Robert Kennedy ’50: Remembering a Beloved Leader, Friend, and Alumnus

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It is with deep sadness that I write to share with the New Hampton School community that Robert “Bob” D. Kennedy Class of 1950, died on April 3, 2021. Bob is a New Hampton legend, serving on the Board of Trustees since 1984 and receiving emeritus status in 2012. Bob was one of four brothers, three of whom attended NHS (George Class of 1943 and Ty Class of 1946) and could be considered one of the School’s dearest and most impactful friends. His generosity and leadership have touched virtually every campus project and initiative during his time on the board. He loved New Hampton School and always provided meaningful, wise council throughout his incredible life. He and his wife Sally dedicated their philanthropy to help keep the school financially stable to allow this institution to carry out the legacy he benefitted from during his time as an adolescent on campus. In 2007, Bob generously provided the funding for Kennedy Field, our lighted synthetic turf field, creating a much-needed venue for our student-athletes. It is fitting that his family name adorns such a prominent space on our campus and we will always remember Bob, his sound wisdom for our school, and the legacy he has so graciously left on our campus.

 

Bob Kennedy '50 (second from left) along with his fellow class officers during their senior year. In addition to being class vice president, Bob was a three-sport varsity athlete, a member of the glee club, double quartet, choir, and Manitou staff. He resided in Draper.
Bob Kennedy ’50 (second from left) along with his fellow class officers during their senior year. In addition to being class vice president that year, Kennedy resided in Draper, was a three-sport varsity athlete, and was a member of the glee club, double quartet, choir, and Manitou staff.

Family, friend, and mentor

Head of School Joe Williams reflects “It was an honor for me to get to know Bob during my tenure at New Hampton and my visits to his home in New Canaan will be cherished forever. Our conversations about the state of the school, leadership, and the people associated with New Hampton that he held close will always be special to me. Bob was one of those rare individuals whose kindness and generosity was unsurpassed.”

Bob took great pride in his granddaughter Stephanie attending New Hampton and presented the Commencement address during her graduation in 2010. Bob also had a nephew Robert Class of 1971 who attended. Bob and Sally had four children Robert B. (Lisa) Kennedy, Thomas Kennedy, Kathleen (Dawn) Kennedy, and Melissa (Greg) Jurick, ten granddaughters and one great-granddaughter.

“Little did I know when I passed Bob Kennedy a cup of coffee in a New Hampton coffee mug during a business meeting, that my life and his would be changed. During the conversation, the company I represented helped Bob’s company in navigating a key decision that would be very profitable for them. For me, this chance meeting brought me closer to the institution that put me on the right path during my adolescent years. Bob invited me to the board of trustees and the rest is history. Bob was an absolute gentleman. He was skilled at bringing the varying opinions around the table together to ensure everyone was heard, but to ultimately lead us and the school to an agreeable solution. Bob deployed skills that took him to the top of the corporate world and we, as a school and board, benefitted from his thoughtful wisdom and kind and generous spirit. And, I still have the coffee mug that led me back to my home at NHS,” remembers Jason Pilalas ’58, Trustee Emeritus and former chairman of the board.

 

Bob was the honored speaker at the School's commencement exercises in 2010.
Kennedy was the honored speaker at the School’s commencement exercises in 2010.

A fulfilling career and transformative experiences

After graduating from New Hampton School, Bob attended Cornell University where he received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1955. He joined Union Carbide that same year. Mr. Kennedy became President of the Linde Division in 1977, was elected a Senior Vice-President of the Corporation in 1981, and an Executive Vice-President in 1982. In 1985, he was elected Director and President of Union Carbide Corporation, responsible for the Chemicals and Plastics Group. In April 1986, he was elected President and Chief Executive Officer of Union Carbide Corporation, and effective December 1986 he was elected Chairman of the Board. Bob retired from the Corporation on December 31, 1995. Mr. Kennedy was a director of Kmart Corporation, Lion Ore Mining International Ltd., Sunoco, Inc., and Union Camp Corporation. He was also a member of the Advisory Boards of The Blackstone Group, RFE Investment Partners and Sullivan Associates, Chairman of the Chemical Manufacturers Association, on the Board of Trustees of Cornell University, past Chairman of INROADS, Inc., he was a member of the Business Council, a member of the Business Round Table, and of the Business Round Table’s Education Task Force and its Environmental Task Force.

“There are only a handful of people you’ll meet in your life that have the transformative vision, generosity, character, and kindness of a man like Bob Kennedy. In our work of uncovering the fascinating history of influential people during this bicentennial year, he stands as one of those leaders that has done the most for our School and Community. He will be deeply missed and honored by his legacy,” reflects former Chairman of the New Hampton School Board of Trustees Peter Galletly ’73.

 

Kennedy at Reunion Weekend in 2016.

Remembering his legacy

You may read the full obituary here.

The entire New Hampton School family has benefitted from Bob’s wisdom, dedication, and deep passion for the magic that happens within our campus. We will forever be grateful for all he and his family have done for our school and for allowing us to look to the future with optimism and excitement. We will carry on Bob’s legacy to ensure future generations of New Hampton School students benefit from all he helped preserve through his gifts of time, talent, and treasure over the years. We extend of deepest condolences to the entire Kennedy family and those touched by Bob’s life.

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