2022 Tillman Scholar

Kyle Kennedy

Stanford University

“As a business leader, I aspire to increase the scale of doing what matters most to me: living my purpose of serving others. Because through service, I’ve discovered purpose amidst pain and emerged with a heart of gratitude.”

Raised in the American Midwest’s working class, Kyle enlisted in the Navy in 2006 valuing hard work, integrity, and service before self. Finding his place in the Naval Special Warfare community, the sense of purpose Kyle felt serving others was galvanized when he was wounded in action during a 2017 combat operation. Following months of physical rehabilitation, Kyle returned to duty sure-footed and eager to lead. But after three years and as many deployments, a teammate’s injury forced Kyle to confront his own battlefield experience and reconsider his path.

Electing to separate from naval service, Kyle found that the transition support architecture underemphasized the values engendered throughout his career and struggled to identify meaningful post-military career opportunities. Finding entrepreneurship through acquisition (ETA) as a path for service-oriented veterans to impact their communities beyond the uniform, Kyle rediscovered his purpose and will pursue his MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business in the fall of 2022. There, he will develop the business acumen and network that will empower him to improve outcomes in both local and veteran communities.

After graduate school, Kyle plans to return to the emergent Midwest, where he is from, leading a medium-sized enterprise to drive local economic growth while inspiring youth through outreach efforts that build confidence and resilience. Post-acquisition, Kyle aspires to launch an ETA accelerator—creating a platform and community that connects transitioning service members with the growing network of veterans that have found meaningful careers as community business leaders.