William B. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust
Outstanding Philanthropic Organization - Winston-Salem
Nominated by UNC School of the Arts

The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust is driven by the goal of improving lives and helping and educating people, particularly in underserved communities. The Trust's major portfolio areas are education and the arts with special concentration on the pivotal areas of rural health, economic prosperity in displaced communities, and criminal justice. 


In 2019, the Trust made nearly $30 million in grants, including nearly $12 million devoted to community health, approximately $7 million each to higher education and birth to 12th grade education, nearly $4 million to arts and culture, and $675,000 to historic preservation. 


The Kenan Trust has had a massive effect on our state and nation since its founding in 1965. Specific organizations in North Carolina that have benefitted from Kenan Grants include UNCSA, UNC-CH, UNCW, UNC-TV, Asheville Art Museum, Benevolence Farm (Graham), Carolina Theatre of Durham, Community Empowerment Fund (Chapel Hill based organization fighting homelessness), Culture Mill (initiative joining dance and research on Parkinson's Disease in Saxapahaw), El Centro Hispano of Durham, DigiLearn (digital education for Rowan and Salisbury), Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC, Hurricane Relief for Coastal NC, Habitat for Humanity, and dozens more. The organization also supports 131 professorships at 56 universities, including Wake Forest, Davidson, UNC-CH, and Duke. 


The Trust is one of our state’s most enduring supporters of the arts, education, and human health and well-being, and it has had a bold vision for philanthropy.  At UNCSA, the Kenan Trust’s support has been nothing short of transformative. Two of the five largest gifts in UNCSA history were made by the Kenan Trust. They created and endowed the most prominent merit-based scholarship on our campus—the Kenan Excellence Scholarship—and in recent weeks, they doubled-down on their support with a new commitment of $5 million to this remarkable scholarship. The gift will expand the program, which was initiated in 2005, by increasing the number of student scholarships awarded from 12 to 20 annually. The Trust has also supported professorships, facility  improvements, career services, summer stipends for artists, campus discretionary funds, and the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts.  


The Trust’s approach to systemic change leads it to focus on initiatives such as community health and higher education, with a focus on underserved communities. Their investments have had a direct impact on The Trust’s investment in community health and education, and they have shaped rural health care in North Carolina as it sought to solve problems of obesity, malnutrition, and other issues.  


The Trust’s investment in these community issues, and its investment in UNCSA in Winston-Salem specifically, have transformed and enriched lives in immeasurable ways.  

"Our founding donor, William R. Kenan, Jr., believed that access to education for all young people would improve their lives and was ‘the most cherished gift a person could receive.’ We continue to seek to improve the quality of life throughout the nation by investing in education and other basic human needs."

- William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust      

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Pictured (Top, L-R): 

Edward J. Lewis III, UNCSA Vice Chancellor for Advancement;

Brian Cole, UNCSA Chancellor;

Thomas S. Kenan III, William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust Trustee; and Dorian Burton, Ed.L.D., William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust Assistant Executive Director.


(Bottom) Thomas S. Kenan III, Trustees, and Douglas C. Zinn, the Trust’s Executive Director, along with the 2019-20 UNCSA Kenan Excellence Scholars.