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Chris Kennedy

Chris Kennedy

Chair, UI trustees | 2009-15

No one told Chris Kennedy there'd be days like this.

“My first board meeting at the University of Illinois occurred in Champaign-Urbana, and it drew a lot of attention, as an almost entirely new board was being empaneled," the former board of trustees chair still vividly remembers eight years later.

"We were taking a vote to embrace reforms as a result of the Category I scandal. The governor was going to attend, we were accepting resignations from high-ranking administrators, and we needed to approve an operating budget and confirm all academic appointments.

“I sat where I was told to, which thankfully was next to Michele Thompson, the longtime secretary of the board of trustees and the Rock of Gibraltar for the university.

“At 9 a.m., she suggested I begin the meeting. I did not.

“At 9:05 a.m., she put her hand on my mic and suggested gently that I begin.

“I turned to her and said, ‘I’ll start as soon as the press leaves.’ There was a riser set up with six to 10 TV cameras and a half-dozen or more print reporters. I had been on lots of not-for-profit boards and a few corporate boards, and I had never been at a meeting that was open to the public, and certainly not one that was open to the press, so I expected them to leave.

“Michele responded, ‘They’re not leaving. They’re never leaving. They’ll be here the whole time.’

“And that was my introduction to the University of Illinois.”