The University Record, January 21, 1997

Richard Kennedy receives Swede Johnson Award

Kennedy showed some of his famous good humor when he quipped, 'Does this mean that I can park on this street?' at the 1994 ceremony naming after him the street adjacent to the Fleming Administration Building.

By Rebecca A. Doyle


Richard L. Kennedy, former vice president for government relations at the U-M, last month received the Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson Award for Outstanding Service in State Government Relations. The award was presented at the meeting of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) in San Francisco.

Nearly the longest-serving executive officer in the history of the University, Kennedy's service to the U-M includes 25 years as secretary of the University, 12 years as vice president for government relations and 10 years as vice president for state relations. His length of service to the University is surpassed only by James B. Angell, who was president of the U-M for more than 38 years. Kennedy, who worked under five U-M presidents and whose signature appears on more than 227,000 diplomas, served only a few months less.

Interim President Homer A. Neal says that Kennedy "was, and continues to be, one of the University's best ambassadors and advocates."

"In the 1980s, when the state was in a severe recession, he played a key role in developing the financial package that allowed the state and University to more forward with the U-M Replacement Hospital Project," Neal continues. "It is fitting that he should be chosen for this high honor by his colleagues: the University community joins with them in congratulating him on a lifetime of achievement."

"No matter what he did, it was done with integrity, with immense interpersonal skill, and with sound judgment," noted President Emeritus Robben W. Fleming in a letter supporting Kennedy's nomination. "An unusual measure of the respect in which he is held is demonstrated by the act of the Regents naming the street next to the main administration building in his honor."

The Board of Regents, in their resolution naming Kennedy secretary emeritus of the University, reflected their admiration of his skill in this statement:

"Every large, complex, bureaucratic organization needs to have one person who is so universally respected and admired that he is understood to be the one who can be counted on for advice or assistance when all else fails. Dick Kennedy has been that person at the University of Michigan for more than 30 years."

The award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize, was initiated last year by the NASULGC to honor "Swede" Johnson, who served both the universities of Arizona and of New Mexico during his 35 years in higher education. Johnson also was vice president for public affairs at Coors Brewing Co., which sponsors the award.