First American’s Donald Kennedy, Former ALTA President Passes Away
|March 27, 2012|
First American Financial Corp., a global provider of title insurance and settlement services for real estate transactions, today announced that its Chairman Emeritus Donald P. Kennedy passed away on March 24 at the age of 93. During his career with First American, Kennedy helped to lead the company’s extraordinary growth from a one-office firm in Santa Ana into a global FORTUNE 500 company and helped introduce many of the technological innovations that transformed the title insurance industry. Kennedy served as ALTA president in 1983-84 and also was named an honorary member of the association.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Don Kennedy,” said Dennis J. Gilmore, chief executive officer for First American. “Don was a true visionary and a man of tremendous integrity who was admired by all those who knew him. While we will greatly miss his wise counsel and quick wit, he leaves behind a legacy of creativity and innovation that will always remain with our company.”
When Kennedy began leading First American’s expansion efforts in 1957, the company’s revenues were less than $1.5 million. By 2006, they exceeded $8 billion. In a spin-off transaction completed in 2010, First American’s data businesses became a separate company known as CoreLogic. First American and CoreLogic are now traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
The grandson of First American’s founder, C.E. Parker, Kennedy served First American for more than 60 years. He is credited with beginning the company’s expansion efforts in 1957 with the acquisition of title companies outside the Santa Ana area. Kennedy’s strategy of allowing the leadership of each First American office to operate as if it was its own company played a key role in driving this expansion and the company’s profitability. First American continued to grow in later decades through international expansion and through the addition of other businesses whose products and services were involved in the real estate transaction process. In 1985, the company began developing and acquiring extensive databases of real property information, and offered products and services using this data.
Parker S. Kennedy, First American’s chairman and Donald Kennedy’s son stated, “When dad started with First American, the company had one office in one county and now it has hundreds of offices throughout the world. He saw the opportunity for growth and worked tirelessly to create a great company. I couldn’t have asked for a better dad and the company couldn’t have had a better leader.”
Donald Kennedy, whose family roots in Orange County date to 1873, attended Santa Ana High School and graduated from Stanford University in 1940. After serving in the Navy during World War II, where he took part in the landings in Southern France, he graduated from the University of Southern California School of Law.
Kennedy joined First American in 1948, when it was known as Orange County Title Company. After passing the bar exam in 1949, he served as the company’s associate counsel for three years, then was appointed vice president of First American in 1951, executive vice president in 1958, president in 1963, and chairman of the board in 1993. He was named chairman emeritus in 2003, a title he maintained after retiring from the board of directors in 2008. Kennedy also served as vice chairman of First American’s principal subsidiary, First American Title Insurance Company. He consistently went to his office at First American’s Santa Ana campus until he was 90 years old.
Kennedy has left an indelible mark not only on First American, but also on the title insurance industry, helping to usher in many of the advancements and practices that are commonplace today. Among his many professional affiliations, Kennedy served as president of both the California Land Title Association and the American Land Title Association, and chaired numerous committees in both organizations.
A lifelong philanthropist, Kennedy’s extensive involvement in community affairs included support of dozens of organizations focused on Orange County and Santa Ana. A past chairman of the Orange County Business Committee for the Arts, Kennedy also served on the boards of South Coast Repertory and the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, among others. When serving on the board at Bowers, he was instrumental in negotiating the museum’s partnerships with the Smithsonian Institution and the British Museum. His support for the museum’s north wing, which was named the Dorothy and Donald Kennedy Wing in 2007, tripled the size of its exhibit space. He served on the board of trustees for Chapman University and was a member of Stanford University’s Athletic Board, as well.
Kennedy also provided key support for the creation of the Chapman University School of Law and was recognized in 1999 with the dedication of the Donald P. Kennedy Hall, a state-of-the-art teaching facility and home of the university’s school of law. That same year he was named “Man of the Century” by Orange Coast Magazine.
An avid life-long golfer, Kennedy scored his first hole-in-one in 1930 at the age of 12, and went on to score eight more over the next seven decades. Kennedy was a member of Stanford University’s 1939 NCAA championship golf team and also was an active member of the Santa Ana Country Club for most of his life. When elected as the club’s president in 1952, he was the youngest person to have served in that capacity.
Kennedy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Dorothy; his son, Parker S. Kennedy; two daughters, Elizabeth Myers and Amy Healey; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
For more information on Kennedy’s life, visit www.firstam.com.