From as early in my life as I can remember, a zesty feeling towards accomplishing things has stayed in the back of my mind. One of my earliest exuberances as a toddler was to fall off a couch for a second time to re-experience what it felt like to have fallen off the first time. I believe that I possessed the energy and ability to cause things to improve throughout my life. Early encounters with bullies and others always seemed to set my mind afire, thinking about how I would overcome their negative actions towards me. My intense need to win and strategically figure out how to come out ahead of others, seemingly has always been with me.
I strived to be equal to or better than my classmates throughout my thirteen years at Sterling High School in Sheffield, Alabama. Early on, I realized that sports were not an area that I would excel in, volleyball was my thing, but we did not have a formal volleyball program. Becoming a drummer/percussionist in the band worked well until our rival school got a new Tennessee State College trained band director. They went from one of the worst bands in our football conference to a one hundred fifty member college-level band in one (1) year. It simply became too embarrassing to be in a stadium with them.
I failed to make the football team mostly due to polio residual that I contracted during fifth grade. So, I became a trainer with our sports programs. After becoming head trainer in the eleventh grade, I got fired halfway through the twelfth grade for not maintaining control of the other trainers when the coach left me in charge. One of my most creative acts occurred when I proclaimed myself to be “The Sterling High School sports reporter” by phoning our basketball games’ results to our local papers and The BirminghamNews. I continued to travel with the team, and my writing also helped me earn three A’s in English.
Even though our principal, Rev. Richard A. Stewart, paddled me two times during my SHS tenure, I ran successfully for student body President. During my senior year, we won two offices in the (Black) Alabama State Student Council. What others did not know was that we were one of the smallest schools in the state.
By scoring well on college entrance tests, I received a scholarship to Tuskegee Institute but decided to attend Prairie View A&M College in Texas. My vitality and zestful enthusiasm helped me gain lifelong friends during my freshman year. Upperclassmen convinced me and some of my fellow engineering students that we would graduate in six to eight years due to having to take certain classes more than one time. So, surprisingly I only had to repeat one course!
Because I needed a job that would provide a job deferment to keep from getting drafted and be sent to Viet Nam, my vitality was crucial during my first and only job interview! I so impressed the Boeing Company interviewer that he offered me a military deferment during the interview. It would be interesting to know how many grads gained employment after only one interview. A combination of my enthusiasm, lack of fear, willingness to learn, and super work ethic caused me to earn a seventeen and a half percent raise during my first year with the company. My boss apologized because they could not give me a more significant raise!
Over the rest of my career, I believe my ownership attitude and willingness to apply myself to every task at hand propelled me forward. Behind all of my career success was the upbringing of my six-year apart kids. Having married the smartest girl that I’d ever met, I thought both kids would earn scholarships and get into top colleges.
My daughter was a natural and curious learner who could read at age three. We checked on her during the middle of the night to ensure she was not under the covers reading with a flashlight. Her vitality and enthusiasm propelled her through The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, International Relations and Harvard Law School, International Law.
Her little brother proved to be very competitive, plus he could not stand for others to outdo him, especially his sister, smile! He graduated from Stanford University, Political Science and Harvard Business School, MBA Finance.
To me, vitality means operating with the wind behind your back, pushing us toward more extraordinary achievements and accomplishments. At life’s end, the question becomes, “Did you vibrantly attack life, or did you let life attack you?”!
What is or will be your answer?
–William Leroy Kennedy
Beyond his career as an engineer, diversity and training manager, and financial advisor, he asserts, “Getting to teach others about how to become more financially astute has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career.”
While doing all of the above, Mr. Kennedy managed to help raise his daughter and son, six years apart, to become outstanding students with a true sense of community. They graduated from UNC Chapel Hill/Harvard Law School and Stanford/Harvard Business School, respectively.
Many hours were spent working with church, civil rights, and community organizations in an effort to help produce progress. Motivating youth to be all that they can be is a constant goal of Mr. Kennedy.
He is very high on using khanacademy.org as an educational tool that can help all, regardless of age or learning disability, succeed in life. “Every adult and child should visit the site” is his motto.