How Firm a Foundation

A Conversation with Kim (Kerr ’91) Pegula
by Shelley (Smith ’93) Noyes

Unofficially dubbed “THE QUEEN OF BUFFALO” and “one of the most powerful women in American sports,” Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim (Kerr ’91) Pegula is down-to-earth, easy to talk to and ready to laugh. She is serious about her work in Buffalo but doesn’t take herself too seriously. At the beginning of our phone interview, we talk about being students at Houghton during the same era, find out we have some friends in common and discuss the height and width of our collective hair in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

The first thing I discover about Kim during our conversation is that one of her superpowers is MULTI-TASKING. She is doing more than reminiscing with me about her Houghton experience; she tells me that she is currently driving through Buffalo on her way to take her youngest son to Syracuse University to begin his freshman year. I hear rustling and whispering in the background, and Kim says to someone, “I’ll meet you down in the car….” To me, she says, “Yeah, I’m an empty nester. I’m all done—believe it or not. And it goes fast, believe me. It goes by much faster than you think.”

The speed of life is a common theme for Kim Pegula. She uses words like “quickly,” “hurry” and “very fast” as we talk about what it is like to raise five children, co-own NFL and NHL sports franchises (the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres), and serve as the president and CEO of Pegula Sports & Entertainment (PSE), where she manages all aspects of the 12 sports and entertainment entities owned by the Pegula family. PSE is the creative engine that runs the Pegula empire, and Kim loves being right in the middle of it. She is hands-on with everything, including marketing, content, media, public relations, business development, video production, finance, broadcasting, branding and even designing their signature (716) Food and Sport restaurant at HarborCenter. She is in constant motion—today designing a “One Buffalo” Perry’s Premium Ice Cream flavor (vanilla ice cream with sea salt caramel swirls, sponge candy pieces, and fudge-coated pretzels!) and tomorrow dropping in on the production of a lyric video for Black River Entertainment’s Kelsea Ballerini.

Did she ever imagine this life when she entered Houghton as a freshman? “I was a communication major at Houghton—I wanted to go into broadcast journalism,” Kim remembers. “I thought I was going to be, you know, Connie Chung—a newscaster type on TV.” She laughs and continues, “It is really funny to me now, because I just gave this big presentation to our entire staff—and I was just sweating it out because I’m so uncomfortable doing that now.” (It is hard to imagine Kim feeling nervous. I’ve seen her do a number of on-camera interviews on national TV; she is always poised, relaxed and articulate.)

“I had a great time and a great experience at Houghton,” Kim tells me. “I did what everyone else did: EAT!” (I’m thinking wings at Big Al’s, huge milkshakes and pizza—and my mouth starts watering….) “Because there is nothing else around you,” she continues, “you have to make what you have there the experience.” She also was a part of the Young Republicans, cheered for the basketball team and gave tours to visitors on campus. When she thinks back to what she learned at Houghton, what shaped her and what has stayed with her today, the word that comes up most often is “foundation.”

“Sports is such a fast world,” she explains. “The league, the NFL in general, is so big, and you’re rubbing elbows with people that you used to read about or hear about or see on TV. I so appreciate the foundation that Houghton gave me, because it has helped me to live in the world that I live in now. That foundation—the idea of God, of family, of doing for others—all that stuff is the ‘good stuff.’ It is the foundation that you fall back on when you need it the most.”