Ken Chenault

“A good education is about more than academics – it’s also about learning values and principles,”says Ken Chenault, Chairman and CEO of American Express Company.
“My teacher, Lee Lecraw, set high standards. She taught her students about being responsible. She taught us the importance of integrity. Though thoroughly demanding, she also had a special gift for making learning fun.
“Lee was my teacher for several years when I was growing up, and I am blessed to call her a mentor and friend to this day.”

Behind Every Famous Person is a Fabulous Teacher.

Kenneth Chenault and Lydia A. “Lee” Lecraw

Kenneth I. Chenault is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of American Express Company.

Mr. Chenault joined the company in September 1981 as Director of Strategic Planning. He was named President of the Consumer Card Group in 1989, and in 1993 he became President of Travel Related Services (TRS), which encompassed all of American Express’ card and travel businesses in the United States. In 1995, he assumed additional responsibility for the company’s worldwide card and travel businesses and also was named Vice Chairman of American Express. Mr. Chenault became President and Chief Operating Officer in February 1997. He assumed his current responsibilities as CEO on January 1, 2001, and as Chairman on April 23 of that year.

Before he came to American Express, Mr. Chenault was a management consultant with Bain & Co. from 1979 to 1981, and an attorney with Rogers & Wells from 1977 to 1979.

Mr. Chenault serves on the boards of American Express and several other corporate and nonprofit organizations, including IBM, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, the National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the Smithsonian Institution’s Advisory Council for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the Phoenix House Foundation and the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation. He also is on the boards of the Partnership for New York City, The Business Council and the Business Roundtable and serves as Vice Chairman of each of these organizations.

A wide variety of civic, social service and community organizations have recognized Mr. Chenault for his public service leadership. He has received the Phoenix House Public Service Award, the Corporate Responsibility Award from the International Rescue Committee and the Wall Street Rising Leadership Award, among others.

Mr. Chenault holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA in history from Bowdoin College, and he has received a number of honorary degrees from several universities.

He and his wife, Kathryn, live in New York with their two children.

Lydia A. “Lee” Lecraw began her teaching career at the Waldorf School of Garden City, New York. She took two classes from the first through the eighth grades during 1949 to 1965. Ken Chenault was a student in her second class. In 1966, Mrs. Lecraw was an instructor in the graduate teacher-training program at the Waldorf Institute, a position she held for more than 10 years.

A Waldorf School teacher must be an artist to be effective, Mrs. Lecraw explains. Each child and each class is different. A teacher should teach to the needs of those particular children, not from a preconceived lesson plan, even as a true artist would not work from a preconceived notion. If the children are ready for the many subjects presented, they will be enthusiastic and will develop a love for learning, nature and all people.

Mrs. Lecraw received a BA in music at the University of California at Berkley in 1942. She then worked at the War Department in Washington, D.C. While there, she attended George Washington University where she met her husband, John Lecraw. They married in 1942. After moving to New York and while teaching at the Waldorf School, Mrs. Lecraw earned her Masters degree in Education at Adelphi University. Their two children attended the Garden City Waldorf School from pre-school through high school.

Mrs. Lecraw retired in 1979. She and her husband moved to Marlborough, New Hampshire, where they built a solar home facing Mount Monadnock. They both did volunteer work, and Mrs. Lecraw advised a fledgling Waldorf School in the area.

Today, she discusses modern novels with one group and studies Shakespeare and philosophy with various other groups. Many former elementary school and graduate institute students often visit her, and some still call her for advice.

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