Shannon Kennedy ('83) Receives Award from Waubonsee

Rosary Graduate Shannon Kennedy (’83) Named Waubonsee Distinguished Alumnus for 2024
President of BMO US Wealth Management Named A Waubonsee 2024 Distinguished Alumnus
April 25, 2024

Each year, the Waubonsee Community College Distinguished Alumnus Award is presented to an outstanding graduate of Waubonsee Community College. Awardees have distinguished themselves in their chosen profession, have documented evidence of contribution and service to their community, and demonstrated a continued interest in lifelong education. One of this year's Distinguished Alumni is Shannon Kennedy, President of BMO US Wealth Management. 

Kennedy is responsible for overseeing the strategic development and delivery of BMO Financial Group’s personal wealth management and advisory business throughout the United States. The U.S. Wealth Management business provides the full complement of wealth management services, as well as comprehensive multi-family office services. She oversees a team of over 1,200 wealth management professionals with offices across the U.S. 

Kennedy was born and raised in Aurora. Her parents, both educators, had five children to support and could not afford to pay for her college education. As a result, she found herself in a financial gray area. Her parents' combined income exceeded the threshold for financial aid, but they didn't have enough money to help her attend a four-year university. During her senior year, Kennedy was called out of her English class by her principal, Sister Regina. Sister Regina knew about Kennedy's desire to attend college and told her she had a scholarship opportunity from Waubonsee she wanted Kennedy to consider. At that moment, Kennedy realized that Waubonsee was the path she needed to take. “Sometimes, you have to listen to the doors that open,” Kennedy said, advice that has guided her well.  

Kennedy was interviewed for and accepted the Gustafson scholarship, which provided her with free tuition at Waubonsee. At the time, she was determined to pursue her studies in physical therapy. However, before starting her first semester, Kennedy accepted a nanny position in New York City during the summer of 1983 and was introduced to Wall Street. This experience sparked a new passion for wealth management and led her to pursue business classes during the fall semester at Waubonsee.  

After earning her Associate in Arts degree from Waubonsee in 1985, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Finance and an MBA with a concentration in Economics from Loyola University in Chicago. She then spent the next 30 years serving in senior executive-level roles in the financial sector. Previously, Kennedy served as President of US Markets-Southwest for BNY Mellon and as Global Director in the Global Family Office group at The Northern Trust Company. In this role, she oversaw the development and implementation of strategic priorities, hiring, and building the client experience.  

During Kennedy’s time at Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus, she became engaged among the deaf community. This experience helped her develop empathy for them, which she believes has shaped her into a compassionate leader throughout her career. Guided by her own motto, Kennedy always tries to embrace opportunities that may seem frightening at first. She often encourages others by saying, “You can either walk into a cave and be fearful or find a cave of wonders.” 

In 2018, Kennedy was diagnosed with breast cancer. A month later, her sister also received the same diagnosis. This experience profoundly impacted Kennedy and made her realize the importance of cherishing life. She embarked on a new mission of giving back to others, surprising and delighting them, and helping her family emotionally and financially. Kennedy wants people to understand that we never really know what others are going through, and it takes all of us to be forgiving and gracious to one another. She believes individuals can achieve their goals with hard work, and happiness is not limited to a successful career. Kennedy remains confident that "you can be a leader, you can be authentic, you can be human, you can have fun.”  

Her numerous recognitions include being nominated for the “Women in Wealth” award from the Family Wealth Report (2023) and the Glen W. Johnson Legacy Award from the Family Office Exchange (2023). She was nominated as a top 25 Wealth Manager by Private Asset Management, recognized as one of Modern Luxury’s Dynamic Women of Orange County and listed among Crain’s Chicago Magazine’s “40 under 40.”  

Kennedy is a Trustee of the Field Museum and sits on the Board of Advisors for the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University of Chicago. She is also a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow. Kennedy is a member of both the University of California-Irvine’s CEO Executive Roundtable and the Belizean Grove. She previously served on the Executive Committee of the Girl Scouts of Orange County and the Women’s Philanthropy Fund. While in Orange County, Kennedy was recognized as a top community influencer and was included for several years in the Orange County 500 list of top executives. She now serves on the Board of BMO Family Office.  

The college will recognize Kennedy at the upcoming commencement ceremonies scheduled for Saturday, May 11 on the Sugar Grove Campus in the Field House. 

Article from Waubonsee Community College. See original: https://www.waubonsee.edu/news-events/news/president-bmo-us-wealth-management-named-waubonsee-2024-distinguished-alumnus
Rosary High School is a Catholic, college-prep high school for young women sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois. Rosary creates a sisterhood of truth, faith and strength.