Courtesy of Kent State Sports Information
KENT, Ohio - Kent State University has been using the slogan "Excellence in Action" for nearly three years now. For KSU Director of Athletics Laing Kennedy, that mantra has been a way of life since his arrival in Kent in 1994. Now in his 16th year at the helm of the Golden Flashes, Kennedy announced Monday (Aug. 24) that he would be retiring on June 30, 2010.
"This is something I have been considering for the past couple of years," said Kennedy. "Due to the demands of the job, I have missed a lot and I owe it to myself, my wife and my family to do this while I still feel good and can share in wonderful experiences with them. As I have always said, one of the real joys of this position is rooting on our student-athletes. Now it is time to focus that time and energy on my own greatest athletes and the pride of my life right now - my grandchildren.
"I feel that I am leaving Kent State at the right time," the longest-tenured athletic director in the MAC continued. "It was extremely important to me that before I moved on we created a strong department with a foundation that would last and serve as a platform for Golden Flashes athletics for several years to come. I'm proud of the fact that we've been able to accomplish that."
A firm believer in a comprehensive approach to building an athletic department, Kennedy's sterling track record speaks for itself. KSU has been the top Mid-American Conference school in the Director's Cup standings (measuring performance at the NCAA level) nine of the last 10 years and 12 times in the 16-year history of the award. The Golden Flashes have earned six Jacoby Trophies for women's sports excellence in the MAC and four Reese Trophies on the men's side (including in 2009), finishing in the top three in both standings each of the past eight years - an unprecedented feat in the conference. In 2008-09, Kent State finished second nationally in the Excellence In Management Standings, which measure a department's success based on expenditures.
"Under Laing Kennedy's principled and visionary leadership, Kent State's athletic program has consistently led the Mid-American Conference and stands among the nation's best," said Kent State President Dr. Lester A. Lefton. "Our student-athletes succeed in the classroom, our teams excel on the playing field, and our alumni and donors remain engaged thanks in large part to Laing's guidance. We are fortunate that Laing will be here this year to ensure a smooth leadership transition."
Under Kennedy's leadership, Kent State has vastly improved its physical plant, including $15 million in improvements at Dix Stadium, the construction of Olga Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium (baseball), Murphy-Mellis Field (field hockey), the Ferrara & Page Golf Training & Learning Center and the George L. Jenkins Academic Resource Center, the renovation of the M.A.C. Center and numerous other projects throughout the department.
Twice named the Northeast Region Division I-A Athletic Director of the Year (2002 & ‘06) by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), Kennedy is entering his final year as a member of the prestigious NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee, beginning his five-year term Sept. 1, 2005. He is just the second representative from the MAC on the committee.
His contributions extend beyond the KSU campus and into the Kent community, serving as the former chairman of the Board of Trustees of the United Way of Portage County, while also remaining active in the Kent Rotary Club.
Kennedy came to Kent State in 1994 following 11 years in a similar position at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. During his tenure, Cornell had nine national championship teams, 36 Ivy League championship teams and 102 All-Americans.
A native of Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, Kennedy earned a bachelor's degree in animal science from Cornell in 1963. Kennedy was an All-America goalkeeper and team captain for Cornell's ice hockey team. He earned All-Ivy League honors for three consecutive years and was named the University's Outstanding Athlete in 1963. He was inducted into the Woodstock Wall of Fame in 2007 for lifetime achievement.
Kennedy and his wife, Saundra, reside in Kent and have two daughters, Karyn and Kelly. Karyn and her husband, Steve, have two sons, Andrew and Campbell, and a daughter, Caroline.
A national search will be conducted to find Kennedy's successor.
Since Laing Kennedy became Kent State's Director of Athletics in 1994:
• Golden Flashes teams have won a total of 85 Mid-American Conference championships
• 83 student-athletes have garnered All-America honors, including 20 during the last four years
• The women's athletics program has won the Jacoby Trophy for the MAC women's sports excellence six times - the most of any MAC women's program - and placed second six other times in the last 13 years
• The men's athletics program has won the Reese Trophy for MAC men's sports excellence four times, including for the 2008-09 campaign
• Kent State has been the top MAC finisher in the Director's Cup standings nine of the last 10 years and 12 times in the award's 16-year history
• Twenty three student-athletes have earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America® honors, including 12 in the last six years
• Student-athletes have won 251 individual MAC championships in the sports of gymnastics, golf, track and field and wrestling
• The Golden Flashes have added the sports of women's golf and women's soccer
• The NCAA has certified Kent State on a variety of subjects including gender equity and graduation rates