Inspiring diversity

Kenneth E. Kendall, MBA ’70, PhD ’75.

Kendall with his PhD Project Hall of Fame award.

As a graduate student, Kenneth E. Kendall, MBA ’70, PhD ’75, used his self-taught computer programming skills to help with a grant to study donations at regional blood centers.

He earned his MBA in just one year and made regional blood management the foundation of his doctoral work.

Kendall went on to write his dissertation on regional blood management and became the first PhD student to graduate from the School of Management in what was then the emerging field of management information systems (MIS).

“I thought my work in blood banking would save many lives, but I don’t think that happened,” says Kendall. “I was successful in a different way, though — by using management information systems to save time and money. When I started my research, 33% of the red blood cells expired. When I finished, less than 5% was wasted.”

After graduating, Kendall began teaching full time at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where he met and married his wife Julie, who later earned a PhD as well. The couple has been happily married for 40 years.

Throughout his career, Kendall has made an impressive impact in MIS, workplace diversity and the lives of his students. When he was an associate professor at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, he co-founded the International Conference on Information Systems, the most influential research conference for MIS academics.

He’s also served as president of the Decision Sciences Institute (DSI), a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to researching and teaching decision-making. He was named a fellow of DSI and received the Silver Core from the International Federation for Information Processing. In 2010, Kendall was named Educator of the Year in Information Systems by the Association of Information Technology Professionals.

Today, Kendall is a Distinguished Professor of Management in the Rutgers University School of Business – Camden, where he teaches information technology project management and emerging information technologies. His current research focuses on organizational engagement in developing open-source software.

Kendall has dedicated much of his professional career to the advancement of workplace diversity. In 1996, he began volunteering with the PhD Project, a nonprofit organization established by the KPMG Foundation to address the lack of minority faculty in business schools and increase overall workplace diversity.

Last year, the Kendalls were inducted into the PhD Project Hall of Fame in recognition of their commitment to championing diversity in higher education. They are two of only 21 members in the Hall of Fame, established by the PhD project in 2011 “to recognize a select few who have inspired many.”

Kendall says today’s School of Management students should be open to new ideas as they head into their careers.

“You’ll graduate with expert knowledge about a subject that will help propel your career, but you will need to keep up with fast-breaking innovations,” he says. “This is especially true for information technology. Be a project champion who embraces, rather than fears, change.”

When he’s not in the classroom or writing, Kendall makes it a point to set aside time for the theater and opera. In addition, he spends part of his downtime volunteering with nonprofit theater companies, which has resulted in yearly invitations to parties and the Tony Awards, where the couple mingles with managing directors, artistic directors, playwrights and actors.

“Because Julie and I work together at Rutgers and write articles and books together, we have the ability to work 24/7,” says Kendall. “To avoid overworking, we schedule our fun.”

Written by Kevin Manne