Commencement Speaker
Fall 2018

Keynote Speaker

Brian Kennedy
President, Director and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art

Brian Kennedy, Keynote Speaker

Brian Kennedy has been president, director and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art since 2010. He came to the Museum with extensive experience in senior leadership positions at art museums in Ireland, Australia and the United States.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Kennedy studied art history and history at University College in Dublin, earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. A strategic thinker and collaborative leader, he has overseen the development of a strategic plan for the Toledo Museum of Art, integrating it strongly into the community, focusing on sustainability, especially with alternative energy sources, building staff capacity, introducing new technologies and developing a nationally recognized initiative to promote visual literacy. Diverse exhibition programming and significant art acquisitions have enhanced Toledo’s reputation.

From 2005-2010, Kennedy was director of Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, New Hampshire, which has one of the largest and finest art collections at an American college or university.

Prior to coming to the United States, Kennedy spent eight years as assistant director of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (1989-1997) and seven years as director of the National Gallery of Australia (1997-2004) in Canberra. While in Australia, he initiated a free admission policy, increased attendance through a series of major exhibitions and acquisitions and oversaw a total building refurbishment as well as an expansion to accommodate major temporary exhibitions.

A frequent speaker at conferences and seminars, Kennedy is a respected art historian, curator and author. He has authored six books, most recently books on the artists Sean Scully and Frank Stella.

He is a past chair of the Irish Association of Art Historians (1996-97) and of the Council of Australian Art Museum Directors (2001-03). He is a trustee and treasurer of the Association of Art Museum Directors, a peer reviewer for the American Association of Museums and a member of the International Association of Art Critics. In 2003 he was awarded a Centenary of Federation medal by the Australian Government for service to Australian Society and its art. In 2013, he was appointed inaugural eminent professor of the University of Toledo and in 2014 received an honorary doctorate from Lourdes University. Most recently, Kennedy received the 2014 Northwest Region Ohio Art Education Association’s award for Distinguished Educator for Art Education.

Class Representative

Alexandra R. Kania

Alexandra R. Kania, Class Representative

Alexandra R. Kania of Toledo has been selected as the Owens Community College class representative and will address the graduates during the 38th Fall Commencement ceremony. She is graduating with an Associate of Applied Science degree in the Early Childhood Education Technology program and Cum Laude honors.

She is currently student teaching in an inclusive preschool classroom at Whiteford Elementary School in Sylvania. She has accepted a paraprofessional teaching position at the school following graduation.

Kania’s love for education began growing up in a large, blended family with two older stepsiblings, one younger biological brother, two younger half siblings and a younger, adopted cousin who she now says is her brother.

“With my younger (biological) brother, I was teaching him how to read when I was 8 and he was 4. I always forced him to play school,” said Kania, 21. “My grandma found a report card I had made for my little cousin. … I was always playing the teacher role. I knew I wanted to be a teacher.”

She said working with her adopted cousin, who has special needs, inspired her to work with preschoolers who have special needs.

“As a teacher of young children, Alex is very intentional in her planning and attentive to the individual needs of every child,” Elisa Huss-Hage, Professor of Teacher Education, said. “She reflects the professional standards of our nationally accredited program, setting a high bar for her performance in all her classes and generously offering advice, suggestions and support to her classmates.”

After graduation from Perrysburg High School in 2015, Kania did not consider Owens. She wanted to live what she called the California dream and moved to San Diego, where she enrolled at MiraCosta College to study early childhood education. She also worked three part-time jobs to pay her rent. Nine months later, her car’s engine blew.

“I had no one to call except my mom in Ohio,” she said. “I realized it was time to come back home and get my life together.”

She started a full-time job working as a nanny for a Sylvania family with three kids ranging in age from 3-13 and enrolled at Owens.

Kania soon learned she would have a child of her own, starting a whirlwind 15 months culminating with her Owens graduation.

In October 2017, Kania discovered she was pregnant. In April 2018, she and her future husband, Jed, bought a house. Their daughter, Rae, was born in July 2018. They married in August 2018.

Jed Kania is majoring in Communications Studies at Owens.

“You can make plans all you want, but life doesn’t always care about your plans,” she said. “I’m still planning, but I know that life may not go the way I want it to. I say in my speech, failed plans are beautiful sometimes. My daughter wouldn’t be here if my plans had gone the way I wanted them to. She’s the best thing that happened to me. No matter what life throws at me, I know I can handle it.”

Past Speakers