Academy of Distinguished Alumni
David N. Kennedy N.A.E.
Inducted to the Academy of Distinguished Alumni on
David Kennedy received his B.S. degree (1959) and M.S. degree (1962) in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. His graduate school focus was in water resources engineering. Having been in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Berkeley, Mr. Kennedy served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between his B.S. and M.S. degrees. After completing his M.S., he joined the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), where his first assignment involved the design of the California Aqueduct. In 1968, he joined the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) becoming Assistant General Manager. In 1982, at the urging of former DWR Director William Gianelli (a Berkeley CEE Academy of Distinguished Alumni member), the Governor of California appointed Mr. Kennedy as DWR Director. Mr. Kennedy was born in Ontario, Oregon on September 10, 1936 and passed away in Sacramento on December 23, 2007 at the age of 71.
Mr. Kennedy served as the DWR Director for nearly 16 years, from 1983 to 1998. He served longer in this position than anyone and became known as a champion of the State Water Project and as the “California’s Water Czar.” Under his direction, DWR expanded the State Water Project’s Delta pumping capacity, enhanced the system’s environmental safeguards, intensified Delta ecosystem and fish research, signed a 1986 Coordinated Operation Agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, signed the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord, and completed construction of the 100-mile Coastal Branch to provide water to users in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. In 1994, he helped negotiate the Monterey Agreement resolving a variety of issues with State Water Project contractors and providing greater equity in allocation of State Water Project supplies between agricultural and urban users. His accomplishments included leading DWR during the longest major statewide drought in modern California history (1987-1992). He also led DWR during major flood events in 1986, 1995, and 1997.
Amongst his professional recognitions, in 1997, Mr. Kennedy received the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award from his alma mater, Berkeley. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1998. His NAE induction citation captures the breadth of his contributions. He was cited for “his ability to nurture consensus on challenging water issues, working cooperatively with legislatures, water users, regulatory agencies, and environmental and business groups to formulate and put into action sound water resource policies, programs, and projects.”