Photo by John Abbott Photography
Raised in the conservative bastion of Salt Lake City, and still athletic at 54 (he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro this year), Gary Kennedy might not look like a national leader in diversity. But, true to his credo, Kennedy defies stereotypes. For decades, Kennedy stressed the business and moral justifications for a diverse legal workforce. In 2009, he was recognized for his efforts, and in a big way!
Kennedy and his legal department have earned MCCA’s Employer of Choice award for the South/Southwest region, the Texas Minority Counsel Program’s Corporate Counsel of the Year Award, Fort Worth Business Press Power Attorney Award, the Diversity Initiative Achievement Award from the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, and the Allies for Justice Award from the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Bar Association. He adds these honors to those already on his mantel, including the 2008 Corporate Diversity Award from the Dallas Hispanic National Bar Association, the 2003 and 2007 Dallas Business Journal Best Corporate Counsel Award, and the 2008 Texas General Counsel Forum Magna Stella Award.
Kennedy has served as the senior vice president and general counsel of American Airlines since 2003, but started his career as an attorney for the company in 1984, instilling his values from day one. “I view diversity in an extremely broad context,” he explains. “Religion, geography, age, gender, sexual orientation, race; they are all important. Growing up, I joked that I was one of five Catholics in Utah. It affected my view on diversity because I was a minority in an overwhelmingly Mormon community.”
He is quick to highlight his team’s role in these accolades. “I think the awards are representative of our legal work. We have a great legal department with a strong emphasis on diversity and pro bono activities. It is mandatory that all our attorneys dedicate some time to those without the means to afford legal representation.”
“Gary is a general counsel who is not only making an impact in his department, but throughout the legal community as a whole,” shares Michelle Peak, a senior attorney in American Airlines’ legal department and a diversity leader in her own right. “He sits on several boards that make a difference in a number of communities. He is instilling his idea of inclusion to everyone. Being a diverse attorney, that makes me feel comfortable, and it adds value to the work we do.”
It is Kennedy’s hope that by stressing diversity at a local level, a corporate level, and at the firm level, diversity will be expedited.
He has served as a mentor in the mentorship program established between American Airlines and Texas Wesleyan School of Law. And in his spare time, he serves as a director of MCCA, and one of the founders of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.
Kennedy continues to be an innovator and advocate waiting for diversity to become the zeitgeist of this age. Until then, he will keep working on promoting diversity wherever he can.
2009 Employer of Choice Award Winners
2009 Sager Award Winners
Vinson & Elkins
Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione LLP
Littler Mendelson P.C.
Dewey & LeBoeuf
From the November/December 2009 issue of Diversity & The Bar®