UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Our History

Established in 1919 as the Department of Commerce of UNC Chapel Hill's College of Arts, the School was renamed the Kenan-Flagler Business School in 1991 to honor two prominent American business families and benefactors of the School: philanthropist Mary Lily Kenan Flagler and her husband, Henry Morrison Flagler. The renaming was in recognition of a generous gift from Frank Hawkins Kenan, another Kenan family member and benefactor of the School's Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise.

The Kenan and Flagler Families - A Legacy of Leadership

Both the Kenan and Flagler families have been well represented among leading entrepreneurs of their day. Mary Lily's brother, William R. Kenan Jr., discovered acetylene gas, which led to the creation of Union Carbide. Her husband, Henry Morrison Flagler co-founded the Standard Oil Co. with John D. Rockefeller and is responsible for the development of Florida's eastern coast. Prior to his arrival in Florida, the state was virtually inaccessible except by ship. Flagler founded what eventually became known as the Flagler System Companies made up of railroad, shipping, real estate, and hotel development and utility companies. The system's flagship was the famous Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach.

The Kenan family's roots are intertwined not only with those of the Business School, but of the University itself.

  • In the 1790s, Mary Lily's great-great-grandfather, James Kenan, served on UNC's first board of trustees and contributed to the construction of Old East, the oldest public university building in the United States.
  • Mary Lily's maternal great-great-grandfather, Christopher Barbee, donated more than 200 acres of his Orange County farm to the University, then about one-fifth of the campus

Gifts to the University by the Kenan family total some $50 million to date and include such buildings as picturesque Kenan Stadium and the Kenan Center. The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust contributed $10 million to the Bicentennial Campaign for UNC to be used for the Kenan-Flagler Business School's new state-of-the-art building, $10 million for the new Paul J. Rizzo Conference Center at Meadowmont, and $1 million for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology Venturing.

Track record of curricular innovation
2015 Online format of the Master of Accounting Program launched
2012 UNC-Tsinghua Dual-Degree Executive MBA Program  launched
MBA@UNC Program launched
2009 UNC Business Essentials (business certificate for non-business majors) launched
2008 Capital Markets Lab (CML) opens with access to high-end financial software from Bloomberg, Factset, Morningstar and Pertrac
2008 Global Business Projects launched
2008 Student-run Global Perspectives Fund launched by Applied Investment Management program 
2007 Student-run Kenan-Flagler Private Equity Fund established
2007 Student-run KFBSF Real Estate Fund I, LP established
2005 Leadership Initiative launched in the full-time MBA Program to increase leadership development through experiential training
2005 STAR (Student Teams Achieving Results) launched
2004 GLOBE® launched by UNC Kenan-Flagler, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Copenhagen Business School
2002 OneMBA®, new Executive MBA Program and an equal partnership of five top business schools on four continents launches in Washington, D.C.
2000 Paul J. Rizzo Conference Center at Meadowmont, designed for executive development, opens
1999 Sustainable Enterprise Initiative launched (now Center for Sustainable Enterprise)
1999 Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) opens
1999 Weekend Executive MBA Program launched
1999 "Working Spanish" class offered as start of "Working Languages" program 
1997 Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology Venturing (now Center for Entrepreneurial Studies) created
1997 School moves to newly constructed McColl Building
1996 Kenan Institute Asia founded
1991 Named Kenan-Flagler Business School
1986 Evening Executive MBA Program created
1985 Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise created
1985 Master of Accounting Program created
1971 "New Carroll" added on to "Old Carroll" Hall
1954 Executive Program (now Executive Development Program) created
1953 Moves to new buildings: Carroll, Hanes, Gardner
1952 MBA Program created
1946 The Business Foundation of North Carolina (now Kenan-Flagler Business Foundation) created
1945 Bureau of Business Services created
1929 Moves to first new building: Bingham Hall
1928 Awards first doctoral degree
1927 Becomes School of Commerce
1923 Admitted to American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
1922 Moves to Saunders Hall
1921 Awards first undergraduate degree
1919 Department of Commerce opens in UNC-Chapel Hill's College of Arts

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