A professor of management and organization development and leading authority on persuasion, negotiation, leadership and interpersonal communication, Reardon received the award Oct. 11 as part of UConn’s 2013 Homecoming celebrations.
“Dr. Kathleen Kelley Reardon is a distinguished UConn alumna,” said Laura Cahill, president of the UConn Alumni Association awards selection committee. “She has performed outstanding and exemplary achievements that have made, and continue to make, the UConn community, our national community and our global community a better place.”
Among other accomplishments, her research on organizational power and politics has led to a new understanding of the hidden dynamics that affect the workplace and too often discriminate against women. She has also provided leading-edge advice, tools and strategies to organizations that include Toyota, CIGNA, Hewlett Packard, AT&T, Sony, NewsCorp, Pfizer and the NASA Jet Propulsion Labs. Her seminal research on the role of gift giving in international negotiations was adopted by the U.S. Chief of Protocol, as well as chiefs of protocol around the world.
“What sets Kathleen apart from her many eminent colleagues is that she is willing to put her research and actions where her mouth is, devoting enormous energy and work to understanding and improving some of the most pressing problems facing us today,” said University of Southern California Department of Management and Organization Department Chair Thomas Cummings.
Reardon has also been a champion for children, using her scholarly research to develop persuasive strategies to alter dangerous health habits. A feasibility study she conducted in 1982 as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute led to the founding of the non-profit Starbright Foundation (now Starlight), which uses social technology to provide critically ill children and their families with medical information, educational support and entertainment. Conducted years before Facebook or any other type of social media existed, it was a pioneering achievement.
Reardon’s dedication to at-risk populations also led to her 1999 conceptualization and co- founding of First Star, a non-profit designed to help abused and neglected foster children by establishing college-prep academies on college campuses. The University of Los Angeles, University of Rhode Island and George Washington University were among the first sites. Their creation is outlined in Reardon’s 2009 book “Childhood Denied,” which she co-authored with UConn alumnus Chris Noblet. Last summer, the fourth First Star Academy opened at UConn to provide foster teens each summer for four years with four weeks of academic training, life skills instruction and access to health and social services followed by montly meetings throughout their high school academic years.
A Stratford native, Reardon’s vast philanthropic work began as a child within in her community. Her life of service has ranged from caring for elderly patients as a Carmelette at St. Joseph’s Manor in Trumbull, teaching chronically ill patients how to paint to establishing a Girl Guide scouting program in West Cork, Ireland. Reardon—a breast cancer survivor—also wrote and produced the award-winning documentary “How Will I Survive” to support other breast cancer survivors. She has worked with Patrick Kennedy to shed greater light and understanding on the challenges of mental illness.
Reardon is an inspiration to the countless lives that have crossed hers: “Dr. Reardon saw the best in me, instructed me on how to survive difficult situations and showed me how to be socially and ethically responsible,” said Theresa Carilli, one of Dr. Reardon’s first UConn graduate students. Today, Carilli is a professor of Communication and Creative Arts at Purdue University Calumet.
“Dr. Reardon believes all individuals have the potential to rise to the occasion and do something meaningful, useful and worthwhile with their lives. She’s a heartfelt humanitarian,” Carilli continued.
A renowned author of nine books of non-fiction, Reardon recently published her first novel, the mystery thriller “Shadow Campus,” which tackles crime, conspiracy and politics on a university campus. Dorie Clark of Forbes recently described it as a “masterful debut mystery.”
“This novel is part of my return to certain aspects of the arts always in the back of my mind,” Reardon said. “I began as an English major and teacher and I’ve returned full circle.” Reardon is also a painter of watercolors and oils, many of which she donates to charities.
A former high school teacher, Reardon received her BA in Secondary Education from the Neag School. After receiving her MA and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she returned to UConn to teach for six years in the Department of Communications Science where she was tenured in 1984 and took a sabbatical at Stanford University.
She has been a featured blogger on Huffington Post’s front page since 2005 and also blogs regularly at kathleenkelleyreardon.com.