Michael Kennedy, Sr.

The St. Louis American Charitable Foundation has honored KAI Enterprises Founder and Chairman Michael Kennedy, Sr. with its 2024 Lifetime Achiever in Business award. Founded in 1928, The St. Louis American newspaper is the single, largest weekly newspaper in the state of Missouri and the leading, most-trusted voice of the St. Louis area’s African American community.

Kennedy was recognized during the newspaper organization’s 22nd Annual Salute to Excellence in Business Awards and Networking Luncheon on Feb. 22 at the Ritz-Carlton St. Louis.

“It is my pleasure to accept this award. Your recognition is truly fulfilling and greatly appreciated,” said Kennedy. “Throughout my career, it has been my goal to work with the intention to gain recognition and appreciation by the African American community for the work that is produced by an African American-owned company. I will tell everybody that becoming an entrepreneur and representing the African American community required me to always be conscious of what impressions I was leaving, because at the end of the day, what I wanted was African Americans to say, ‘I’m proud of him. I’m proud of what he did; I want to do that too’ because that is more fulfilling than anything else.”

Kennedy wanted to be an architect since age nine and became fascinated with construction watching homes being built in his Richmond Heights, Mo., neighborhood designed by Black architect Charles Flemming. Despite a high school guidance counselor advising him in 1963 that Washington University’s School of Architecture “only took the cream of the crop and no negroes,” the university reached out to Kennedy in 1969 as the Civil Rights movement gained recognition and invited him to enter its architecture school as a graduate student with a degree in another subject. He went on to study architecture at Washington University for an additional four years before finally becoming one of the first Black architects registered in the State of Missouri.

Supported by his wife Lynn, Kennedy founded Kennedy & Associates, Inc. (later renamed KAI Design & Build) in 1980 from his home office and grew the business by taking on public sector design work, the only architectural projects available to African Americans at the time.

Over the course of his highly successful career, Kennedy and his team designed many notable St. Louis-area landmarks, including Clyde C. Miller Career Academy, Harris-Stowe’s William L. Clay Early Childhood Center, and the Downtown Gateway Transportation Center, among many others.