Representing: Florida A&M University
When ESPN sent Bernard and Shirley Kinsey’s business manager an email invitation to be MEAC/SWAC Challenge Legends, it took less than two hours for them to respond—and Bernard made the call himself. “We’re FAMU’s biggest cheerleaders and supporters,” Bernard said. “This was an easy call to make.”
Graduates of Florida A&M University, the Kinseys are one of the most admired and respected couples in Los Angeles. Their marriage—46 years strong and counting—is the stuff of fairy tales.
Together, the Kinseys have raised more than $22 million for charitable and educational organizations, including $11 million for their alma mater, and have provided scholarships for more than 300 young people to attend college.
The Kinseys have most recently become known for their collection of African-American art, books and manuscripts that document the story of African American triumphs and struggles from 1600 to the present day. “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Where Art and History Intersect” has been on a national tour to eight cities, including the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. A portion of the collection is on display at Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, where it will be housed through 2016. The Kinsey Collection, a 198-page book, is now in its fourth edition and was adopted by the Florida Department of Education to teach African American history to 3.6 million students statewide.
How they got to this point is a story within itself. Both born and raised in Florida—Bernard in West Palm Beach and Shirley in St. Augustine—the two met at FAMU in 1963 after a civil rights protest during which Shirley, then 17, was arrested. The couple married in 1967 and, after graduating, moved to Los Angeles.
Shirley taught school in Compton before joining the Xerox Corporation, where Bernard ultimately served as a vice president until his retirement in 1991. Upon retiring, he went on to serve as co-chairman of Re-Build Los Angeles, and has become an internationally sought-after business consultant, counseling the governments of South Africa, Germany, England and France in economic development.
For most people approaching their 50th year of togetherness, this would be their time to kick back and relax. Not the Kinseys; their passion—for culture, travel and philanthropy—continues to burn.
“I want our young people to know who they are and whose they are and where they come from, and be empowered by that,” explains Shirley.
During his tenure as president of FAMU’s National Alumni Association, which represents more than 50,000 alumni worldwide, assets grew fourfold, life memberships doubled, and Bernard launched the first FAMU/NAA national convention, now in its 12th year. As chairman of the FAMU Industry Cluster from 1984 to 1991, he helped to raise more than $9 million, and together the Kinseys have personally contributed more than $350,000 in grants and gifts to FAMU, and more than $75,000 to the FAMU marching band.
So when they say they are champions for FAMU, the Kinseys mean it. “This institution is powerful,” says Bernard. “We graduate more PHDs in physics and math and science than any other institution in the country. FAMU graduates 10 percent of all African Americans in the country – more than the PAC 12, the PAC 10 and the Ivy League, so we need FAMU.”
For more information on the Kinsey Collection, visit www.thekinseycollection.com.
—Mark W. Wright