Ken Freeman headshot
Photo: Emily Paine
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Ken Freeman credits the power of the Bucknell alumni network with launching his business career.
Honoring a Transformative Experience
Bucknell’s newest college got a major boost early this year when Board of Trustees Chair Ken Freeman ’72 and his wife, Janice, made one of the largest gifts ever to Bucknell to support management education. In recognition of the couple’s commitment of more than $25 million, the college has been named the Kenneth W. Freeman College of Management. Freeman, the dean of Boston University Questrom School of Business, is serving his third and final term as Bucknell’s board chair. Before becoming a dean, Freeman had a successful career in business, including as the chairman, CEO and president of Quest Diagnostics. The Freemans’ gift will support the hiring of new management faculty and the expansion of interdisciplinary educational opportunities. Raquel Alexander, the Kenneth W. Freeman Professor & Dean of Management, whose position was supported by the Freemans, explored Ken’s perspective on philanthropy in February. Following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Q: Your commitment to Bucknell has been extraordinary, not just in your philanthropy but also the dedication of your time and your talents. To what do you credit your level of dedication to Bucknell?
It goes right back to the beginning. I was a first-generation college student. Bucknell literally changed my life and was transformative as I was going out into the world to work and strive to make a difference. Bucknell has tremendous senior leadership, talented and ambitious students, loyal alumni and highly dedicated faculty and staff. Janice and I have a deep passion for Bucknell and can’t think of a better place to invest our resources.
Q: Why did you select management as the area of your philanthropy?
When I started out at Bucknell, I wanted to be a musician. I quickly discovered that my level of talent wasn’t going to enable me to eat! So I switched to management early on. However, my love for the liberal arts was, and continues to be, very strong. Helping to rapidly advance the establishment and a firm footing for the College of Management through our philanthropy means a lot to us. Bucknell’s excellence as a small liberal arts university across the arts and sciences, management and engineering is a great source of distinction.
Q: Thinking back on your days at Bucknell, how do you think the Bucknell network contributed to your success?
The Bucknell network was extremely helpful when I was preparing to graduate. Toward the end of my senior year, I was invited to speak to the trustees with three other students in the Forum at the Langone Center. The final question for each of us was, “What are you going to do when you graduate?” My colleagues all shared their plans, but I did not respond at all. As I prepared to leave, trustee Campbell Rutledge Jr. ’33 came up to me and said, “Ken, you didn’t tell us what you plan to do upon graduation.” The fact was I did not have any job offers. At the end of a 45-minute conversation Cam put his arm on my shoulder and said, “Young man, you will have a job at Corning Glass. In fact, you’ll have a choice of jobs. Can you come to Corning next week?” The rest is history. I had the choice of several different jobs at Corning, and that began my career. This story demonstrates the power of the alumni network and represents the best of Bucknell. Cam’s interest in helping a fellow Bucknellian was amazing. He opened the first door that led to a rewarding professional career. His generosity more than 45 years ago provided the initial fuel for us to give back to Bucknell.
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Watch a video about the newly named college