Kevin J. Sutherland
Kevin J. Sutherland

The KJS Legacy Project was established to ensure Kevin J. Sutherland’s memory and work continue for years to come.

From a young age, Kevin demonstrated an immense interest in politics. A liberal lion at only 17, he was among the first to volunteer for Jim Himes’ successful 2008 campaign for Congress in Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District. He would go on to intern for Congressman Himes during his senior year in college and forge a friendship with the lawmaker that continued throughout his life.

His love of politics took Kevin from his home state of Connecticut to American University in Washington, D.C., where he wasted no time getting involved. During his freshman year, he applied his passion for politics and public policy by joining the AU College Democrats, where he completely rebuilt their website and redesigned their logo (which they still use today). In short order, Kevin started to give back to his university community through the American University Student Government. As a sophomore, he helped run the Kennedy Political Union, the nation’s largest student run, student funded speakers series. From political figures like Bill Clinton, Colin Powell and Bill Richardson to journalists Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow to celebrities like John Legend, Kevin’s contributions helped bring some of the most influential individuals in American society to American University’s campus.

Sensing that the campus community deserved a stronger voice, Kevin ran for Student Government Secretary during his junior year. The position oversaw all communications for the organization with a million dollar budget. Among his top priorities were drastically expanding the reach of AUSG’s social media accounts. His efforts led to greater students awareness of what their student leaders were doing for them and a more connected campus. Kevin would go on to run unopposed to serve a second term as Secretary during his senior year.

Upon graduation from American University’s School of Public Affairs, Kevin accepted a position with the Lone Star Project, a political research and strategic communications PAC providing fact-based political and issue analysis to counteract statements by Texas lawmakers. After two years honing his digital talents, Kevin moved to New Blue Interactive, where he applied his talents to helping Democratic campaigns and organizations communicate and fundraise. While his time there was short in length, Kevin left a lasting impact on his colleagues at the Democratic digital strategy firm.

Throughout all of that, Kevin honed a keen eye through graphic design and photography. His photographs captured Washington, D.C. – his adopted home, and anywhere else he visited. He loved photographing the National Mall, the D.C. architecture and other places of significance in American politics.

On a sunny July 4th, in 2015, Kevin set out to meet three friends for a weekend trip to Philadelphia to celebrate our nations birth and to capture the beauty of that historic city. Shortly after noon, after stepping onto a Metro car near his apartment at Rhode Island Row, Kevin was brutally attacked by a complete stranger in a horrific and senseless act of violence. He was tragically killed at the age of 24.

Kevin’s untimely death created a void in a countless number of lives. While it is impossible to know what good he would’ve done with more time on this planet – touching even more lives, it is clear that he dedicated his life to improving the lives of others. Kevin was someone we hope our public servants aspire to be. As Congressman Himes said on the floor of U.S. House of Representatives, “I think there was a chance that in 20 years, Kevin would have served in this chamber. That is not going to happen now. But Kevin’s spirit of openness, optimism, and possibility must live on.”

To honor Kevin’s life and his contribution to the AU Student Government, the AUSG Executive Board named their office the Kevin J. Sutherland Executive Office – also known simply as: “KJS”. The School of Public Affairs honored their alum by hanging 20 of his photo-canvases in Kerwin Hall – they still hang in those halls today. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority paid tribute to Kevin by displaying his photographs in their NoMa Metro Station for three months. And the AU College Democrats memorialized their former Communications Director by renaming their annual dinner: the Kevin J. Sutherland Banquet. Kevin’s impact on friends, colleagues, and administrators is unquestionable and his legacy lives on in those whose lives he touched.

The KJS Legacy Project mission is to carry forth the ideals Kevin espoused and to lift up others who seek to use politics and communications to improve the lives of others. Kevin dedicated his life to using his passion for digital communications to make American government an instrument for good and to carry out the charge from our Founding Fathers to seek “a more perfect Union”. Our mission is to use the tools available to us to carry that work forward in Kevin’s name.

Two scholarships have been created at American University in Kevin’s name:

  • The Kevin Joseph Sutherland Memorial Scholarship Fund was established by Kevin’s family and close friends to provide scholarships to American University students committed to changing our country and world through political action. That fund was endowed in 2017 and a scholarship is now awarded each year to support a distinguished student in the School of Public Affairs.
  • The Kevin Sutherland Internship Fund was established by Kevin’s co-workers at New Blue Interactive to honor his interest in helping those AU students pursuing work in public service. As someone who saw the value in Capitol Hill internships from his own experiences, Kevin recognized that these often unpaid internships were available only to the fortunate few who could afford it. This fund will provide support for students who came to DC to make a difference by working on Capitol Hill as unpaid internships.
  • Once both the AU funds have been endowed, the KJS Legacy Project will turn its focus toward research and policy solutions to violence and mental health issues in our society.
  • To learn more and to donate to one of Kevin’s AU funds, please click here: http://bit.ly/HonoringKevin