ADA — Look at every major achievement or event at East Central University over the last 15 years and it's certain Harrel Kennedy was there, probably in the background, but playing a major role and ensuring a successful outcome.

Kennedy, ECU's vice president for institutional advancement since 1990, retired on Jan. 1 or, as he prefers, entered a state of transition after a career in both public and higher education.

Karen Hudson, former director of alumni relations at ECU, has been named acting vice president of institutional advancement.

"I was a utility player," Kennedy said of his career, "whatever they needed me to do. I wasn't educated enough to be an expert at any one

thing, but I could play a lot of positions."

He has been involved in about every aspect of education but fiscal affairs, he said.

"My philosophy of administration is very simple," he said. "Administrators are in schools to help teachers teach and students learn. If you're doing something else, it probably isn't helping the cause of education."

At ECU he was responsible for coordinating development activities between the university and the ECU Foundation Inc., as well as supervising alumni and government relations, placement and personnel, public information and university relations, campus safety and Affirmative Action.

He also was the campus Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer and Ethics Commission liaison. He participated in numerous legislative activities and worked with public school systems to enlist their support.

"Everything I've done has just been working with people," he said.

As an assistant to Dr. Bill Cole, president of ECU, he worked on special assignments and projects. Kennedy has worked with Cole four times over a 35-year span beginning in 1971 when both were faculty members employed at El Reno Junior College, now Redlands Community College, and more recently, 15 years at ECU.

"Harrel is one of the most talented people with whom I have ever worked," Cole said. "He has exceptional insights. He is the type of colleague who attempts to consider all of the ramifications before actions are implemented. His support and encouragement have been invaluable to me for over three decades, both as a co-worker and friend."

One of Kennedy's responsibilities was to raise money through capital campaigns, endowments or gifts that would help the university in any number of ways.

He directed the university's first capital campaign from 1992 to 1995 that sought to raise $1.2 million, with an additional $550,000 challenge goal, for a total of $1.75 million.

"That amount seemed unattainable," he recalled. "We found a lot of very generous donors and uncovered new support from outside Ada, basically.

We became more cognizant of our alumni and that caused us to raise our sights and realize our potential. We far exceeded our goal."

Kennedy said most of the actual solicitation was done by Cole and Dr. James Thomas, former executive director of the ECU Foundation Inc. The campaign raised money to enhance the former library, endow scholarships and aid academics, and to renovate facilities.

"None of us knew anything about raising that kind of money," he added. "We developed an understanding that people are not giving something to us - they are helping students. We asked them to help students."

Giving money to help students achieve in their lives makes the donors feel good about what they are doing, helping people, Kennedy said.

He also coordinated a successful capital campaign between 2000 and 2005 and was instrumental in helping secure approximately $16 million for endowments, special projects and gifts for the ECU Foundation Inc. during his time at ECU.

What the former vice president enjoyed most, however, was coordinating or assisting with special events, beginning with Cole's inauguration as ECU president in 1990.

He helped plan the dedication of the new Linscheid Library on Oct. 23, 1997, which was a re-enactment of the Oct. 23, 1949, dedication of the original library, as well as dedication ceremonies for the Frank Crabtree Honor Plaza, the University Center, and the Sterling Williams Foundation and Alumni Center, which preserved the President's House, the former home of ECU presidents.

He did not enjoy, however, the dedication of the Physical and Environmental Sciences Center in 1990.

"We planned an outdoor event in September," he said. "It had to be at least 120 degrees. We had 12 or 13 speakers and no one chose to abbreviate their speech. It was an unforgettable event, to say the least. We learned our lesson from that."

The carefully planned groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 1 for the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center became a bit of a challenge because of heavy rain.

"We had a sort of backup plan but nobody thought we'd have to use it," Kennedy said. The ceremony was moved inside and officials symbolically turned "soil" with gold shovels on the stage of the Dorothy Summers Theatre.

He also was involved with hosting the 1993 NAIA national championship football game at ECU's Norris Field which the ECU Tigers won. "We had a lot of fun with that," he said.

Kennedy unexpectedly became the university's Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer.

"But I really developed a passion for that," he said. "We've always tried to solve those kinds of problems without the force of law being the reason. It was about getting people what they need and helping them achieve their maximum potential. Dr. Charlie Jones and Dwain West were always very helpful. They helped me see another side and develop an understanding of what some people face."

Several elevators were installed on the campus and a traversing sidewalk was added on a hillside during his 15 years in that role.

Kennedy has been a member of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education's District IV Board of Directors since 1993 and received the District IV Distinguished Achievement Award in 2003.

A native of Wetumka, he came to ECU as a sophomore to major in history.

"Miss Hornbeak invited me not to be a history major," he said, recalling the legendary ECU history professor. "She was an excellent teacher but I was not an excellent student."

He earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Oklahoma in 1964 and began teaching in Yukon. He received a master of education degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1968 and now is working to complete a doctor of philosophy degree in education at OU.

Kennedy twice was a counselor at Yukon High School and taught five years at Yukon Mid-High School. He was assistant registrar and director of admissions for two years and registrar for two more years at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. At El Reno Junior College he was student services director and counselor, dean of students and vice president for instruction and student affairs. He was the college's interim president in 1989-90 after its president, Dr. Bill Cole, became president of ECU.

He is married to Dr. Rebecca Kennedy, former director of public information and university relations at ECU and now vice president of academic affairs at Seminole State College. He has a son, Jerry; daughter-in-law, Christy; two grandchildren, Carson and Conner; and stepdaughters Carrie and Beth.

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