Thank you, Rob Kennedy

Rob Kennedy looks back on his career at FP&M

Rob Kennedy sits in his office on the 11th floor of the WARF building
Robert Kennedy at his office in the WARF Building, captured for FP&M Employee Recognition Awards for Rob’s role on the Chemistry response team that received the 2023 AVC Excellence Award

Sitting on the 11th floor of the WARF office building, Rob Kennedy looks over the UW-Madison campus as he reflects on his time at the university. Rob retired on Jan. 1, 2024. After a long and impactful career as a Transportation Planner with the Transportation Services Department in FP&M, Rob shared stories and wisdom he has gained throughout his 20 years at the university.

As a transportation planner, Rob has had a hand in many improvements to the campus and City of Madison over the years, much of which might go unnoticed by students and the Madison community at large. 

Rob spearheaded efforts to create the Campus Bike and Pedestrian Path, helping make commuting by foot or bike much safer and more convenient for Madison residents. He refers to this project as “creating a highway for bikes and pedestrians.” Rob tied this project into a key message he wants future generations to know.

“Think big. Things happen when you think big,” he said. “If you don’t think big, nothing’s going to happen.”

Rob Kennedy at a construction site
Rob during the construction of the Campus Drive Bike Path Bridge

The inauguration of the path is one of Rob’s fondest memories of his time at FP&M. This event celebrated the hard work and determination that went into the much-needed path. Bucky Badger and the UW Marching Band joined Rob and others to celebrate this exciting project. He said working on this project with former FP&M civil engineer, Steve Harmon, was one of the most “fun and satisfying” moments of his career. 

Rob Kennedy with Bucky Badger
Rob with Bucky Badger at the bike path’s grand opening ceremony

Rob noted that his favorite part about being a Transportation Planner at FP&M is that there is always something new to do or see every day. He commented that walking around campus, visiting construction sites to advise workers and watching projects morph from plans to reality kept his days exciting and fulfilling.

Rob also helped develop the road extension and roundabout on Observatory Drive and Walnut Street. When Rob first started at FP&M, utility project work was underway beneath Observatory Drive. Rob saw this as an opportunity to improve the campus efficiently. Since the road was ripped up anyway due to the utilities work, he was able to redesign it. 

In his plan, he extended the road to the UW hospital, and put in a traffic signal and roundabout to address safety concerns. The plan also added a sidewalk and bike lane. Rob wanted to ensure he was going to improve the campus and the safety of others at any chance he got.

“Don’t just build it back the same way, build it better,” he said.

As the fall sun sets in the background, pedestrians and cyclists make their way along along a sidewalk near Observatory Drive at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Oct. 20, 2016. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)
As the fall sun sets in the background, pedestrians and cyclists make their way along along a sidewalk near Observatory Drive at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Oct. 20, 2016. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

Because of this mindset, Observatory Drive is the safe, walkable campus street we know today. Rob made sure to go above and beyond expectations in his projects. His important work does not go unnoticed to those he works with. 

“Rob has played a major role in modernizing our campus transportation system,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor of Transportation Services, Patrick Kass. “Thanks to Rob, our facilities and roadways are safer, more sensible and more efficient for all travel modes than they were before he arrived at Transportation Services. We are particularly proud of the work he has done to promote safe travel for pedestrians and cyclists over the years.”

Rob is optimistic about the future of transportation planning at UW-Madison. He commented on the positive work environment at Transportation Services and FP&M as a whole, saying his colleagues have been good to work with. 

“I can honestly say that pretty much all my colleagues at Transportation and FP&M have been good and often fun to work with,” Rob said. “Hopefully, I was a convivial presence myself around the office since, as people, especially Transportation Customer Service staff, constantly reminded me, I was always whistling and singing to myself all day without really realizing I was doing it.”

Rob specifically mentioned a few awesome employees he hired and supervised, including Dar Ward, Chuck Strawser and Troy Ruland, each of whom Rob states is doing great work at FP&M. 

“Knowing what we have been able to do should give people the ambition for what we can do,” he said.

Rob’s knowledge and legacy will be passed down to future FP&M employees to continue his high caliber of work for the campus.

FP&M thanks Rob for all of his work and wishes him the best in his retirement. 

By, Anna Krawczyk and Colby Bellaman

Anna and Colby are strategic communications student interns with FP&M Marketing and Communications. Anna is a junior at UW-Madison majoring in Communication Arts and Psychology. She has been at FP&M since October 2023. Colby is a senior at UW-Madison majoring in strategic communications. She has been at FP&M since October 2023.