Family, work, community, and self

By Lee Kennedy ’87

Lee Kennedy '87

Lee Kennedy ’87, taking time out to enjoy Portland’s foodie scene. Photo: Sean Harris.

When I enrolled at Saint Joseph’s College, my initial impression was that it was an unassuming place that received people very well from all different backgrounds. It didn’t matter where you came from or how you got there. It mattered that you received a good education. It became more and more apparent to me that the Sisters of Mercy mission was real. The mission was carried out by everyone; the students felt that. I felt that. I learned in College how to prioritize things in life because it can get overwhelming. There are four areas of focus for me: family, work, community, and oneself. Trying to balance the four can be challenging at different times. I learned how to prioritize and make decisions that support a quality of life experience. I learned the value of giving back to others in your community. Rather than perceive life as “taking,” I see it as giving back. I credit the Mercy tradition for this.

Liberal arts education seems undervalued right now. I was a history major and I strongly believe in a liberal arts education. A liberal arts education helps you no matter what you want to do: arts, science, economics, or—like me—construction. Ninety percent of what we deal with in life is gaining an awareness and understanding of what is happening in our world; we need to understand problems before we can solve problems. Problem solving was the most important thing I learned. It’s all about how to find answers to questions. Also, communication through reading and writing are really important skills developed through a college education. Technical expertise you can get from on the job training or from technical training. For example, I went to night school at Wentworth Institute after Saint Joseph’s to get that type of training.

At my company, the key is to maintain an approach that distinguishes us from our competitors (who, in many cases, are large, publicly traded, and international). Our clients know the owner of Lee Kennedy Company. There is a level of comfort associated with that; there’s more attention to quality, more pride. I aim for controlled, organic growth, mostly by hiring young people, mentoring them, and allowing them to grow and not pigeonholing them. Then we promote from within. We add expertise when we need it for special projects or markets, yet grow in a smart way.
I’m a supporter of the College’s Institute for Local Food Systems Innovation (ILFSI) because it addresses problems with our food supply. It aims to support the local economy and the local community by creating a more efficient distribution of local food to the table (see story p. 16). I have always loved to cook so I’m very aware of the purest ingredients and what that means to the quality of what you prepare for your family and friends. I met my wife, Maura, at Saint Joseph’s in 1985. She graduated with a degree in nursing and is a practicing RN today. She and I share cooking for large family gatherings and holidays. In an economy that encourages locally-sourced, healthy food, more people could decide to stay in Maine rather than move away.

“I’m a supporter of the College’s Institute for Local Food Systems Innovation (ILFSI) because it addresses problems with our food supply.”

Ultimately, the valuable outcome of ILFSI will be how it impacts the local economy: helping people prosper on their farms (whether vegetables or animals), helping people stay in Maine, and helping people access a better quality product.

Saint Joseph’s created my connection to Maine, but now I still visit three or four times per year. I love Portland. It’s a great city with such fantastic restaurants. It’s a beautiful part of the world.

The College thanks Lee Kennedy ’87 for his leadership and generous gift of $100,000 to support the Institute for Local Food Systems Innovation.