I often ran into roadblocks throughout my life and professional career that required me to endure unpleasant periods of doubt and uncertainty. It started in elementary school when lighter-skinned, and socially connected kids were placed in the front of the classrooms. Us lessor students were not given the same amount of attention and encouragement as those students. Over the years, the back of the room students progressed academically towards the front of the class. By the time we graduated, the two students placed in the back of the room were recognized as Valedictorian and Salutatorian., respectively. Both of us lived in the Long & Lowe Public Housing Project in Sheffield, AL.
Mary Mullins, the Valedictorian, graduated from Alabama A&M College and had an outstanding teaching career. I was Salutatorian, and I gained an Architectural Engineering degree from Prairie View A&M College and had an exciting career in the aerospace, manufacturing, and finance industries. My high school senior advisor advised me to “Not go to anybody’s college!” but when I received my engineering degree, said, “I knew he would do it!”
Overcoming negative circumstances became a very normal part of my life. My first job out of college was as a Grounds Systems Engineer for The Boeing Company where in Bay St. Louis, MS. I got to help perform the static test firing of the first stage of the S1C (Moon) Rocket. As the first Black engineer there, you can imagine the challenges, but I quickly learned how to impact the operation, especially from the crafts workers positively. In fact, during my first year, I received a seventeen percent raise, and my boss’s boss apologized for not giving me a better raise.
I was chosen to be a member of the fast-track employees in the first three companies that I worked for after college. My talent and willingness to endure the negative naysayers, (they tried to downplay my contributions.) enabled me to succeed. For example, at McDonnell Douglas Aerospace in St. Louis, MO, I received a ten percent raise when the Nixon Administration dictated that government contractors could only average five percent raises. A fellow worker became very upset with me when I resigned from the company right after receiving the raise saying, “Someone else could have gotten the ten percent raise!” I responded that someone else should have earned that ten percent raise!
The most challenging things that I have had to endure have been in my personal life, but it has resulted in both of my kids becoming exemplary students, having exemplary careers, and raising exemplary grandkids!
It pays to build strong endurance wherewith-all!
–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.