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News Release

For immediate use 

Sept. 14, 2005 -- No. 414

William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust supports
UNC’s performing arts with $5 million challenge grant

CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a $5 million challenge grant, to be matched dollar for dollar, from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust to establish a new endowment for the university’s Carolina Performing Arts Series.

UNC Chancellor James Moeser said the gift sets the stage to build on the university’s vision to serve as a center of artistic excellence.

"I believe we are at the beginning of a new era in the performing arts at Carolina, and this gift gives us tremendous momentum as we move forward," Moeser said. "It is yet another chapter in the Kenan family’s distinguished record of support for this campus down through the decades. We are most grateful."

The Chapel Hill-based Kenan Trust will award Carolina $2.5 million before the end of 2005. The remaining $2.5 million will come after the university raises $5 million to match the $5 million Kenan gift. To qualify for the full grant, matching gifts must be received before the end of the Carolina First Campaign, a comprehensive, multi-year, private fund-raising campaign to support Carolina’s vision of becoming the nation’s leading public university. The campaign is scheduled to run through June 30, 2007.

"This gift from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust affirms our belief that the performing arts are an integral part of a well-rounded educational experience for all constituents of the university," said Dr. Richard M. Krasno, executive director of the Kenan Trust. "We are hopeful that others who share this belief will join our commitment to make a world-class performing arts series available to the university community in perpetuity."

Carolina will use the Kenan grant to jump-start a planned endowment campaign. Earnings from the endowment will support the Carolina Performing Arts Series at Memorial Hall, which reopened Sept. 9 after being closed for three years for renovations.

"Ticket sales and annual support alone will not be enough to create the level of excellence we envision for the performing arts at Carolina," Moeser said. "That’s why grants like this one are so critical."

The campaign to match the Kenan gift will be spearheaded by a volunteer board and the university’s executive director for the arts, Emil Kang.

"We now have a wonderful venue in Memorial Hall, and we know that the hall will host world-class artists for the enrichment and enjoyment of generations of Tar Heels to come," Kang said.

The Carolina Performing Arts Series will serve as the centerpiece of that effort, Kang said. "The series will appeal to diverse audiences through multi-disciplinary performing arts programs in presentation, creation and education," he said. "We will strive to engage, inspire and entertain audiences through innovative performances."

This year’s inaugural series features more than 700 artists in 40 performances. Future installments will commission new work, sponsor artist residencies and organize collaborative projects with local, national and international partners.

Memorial Hall’s Sept. 9-11 opening weekend performances got the series off to a grand start and gave audiences a taste of what the new performing arts endowment will make possible.

The weekend featured the first three performances of the 2005-2006 Carolina Performing Arts Series, "A Movement to Greatness." The North Carolina Symphony and renowned crooner Tony Bennett performed the first evening. The next featured violinist Itzhak Perlman, violinist/violist Pinchas Zukerman and the North Carolina Symphony, led by Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. The weekend wrapped with a free, day-long marathon, "Carolina Performs," which featured dance, theater, choral and instrumental performances by Carolina students and was designed as an open house for the campus and wider communities to get a taste of the hall and rising stars in the student body.

This opening marked the start of UNC’s transformation as a destination venue for the arts, Moeser said. Memorial Hall will be but one prominent piece of a new Arts Common that will connect UNC students, faculty and staff with the community and region.

"The physical transformation was crafted around the beliefs stated in our academic plan – that the arts are a core strength and central to Carolina’s academic distinction and identity," Moeser said. "The arts encourage new approaches, challenge students to question their perceptions and offer a ‘window on the world’ for campus and community alike. We will make Carolina, already a home for numerous artistic endeavors, the region’s center of artistic excellence."

Moeser said transforming UNC’s arts venues will be critical to this vision and pointed to Memorial Hall as a prime example. The first Memorial Hall was built in 1885 and demolished in 1930 because it was unsafe. The current building was completed in 1931.

The renovation project included additions on the east and west ends to accommodate a larger lobby, grand new staircases and more rest rooms. A state-of-the-art stage house was added to the back of the building. The transformed Memorial Hall has a central heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system – the latter is the first air-conditioning ever in the building – new lighting and sound systems and improved accessibility for the disabled. Refurbished chandeliers, ornate fixtures and a Carolina blue ceiling have transformed the auditorium, as has a new stage with wings.

The project cost nearly $18 million. Funding included $10.8 million from the Higher Education Bond Referendum approved by N.C. voters in 2000 and $800,000 from state legislators who approved advance planning funds. Private donations totaled $5.1 million, brought in by a successful fund-raising campaign led by Jim and Pam Heavner of Chapel Hill.

"The financing package for the Memorial Hall Transformation Campaign represents the best of what a public/private partnership can achieve," Moeser said. "The Kenan gift builds on that success."

The Kenan Trust’s $5 million gift to the performing arts program marks just the latest Kenan award to the Carolina First Campaign. Others include contributing to a $27 million challenge grant to create up to 10 eminent professorships, the largest gift of endowed professorships in university history, and $3 million for the Carolina Physical Science Complex.

The Kenan Trust and other Kenan-family organizations have given more than $100 million to the university since Carolina’s founding in 1793.


Development communications contact: Scott Ragland, (919) 962-0027,
Carolina Performing Arts contact:
Priscilla Bratcher, (919) 843-3307,