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Jim Kennedy is chairman emeritus and chairman of the James M. Cox Foundation. He is the grandson of former Ohio Governor and presidential candidate James M. Cox, who founded the company in 1898. Kennedy joined Cox in 1972 as a production assistant with its newspaper division and held various positions, including reporter, copy editor, advertising salesman, business manager and executive vice president/general manager. In 1988, Kennedy was named Cox Enterprises’ chairman and chief executive officer. During his tenure, Cox Enterprises has diversified and grown, increasing in annual revenues from $1.88B to $20B.
Kennedy holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Denver. He was inducted into Georgia State University's J. Mack Robinson College of Business Hall of Fame in 2004 and was bestowed an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Colorado State University in 2018 and from Kennesaw State University in 2003. He frequently appears on Georgia Trend’s Most Influential Georgians list and the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Most Influential Atlantans list. The Technology Association of Georgia inducted Kennedy into the organization’s Technology Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Georgia Trend Hall of Fame in 2020.
He served on the Atlanta Committee for Progress and was a leading force behind Atlanta’s successful bid to host the Olympic Games in 1996.
He is a philanthropist who supports a number of focus areas, including education, healthcare and sustainability. Kennedy and his wife Sarah were previously recognized as the Philanthropists of the Year by the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the Association for Fundraising Professionals for their many contributions to the community.
Believing that education can be a key to unlock opportunities, Kennedy has supported learning at all levels. Through a $10M grant to the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, he created the James C. Kennedy Institute for Educational Success to identify innovative and cost-effective means for promoting and sustaining the educational success of vulnerable children. Kennedy’s $2M gift to the University of Georgia supported the Terry College of Business and endowed four professorships to teach new and evolving media. The University of Colorado, Georgia Tech and Georgia State University each received $1M from Kennedy to further education initiatives.
He established the Jim Kennedy Scholarship Fund, a $10M endowment that supports children of Cox employees. The program annually awards 15 $10,000 scholarships, which are renewable for all four years of the recipient’s education.
Kennedy has also supported early childhood education through more than $16M in foundation grants to organizations such as the Atlanta Speech School, Drew Charter School, Reach Out and Read and the Bayou District Foundation. The grants focus on innovative teaching methods for early language and childhood literacy development that are being replicated across the nation.
Kennedy has given Emory University more than $60M through personal and foundation contributions to address Alzheimer’s disease, patient-centered care models and cancer research. He was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2014 and became a vocal supporter for men’s health awareness.
He has also provided more than $2M to further autism research at the Marcus Autism Center. Dedicated to empowering individuals and families in rural areas around health, Kennedy established a comprehensive Health and Wellness Center in partnership with Tallahatchie Co. Memorial Hospital in Charleston, Miss. He also provided $1M to help build Barrett Hospital in Dillon, Mont. and funded a public walking and bike trail around the hospital campus.
Kennedy serves on the board for the PATH Foundation, dedicated to creating an interconnected network of greenway trails throughout the Atlanta region. His personal and foundation contributions to the organization total more than $38M since its establishment in 1991. Kennedy is also one of the largest private donors supporting the Atlanta BeltLine, one of the nation’s largest rails-to-trails redevelopment programs. In 2008, Kennedy donated $1M to the University of Montana to support its Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program endowment. That year, he also established an endowed chair at Mississippi State University focused on wetlands conservation along the Mississippi Flyway. He also endowed a chair in Wildlife Management at Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University.
He has helped establish four university endowed programs in wetlands and waterfowl conservation. In 2014, he endowed Clemson University’s Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation Center and created an endowed chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The same year, he also participated in a land exchange with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The land exchange in Mississippi enabled the public to access the area for outdoor enjoyment and furthered habitat restoration of the Tallahatchie and Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuges. In 2016, he endowed a chair in Wetlands and Waterfowl Conservation at Colorado State University.
Kennedy is a leader in the use of conservation easements as a tool for land protection. Land on his property in Mississippi and South Carolina, as well as all of the land alongside the Ruby River on his property in Montana, are protected by conservation easements.
He is a former president of Wetlands America Trust, Inc. and previously served on the boards of The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited. Through his personal and affiliated foundation giving, Kennedy is the single largest donor to Ducks Unlimited with more than $80M committed to date. He's received multiple recognitions for his commitment to sustainability and conservation of natural resources, including: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Blue-Winged Teal Award, The Trust for Public Land’s Conservation Champion award, Ducks Unlimited’s Conservation Achievement Award and the Georgia Conservancy's Distinguished Conservationist of the Year award. He previously served as Chairman of the Colorado Division of Wildlife Commission and was awarded Sportsman of the Year.
Staying true to his values, Kennedy successfully translated sustainable best practices from his personal life to the company’s business operations. Kennedy launched Cox Conserves, a national sustainability program that seeks to send zero waste to landfill by 2024 and become carbon and water neutral by 2034. Since 2007, the company and its affiliated foundations have invested nearly $140M in sustainability and conservation through operations projects and grants to support environmental nonprofits.
A former competitive cyclist, Kennedy is a past Masters National, Pan American and World Champion in the 3000 meter pursuit. He served as captain of a four-man team that won the Race Across America (RAAM) in 1992, setting a world record. In 1994, the same team finished second, establishing a new American record. Kennedy was also one of five athletes named to the United States Cycling Federation Master's All-American team and was the honorary chairman of the 1993, 1994 and 1995 Bike Tours of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Georgia Chapter. In 1997, he was named the honorary chairman of the Tour de Cure cycling event benefiting the American Diabetes Association.