Richard Lenny ’77

Richard Lenny

Richard Lenny ’77

Chairman, Conagra Brands Inc.
Former Chairman and CEO, The Hershey Company

When Richard Lenny '77 became the chairman and CEO of the Hershey Company in 2001, he was the first hire from outside the company to take its helm in Hershey’s 108-year history.

“The board brought an outsider in for a reason. And while I knew I needed to take the company in a different direction, I also knew I had to do it with the full support and backing of the employees,” recalls Lenny, who had already served in leadership roles at Kraft Foods, Pillsbury North America and Nabisco Biscuit Company. “No one knew me, they didn’t know what to expect, but there was a willingness for people to engage, to create the journey together. I would have to say a lot of that had to do with the very early days seeing it play out at Kellogg.”

While a student, Lenny was struck by the collaborative atmosphere that Kellogg imprinted on its community. “We all worked hard and wanted to do well and get a good job, but there weren’t the 'sharp elbows' that at the time seemed to be indicative of other business schools,” he says. “Now when one talks about a cooperative and collaborative environment it sounds very commonplace, but it wasn’t always commonplace, and this has been one of Kellogg’s competitive advantages for many decades.”

Lenny’s admiration and gratitude toward Kellogg made chairing the Campaign Steering Committee a natural fit. He also discovered that in 2010, the committee, like Hershey’s, needed to move in a new direction. “Kellogg had never had a capital campaign and the school never looked toward its alumni for strong financial support,” he explains.

True to the collaborative nature he enthusiastically adopted at Kellogg, Lenny is quick to credit others for the Campaign Steering Committee’s success, namely W. James Farrell, with whom he initially co-chaired the committee, and Dean Sally Blount '92.

“Sally is a force of nature and she has a great balance of IQ and EQ,” says Lenny. “Obviously she’s exceedingly smart and has a great strategic mind, but she also knows how to get things executed. If Sally were running a business, one would say she has a great commercial orientation.”

What started as a labor of love for Lenny and Farrell has evolved into a wildly successful campaign that helped fund Dean Blount’s seven-year plan, which culminated in the unveiling of Kellogg’s flagship Global Hub.

Looking ahead, Lenny remains firmly committed to Kellogg’s future via his leadership of the Campaign Steering Committee and by serving on the Global Advisory Board. He also serves as chairman of the board at IRI, the leading market research company.

Lenny sees the collaboration trend he first witnessed at Kellogg only increasing throughout the business world. “We are such an interconnected workforce today,” he says. “Years ago, people joined companies because they wanted to work at that company. Now, people want to join a community.”