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Frostburg State University
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Francis A. and Lena Georg Kenney

 

Francis A. Kenney was born in 1915 into a large Irish Catholic family in Frostburg, Maryland. He was one of the middle children in a family of nine children, seven boys and two girls. His father owned a tobacco shop on Main Street and his mother was a homemaker. He was small in stature growing up and there was plenty of tussling among the brothers and cousins living nearby. Due to a childhood eye injury, he was not eligible for the Armed Services or for one of the good manufacturing jobs in the area. He intermittently attended Frostburg State Teachers College as his finances allowed and worked as a grocery clerk as well. He was a fervent Catholic and staunch Democrat and was giving political speeches while in high school.

Lena Georg was born in Accident, Maryland in 1918. She was the youngest of four children, three girls and one boy. Her father was the regional blacksmith and her mother was a seamstress. Accident was a German Lutheran community where most people still spoke German back then. Her mother was well ahead of her time by insisting all of her children play a musical instrument and have a profession. Each of her children moved away after their schooling to learn a trade or profession. Lena who was the church organist in her teen years therefore went to Frostburg State Teachers College in 1936. Lena and Francis met on campus and both loved to dance and have fun. Lena loved to tell how the girls went to the gym after their studies each evening for dancing and she hoped Francis would be there. She moved back to Accident after graduation in 1940 and taught elementary school out by the lake until she and Francis married in 1941 and moved to Cumberland where Francis became a file clerk for the Unemployment Office.

After two children were born (girl in 1942 and boy in 1944) Lena went back to teaching at the Flintstone school and Francis was steadily moving up the ladder at the Unemployment Office. Somewhere in that period they bought their first car and first home and set out on a path to save Lena’s earnings and live on one income. In 1952 they bought their second home in North Cumberland, a place they remained. Lena transferred to the Penn Avenue School and later to Parkside School in LaVale. Her favorite class was a combined advanced third grade and regular fourth grade. She developed individualized reading programs for each child and her rule was to never embarrass a child by rebuking them before others. She loved teaching.

Francis, who was seldom without an opinion and an unending curiosity, decided to get his college degree when he was in his forties. Lena was his ongoing support and typed all his school papers. Francis got involved in civic activities over the years. By working at the Unemployment Office, he saw the ravages of economic depression up close. He felt the area needed an interstate highway that would run from the port of Baltimore to the industrial areas of Ohio and he worked tirelessly to make Interstate 68 a reality; it took 30 years. He was on the FSU Board of Visitors when the school was made part of the University System of Maryland, his idea too. He would get an idea and sell it wherever and whenever he could. Lena would often travel with him. He spoke to the PawPaw Chamber of Commerce one time and she went along, packing a small snack to eat in the car. All these years, they were very frugal and kept saving. Lena, who was more introspective, disliked drawing attention to herself, while Francis loved to see his name in the paper, and it was delightful when accompanied by a picture.

Francis died in 1998, and Lena died in 2004. They had saved well over a million dollars and had given tirelessly to their community. They left a substantial amount to FSU to be used for scholarships in the School of Education.

 

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