Morgan ’99, current chair of ACRED, agreed. “The Diversity and Strategy committee has an important and exciting opportunity to engage alumni of color during the Campaign for Carolina and promote several giving opportunities to our peers,” she said. “I can’t think of a more qualified person than Michael to head up this effort. Michael’s dedication to Carolina is an inspiration for us all. I’m confident he will be able to lead this committee and the overall capital campaign to success!”
“UNC is not only one of the top 5 public institutions in the country; it is one of the top universities public or private,” Kennedy said. “For the University to be successful, it’s important for all constituencies to play a vital role, which is particularly important for our alumni of color. In looking at capital campaigns launched by other national universities, there are very few with a specific outreach targeting alumni of color. This approach makes UNC unique among its peers and also sends a loud message that everyone is valued and counted on to be part of our overall University community.”
“The chancellor has a lot of confidence in Mr. Kennedy’s ability to solicit the minority support for the Carolina Campaign,” said Dr. Thomas K. Wong, founder and CEO of Xanitaz Healthcare Solutions, Inc. in Durham. “Moreover, she knows Mr. Kennedy will be able to highlight the importance of having minority leadership in this very important campaign for the University.”
Wong, who earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Carolina in 1975 and his master’s in public health from UNC in 1977, said he accepted Kennedy’s invitation to join the Diversity Strategy Committee because of his deep love for the University.
“He asked me to recruit more Asians to this particular committee to give them a larger voice,” Wong said. “I’m the only Asian on this diversity committee. Mr. Kennedy will be very important in providing the minority student population at Carolina a voice to the chancellor. His leadership role will provide the impetus to push more minority involvement, not only in the campaign but also to perhaps give the minority students an entrée to have their voices heard by the chancellor.”
Wong’s involvement with Carolina runs deep. He’s a current Board of Visitors member, and he and his wife Sandy Moulton, who holds three Carolina degrees, created the first scholarship targeting minority students at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.
“I know being on the Diversity Strategy Committee will require some work but that’s fine,” Wong said. “I think Mr. Kennedy asked me because he knows I live in Durham so it’d be easy for me to find people to serve. The fact that I’m on the BOV also provides a more impactful request when I ask. I’ll be on the committee through the year 2020, during the critical phase of the Campaign for Carolina.”
By Laurie Willis ’86