Joseph Kender Jr. '87
As the son of a Lehigh professor, Joseph P. Kender Jr. ’87 grew up going to football games at Taylor Stadium, went on to earn his undergraduate and M.B.A. degrees here, and began his professional career in Lehigh’s development office. Now, he is coming home as the university’s new vice president for advancement.
Kender’s first day in his new role will be Jan. 14. He was selected following a targeted search led by Lehigh President Alice P. Gast.
For the past three years, Kender, the son of former Lehigh education professor Joseph P. Kender, has been vice president for development and alumni relations at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. There, he launched the $150 million capital campaign called “With Faith and Strength to Dare: The Campaign for Saint Joseph’s University,” which had raised $90 million by October.
“Joe brings a deep understanding of the varied and complex aspects of advancement, and he will be an engaging and energetic advocate for Lehigh,” Gast says. “His enthusiasm for Lehigh is contagious, and his love for this great institution is obvious. His experience in the most crucial areas of the advancement field—annual giving, campaigns, major gifts, and managing people and programs—makes him the right person to lead Lehigh to the next level.”
Kender got his start in the university advancement world at Lehigh in 1988, and over the next eight years, rose to the position of Lehigh’s annual fund director. He then worked in various high-level positions in the Georgetown University Office of Alumni and University Relations in Washington, D.C., for eight years. During his time at Georgetown, Kender served as manager for the university’s $1 billion campaign, and also helped Georgetown to achieve a nearly 300 percent growth rate in annual cash receipts.
"Joe Kender Jr. is uniquely qualified to lead Lehigh University's advancement efforts," says Daniel E. Smith '71, chairman of the Lehigh board of trustees. "He is passionate about Lehigh and its mission, and given his long association with the university, he understands what makes this great institution so special. Equally as important, Joe brings a proven track record in leading successful campaigns at prestigious universities. I am confident that Joe will provide outstanding leadership for Lehigh's advancement initiatives."
"It's called development for a reason"
From birth, Kender seemed destined for a life in higher education. “Some of my earliest memories were at Taylor Stadium watching football games as well as in my father’s office in Warren Square, before the College of Ed moved to the Mountaintop Campus,” Kender recalls.
His mother, Margaret, was vice president for student affairs at nearby DeSales University, “so I come from a family that you could say was somewhat steeped in higher education,” he adds. “It’s funny how conversations around the dinner table influence what you do.”
Kender received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Lehigh in 1987 and earned his master’s degree in business administration in 1993, while working in Lehigh’s development office. He started his professional advancement career as an assistant director for corporate and foundation relations at Lehigh in January 1988. In July 1990, he was named a major gifts officer and regional campaign manager, and four years later, assumed the role of annual fund director.
Kender says he decided to make his career in development when he came to understand the crucial role it plays in making college accessible to students who might not otherwise have the money to attend, as well as in attracting and keeping the best and brightest faculty members.
“It’s called development for a reason. It’s not called fundraising,” Kender says. “Because when we’re doing our jobs well, we’re working hand-in-hand with the academic leadership and the board in advancing the core mission, the core strategies, the core components of the university. It’s an essential role that we play in the future development of the institution.”
After learning the ropes at Lehigh, Kender moved to Georgetown as annual fund director in October 1996. “Once I realized that this was going to be my profession, I just had a feeling that I needed to prove something, that I could do this at another institution,” he says.
He was promoted to assistant vice president for annual and regional campaigns in July 1998; to assistant vice president for development in July 2000; and to associate vice president for development in July 2002.
In 1999, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) gave Kender its Rising Star Award for District II, the organization’s largest district.
In addition to managing the $1 billion campaign at Georgetown, Kender coordinated fundraising among three campuses (the main campus, the law center, and the medical center) and in his final year there, simultaneously served as interim associate vice president for medical center development. In that role, he led Georgetown to record levels of fundraising for the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the overall research program.
As the Georgetown campaign neared the end, the opportunity arose to move to the vice president for development post at Saint Joseph’s. Kender hails Saint Joseph’s President Timothy R. Lannon, S.J., as “a visionary,” and adds: “In just the past three years, you can see measureable strides Saint Joe’s has made, and it’s been great to be part of that.”
Kender says the decision to leave Saint Joseph’s was difficult. “If it weren’t Lehigh at this moment in time, I wouldn’t be leaving. It’s really that simple,” he says.
Gast thanked Kathryn Humphreys, assistant vice president of corporate and foundation relations and career services, for her leadership while serving as interim vice president of advancement.
“Kathryn and our dedicated advancement team have kept us on track and moving forward these past months,” Gast says. “It is a credit to their professionalism, and their commitment to their department and to Lehigh University.”
Kender succeeds Bonnie Devlin, who resigned in September.
As someone with proven leadership skills who has earned a reputation as a team builder who brings out the best in his staff, Kender can lead Lehigh’s advancement group to even greater heights, Gast says.
“Joe understands the academic mission that drives all that we do, and I am confident that he will be a critical and collaborative partner in the months and years to come," says Paul Brown, dean of Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics and a member of the search advisory group that aided Gast in the process. “His extensive experience as a professional in the advancement field, together with holding two Lehigh degrees, makes Joe a great asset and addition to the leadership team.”
Supporting the university’s academic mission is what it’s really all about, Kender says.
“I look at myself as an educator—not in the direct sense that a faculty member might be, but certainly in an indirect sense,” he says. “Paul Franz (the late vice president emeritus for development and university relations at Lehigh) said this a long time ago: When we’re successful, we’re conduits—building relationships between the donor and the institution.
“When it’s all said and done, a donor wants to engage in the life of the university and to interact with the faculty member, dean or director who is running the program that they're passionate about. Our job is to know what those programs are and to make those connections happen.”
Kender and his wife, Elizabeth, have two children: Gordon, 13, and Julia, 9.