There are days that I regret not following my father’s footsteps.

My father operated a television sales and repair shop for more than 35 years in a small rural Illinois town. He and my mother still live there, with the shop still located in the backyard. Sad to say, not I, my three brothers, or any of my four sisters decided to take over the successful family business.

Therefore, when I hear about sons (or daughters) following their father’s respective career path in this industry, I take notice. (In truth, I am kind of envious.) So, when Rick Kennedy called The News prior to the 2002 Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating (AHR) Expo, my ears perked up. Rick, a senior account executive at Alfa Laval (Richmond, VA), wanted to let us know that three generations of ASHRAE members were coming to Atlantic City. I encouraged 53-year-old Rick, his 82-year-old retired father Edwin, and Rick’s 25-year-old son Robert to stop by our booth to chat.

Together, they paint a glowing picture of this industry, which is always refreshing.


“Since my days in high school, I always knew I wanted to be an engineer,” admitted the eldest Kennedy, who earned a BSME in 1942 from Newark College of Engineering. “As the war was winding down in 1945, I thought I would like to design steam turbines and applied to General Electric for work. They started me on the Test Engineers Program, and my first assignment was in the Air Conditioning Department. I liked what I saw and decided it was the business I wanted to stay in.”

After 39-plus years, he retired from GE/Trane in 1984.

“I was fortunate to see the air conditioning business grow into what it is today,” said Edwin. “There were times with our

many problems with compressor failures I wondered if we would succeed.”

While working, Edwin Kennedy tried to get his son into engineering, but marketing was more interesting for Rick. Edwin helped his son get a job with GE in air conditioning sales.

“I have always thought of my dad as the smartest engineer alive,” said Rick without hesitation. “He was very influential in my deciding to join GE. Since he was and is well respected in the industry, I felt I had to do an exceptional job — to keep the good name going.”

Rick’s career in this industry goes all over the map. He has had stints with Powers Regulator, Robertshaw Controls, and Johnson Controls. In 1994, he joined Alfa Laval.

Rick will quickly admit he influenced his son to get into the industry. A good friend of his owns a coil machinery company, CMS, in Altoni, Italy. Although CMS sold in the U.S., they wanted a bigger presence here and asked Rick to help. During the AHR Expo in Atlanta two years ago, Rick convinced Robert to join CMS-USA as a sales engineer.

“Before then, I had been doing sales for the telecommunication industry,” said Robert. “Moving into the hvac industry was one of the best things that could have happened to me.

“I remember years ago asking my father how he got a job as fun and interesting as his. The day I left for training with CMS, he said that I now had one as well. There is a lot to live up to in this family, and I am anxious to get started trying to make them proud.”


As would be expected, each has different reasons for enjoying this industry.

“The thing I like about this industry the most is the people,” said Rick. “Through my years in the hvacr industry, I have become lifelong friends with many people. This is a close-knit industry where it seems everyone knows everyone. I am so proud that I have followed in my dad’s footsteps and that Robert has followed in mine.”

Said Edwin, “I don’t see many young people these days, but when I have the chance, I try to encourage them to look at the industry.”

The youngest Kennedy is a believer, too.

“I have been trying to talk to several of the people I know into the industry,” Robert said. “With the way things are changing in the technology industry, I feel that this is one of the most secure industries out there. I try to stress how much there will be for people in this field in the years to come, and how interesting and always changing it is.”

No need to convince me. Sorry, dad.

For the complete question-and-answer session with the Kennedys, see "Web Exclusive: Q&A With Three Generations Of ASHRAE Members."

Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446; 248-362-0317 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 04/01/2002