2015 Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Award Recipient
Mr. Joe Kennedy
Chairman – Ireland West Airport Knock

Joe’s story starts here in Manhattan in 1936, where he was born to Irish emigrant parents, Patrick and Catherine. In 1940 the Second World War turned a Kennedy family holiday to Ireland into a life changing voyage as they found themselves stranded in Ireland without a safe ship passage back to America, so set up home in County Mayo. To help keep the family business and siblings afloat, at just 16 Joe joined thousands before him and became an economic emigrant and sought his fortune across the Irish Sea in the United Kingdom.

It was in England that he met his wife, fellow Irish emigrant Kathleen Keaveney from County Roscommon. After marrying in 1960 they were blessed with 7 children, 13 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

It was a humble business start-up for Joe in 1959 with only 3 shovels and a wheelbarrow. But from his first successful business deal worth £30 he’d hit the road running and there was no stopping him. And as they say...the rest is history! Having enormous success with Kennedy Construction Group, he expanded the workforce nationally and internationally, notably throughout the Middle East and America.

A committed philanthropist, to support this work Joe set up a registered Charity in 1975 and later in 1995 established ‘The Kennedy Charitable Foundation’. These contributions have seen more than 2 million devoted to charities in the West of Ireland.

Throughout the Northern Ireland Peace Process Joe worked alongside Dr Martin McAleese, the husband of former Irish President Mary McAleese financing many community based projects to help bring young people together whatever their politics or religion.

Joe has also played a significant role in establishing Ireland’s first Catholic University called the Newman Institute in County Mayo.

Joe now serves as Chairman of Ireland West Airport Knock where he gives his services for free. Since 2002 Joe has been involved in helping the airport enter a new era of success with passenger numbers increasing from 100,000 to over 700,000. In 2009 the airport named its new airport terminal the ‘Kennedy Terminal’ in recognition of his significant contribution to the growth and development of the airport.

Joe has been the recipient of many honours for his charitable work. In 1999 he was awarded by the Manchester Mayo Association, was named Mayo Man of the Year in 2010 and in 2011 Joe received an Honorary Masters of Commerce Degree from Galway University.

Joe is a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, and is extremely proud to have received not one, but two papal honours - the first in 2002 from His Holiness Pope John Paul II and the second in 2013 from His Holiness Pope Benedict in 2013.

Two of his most recent charitable endeavours include the writing of his acclaimed biography ´On the Strength of a Ten Bob Note´ which raised a substantial amount for charity and helping his beloved Knock Shrine in County Mayo with the installation of a magnificent stained glass window in the new Basilica.

"Search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity."
~Albert Schweitzer