A vision for collaboration.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank Hawkins Kenan created the Kenan Institute in 1985 to promote collaboration among business, government and academia that would support the growth of private enterprise worldwide and use private-sector resources to serve the public interest.
Today, the “Kenan impact” can be seen in thriving businesses and communities around the world. We’re proud to be affiliated with other institutes endowed through the generosity of the Kenan family:
1983 • William R. Kenan Jr. Fund is established to support a variety of initiatives, including the development of an institute of private enterprise, the brainchild of Frank Hawkins Kenan.
1985 • William University of North Carolina Board of Governors approves establishment of the institute within the business school at UNC-CH and names Rollie Tillman Jr., UNC Vice Chancellor for University relations and KFBS marketing professor, as the director. The first Board of Trustees meeting is held in November.
1986 • Initial Institute programs focus on research, executives-in-residence (including Wendy's restaurant founder Dave Thomas), enterprise fellows, management seminars and an association of venture founders.
1987 • Kenan Center dedicated as home to the Institute (now named the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise) and William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and Funds (shown here at the dedication are Governor James Martin, UNC Chancellor Christopher Fordham III and Frank Kenan).
1988 • Institute becomes home to the Institute of American Entrepreneurs' Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame, a collection of the winners' citations (pictured left to right at the dedication ceremony: Dan Garner of Ernst & Young, Kenan Institute Director Rollie Tillman, and George Gendron and Wilson Harrell of Inc. magazine).
1989 • Kenan Institute hosts the International Conference on Competitiveness with keynote speakers Ross Perot and David Gergen.
• John D. Kasarda, professor and chair of the UNC's Department of Sociology, named director; Tillman becomes chairman of the board of trustees. The Institute mission broadens to include international activities, including the placement of MBAs in private enterprises in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, an international executive speaker series, and policy research.
Global TransPark concept develops from research on new manufacturing strategies, aviation infrastructure and logistics.
• Citibank International Fellows Program funded, laying groundwork for the Institute's Asia presence that eventually develops into Kenan Institute Asia.
Institute begins $1 million Federal Aviation Administration study of airport logistics facilities.
1993 • Urban Enterprise Corps established, which places MBA graduates in minority- and women-owned businesses and community economic development organizations.
U.S.-Thailand Development Partnership (predecessor to Kenan Institute Asia) launches in Bangkok with $10 million U.S. Agency for International Development grant. The partnership supports private enterprise development in Thailand and develops Kenan-Flagler programs in the region. The Institute wins first U.S. Department of Education grant to provide curricula and research programs in international business, area studies and foreign languages.
1994 • Kenan Institute Asia forms from the U.S.-Thailand Development Partnership (shown here is a press conference with Chinnawoot Soonthornsima, Thailand Prime Minister's Office, John Kasarda, Director of the Kenan Institute and David Lambertson, U.S. ambassador to Thailand).
1996 • The Institute's Urban Investment Strategies Center opens with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, J. P. Morgan Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank.
Kenan Institute Asia endowed at $11.65 million by U.S. Agency for International Development, The Royal Thai Government, and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.
1997 • Kenan Institute Center for Logistics and Digital Strategy established and forms Global Logistics Research Initiative, a virtual consortium of 12 research institutes and universities in North America, Europe, and Asia conducting coordinated work in global logistics.
North Carolina Center for World Languages and Cultures joins the Institute as an affiliate; changes name to North Carolina Global Center and launches signature Working Languages program.
1998 • Kenan Institute Center for Community Capitalism created with Ford Foundation funding (later moves to become part of UNC Department of City and Regional Planning, renamed UNC Center for Community Capital).
UNC Office of Economic Development (now the Carolina Center for Competitive Economies) launches as a joint venture of the Institute and UNC-Chapel Hill to promote economic and community prosperity across North Carolina and beyond.
Mobilize America's Technology for the Challenge of Development program launches with $2.5 million U.S. Agency for International Development funding to link U.S. small businesses with business opportunities in Egypt.
1999 • Management Academy of Public Health begins, a partnership of the Kenan Institute and UNC School of Public Health with funding from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Kenan Institute Asia begins Accelerating Economic Recovery in Asia Program with $18 million U.S. Agency for International Development funding.
UNC wins second Center for International Business Education and Research grant ($740,000) from the U.S. Department of Education.
2000 • MBA Enterprise Corps concludes successful decade with more than 600 corps members, merges with Washington, D.C.-based Citizens Development Corps.
2001 • Kenan Institute Center for Air Commerce launches to advance applications of the logistics and airport-driven economic development research and innovations developed by Institute Director John D. Kasarda and Center for Logistics and Digital Strategy Director Noel Greis and their teams.
2002 • UNC wins third Center for International Business and Education Research grant ($1.45 million) from the U.S. Department of Education.
• UNC receives $3.5 million, five-year grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for the campus-wide Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative, directed by the Institute. (The $12 million project sunsetted in 2006, lays foundation for Innovate@Carolina.)
Carolina Challenge created and Launching the Venture expanded with Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative funding to help UNC students, faculty and staff learn to create new businesses and nonprofits.
2005 • Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative launches as joint effort of the institute and Kenan Institute Asia, with major funding from the William R. Kenan Jr. Fund.
2006 • UNC wins fourth Center for International Business and Education Research grant ($1.38 million) from the U.S. Department of Education.
Kenan Institute Liaisons program (now Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows Program) launches to more closely link UNC Kenan-Flagler students with Institute research and outreach opportunities. This program includes the Rollie Tillman Jr. Award for Outstanding Leadership, named for the Institute's first director, to honor a graduating MBA Leadership Fellow.
• Business Across Borders program created by Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows to prepare students to do business in key markets of the world and connect them with business people who can support their careers.
Kenan Institute Center for Logistics and Digital Strategy and Tsinghua University's Department of Industrial Engineering create Center for Logistics and Enterprise Development to pursue research and programs that promote U.S.-Asia trade. Founding industry partners are The Boeing Co., Lenovo, General Motors and China Railway Co.
2008 • Kenan-Flagler and the Institute launches the first Global Business Project course—a partnership of 16 MBA programs—that fields teams of students guided by business and language faculty for 10-week consulting projects with multinational and local clients in countries important to U.S. competitiveness.
• Union Independent School, now Global Scholars Academy, opens in Durham, N.C. as a model for educating children in distressed urban areas, the product of collaboration between Kenan Institute Urban Investment Strategies Center Director James H. Johnson Jr. and Union Baptist Church.
Institute administers, advises and participates in $1.38 million UNC research project linking UNC expertise with Duke, RTI International, and the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions.
2010 • Born-Global Young Leaders Program hosted, with funding from the Institute of International Education, to develop and nurture entrepreneurial leaders in Bulgaria.
2011 • Business Growth Initiative launches in eastern North Carolina to help communities identify companies with the highest potential to grow and taking strategic steps to help them do so.
2012 • John D. Kasarda leaves the Institute directorship after 22 years. During his tenure, the Institute attracts more than $90 million in grants, contracts and gifts for 400 research and outreach projects related to entrepreneurship, economic development and global competitiveness.
Joseph M. DeSimone, Chancellor's Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at N.C. State University and of Chemistry at UNC, named Kenan Institute director.
Strategic Economic Growth initiatives launch with five-year, $642,949 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and $1 million in matching funds from the Kenan Institute to help communities create vibrant economies by supporting high-growth entrepreneurs.
2015 • Greg Brown, Professor of Finance and Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, named Kenan Institute Director.