Alumni Stories

Kenya Mann Faulkner, ’86: A Passion for Law and Education

Kenya Mann Faulkner, ’86, has had an exceptional legal career. She has served as a public defender, as a prosecutor on the state and federal level, in the private sector, and now, in academia, having recently been named vice president for legal affairs and general counsel at the University of Cincinnati. It would be easy for her to credit hard work and ambition for her success, and certainly, they were key factors. But she is also quick to point out that she has had the support of many people along the way.

The first of these was her grandfather, Callie McDuffie. A widower with 10 children of his own, Callie took Kenya and her older sister into his home after their mother died. Kenya was only three at the time. Callie instilled a strong work ethic and the core value of consideration for others in his children and grandchildren, and encouraged them to pursue an education. “Education is freedom, and if you can get your education, the rest is easy,” he would tell them.

Kenya followed that advice. She enrolled in Niagara’s criminal justice program, attracted to the university because of its small size and religious tradition. There, she met Dr. Marilyn Chandler Ford, who assisted her with her law school applications. Kenya says that this help was instrumental in getting her into the University of Buffalo Law School.

“She took an interest in me and always cheers me on,” Kenya says, noting that she still contacts her former professor from time to time.

While at Niagara, Kenya’s focus was on her studies. But she also made the time to work with Brother Steve Kennedy, C.M., the university’s postmaster, who donated countless hours to a variety of charitable causes in the Niagara Falls area.

“Brother Steve just had a good way about him,” she recalls. “He was a nice, gentle, caring man. And he used to make potato soup; I’ll never forget that. He’d make it for the homeless people and we’d get to have it, too.”

This example of service to others, set by both Brother Steve and Dr. Chandler Ford, was an inspiration for Kenya. “They never asked anything of me, they just said let me help you, and let me show you how to give back,” she says. Accordingly, she has made it a priority to mentor young lawyers, regardless of other commitments on her time.

After graduating from UB with her juris doctor in 1989, Kenya was hired as a public defender in Philadelphia. She spent six years in that role, gaining courtroom experience, before Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett hired her to be a prosecutor in the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation. In 2002, largely due to her work with federal prosecutors on a methamphetamine-distribution conspiracy case, she was asked to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As a federal prosecutor, Kenya worked on one of her most memorable cases, one involving a New Jersey millionaire who molested young boys in the Eastern European country of Moldova. The case earned her the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Protecting Children Internationally. She has also been recognized with a special commendation by the Pennsylvania State Attorney General’s Office; awards for outstanding dedication and service from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Division and for successful prosecution in a healthcare fraud investigation from the Postal Inspector; a Director’s Award for Superior Performance by a Litigative Team; and was selected as a Diverse Attorney of the Year by the Legal Intelligencer.

In 2008, Kenya left the public sector to take a job as a partner with Ballard Spahr LLP, where she worked in the white-collar litigation department. Three years later, Tom Corbett, who was now governor of Pennsylvania, named her inspector general.

Kenya is as passionate about education as she is about law and has been an adjunct professor for institutions including Temple University Law School, West Chester University, and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. When she learned that the position of vice president for legal affairs at the University of Cincinnati was available, she immediately threw her hat into the ring.

“As I vied for the job, I thought this would be a coup for me to be able to do this,” she says. “It would still challenge me, and it would give me all the things that I love. I get government, I get education, and I get the legal. I get it all kind of wrapped up into one.

“If you look at my career path,” she continues, “you would never have placed me in full-blown education. So I was proud that I could parlay my background into education, and I’m honored to be a part of the University of Cincinnati because education means so much to me.”

This new role, which she began on April 1, may be a departure of sorts for Kenya, but her goal remains the same.

“At the end of the day, I really try to do what’s right and what’s fair,” she says. “You’re not going to change everyone’s life, but I think you try to just make a little difference in someone’s life.”