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Education powers Kendrick's career


Wanyonyi Kendrick’s office in downtown Jacksonville is filled with many replicas of Noah’s Ark. They are displayed on tables and shelves and are in every shape and size — from Christmas trees to key rings.


“I didn’t initially consider myself as a collector,” she said. “I had one or two and then people started giving them to me. As you can see, the collection has grown over the years.”


The same might be said of Kendrick’s career. When she graduated from UNF — twice, once in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and again in 1995 with a master’s degree in accountancy  — she was clearly headed for a stellar career as an accountant. But along the way, her innate curiosity led her down a much different path.


“After working for several years in accounting and really enjoying the challenges inherent to the field, I found myself more and more involved with technology,” Kendrick said. “I had always enjoyed working with technology and was always asking questions about it and that led to a much deeper understanding and soon, I became the go-to person for technology in finance. That curiosity and subsequent knowledge increased my circle of influence.”


Today, Kendrick is the chief information officer at JEA, a leading electric, water and sewer utility with almost $2 billion in annual revenues that serves more than 800,000 customers in Northeast Florida. She joined the public-owned utility company in February 2000 and is responsible for a $500 million information technology portfolio.


Kendrick has spent the majority of her career focusing on integrating technology solutions with regulatory, legislative and business process requirements, resulting in solutions with a high degree of customer satisfaction and measurable results — much of which she learned while at UNF.


“One of the reasons I truly enjoy working at JEA is because it is not just a job,” Kendrick said. “It really is a rewarding career, but it is also a way of making my community better. That was the same string of thoughts I had about UNF, as well. The professors work at UNF because they have a higher purpose. The core values of UNF and JEA are very similar.”


And Kendrick does not just talk the talk. She devotes much of her free time to the public good. She has served on numerous boards and presently sits on the UNF Board of Trustees, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Edward Waters College President’s Advisory Board and UNF’s  Small Business Administration’s Regional Council.


Kendrick, who is a certified public accountant and a certified management accountant, said her experiences in graduate school at UNF really led her to develop her curiosity and to learn at a much deeper level.


“My master’s degree was the beginning of my learning experience, not the end,” the mother of three said. “There, I learned to have curiosity about learning itself. I learned to be willing to ask why and to question what I was hearing. I learned not to consider anything definitively, but to ask why. That lesson has served me well in my career and in life.”


While on campus, Kendrick had one professor who truly made an impact not only on her education, but on her life. Jeff Michelman, a professor in the Department of Accounting and Finance at UNF, challenged Kendrick and her fellow students to take their learning to a different level — one that went beyond books. She said he taught them all that they had a critical role to play not only at UNF but in the community as active, engaged learners who need to question everything.


Michelman said Kendrick was a student who came to class and spoke up and asked questions when she did not understand something. She worked hard, Michelman said, made her dreams a reality and is really a role model for all students, but particularly women and those of color because she did not allow anything to stand in her way. And she chooses to give back. “I do not know of another Coggin (College of Business) alum who has been as supportive of faculty research both intellectually and financially with grants.”


Kendrick has been married to her husband, Aaron, for 26 years. They have three beautiful children, Angelica, 24; Aaron, 13; and Joshua Luke, 11. Degrees from UNF run in the family. Aaron Sr., the first in his family to graduate from college, has three degrees from the Coggin School of Business and Angelica is currently a UNF undergrad studying psychology who plans to pursue a master’s degree in mental health counseling, as well.


“While I chose UNF because of its reputation as a quality institution, I soon learned it was much more than just learning from a book,” Kendrick said. “The whole of my educational career was based on the premise of learning as a journey, the constant pursuit of solutions for the greater good. I think UNF instills that in each of its graduates — it instills the importance of giving back. And that means giving back to UNF, as well. I would like to remind my fellow alumni that we are all obligated to give UNF a little back — whether that be something large or something small — for all it has given us.”