Minnie Kenny grew up in Philadelphia, Pa., in a mixed neighborhood that had left segregation behind. She was shocked by the discrimination she found when she came to Washington for employment, and, after joining NSA's predecessor in 1952, worked tirelessly throughout her career to further the cause of minorities in the Agency.
She quickly developed a reputation for excellence in three skill areas: language, cryptanalysis, and traffic analysis. As her reputation increased, Ms. Kenny was invited to work at an elite "think tank" at NSA, studying the future of cryptanalysis and language problems. As Chairperson of the Language Panel, she revised outdated rules for professional development to reflect changing realities.
As Deputy Commandant at the National Cryptologic School, working with the Commandant, she expanded the school's reach by developing outside partnerships, including with local universities, the U.S. military academies, and several foreign educational institutions.
In 1985 Ms. Kenny created the Red Carnation Award to recognize exceptional leadership. Although it never attained official status, it quickly became a mark of distinction within the Agency and was highly coveted. In 2000, she, herself, received the award, nominated by previous recipients.
When the status of the Office Equal Employment Opportunity was in doubt, Ms. Kenny convinced the Director that the Equal Opportunity Office (EEO) should answer directly to him, not his subordinates. In this action, she was instrumental in keeping the EEO Office at a level with the status needed to remain effective.
Ms. Kenny worked with the office of Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes to create scholarship opportunities for NSA employees. She continued to work with the congressional office after retiring from NSA.
Her legacy was not only in the impressive changes she effected in NSA structure, policy, and practice, but in the inspiration she was to all NSA employees, regardless of race, giving them faith that they could effect beneficial changes, even in a large institution.