Orange County Business Journal

First American's Donald Kennedy Passes Away

Mark Mueller Monday, March 26, 2012

Donald Kennedy, chairman emeritus of Santa Ana-based title insurance company First American Financial Corp., passed away on Saturday. He was 93.

Kennedy joined First American in 1948 when it was known as Orange County Title, and helped the company grow from a one-office firm in Santa Ana into the county’s largest publicly-traded real estate company, and one of its largest employers.

First American now counts a market value of $1.7 billion, while sister company CoreLogic Inc., which was spun off from the title insurance business in 2010, counts a value of about $1.8 billion.

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.

“Run it like it’s your own company,” Kennedy would say to new managers.

“We don’t just hire for the job," Kennedy said in a 2007 Business Journal profile. “You hire the best, and let them grow.”

His other hiring advice: don’t hire anyone you wouldn’t want to invite over for dinner.

Kennedy was named president of First American in 1963, chairman in 1993, and chairman emeritus in 2003.

“When Dad started with First American, the company had one office in one county and now it has hundreds of offices throughout the world,” said Parker Kennedy, First American’s chairman and Donald Kennedy’s son. “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 was a past chairman of the Orange County Business Committee for the Arts, and also served on the boards of South Coast Repertory and the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, among others.

He also served on the board of trustees for Chapman University and was a member of Stanford University’s Athletic Board. Kennedy was a member of Stanford University's 1939 NCAA champion golf team, and played into his late 80’s.

He “shot his age so many times he stopped counting,” the company said.