Below is a brief account of Kennedy Jenks’ storied 100+-year history. More information is available in our detailed timeline, including many of the firm’s milestone projects.
The names Kennedy and Jenks were linked long before the two firms merged. Clyde C. Kennedy (class of 1911) and Harry Jenks (class of 1917) both studied at UC Berkeley under legendary Professor Charles Gilman Hyde. Both men were strongly influenced by Hyde’s ideas on what was then called “sanitary engineering.”
The Office of Clyde C. Kennedy opened in San Francisco in 1919. At the time Americans were migrating westward, attracted by the seemingly unlimited opportunities. Clyde Kennedy foresaw the need for large-scale water projects and quickly set the firm apart with its innovative water supply and treatment projects. One of his engineers for a short time was Harry Jenks, who eventually moved to the Midwest to take teaching positions.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Jenks was inventing his own water treatment techniques as well as teaching. He saw the rapid growth in the West and, with his family, returned to California, setting up his engineering business in Palo Alto, CA.
Kennedy and Jenks shared a strong commitment to service and integrity, a knack for innovation, and descendants with a passion for the family business.
Throughout WWII and the post-war boom, the two firms remained friendly competitors, both earning numerous government contracts and occasionally collaborating on big projects. In 1980, then-named Kennedy Engineers and Jenks & Harrison merged, led by the founder’s grandson, David Kennedy and son John Jenks.
The environmental movement was gaining strength in the 1980s and newly merged Kennedy Jenks offered expertise in environmental regulations, permitting, water treatment, wastewater treatment, environmental remediation, and laboratory services. Their list of clients multiplied and included cities, counties, water districts, state agencies, aerospace companies, railroads, water ports, and manufacturing firms of all kinds.
In the 1990s and 2000s Kennedy Jenks developed new areas of expertise in advanced water treatment, resource recovery at wastewater treatment plants, PFAS removal, construction management, alternative delivery and more. At the same time, KJ has expanded throughout the United States, and now has offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
The family legacy continues to this day. Clyde’s grandson David Kennedy retired in 2006 after serving as CEO for 27 years; David’s daughter Laura Kennedy Gutierrez is currently the firm’s COO/Industrial. Throughout Kennedy Jenks’ history, the firm – employee-owned since 1972 – has upheld its commitment to core values: Trust, Service, Integrity, Diversity & Inclusion.