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The John F. Kennedy University Story


Although John F. Kennedy never delivered these words as part of his speech prepared for Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, they would likely have resonated with JFK University's founders:

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

Elected in 1960, Kennedy began his presidency by proposing a New Frontier domestic policy program that promised federal funding for education. Although he served less than three years in office, he gave many speeches filled with references to the value of education for all citizens and the importance of working together to solve problems, to be of service, and to celebrate diversity.

  • Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.
  • Our problems are man-made; therefore, they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.
  • So, let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.

In 1964, with the assassination of America's 35th president weighing heavily on hearts and minds, a small group of educators in the San Francisco Bay area met to discuss the best way to manifest Kennedy's ideals and honor his memory. As JFK had stated:

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.

With the encouragement of area business leaders and public officials, a small group of impassioned residents chose to create a university with the mission to provide new opportunities in higher education for working adults: men and women who, despite family, work, and civic responsibilities, were determined to earn the benefits of advanced education for their future.

John F. Kennedy University opened in Martinez, California, in 1965, with just over 50 students. At the time, no comparable opportunities for lifelong learners existed in the California state educational system.

Prescient in their goal and approach, the founders saw the logic of preparing working adults for new career challenges in the emerging high-technology, knowledge-intensive California economy.

As John F. Kennedy University continues to fulfill and evolve its founding mission, President Kennedy's words still serve as a beacon and guide:

We sail on a new sea because there is knowledge to be gained.