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210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


For immediate use

Oct. 12, 2001 -- No. 511

(Note: This is a backgrounder to complement release No. 510.)

Highlights of Kenan family support for UNC

CHAPEL HILL -- The Kenan family’s ties to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill date back to 1790 when James Kenan, a member of the university’s first Board of Trustees, contributed $25 to the construction of Old East, the first state university building in the nation. A member of the North Carolina General Assembly, James Kenan helped draft and pass the university’s charter.

Five Kenans have served as trustees for a total of 51 years of the university’s life. Nineteen have been students at Carolina, and 13 Kenans have been benefactors.

In 1917, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler left the university the largest bequest ever made to a state institution at the time. Her will established the $2 million Kenan Foundation for Distinguished Professors to augment salaries of outstanding faculty. She established the professorships in memory of her father and her uncles – all Carolina alumni. Curently, there are 31 Kenan Professorships at the university.

William Rand Kenan Jr., an 1894 Carolina graduate, began his service to the university in 1895 when he helped install the first electric lighting system for Chapel Hill and the university. Thirty years later he gave the University $2 million to build Kenan Memorial Stadium in honor of his parents. He left a substantial part of his estate to the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, with the stipulation that its income be used primarily for education. The trust established the William R. Kenan Jr. professorships at colleges and universities around the country. Currently, there are 15 William R. Kenan Jr. professorships at Carolina.

In 1929 with a gift of $25,000, Sarah Graham Kenan endowed the University's Southern Historical Collection, which today holds more than 20 million manuscripts documenting 300 years of the American South. In addition, gifts from the Sarah Graham Kenan Foundation established the

Graham Kenan Endowment for Philosophy, the William R. Kenan Athletic Scholarship Fund, the Sarah Graham Kenan Professorships in medicine and the Graham Kenan Professorships in law.

Under Frank Hawkins Kenan, a 1935 Carolina graduate, the Kenan family and the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust (of which Frank Kenan was a trustee) gave nearly $31 million to Carolina in the Bicentennial Campaign – the largest contribution from any single family. Their gifts included $21 million to the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Frank Kenan served on numerous UNC boards and was recognized for his devotion to the university with the UNC General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the School of Medicine’s Distinguished Service Award, the William R. Davie Award and the UNC system’s highest honor, the University Award.

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UNC development contact: Speed Hallman, 962-0027