Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
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Frank Hawkins Kenan

A towering figure in the history of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Frank Hawkins Kenan (BSCOM '35), chief executive officer of Kenan Transport Co. and a trustee of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, created the Kenan Institute in 1985 to promote collaboration among the traditionally separated communities of business, government and academia.

His vision was for the institute to serve as a catalyst for collaborations among public and private organizations, harnessing their knowledge, expertise and resources to promote the growth of private enterprise worldwide and using private-sector resources to serve the public interest.

Born Aug. 3, 1912, in Atlanta, Ga., Kenan received a bachelorĀ“s degree from UNC in 1935. He founded an independent oil distribution business, Kenan Oil, which grew into Kenan Transport Co., a $50 million-a-year petroleum trucking company.

A savvy businessman and entrepreneur, Kenan founded several other companies, including Tops Petroleum, the Westfield Company and Servicetown Inc. In the 1970s, he became chief executive of the Flagler System in Palm Beach, Florida, and turned around the economic fortunes of the debt-ridden company.

He also developed a portfolio of successful real estate ventures in North Carolina, including Europa Center, University Square and Granville Towers in Chapel Hill, Capital Center in Raleigh and Landfall in Wilmington.

Kenan guided much of the giving of the Kenan Trust during his lifetime. Under his direction, the trust invested $42 million to endow 88 professorships at 56 colleges and universities. He also helped create the National Center for Family Literacy.

He served on the boards of directors of the medical, business, educational, arts and sciences and institutional development foundations at UNC-Chapel Hill and on the university's board of visitors. He received the General Alumni Association's Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the School of Medicine, the William R. Davie Award from the board of trustees and the University Award, the highest honor of the University of North Carolina. He was the first recipient of the North Carolina Philanthropy Award.