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Kendal Corp. welcomes Byrd as new CEO

Katie Tabeling

Vassar Byrd has been serving as the Kendal Corporation’s CEO for the last few months. | PHOTO COURTESY OF KENDAL CORP.

NEWARK Kendal Corp., a national support organization for a network of senior living communities, has a new CEO as it continues to explore new innovations from its headquarters based out of the University of Delaware STAR Campus.

Vassar Byrd has been at the helm of the company since early 2024 and has been taking the time to learn the ins and outs of the company. Kendal is a Quaker-founded organization that moved to UD’s FinTech Innovation Hub in 2023. In the year since, the company built a strong foundation, notably with the Enso Village complex in California in the near future. A second one is planned for the Los Angeles area.

“That project is such a great model of finding natural partners to co-sponsor new communities to serve others,” Byrd told the Delaware Business Times. “There’s plenty of opportunities for Kendal, because we offer answers to so many questions, such as how do you provide additional amenities that residents want? How do you attract great staff and offer them the benefits they deserve?”

Kendal Corp. has a network of 10 communities in eight states, focusing primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and in New England, all of which are independently owned and operated. They pay annual fees to the central organization, which provides central services, such as financial services, insurance, marketing, IT services and more to members. Many of its locations are planned communities with a full continuum of care, including independent living and skilled nursing.

“A single site really can’t afford to have the level of IT support that any small business needs today,” Byrd said. “It’s just too much. But we can offer that expertise among our communities so they can have robust systems with experts that can support each affiliate in their needs.”

Byrd was hired to lead Kendal Corp. after the company launched a year-long search for its next CEO after Sean Kelly announced he would move to Front Porch Communications and Services after six years with the company.

Byrd most recently served as the CEO of Portland life plan community Rose Villa. Rose Villa recently completed its decade-long master plan for the 262-home community which included a wellness center, dining venues and a creative arts building. She served as the CEO at the nonprofit for 17 years.

“After completing that project, it was like the job was done. And I’m not one to sit still,” she said. “Kendal does it completely differently in terms of handling the professional services so that your organization can handle more important things in caring for residents and really shine there. It’s not like a chain, but where every individual community is singing a song, and Kendal is there to support them to be the best they can be. It’s a different mindset, and it’s really attractive to me.”

Byrd also pointed to Kendal’s focus on innovation, which also makes it stand out among the crowd. The organization began after a group of Quakers from the Philadelphia and Wilmington areas grew older and recognized that none of the existing living situations fit their desires for an independent and engaging experience. In 1973, they founded what is today known as Kendal-Crosslands Communities located near Longwood Gardens.

When Kendal was first a stand-alone community center, it teamed up with local colleges like UD. Today, Kendal has been leveraging students to explore new ideas in attracting and retaining talent through business courses.

Looking ahead, Byrd plans on bringing the Kendal workforce in the office at least twice a week and plans to restructure its IT services and refresh the brand.

“It’s important to me to have the Quaker values a little more clear in our directives. I’m not a practicing Quaker, but what strikes me is it’s important to hear everyone’s opinion and that each person holds an inner light. In today’s business world, it cannot be more important. It speaks directly to making sure we are inclusive and that everyone has a voice,” she said.

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