January 20, 2017
Guin Robinson and Tim Parker January 20, 2017 | Kay Jenkins

With five children and a job, Lucy Kennedy had not considered attending college until one serendipitous day over three decades ago.

“I was working in a gift shop, and my co-worker was going to UAB and studying public relations. One day she left her books, and I decided to look through them and found what I read quite interesting. At that time, I thought women could only go to school to be a teacher, nurse or secretary. The diversity in public relations really appealed to me and I thought it would be a good fit for my skills,” said Kennedy.

Shortly afterwards, she got in touch with Dr. John Wittig, director of the public relations program in the Department of Communication Studies at UAB, which turned out to be a great fit for her. Early morning classes held at 6:00 a.m. allowed Kennedy to balance work and family while earning her degree. Kennedy also chose the College’s public relations program because of its emphasis on experiential learning. She recognized the importance of supplementing her educational experience with developing skills that could lead to a job.

“The PR program in the College was tremendously helpful in identifying internships,” she said. “UAB is so connected to the community and in that way helps make inroads to many jobs.”

Finding that first job out of college can be quite a daunting task to some graduates, but Lucy had built strong community relationships during her time at UAB, and with a phone call landed her first job. “It’s all about who you know and timing,” said Kennedy. “My first job was running the United Way campaign at Children’s [Hospital]. It was the most perfect PR job in the world.”


Although a perfect fit for Kennedy’s training as a PR practitioner, it was a temporary position, and Lucy found herself looking for another job after the campaign. Returning to her network, she secured a position with Birmingham’s hallmark publishing firm, Southern Progress. “I got a job as a copy editor,” said Kennedy. “It felt just like taking one of Dr. Wittig’s grammar tests.”

With a dictionary in hand and Wittig’s voice in her mind, Kennedy applied everything she had learned in her coursework to the national magazines the company published. In time, Children’s of Alabama started its Foundation, and Kennedy—returning to her PR roots—was hired as the Donor Relations Manager. She spent the remainder of her career at the Foundation helping individuals align their passions and philanthropy.

Ever Faithful, Ever Loyal

In time, Lucy was able to connect her passion for PR and her heart for philanthropy with a gift to UAB. Her respect for faculty like Dr. Wittig and her belief in UAB’s students and larger community was the catalyst to her establishing the Dr. John Wittig Scholarship Public Relations Alumni Endowed Scholarship in 2006. Her support enables the College to provide scholarships to our most promising students, especially those returning to school while balancing work and families. It also supports deserving students majoring in public relations. Kennedy has also laid the foundation for the first support fund for graduate students pursuing a Masters of Arts in Communication Management with the creation of the Communication Studies Graduate Student Support Fund.

Kennedy understands the importance of financial support for students attending college in today’s economic climate. “Traditionally, institutions of higher learning encouraged financial support from its graduates,” she said. “As a result, heavily endowed schools have resources to offer a good education and good scholarships to prospective students. Scholarships are a big incentive. Getting a good education takes a lot of time, hard work and money.”

When asked what moved her to provide financial support, Kennedy simply said,” I can, so I should. So many who are just starting their careers can’t give as much as they would like. Large gifts are wonderful, but small gifts are gratefully received. Small donations can together become gifts that make a big difference.”

Lucy Kennedy has made a big difference in the Department of Communication Studies. The department has seen significant growth recently and is currently home to over 300 undergraduate students and 25 graduate students, many of which could not achieve their educational and career goals without financial support from generous donors like Kennedy.

“UAB is growing right before our eyes,” said Kennedy. “We can support in our own small way by contributing.”