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  Jerome Kenney
  ©David Neff
Jerome P. Kenney '67

ROI on Kellogg MBA figures big in Kenney giving

by Kari Richardson

It's evident that numbers factor heavily into the thinking of seasoned Wall Street professional and finance expert Jerome P. Kenney '67 when you hear him quantify his relationship with his B-school alma mater.

"The value of a Kellogg School education is much more than the cost," Kenney says during a phone interview from his New York office at Merrill Lynch & Co., where he is vice chairman focused on advising major clients. "And I didn't even pay the cost, let alone the value."

Kenney is referring to the fact that an investment in education gives its beneficiary a lifetime of benefits — not only greater earning potential, but also the skills and knowledge that can translate into greater career satisfaction over time, and the feeling that one is making a genuine professional contribution. He also believes that the tuition students pay at many institutions, including the Kellogg School, doesn't actually cover the present-day cost of their education and ignores the remarkable future value of the education.

For Kenney, this complex equation adds up to a mandate to give back to the institutions that have helped him build a satisfying career on Wall Street over nearly four decades. His service to the Kellogg School includes a seat on the Dean's Advisory Board, which challenges him to "help determine how a top graduate school maintains its pre-eminence." Kenney is also a recruiter of students to Merrill Lynch, a frequent host to Dean Dipak C. Jain and Dean Emeritus Donald P. Jacobs at New York gatherings, and a panelist speaker at the annual Day at Kellogg event to introduce prospective students to the school.

"My family had never even owned stocks and I knew very little about Wall Street before business school," Kenney says, adding that it was during his time at Kellogg that the idea for a finance career took shape. "I came to Wall Street competing against the top graduates of all the best schools. And I was just as well-prepared — or better prepared —to succeed as everyone else."

"I feel very strongly about giving back to the community. Our family has always placed a high priority on service, whether measured in time or financial commitment. I have great hope for my generation as we demonstrate our gratitude to those who came before us, and show our support for those who follow." Mark Fuller '83, Principal, William Blair & Co., Chicago  

Kenney began his career in New York as a research analyst at White, Weld & Co. and within four years was managing the firm's entire research department. Not long after, he was entrusted with overseeing the firm's institutional business worldwide.

But Kenney found his biggest career challenge after White, Weld & Co. merged with Merrill Lynch in 1978: to create an institutional business for Merrill Lynch and help the firm go head-to-head with the top competitors in this arena.

"At the time, Merrill Lynch was a big retail firm but not an institutional player," Kenney says. "We were the only retail firm ultimately able to transform itself into a leading institutional firm. People asked why I stayed after the merger. It was because I liked the challenge."

His zeal for taking on challenges ultimately earned him the position as CEO of Merrill's worldwide investment banking and institutional business and a spot on the company's board of directors.

As Kenney approaches the 40th anniversary of his business school graduation in a couple of years, he's zeroing in on yet another goal: His cumulative gifts to the school, including a generous donation to Campaign Northwestern on behalf of the Kellogg School, will reach the significant dollar amount he has set as his giving goal, creating the Jerome P. Kenney Endowed Fund.

These days, Kenney best sums up his relationship with the Kellogg School as a "virtuous circle" — he gives back freely to the institution that helped shape his career, but also benefits from the school in his role as recruiter by snapping up his company's share of promising Kellogg graduates to work at Merrill Lynch.

Put into the mathematical terms he favors, it's evident that both sides of Kenney's life equation borrow from each other to balance out.

"When you graduate," he says, "learning is not over. It is critical to society and to one's personal well-being to maintain an interest in education."

Continue to Betsy Holden '82

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©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University