Doctor of Laws

Ken Chenault

May 29, 2022

Ken Chenault is a widely influential business leader and a longtime cham­ pion of corporate social activism. Currently a managing director at General Catalyst, a venture capital firm, he is the co­founder of OneTen, a coalition of leading executives coming together to upskill, hire and advance 1 million Black Americans over the next 10 years into family­sustaining jobs with oppor­ tunities for advancement. Chenault previously spent 37 years at American Express, most recently as chairman and CEO, a position he held from 2001 to 2018. Upon his retirement from American Express, Warren Buffett, the com­ pany’s largest shareholder, stated, “Ken’s been the gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against.”

Chenault joined American Express in 1981 as director of strategic planning and served in a number of increasingly senior positions before his appoint­ ment as CEO. Under his leadership, American Express built one of the world’s largest customer loyalty programs and earned global recognition as a leader in customer service. Fortune magazine named Chenault one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in its inaugural list in 2014. In 2021, TIME included Chenault on its 100 Most Influential People list, noting his work to mobilize hundreds of corporate leaders to advocate for equitable voting rights in the United States.

Chenault serves on the boards of Airbnb, Berkshire Hathaway, Chief, Guild Education and the Harvard Corp., as well as the Board of Governors of the NCAA and the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution’s Advisory Council for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University’s Human­Centered Artificial Intelligence Institute Advisory Council. He has received honorary degrees from several universities and awards from a wide variety of civic, social service and community organizations.

Chenault holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. in history from Bowdoin College.

Listen to a conversation between Ken Chenault and Rev. Philip Jackson ’85.