Home Depot Co-Founder Kenneth Langone to Speak at Commencement

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Kenneth Langone, a 1957 graduate of Bucknell University and former trustee, will speak May 19 at Bucknell University's commencement ceremony.

An investment banker who rose from modest origins to become one of America's most successful businessmen, Langone is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Invemed Associates LLC, a New York brokerage and investment banking firm. He is perhaps best known for co-founding Home Depot, Inc., the well-known home improvement chain, and for taking Ross Perot's firm, Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS), public in the 1960s.

Langone also serves on the boards of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the New York Philharmonic, the Children's Oncology Society (the Ronald McDonald House), the Robin Hood Foundation, and the Harlem Children's Zone.

Last year, the Boys' Club of New York presented Langone with its Man of the Year Award.

As noted in a 1995 profile of Langone in Bucknell World, Langone measures his success by relationships -- and that attitude is reflected in his business investments. "Buying a stock is a bet on people," he said in a USA Today interview. "I want integrity, ability, and candor. If not, I walk. . . ."

Langone doesn't look for a short-term ride to huge profits, but rather a long-term association with the growth and success of companies he helps launch. Home Depot and EDS may be his biggest success stories, but he has had many other successes in his career. To name just one: in 1989 Langone founded AutoFinance Group, a highly successful auto leasing company.

"I can't tell you how pleased I am that Ken Langone has accepted our invitation to speak at this year's commencement," said Bucknell President Steffen H. Rogers.

"Ken's commitment to Bucknell has been exceptional. He has served as a trustee, a tremendous benefactor, and a great cheerleader for this university. Ken's love for this place -- and that of his wife, Elaine -- is in evidence everywhere," Rogers said.

"Clearly, Bucknell holds an important place in Ken Langone's life, and he is extremely important to life at Bucknell -- to our academic strength, rigor, and vitality, and to the strong sense of commitment we feel for the institution and to all members of the Bucknell family."

Langone graduated from Bucknell with a degree in economics and political science and earned his M.B.A. degree from New York University's Stern School of Business while working as an analyst for the Equitable Life Assurance Society.

In November 1994, the Bucknell Alumni Association presented Langone with an alumni award for "outstanding achievement in a chosen profession." The award is presented annually to a Bucknell alum whose professional accomplishments and achievements are exceptionally noteworthy and distinctive.

Rogers noted that Langone and his wife, Elaine, "have been amazingly generous to Bucknell, giving major support to the new recreation and athletic center, to the recent capital campaign, to the Langone Center, and to the scholarship named in his honor, to name just a few examples."

Construction of the new recreation and athletics center, now well under way, is expected to be complete in fall 2003. Portions of the facility are expected to be completed and available for use in fall 2002. When complete, the center will include a modern, Olympic-class, 54-meter pool; a 14,000-square-foot student fitness center and instructional strength and conditioning area; an Athletic Hall of Fame; a 4,000-seat multipurpose arena; and a prominent area for displaying Bucknell's Medal of Honor recipients.

During Bucknell's recent capital campaign, Langone shared some of his observations about Bucknell, the factors that motivate his philanthropy, and the scholarship that bears his name.

"Elaine and I feel strongly that our success should be shared," Langone once said in an interview. "We have a particular affinity for programs and activities that involve kids, simply because they're our posterity."

In addition to their lead gift of $11 million for the recreation and athletics center, the Langones made a $5.8 million commitment to the recent campaign, which included $5 million for financial aid endowment in the form of the Kenneth G. Langone Scholarship Fund. The Langones also have made major commitments to a new Jewish Life and Learning/Human Tolerance and Understanding fund, and to his class's record-setting reunion gift for the unrestricted annual fund in 1996-97.

The Langone scholarships are awarded to students who have "evidenced ambition, commitment to their family and/or their community, creativity, determination, integrity, loyalty, and steadfastness." It embodies the Langones' desire to structure a scholarship that would reward a student's character and go well beyond the usual academic criteria.

"Too often academic performance is essentially possessing a good memory," Langone has said. "Elaine and I are more interested in what a kid has done with his or her life outside the classroom. Typically, these are kids with some sort of stress in their lives -- kids who have had to compromise childhood pleasures because they had to work during high school and really didn't have enough time to study or participate in extracurricular activities."

In 1953, Langone entered Bucknell with some of those same traits. He was raised as part of a close-knit family of modest means in Roslyn Heights, N.Y. Langone's father was a plumber and his mother a cafeteria worker. At Langone's high school graduation, his parents were told by the principal that he wouldn't last six months in college. They nevertheless took a second mortgage on their home to pay for his tuition.

Langone graduated from Bucknell in three and one-half years, served several years in the U.S. Army, and then began his highly successful business career.

In addition to co-founding Home Depot, Langone serves on its board of directors and is lead director. He has been a member of the executive committee of its board since the company's founding in 1978.

In 1962, Langone joined the investment banking firm of R.W. Pressprich & Co. as an associate, and advanced to president and chief operating officer. It was at Pressprich that he took EDS public.

Langone serves on the corporate boards of Choicepoint, Inc.; General Electric; TRICON Global Restaurants; Unifi, Inc..; Salem Nationalease Corp., and the New York Stock Exchange.

In addition to his business affiliations, he is a trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

From 1982 to 1996, Langone was a member of Bucknell's board of trustees. He also served as chairman of its nomination and endowment committees and as a member of the executive committee. He is vice chairman of the board of overseers of NYU's Stern School, as well as chair of the board of trustees of NYU's medical school and a member of NYU's board of trustees and its executive committee.

The Langones, who live in Sands Point, N.Y., have three grown children: Kenneth Jr. (a 1983 Bucknell graduate), Bruce, and Stephen.

Bucknell's commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. and end between 12:30 and 1 p.m. The ceremony will be held on the Academic Quadrangle (or in case of rain, in Gerhard Fieldhouse). Langone's remarks are expected to begin about 10:45 a.m.

The ceremony will mark Bucknell's 152nd commencement. Diplomas will be awarded to more than 800 undergraduate and graduate students.

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Contact: Alan Janesch at [email protected] or 570/577-3631.

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