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Parker Kennedy: Ensuring Future of Chapman Law

Parker Kennedy is continuing his family’s legacy at Chapman University.

He has chaired the board of trustees for the last three years at the Orange-based school and last year donated $15 million to the Fowler School of Law in August, among the larger gifts in the school’s history.

The gift builds on the work of his late father, Donald Kennedy, a large backer of the university and namesake of the Donald P. Kennedy Hall building housing the law school.
“I don’t make a lot of donations of that size, but I’m excited about Chapman and love the school,” Kennedy told the Business Journal.

His donation is also a major boost to Chapman’s Inspire campaign, which so far has raised $370 million toward its $500 million goal, according to the school’s top officials.

Outside of Chapman, Kennedy serves on other various nonprofit boards such as the Bowers Museum and The Boy Scouts of America.

He additionally has made contributions to Santa Ana-based nonprofit The Wooden Floor, a dance studio that helps underserved kids achieve a higher education.

Kennedy’s philanthropic efforts earned him the nod as the Business Journal’s Businessperson of the Year for the education sector.

Involvement

Those that work closely with Kennedy say that he is involved on campus and takes a genuine interest in the students.

“He knows their names and wants to make sure that they’re doing well,” Paul Paton, who last year was named dean of the Fowler School of Law, said.

“There are not a lot of people in his position who would take that kind of time and pay that sort of personal attention.”

About $10 million of Kennedy’s gift was designated for student recruitment and scholarships to bring top talent to the law school and has already yielded positive results.

The admission cycle for the next school year shows that applications are up 17% compared to last year, according to Paton.

“His contribution and support will allow a future generation of students who may not otherwise have the financial resources to be able to attend,” Paton said.

Chapman is preparing for “lots of exciting” upcoming projects as part of its strategic five-year plan approved by the board of trustees, according to Chapman President Daniele Struppa.

The school recently launched a new doctorate in math, physics and philosophy and is aiming to improve its national rankings, including bringing the law school into the top 70 in the nation.

As for on-campus renovations and expansions, Chapman is finishing up a new building for the Institute of Quantum Studies.

“There is a lot going on. We are not resting,” Struppa said.

Former Executive

Before serving on the board of trustees at Chapman, Kennedy had a more than 40-year-long career at Santa Ana title insurance giant First American Financial Corp. (NYSE: FAF).
Kennedy, who is now chairman emeritus, fondly looks back on his time with the company.

“I enjoyed my work because our business is very tied to people,” Kennedy said.

He served as chairman and CEO of First American from 2003 to 2010 following his father stepping down as chairman.

During his tenure, First American, now valued around $6.7 billion, created a spinoff company of its data division, CoreLogic Inc.

CoreLogic traded on the New York Stock Exchange beginning in 2010 before being acquired by private equity firms Stone Point Capital and Insight Partners in 2021 for about $6 billion.

During his decades-long career at First American, Orange County’s oldest company and founded by Kennedy’s great-grandfather, C.E. Parker, he worked his way up from roles including branch manager, national sales director and president.

Kennedy credits his father, who served as president for three decades, with taking First American from “one office to thousands of offices” after the company went public in 1963.

Kennedy says his father as an executive had a good eye for people and always made sure to promote from within, a rule Kennedy attributes much of First American’s success to.

The current First American CEO, Kenneth DeGiorgio, started out in the legal department as the company’s general counsel.

“It’s been really fun for me to see people who have worked for us for a number of years move up in the ranks,” Kennedy said.

USC Alumnus

Kennedy graduated from the University of Southern California where he was a two-year letterman in track and field.

He is still a fan of the track program and shows his support for his alma mater by attending a few meets every year, including traveling abroad for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Instead of immediately getting into the family business after graduating, Kennedy wanted to go in his own direction.

“I kind of resisted working for my dad for the same reasons I think everybody doesn’t want to work for their dad,” Kennedy said.

He obtained his law degree from the University of California College of Law, San Francisco and went on to practice law for four years at Levinson and Leiberman in Beverley Hills before eventually joining First American in 1977.

“When my dad asked me to join the firm I thought, ‘What am I fighting for? We always got along great.’”

Nowadays, the former First American CEO has more free time on his hands.

He currently resides in Orange in the same house he and his wife have lived in since 1990 and enjoys fishing in Montana with his family and goes surfing once a week.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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