James Kenan of Duplin was one of the original trustees of the fledgling campus in Chapel Hill and was present on Oct. 12, 1793, when the cornerstone to Old East was laid. Since then, the Kenan Family has held an integral role in the evolution of UNC as one of the top academic and athletic institutions in the nation.
William Rand Kenan Sr. and his wife Mary Hargrave Kenan are the namesakes for Kenan Memorial Stadium. Kenan was the grandson of James Kenan and the father of William Rand Kenan Jr., whose fortune made in the early 1900s in chemicals, power, railroads and hotels financed the construction of the stadium in 1926-27. William Jr., an 1894 Carolina graduate and Tar Heel halfback in football and later a professor in chemistry, honored his parents with the naming of the stadium.
Another branch of the Kenan family included Frank H. Kenan (right), a Tar Heel football player in the 1930s, a 1935 Carolina graduate and a successful businessman with interests in oil, trucking and real estate. Mr. Kenan had a tremendous impact on the growth of the University. He served on many campus boards, including the Board of Visitors and the Educational Foundation Board of Directors. He passed away in 1996 at the age of 83, just one year before seeing the new football center in his name open for the 1997 season.
Today the Kenan legacy lives on through the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, which has donated more than $100 million to schools in the state’s consolidated university system, including Carolina, N.C. State and the N.C. School of the Arts. Among other things, the trust funds 92 William R. Kenan Jr. Professorships at 56 colleges and universities nationwide.