I know that for most pajama-clad citizen journalists like me it’s fashionable to be critical. You know. Scan the newspapers (dead-tree or online), blogs, online news sites and so on and then opine — generally with a negative slant. Not today. Today I am writing about Laing Kennedy who is retiring in June as Kent State’s director of athletics. And Kennedy is leaving at the top of his game, a model for someone who can succeed with a college sports program without compromising his integrity.
Tom Gaffney has an excellent article about Kennedy and his accomplishments in this morning’s Akron Beacon Journal. Quite simply, Kennedy led a program with significant achievement when it came to athletics — and even more so with the emphasis that he placed on educational attainment.
During my years at Kent State, I only met Kennedy once. I was organizing an annual event that attracts people from the university and the community, the Bowman Breakfast. And Kennedy was the speaker. So I had some limited contact with him before, during and after the event. I was very impressed with his enthusiasm — and his dedication to the university and the Kent community.
But before that breakfast, what impressed me about Kennedy was his ability and willingness to help students — and not just those on a sports scholarship. When I was working with students at the university’s student-run PR firm Flash Communications, many times students needed to contact Kennedy for information about a story or for a comment. He was always available. Always took their calls or returned them as quickly as possible. And he was gracious with his time and understanding of how much the student wanted to do a good job but needed some assistance.
Gee, sounds like a good teacher — and mentor. Somewhat surprisingly, many professors and college administrators (not just at Kent State but most everywhere) aren’t like that. Imagine that.
We need more people like Laing Kennedy who understand that education is basically about helping students succeed. And if you can add some winning sports teams to the mix while maintaining your integrity — then so much the better.