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Kevin Carey Prioritizes Penn State’s Financial Challenges Ahead Of Board Of Trustees Election

When Kevin Carey first visited Happy Valley as a wide-eyed prospective student from New Jersey, the first-generation Penn Stater almost instantly realized how significant of a role the quaint college setting would play in framing his future success. 

Carey, a 1989 alumni of the College of Liberal Arts, went on to meet his wife at Penn State and now serves as the proud parent of two recent graduates and one junior. As much as Penn State has gifted Carey over his nearly four-decade personalized journey with the university, he now feels qualified to mend recent setbacks as a member of the Board of Trustees. 

While Carey’s campaign is stacked up among notable Penn State alumni and experienced board members, he’s confident that his prominent experience as a mainstay in the financial industry can help the university navigate pressing challenges with meaningful action rather than simply initiating dialogue. 

“I’ve been really trying to echo the significance and seriousness of the financial challenges the university faces,” Carey said. “My experience in working in large, global corporations in managing and navigating complex organizations and managing financial issues, while driving results, really gives me the relevant experience, the operational capabilities, and the mindset to impact these issues.”

For most of Carey’s professional career, the seasoned business professional has worked as a senior executive for American Express before becoming the chief operating officer and senior executive vice president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). Between Carey’s 25 years at American Express, and since arriving at AHLA in 2017, his revitalization efforts have triggered realizable results and solutions. 

At AHLA, his leadership efforts have generated revenue growth of nearly 50% since stepping into his executive title. Moreover, Carey’s focus on generating strategic partnerships in the business realm could prove vital in staving Penn State’s continual tuition ascension, which was most recently raised by 2% last July. 

“I’ve tried to be specific in highlighting some areas that I think are untapped opportunities,” Carey said. “One, in particular, is around corporate partnerships. There was obviously a lot of attention paid last week to the renewal of the agreement with Pepsi. In my judgment, there are more large corporate partnerships that Penn State can be capitalizing on and taking advantage of renegotiating those on a regular basis to ensure that the economics and financial benefits for the university and for student programs are increasing.”

On paper, mitigating rising student costs amid university funding shortfalls is a steep task, but Carey believes his expertise qualifies him more than any other candidate to tackle the tuition dilemma paired with a widespread $140 million budgeting deficit. Aside from forming sustainable, corporate deals, Carey thinks that another source of largely untried funding could stem from non-alumni parents of current students. 

“I’ve also talked about another category, in particular non-alumni parents, as a source of untapped financial opportunity,” Carey said. “My wife and I have worked as co-chairs of the university development initiative around parent philanthropy, and I see so many examples of people who didn’t attend Penn State, their kids are here now, and they’ve become the most engaged and enthusiastic supporters of the university.”

Similarly, Carey shares aligned views with Penn State Athletics’ quest to remain competitive within college sports’ ever-evolving NIL era, where players are able to capitalize monetarily on their own name, image, and likeness. 

The pressing issue and disarray from the top-to-bottom have placed another previously disregarded element on the importance of this year’s election cycle for alumni who yearn for Penn State’s varsity squads to appropriately reflect the university’s dominant image on the field of play. 

If Carey is elected as a fresh face on the Board of Trustees, he vows to fight for unity on the NIL front, while once again driving corporate partnerships as a key avenue to enhance fundraising capabilities. Additionally, he believes internal disagreements will only hinder Penn State Athletics in the long term, which should leave grander collective-based adjustments up to the athletic department itself. 

“I see NIL as a dimension of the larger financial challenges facing the university,” Carey said. “We really need to rapidly come together and focus on driving the success of this new world order that exists. What I can tell you is no one’s going to win if there’s internal mudslinging… I feel there should be a separation from the board and the NIL collectives. Certainly, individuals or members can support organizations that they want, but the NIL collectives should be operating outside of board members’ direct participation.”

As the father of four and an innovative business pioneer, Carey simply doesn’t need the satisfaction of claiming a seat on the Board of Trustees for personal gain. Instead, he sees his campaign as an obligation to give back to Penn State in return for shaping him into who he is today. 

Since Carey formally launched his pitch, he recognizes that he never had to be persuaded or talked into the undertaking, which he realizes is a significant responsibility. At this point, Carey knows that his experience in financial management in navigating complex organizations and dealing with government has the ability to impact Penn State from a change-based angle more than any other qualified candidate. 

“I entered this [campaign] for looking forward and not looking in the rearview mirror,” Carey said. “I also wasn’t someone who needed to be convinced to pursue this opportunity… So, I really just see this as a way to give back to an institution that is so important and plays such an important role in my life.”

Voting for this year’s trustee election will close on May 4. Eligible alumni can request ballots through this online form.


Editor’s note: Carey‘s interview is one of a multi-part series that aims to feature alumni running for open seats on the Board of Trustees. Onward State does not, and will not, endorse any candidate(s) in this election. Check out our site to read more about the seven remaining candidates vying for spots on the board throughout this year’s election cycle.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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