The Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes Park University alumni
who have distinguished themselves through career, service or
Bob Kendrick, '85
Distinguished Alumnus, 2013
told my parents I was headed west, or at least to the Midwest —
somewhere called Parkville,” said Bob Kendrick, ’85. His plan was
prompted by a letter from Park University offering him a basketball
scholarship. “I was chasing that basketball. So I packed my bags and
drove all the way from Crawfordville, Ga.,” he added. “It was one of
the best decisions I’ve made and I’ve never looked back.”
Yet his vision of chasing the basketball shifted to a life of
leadership off the court, spreading the word about great men who
pursued a slightly smaller ball.
After graduating from Park with a Bachelor of Arts degree in
communications arts in 1985, Kendrick began his association with the
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum as a volunteer while working for 10
years in promotions for The Kansas City Star. The NLBM is the
world’s only museum dedicated to preserving the rich history of
African-American baseball and its profound impact on the social
advancement of America.
After serving on the NLBM’s board of directors, Kendrick joined the
NLBM’s staff as its first marketing director in 1998, and he was
promoted to vice president of marketing in 2009.
“The organization grabbed hold of me, and once I met Buck O’Neil, it
was all over,” Kendrick said about working with the beloved
unofficial NLBM spokesperson. O’Neil, who had been a first baseman
and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, died
at the age of 94 in 2006.
“I worked with one of the greatest human beings who ever walked the
earth,” Kendrick said. “By example, Buck O’Neil taught me his
philosophy on life — that it’s easier to love than to hate.”
O’Neil would be proud of Kendrick’s success. Since Kendrick was
named president of the NLBM in 2011, Museum attendance has increased
to almost 60,000 visitors last year. And the Museum had a $300,000
profit in 2013, its most successful year since 2007, sparking a
feature story about Kendrick’s leadership of the NLBM in The New
York Times on Aug. 23.
“The Museum tells a story that is much bigger than the game of
baseball,” Kendrick said. “We’re talking about an institution that
played a pivotal role in the social advancement of America. Most
people don’t fully understand its significance,” he said about the
Negro Leagues, which operated between 1920 and 1960.
With this year’s release of the movie “42” about the life of Jackie
Robinson — who played in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City
Monarchs before becoming the first black baseball player in Major
League Baseball — Kendrick helped bring the spotlight to the NLBM
with a red-carpet fundraising event in Kansas City. Cast members,
including Harrison Ford, conducted national media interviews from
the NLBM’s “Field of Legends” exhibit.
Currently, Kendrick is developing the NLBM’s Buck O’Neil Education
and Research Center, to be housed in the 100-year-old YMCA building
on Paseo Boulevard in Kansas City, Mo., one of the first YMCA
facilities for African-Americans in the country and the birthplace
of the Negro Leagues. It will provide expanded space for NLBM
programs, including curriculum focused on the math and science of
With success bringing the national spotlight to the NLBM, Kendrick
has enjoyed the perks of his job, hosting dignitaries and
celebrities such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, MLB
Commissioner Bud Selig, President Bill Clinton, President George W.
Bush, Patti Labelle and Maya Angelou, not to mention many notable
Kendrick’s most memorable Museum tour? “Hands down, it was Hank
Aaron. It doesn’t get any better than that for me,” he said. “I
idolized Hank Aaron as a kid growing up in Georgia. When I was with
him, I was reduced to an admiring 12-year-old.”