JERSEY CITY, N.J. | New Jersey City University (NJCU) has announced that Kathryn and Kenneth Chenault have gifted $100,000 to the university to establish an endowed scholarship fund. It is among the largest gifts from an honorary degree recipient in the institution’s history. Mr. Chenault, the chairman and a managing director of the venture capital firm General Catalyst, and former chairman and CEO of American Express, was awarded an honorary doctorate degree on June 15, 2021 during NJCU’s Commencement exercises that honored graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 during a fully in-person ceremony.
The annual scholarship, expected to first be awarded in 2023, will support the educational needs of a first-generation student who demonstrates both financial need and active participation and leadership in community service. First-generation students comprise 54 percent of the institution’s undergraduate population.
“Education is a pathway to success. Kathy and I are thrilled to establish a scholarship fund for students who are the first in their family to go to college,” said Kenneth Chenault, ‘21 Hon. “NJCU is not just committed to educating its students; it is committed to the families of its students, nourishing souls, and lifting communities.”
NJCU President Sue Henderson said: “I am so grateful to the Chenaults for their generous support of our university and our long-standing mission as an institution dedicated to educating all the students who come to its doors. A gift of this magnitude truly comes from the heart and will make a significant, lasting impact in the social mobility and lives of our first-generation college students. Their success is our success, and today I am proud to say the Chenaults have made a permanent investment in the future of those students.”
Peter Hernandez, the Chairman of the NJCU Foundation Board of Directors, added: “I am grateful to the Chenaults for their generosity towards our students and support of the university and the foundation board’s mission.”
At General Catalyst, Mr. Chenault focuses on investing in fast-growing companies that have the potential to become large, fundamental institutions. He also provides invaluable guidance to portfolio companies, particularly to those with an eye towards global markets and responsible innovation, as they scale their teams and products. As chairman, Chenault leverages his renowned leadership abilities and experience to continue to evolve General Catalyst into a formidable and enduring firm.
Prior to joining General Catalyst, Mr. Chenault was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of American Express Company, a position he held from 2001 to 2018. He joined American Express in 1981 as Director of Strategic Planning and served subsequently in a number of increasingly senior positions, including Vice Chairman and President and Chief Operating Officer, until his appointment as CEO. Under his leadership, American Express built one of the world’s largest customer loyalty programs – Membership Rewards – and earned global recognition as a leader in customer service. Upon Chenault’s retirement from American Express, Warren Buffett, the company’s largest shareholder stated, “Ken's been the gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against.”
Mr. Chenault is recognized as one of the business world’s experts on brands and brand management. He has been honored by multiple publications including Fortune Magazine, which named him as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in its inaugural list in 2014 and, most recently, in 2021.
Mr. Chenault serves on the boards of Airbnb, Berkshire Hathaway, Chief, Guild Education, and the Harvard Corporation. He is a co-founder of OneTen, a coalition of leading executives coming together to upskill, hire and advance one million Black Americans over the next 10 years into family-sustaining jobs with opportunities for advancement.
Mr. Chenault serves on the Board of Governors of the NCAA, which helps set the future direction for college sports. Additionally, Mr. Chenault serves on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution’s Advisory Council for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Human Centered Artificial Intelligence Institute Advisory Council at Stanford University. He also serves on the board of trustees for NYU Langone Health.
New Jersey City University is an institution of higher learning with an audacious goal: the development of our students, our city, our communities, our state, and the world beyond. We are a game-changing force for our students and their families. Whether our students are enrolled in one of our 50 undergraduate, 30 graduate or three doctoral programs, NJCU provides an affordable, diverse environment, and an exceptionally supportive faculty—all of which prepares them to be critical thinkers in a global landscape.
We’re also changing the game for our city, our communities, and our state. As the educational anchor institution in Jersey City, we’ve established partnerships to ensure the area’s growth directly benefits our students and community members. We seek to improve the lives of everyone in the Garden State, whether creating a home for the arts, bringing educational programs to K-12 students, offering bachelor’s degrees in partnership with community colleges, or providing professional development opportunities for adults.
At NJCU, we’re not just educating minds, we’re nourishing souls and lifting communities. We’re changing the game.