Lambda Legal Names Former Obama Official and GLSEN Founder Kevin Jennings as CEO

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October 7, 2019
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Today, Lambda Legal’s Board of Directors announced it has named Kevin Jennings, Tenement Museum President and founder of Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), as the organization’s new CEO.

“Kevin’s deep roots in the LGBTQ movement, his expertise with federal public policy, his advocacy for immigrants, and his personal experience as an educator raised in the South is a blend of attributes that make him the clear choice as the next CEO of Lambda Legal,” said Anne Krook, Chair of Lambda Legal’s Board of Directors.

“For nearly fifty years, Lambda Legal has been on the frontlines of the fight for LGBTQ rights in our courts on behalf of transgender students, workers fired for being gay, transgender service members, and service members living with HIV. Now, more than ever, we need a leader who has cut his teeth in the movement and understands and embraces the significance of Lambda Legal’s legacy and commitment to the community.”

“Being Lambda Legal’s CEO is a dream job that anyone would love to have, and I am thrilled to be stepping into this role at such a critical time for Lambda and our nation,” said Kevin Jennings.

“From my childhood as the son of Southern Baptist preacher to when I became a member of the Obama Administration, I’ve known what it’s like to be the target of hateful, anti-LGBTQ bullies, but those attacks only made me more determined to challenge them. I’ve devoted my life since I was a high school history teacher to advocating for LGBT people and everyone living with HIV, and I’m excited to join Lambda Legal to continue that work.”

Currently serving as the president of the Tenement Museum, Kevin’s contributions to the LGBTQ movement began in 1988, when he helped students create the first school-based Gay-Straight Alliance club, leading him to found and lead the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) for 18 years.

He then served as an Assistant Secretary of Education for President Obama, after which he led the Arcus Foundation, the world’s largest foundation for LGBTQ rights organizations, for 5 years.

He has received several awards, both national and international recognition, including: the “Friend of Children” Award from the National Association of School Psychologists, the Human and Civil Rights Award of the National Education Association, the Distinguished Service Award of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Diversity Leadership Award of the National Association of Independent Schools, the Bob Angelo Medal from COC Netherlands, and the “Appalachian Hero” Award from the Appalachian Community Fund, where he established the Alice Jennings Fund, which provides support to organizations serving low-income and battered women in the South.

Kevin is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author of seven books, with his memoir, Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son: A Memoir, having been named a Book of Honor by the American Library Association in 2006.

He also helped write and produce the documentary Out of the Past, which won the 1998 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary, and is an Executive Producer of the documentary The Lavender Scare.

Kevin is actively engaged in nonprofit and community causes. Currently he chairs the Boards of the Ubunye Challenge and Muslims for Progressive Values.  He is a past Board Member of the Harvard Alumni Association, Union Theological Seminary, Marjorie’s Fund, the You Can Play Project, and was the founding Board Chair for the Tectonic Theater Project, which created The Laramie Project. He is the Founder of the Pride Fund of the Connecticut Community Foundation. 

Kevin is a graduate of Harvard College. He also received a Masters of Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College, from which he received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012, and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business.

Richard Burns, past Lambda Legal board member and former executive director of the NYC LGBTQ Community Center, has been Lambda Legal’s Interim CEO since last year.

He will stay on through January 2020 to ensure a smooth transition. Kevin Jennings will start on December 2, 2019.