Jeanne D. Kennedy is an important figure in the history of Stanford University and Stanford University Hospital. She is widely known for her role supporting her former husband Donald Kennedy, president emeritus of Stanford University. However, Kennedy is also recognized for her pioneering work as a healthcare advocate as director of Community and Patient Relations at the hospital. Kennedy’s oral history is a fascinating account of her life as the spouse of a faculty member, government official, and university leader and the career she built separately.
After describing her upbringing and rebellious nature, Kennedy recounts meeting Donald Kennedy while attending boarding school, their courtship during her early years at Smith College, and their marriage. Kennedy reminisces about the expectations of married women in the 1950s, the arrival of their two children, and her introduction to academic entertaining.
Kennedy fondly recalls their arrival at Stanford when Donald Kennedy joined the faculty and the warm reception on campus. She describes how she juggled motherhood, volunteering, and her administrative role as a faculty wife while Donald Kennedy rose through the ranks. Her favorite memories centered around creating and hosting unique events.
Kennedy also talks about her work with the Stanford Committee for Art as a museum advocate. She discusses her transition to indexing work for the Stanford Press, then her shift to accounting. She provides details about the unrest on campus during the 1960s, highlighting the varying administrative viewpoints regarding free speech.
Kennedy recalls the culture shock of moving back east when Donald Kennedy became commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration and describes some of the political issues they faced. Kennedy’s work experience expanded greatly during this time through her role as director of Resource Development at the Institute of Medicine. The family returned to Stanford two years later when Donald Kennedy agreed to be provost.
Kennedy remembers the support duties expected of her as the wife of the provost and, later, the president. She talks about the concept of the Stanford family and how she used the Hanna and Hoover houses to deepen the connection between the university and the community, primarily through her preservation efforts and by hosting community-centered activities at the houses. She recounts the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Stanford in 1983.
When the couple’s marriage ended, the public nature of their divorce required careful management. Kennedy talks about how she set aside emotions to focus on her future and maintaining her relationships on campus. Despite personal struggle, Kennedy continued her work at the hospital, and her patient advocacy programs blossomed. She highlights the many programs she established, such as the health library, expanded interpreter services, redesigned spaces, and humor, art, and music programs.
Kennedy ends the interview by describing the happiness she found with Allan Rosenberg after her divorce. She elaborates on two of her favorite accomplishments: the growth of the volunteer corps at the hospital and the construction of the Flora Lamson Hewlett Apartments. Now retired, Kennedy devotes her time to consulting, exploring her genealogy, and writing about favorite recipes. Kennedy considers her Stanford years to be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Jeanne Kennedy, Donald Kennedy, Stanford Historical Society, oral histories, interviews, Lou Henry Hoover House (Stanford, Calif.), Stanford Committee for Art, Paul R. Hanna House (Stanford, Calif.), Stanford Hospital, and Stanford Hospital--Community and Patient Relations
April 30, 2014 - September 2, 2014
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program interviews, 1999-2012