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Alumna Credits UC for Confidence Boost

Dione Kennedy, communication arts '87, is now president and CEO of Performing Arts Fort Worth.

Date: 2/15/2009
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Courtesy of Jill Johnson
In the mid 1980s when she first arrived at the University of Cincinnati, communication arts alumna Dione Kennedy remembers one thing about the campus: it was huge.

Growing up in a small town in Aberdeen, Ohio, didn’t prepare young Kennedy for life at an urban institution. And while she admits there was an appeal to the anonymity of a big city where no one knew her name, she was a bit scared of what that anonymity would bring her.

That all changed during her first week of classes. Returning to her car after class one day, she discovered that her car battery was dead from leaving the headlights on all morning. Knowing nobody, she began to panic—until people immediately came to her aid by getting campus security.

Dione Kennedy.
Dione Kennedy worked at VTA for 18 years before moving on to Performing Arts Fort Worth.

“It was probably a good thing that it happened during my first week there. It let me know that UC is a comfortable place to be,” Kennedy says. “And from then on, even though it was a large campus, I always felt comfortable there.”

Such comfort, in fact, that Kennedy reveled in her experiences at the university, making the dean’s list and graduating summa cum laude in 1987.

“When I went to UC, I thought I was going to be lost in the crowd,” she says. “But it ultimately gave me a level of confidence that I could compete on a large scale. When I realized that was possible, it gave me a huge boost of confidence that was so valuable later in my professional life.”

A boost of confidence indeed. After graduation and a few years developing credentials in the entertainment industry, Kennedy started working as a part-time temp employee at the Victoria Theatre Association (VTA) in Dayton, Ohio. It wasn’t long until she moved her way up the company. In her 18-year tenure with the company, she climbed the corporate ladder from the ticketing office to ultimately become the association’s president and CEO.

When Kennedy stepped in as president and CEO, she helped the nonprofit arts organization grow out of an operating deficit. She guided the company through development of its first five-year strategic plan, restructured two organizations into one operating entity, implemented a new ticketing system and continued to bring big name performances to the multiple facilities it operates.

“It was a great company, growing all the time with new things happening,” she says.

But when she was approached about taking a job opportunity as the president and CEO of Performing Arts Forth Worth and the Bass Performance Hall in Texas late last year, she said goodbye to the life she created in Ohio and embarked on a new chapter in life.

“My decision to take a new position with Performing Arts Fort Worth was one about career growth for me and personal opportunity for my family,” Kennedy writes on the VTA’s blog. “I was not searching, but when this position was presented to me something clicked.”

In her new role, Kennedy oversees the facilities in much the same manner she did the VTA, yet she knows she’ll encounter new challenges by working with a new organization.

“The challenge will be to implement change that helps the company move forward while keeping positive relationships with the users of the facility,” she says.

Kennedy is quick to mention how eager she is to take on those challenges. It was, after all, why she took the job in the first place.

“In Dayton, we hadn’t necessarily saturated the market but we had expanded to just about the point that we could. But here, there are more opportunities to expand the programming options,” she says. “Fort Worth provides new opportunities and experiences that weren’t available in Dayton.”

The university has grown tremendously since Kennedy’s last visit to campus. But if she were to visit today, chances are she wouldn’t be overwhelmed by its size anymore.

At this point, she’s conquered a lot more than the University of Cincinnati.

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