David Kennedy – Saying Good-bye to a Visionary

A Man of Vision

David Kennedy. photo courtesy the College Fund

David Kennedy was one of the original partners of the pioneering ad agency Weiden + Kennedy. W+K is based in Portland, Oregon, and is known worldwide for memorable campaigns for Nike, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and many other companies.

But what we want to talk about specifically is David Kennedy’s work with the American Indian College Fund. He was instrumental in connecting Pendleton and the College Fund in a partnership that has raised over 1.5 million dollars for scholarships through the sale of College Fund blankets and the Pendleton endowment.

History with Pendleton

Robert Christnacht, VP of Worldwide sales and former head of Pendleton’s Home division, shared some thoughts about David. According to Bob, “I am not sure of the initial contact with David and PWM, but I came on board 21 years ago and met David in the Fall of 2000. He was the most unassuming person you ever met. He always wore old Levi jeans, a black t-shirt and if he was wearing a jacket it was a hoodie. The only time I saw him in a suit was in NYC at the College Funds 30th Anniversary Gala.

“From what I understand, he grew up in Montana and the Dakotas. His dad was roughneck, so they bounced around the oil and gas fields and David was exposed to a lot of the Plains tribes. 

“David always had ideas for designs and artists for us to collaborate with. When he came to the office to work on designs, he brought several creatives with him. It was clear that he was a mentor who gave the people he worked with opportunities for creative ownership.

Bunky Echo-Hawk and David Kennedy, Kennedy is wrapped in "Patheay," the artist's blanket designed for the COllege Fund. Photo courtesy the College Fund

“He brought Kevin Red Star, Ben Night Horse Campbell, and Bunky Echo Hawk to our attention. We’re grateful for the decades we were able to work with him, and we will miss him.”

History with the College Fund

We also spoke with Dina Horwedel, who is the Director of Public Education at the American Indian College Fund, who told us that David was “such a wonderful, welcoming man with a great sense of humor.” According to Dina, “David knew Native people as part of his life growing up in Oklahoma and Montana. His father’s work meant that the family was uprooted frequently, and the Native American community welcomed him and made him feel at home.

“David worked with the blanket program at Pendleton from its earliest inception. It’s reported that when he received a letter accepting W+K’s offer of fundraising help, he ran down the hall yelling ‘Hey Hey, the American Indian College Fund wants us!’ Some of the earlier blankets were designed by David Kennedy and Patti Orlando. He directly oversaw the campaigns and was always part of every PSA brainstorming question. He sat on board of trustees, and was an emeritus trustee. He came to almost every board meeting until his health became an impediment.

“David was not only being true to Native voices, but he brought into his shop interns and employees from the Native world. His work on the latest visibility campaign – which launched on October 10th with a huge online concert – premiered the last PSA he worked on with the Fund. He passed away the same day we launched the campaign – that is poetic.

“David was instrumental with getting Native Artists to work with the blanket designs. He created a family of all the people he helped and cared about. He left us with a lot to aspire to. He was a one of a kind person and we are all going to miss him at the College Fund.”

The last PSA David worked on can be viewed here: This is Indian Country