For Tom Kennedy ’08 ’10, magic, mentalism, and everything he learned at Montclair contributed to his success as a performer. He is a hit with corporate audiences ranging from nonprofit Make-A-Wish® and Harvard Business School to multinational enterprises such as PWC and Sylvania. In July, Kennedy returned to his alma mater to amaze incoming freshmen in the Summer Bridge Program, ensuring that their first experiences at Montclair are memorable ones.
Kennedy is such a gifted and engaging performer that it is hard to imagine him, at one time, considering a career as an engineer. “I had applied to an engineering school, but Montclair was also on my mind,” he explains. “My mom was a sixth-grade teacher. When I was in grade school, she took a sabbatical to study at Montclair.”
Kennedy loved the sciences – he was fascinated by geology, chemistry, and physics – and he loved magic. As he deepened his knowledge in these areas, Kennedy began to see how his seemingly varied interests intersected.
“The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark is quoted as saying that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he notes.
Kennedy also discovered his love for reading.
“In high school, I had English teachers who provided transformative experiences,” he says. Kennedy ultimately chose English as his undergraduate major and continued on to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching. Although he taught middle school English for five years, he considers performing as his first, and only, real career path.
“I began my career as a professional magician while still in high school,” Kennedy says. “I found my first booking agency – a small firm in Union City – in the Yellow Pages.”
Today, Kennedy manages a growing client list of nonprofit and corporate powerhouses, and he is a sought-after mentalist for trade shows. “Companies hire me to add value to their trade show presentations,” he explains. “I help attract visitors to their booths and generate interest in their products.”
“My education from Montclair prepared me to pull knowledge from every aspect of the human existence into my work,” Kennedy says. “The teacher education classes in particular strengthened my ability to get – and keep – audiences’ attention long enough to get a message across. Courses in lesson plan design taught me how to scaffold my presentations to bring audiences along. I begin with what I want my impact to be and how I want it to be felt, and I work back from there.”
“Montclair really opened my world view,” Kennedy continues. “And you have the capacity to make the experience whatever you want it to be. My friends and I were interested in magic, so we started a new club – and received funding to purchase resource materials!”
Kennedy is thrilled to have the opportunity to meet with students who are new to the University. “My goal is to amaze them and make them laugh, and to show them that a Montclair education can lead to a wide variety of career choices.”