Kravis Leadership Institute celebrates 25 years of courage, creativity, and collaboration

View KLI video, photos

To learn more about Kravis Leadership Institute and the vision of Henry Kravis ’67 these past 25 years, watch the KLI anniversary video here. You can also view a photo gallery from the anniversary celebration.

Abai Houser ’22 admitted that he wasn’t always the most supportive swimming and diving teammate. Amanda Goldman ’23 confessed that she was terrified to speak in public or open up to new friends. Jordan Venglass ’21 shared how he was rejected for 100—yes, 100—internships.

One by one Friday, CMC students humbly reflected on some of their most challenging life obstacles. Yet thanks to their involvement with CMC and the Kravis Leadership Institute, they’ve been empowered to build resilience and empathy, cultivate meaningful relationships, and—as expressed in the KLI mission—lead courageously, creatively, and collaboratively now and in the future.

The testimonials were a fitting exclamation point to the two-day KLI 25th Anniversary Celebration, which began Thursday with a reception and dinner in the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum and continued Friday with an all-day conference at Roberts Pavilion tied to CMC’s Project 20/20: Envisioning the Future through a Multidisciplinary Lens. The closing appreciation from students reinforced the KLI vision of eponymous founder Henry Kravis ’67, the mentorship of faculty, staff, and alumni board members, and the institutional framework for responsible leadership that guides CMC.

“The range of leadership opportunities CMC has provided me are endless,” said Josiah Tarrant '22, a First-Year Guide, admission tour guide, and CARE Center fellow from Connecticut. “Specifically, my involvement in KLI and the numerous speakers and mentors they have brought me in touch with has expanded my community and given me a space to challenge myself with new perspectives and creative problem solving.”

KLI director David Day shared some of the foundational elements of KLI these past 25 years, including “first principles” that encourage diversity and dialogue, interconnectedness, and the use of evidence-based practices. Leadership development requires hard work over an extended period, Day said, noting that “it’s not a pass to an amusement park, but more like a gym membership” that requires constant maintenance.

The foundation for KLI’s individualized development approach is also a three-pronged emphasis on assessment, challenge, and support. Sometimes that can mean small but important habits that add up over time, Day said—for instance, the ability to give and receive feedback; structured writing and reflection through learning journals; and breaking students into smaller “development crews” that allow for engagement with multiple class years and majors. The result is that KLI fosters a family atmosphere where students know they have a voice in their leadership development.

Henry Kravis and attendees of the KLI 25th Anniversary dinner

“The KLI family—it touches my heart every time I hear it, because it’s so true,” said Day, Steven L. Eggert ’88 P’15 Professor of Leadership. “If you’re going to take a risk with yourself and be vulnerable, you need a crew. Everybody needs a crew. And who do you go to when you’re in a time of need? Your family.”

The KLI reflection followed the conference’s three faculty panels on Democracy, the Environment, and the Economy, a part of CMC’s new Project 20/20 institute collaboration meant to encourage and promote multidisciplinary perspectives. Among the major challenges discussed: Are we living in a post-truth world where facts don’t matter? What is the role of global organizations to ensure that democracy can thrive for everyone? Is the climate clock ticking more quickly than it can take for innovations to help stem the ongoing crisis? How can students and adults best adapt to a changing labor market?

Jay Conger, KLI chair and Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership Studies, said the panels were intended to pose difficult questions that may not have immediate answers. That should, however, be a tantalizing prospect to CMC’s latest crop of leaders. “In many ways, these panels are about how challenging it will be for each of us. But that’s exactly what leaders love to do: Tackle the unattainable,” he said.

On Thursday, Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis attended the KLI Anniversary Reception and Dinner, where a video of KLI’s mission and Kravis’ impact on CMC leadership principles debuted. They also spent the afternoon on campus meeting with Kravis Scholars and Kravis Opportunity Fund recipients.

After two days of celebration and reflection, KLI advisory board chair Doug Peterson ’80 P’14 P’15 said he was especially appreciative of how Kravis had the courage to “experiment and use CMC as the college that would take on the leadership mantle.” The benefits of his decision 25 years ago continue to reverberate.

“When I get calls from my friends whose kids are looking at CMC, they all talk about the leadership mandate that the College has today. KLI, as an organization, has made that even more important,” said Peterson, president and chief executive officer at S&P Global in New York City.

“To not only see the students and understand what they’re working on, but the faculty and the research they’re doing, and the ability to put together panels discussing some of the most important issues governments are facing, corporations are facing, and the financial system is facing—It’s really encouraging to know there will be another successful 25 years.”

—Thomas Rozwadowski