An Encore to Last Forever -- Choosing to be Inclusive
Alice Kennedy figures there’s no use waiting until you’re 55 or 60 or 65 or older to figure out your Encore.
In essence, she invented hers 20 years ago, while she was in her 30s, in the form of a management consulting company which is now a part-time venture but will likely become her go-to activity when she formally retires from work she currently enjoys at Gordon Food Service (GFS).
And who knows? She might also continue to coach tennis, fashion handcrafted jewelry, and indulge in ethnic cooking, forever on the lookout as a self-described “foodie” for new and inventive ways to introduce her home cooking to family and friends.
Alice was born and raised in Vietnam, and came here after the fall of Saigon in 1975, her family moving here as refugees and landing in Grand Rapids with assistance from a church group.
She graduated in 1981 from Creston High School, then attended Grand Rapids Community College, eventually earning a special certification from Cornell University as a certified diversity practitioner, and later, an advanced certificate in the same discipline from the University of Houston.
Her interest in that field, she believes, stems from the time she spent living in Australia, when her father served South Vietnam as an attaché for the government, and Alice was exposed to the lifestyles of other families whose parents were serving in similar capacities as diplomats from all over the world.
At 35, following a string of jobs that served corporate America, she formed her own business, Kennedy Management Services, providing human resources for small companies.
That grew into an enterprise that now specializes in consulting on diversity and inclusion, taking off in a special way when she counseled Cascade Engineering here with a format that included creating awareness via acting workshops.
That acting bug has endured; Alice currently works with Ebony Road Players here, which since 2014 has inspired, educated and engaged “cultures of community with high-quality theater productions focused on the Black experience.”
The aim of her consulting business, says Alice, is to create cultural awareness, uncover possible inappropriate behaviors, facilitate discussions, and cultivate a safe environment for positive change.
She might still be engaged in that full-time, except that when her husband Michael’s job was eliminated, it forced Alice to explore more conventional employment, landing her at GFS.
It’s there that she works as a talent sourcer, using her many connections to make good things happen for North America’s largest, privately held food service distributor.
“I try to enrich others with my culture and experience,” says Alice, who’s well-known for “Funky Fruit Fridays,” when she’ll trot in an ethnic treat like jackfruit or rambutan or cherimoya for her colleagues to enjoy.
When she’s not working in the office, you might find her during the tennis seasons coaching both boys’ and girls’ JV teams at East Kentwood High School, which she’s been doing for 20 years.
She emphasizes that all of her interests are elements she might carry over into retirement, a result of making deliberate decisions now to focus in on things that give her satisfaction, and enrich the lives of others.
But whatever choices she makes down the road to retiring, one thing is for sure: “I’ll always choose to be inclusive.”