William E. Kennard landed in the history books by becoming the first African-American chairperson for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Yale Law School graduate served as the FCC’s general counsel from 1993 to 1997 before President Bill Clinton appointed him to the chairman post in 1997.
Kennard was born in 1957 in Los Angeles. He completed his undergraduate studies at Stanford University before entering Yale. Working with the FCC during a time where the digital age was just starting to bloom, Kennard’s time with the organization proved to be fruitful.
Kennard helped push forward the FCC’s e-rate program, which helped almost every classroom and library in the U.S. gain Internet access. Over $6 billion dollars was invested to get 95 percent of the nation’s schools equipped with Internet capabilities; 58,000 libraries also benefited.
Kennard also helped boost phone service in rural areas, especially for Native Americans living on tribal lands. During his time at the FCC, Kennard worked to increase job and ownership opportunities for African-Americans and other people of color. In 2001, he left the FCC to become the managing director of the global asset management firm The Carlyle Group.
Later, Kennard would become the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, the first ambassador to work with the nations under the Lisbon Treaty. President Barack Obama appointed Kennard to the post in 2009, a job he held until this past July.
Kennard has also held a variety of board directorship positions, mostly in the field of telecommunications. Now a noted speaker and well-respected figure in the telecommunications industry, Kennard is listed as one of the keynote speakers for the 9th Annual Convention of the National Association of Black Telecommunications Professionals in Dallas, Texas this April.