JFK University was founded in honor of President John F. Kennedy’s dedication to lifelong learning, service, and diversity. 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. They knew that what they had in mind would be a challenge, but they also knew that:

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 President Kennedy’s enduring words to inspire them, and with the encouragement of area business leaders and public officials, the group chose to create a university whose unique mission would be 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. Today, as society, technology, and the workforce continue to evolve, John F. Kennedy University also continues to evolve in its expression of its founding mission. As the University changes and grows, President Kennedy’s words continue to serve as a beacon and guide:

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

With the pursuit of knowledge among all Americans as a top priority, John F. Kennedy began his presidency in 1960 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, be of service, and celebrate diversity. These are the values John F. Kennedy University is built upon.

Our History

John F. Kennedy University has been an innovative educational institution in the San Francisco Bay Area since it opened in 1965 in Martinez, California. Since then, the University’s mission has been to provide new opportunities in higher education for working men and women who have dedicated themselves to improving both their own futures and the wellbeing of their families, communities, and the world.

Since opening its doors in Martinez, the University has relocated several times, moving first to Orinda before finally, in 2004, opening a permanent campus in Pleasant Hill, easily accessible to the 680 freeway. The University also now has a second campus in San Jose.

In addition to shifting and expanding its physical locations over the years, the University has grown its student body and alumni community, continued cultivating its whole-person approach to education, and broadened its range of innovative programs and services. Today, JFK University’s College of Business and Professional Studies, College of Psychology, College of Law, and Continuing Education Department offer more than 20 certificate and degree programs at the University’s two Bay Area locations and online. The University serves students who study for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees and honors more than 15,000 alumni who apply their education locally and around the world.

A pioneer in the commitment to lifelong learning for adults in the Bay Area, John F. Kennedy University continues to occupy a leading edge in innovation in higher education, and has created programs in new fields such as Creative Strategy, Trauma Studies, Sport Psychology, and Holistic Health. The University has also carved itself a niche in established fields such as Management, Psychology, and the Law by offering an education rooted in practice, taught by seasoned professionals, and offered on unique schedules specifically designed to adjust to the lives of busy, experienced adults and lifelong learners. The latest development in this regard has been the University’s implementation of a new, self-paced online learning format, explicitly designed to help working students make the most of their time.

In addition to serving a unique and diverse student body, service to the community also remains a significant component of John F. Kennedy University’s mission. Each year the University touches the lives of more than 30,000 people in Bay Area communities through outreach centers and a variety of public programs. These programs include law clinics that provide free legal services to low-income clients, the Sport Psychology program’s LEAP Program that trains underserved Bay Area youth in mental skills, the VALOR Center’s Town Hall Meetings that offer an educational community forum to veterans and non-veterans alike, and a variety of lectures and workshops open to the public. At JFK, learning and service to the community work in tandem, and we pride ourselves on being an institution that serves not just our students, but the community at large.

Shared Governance

John F. Kennedy University is committed to shared governance, believing it to be a fundamental ingredient of a healthy academic institution and an essential right and responsibility of a scholarly community. John F. Kennedy University agrees with the American Association of University Professors’ recognition that shared governance allows a University to benefit from the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of its Faculty. In keeping with this belief, our governance structure includes an elected Faculty governance body, the Faculty Senate, through which Faculty and administrators work together to promote the University’s mission.

John F. Kennedy University is committed to supporting:

  • the Faculty’s fundamental role in making academic decisions,
  • the protection of legitimate Faculty aspirations,
  • the existence of clear and varied channels of communication that are understood by all constituents,
  • the implementation and preservation of academic standards, and
  • the promotion of the welfare of the students.

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