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Topics In the News
Kevin Jennings Tapped to Lead Arcus Foundation
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 07/14/12
Last updated on: 07/14/12
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Kevin Jennings.

Kevin Jennings has been named Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation, a leading foundation devoted to advancing glbtq rights and conservation issues. Founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educational Network (GLSEN) and a former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education and Director of the Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools, Jennings is currently CEO of Be the Change, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the problem of economic inequality. Jennings will join the Michigan-based Arcus Foundation in September 2012.

The Arcus Foundation supports organizations worldwide working to advance equality across the spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities, and also funds global efforts to protect and conserve the world's great apes.

The Arcus Foundation was founded in 2000 by architect and philanthropist Jon Stryker, heir to the Stryker Corporation medical supply company fortune. The foundation has supported the Jane Goodall Institute, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, and the ACLU Gay & Lesbian Rights Project, as well as many other glbtq-rights organizations. In January 2011, the Foundation made a $23 million grant to establish the Arcus Center for Social Justice at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

In announcing Jennings' appointment, Stryker said, "Kevin brings an impressive set of experiences, skills and accomplishments that are perfectly suited to our goals and complemented by a record of infectious leadership. His qualifications and lifelong commitment to the work and values that are at the core of Arcus make him a natural and compelling choice."

Jennings said, "I have had tremendous exposure to and admiration for the Arcus Foundation's work since its founding twelve years ago. I could not be more excited about joining the team and helping to advance the Foundation's ambitions for justice and humanity, which map so closely to my own."

Jennings came to national prominence as founder of the country's first Gay-Straight Alliance in 1988 and of GLSEN in 1990.

In May 2009, Jennings joined the Obama administration as Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education and director of the Office of Safe & Drug-Free Schools. The much-deserved appointment sparked a series of hysterical and libelous attacks on him by conservative activists, abetted by irresponsible reporting from the Washington Times and the Fox News Network.

Despite the viciousness of the attacks, Jennings was buoyed by the support he received from President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan.

His partner told him, "You've spent your whole life fighting bullying. You're not going to give in to bullies now." So, rather than resigning in the face of the vicious attacks, Jennings pressed on with ambitious plans to help prevent bullying in the schools.

The urgency of this need was underlined in the fall of 2009 when a number of suicides by gay youth who had been bullied came to light. In response, he helped convene the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, headlined by the President and First Lady. He also worked with the national association of school bus drivers to help train drivers to prevent bullying on school buses and with advising local school boards on ways to provide safe schools for all students.

Jennings left the Department of Education in 2011 to lead the Be the Change organization and in order to spend more time with his partner, Jeff Davis, in New York City. In his new position, he will be able to work from the Arcus Foundation's offices in New York.

Jennings has received numerous awards, including the Human and Civil Rights Award of the National Education Association, the Distinguished Service Award of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Diversity Leadership Award of the National Association of Independent Schools.

In the video below, Jennings speaks at the 2011 GLSEN Respect conference about creating change.

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