Kenan Institute Honors Two MBA Candidates with Annual Awards

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise conferred its top student honors to two UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA candidates during a ceremony attended by staff, faculty, students and members of the Kenan Institute Board of Advisors Thursday, April 12.

Kenan Institute Director Greg Brown presented the Kenan Institute Impact Award to Eric Blocher and the Rollie Tillman Jr. Award for Outstanding Leadership to Byron Kelly.

The Kenan Institute Impact Award recognizes a graduating student whose work has driven the Kenan Institute’s mission forward and left a lasting legacy for UNC-Chapel Hill and the broader community.

In his time in the MBA program, Blocher has simultaneously served as president of the MBA Healthcare Club and has taken action to develop an independent research project supporting the Kenan Institute and UNC Kenan-Flagler on the Business of Healthcare initiative. This research intensive project will help to map the healthcare innovation and commercialization ecosystem across the campus and the region. During the past year, he also participated in five projects for startup consulting through UNC’s Technology Commercialization Carolina (TCC) Initiative.


“Receiving the award is tremendous validation of why I came to Kenan-Flagler in the first place,” Blocher said. “I believed then that the school shares a goal of improving the public impact of private enterprise. From a professional standpoint, it’s been thrilling to see my twin passions for healthcare and innovation resonate in research, teaching, and applied contexts, and I look forward to taking advantage of the opportunities that this experience has opened up.”

After graduation in May, Blocher will join the international marketing and business development team at Eli Lilly and Co. Blocher holds his bachelor’s degree in international development studies from the University of California at Los Angeles.


Byron Kelly, a graduate of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, was the recipient of the Rollie Tillman Jr. Award for Outstanding Leadership. He holds his bachelor’s degree in earth science.

The award, named for UNC Kenan-Flagler professor emeritus of marketing Rollie Tillman Jr., the Kenan Institute’s first director, is given each year to a graduating Kenan Scholar who has set an example for his or her peers through contributions both in and beyond the classroom.

Prior to attending Kenan-Flagler, Kelly was part of the Masters of Geophysics Program at the University of Calgary, specializing in oil field production. His thesis focused on applying geophysical techniques to enhance oil field production within the Canadian Oil Sands.

Kelly then spent three years at Nexen Energy, a major Canadian E&P, before pursuing his MBA. As an MBA Kenan Scholar, he served as a project leader on a study that produced complex energy models to evaluate economic feasibility of solar energy. Industry executives have characterized their calculations of the true costs for intermittent power sources at scale as “seminal.”

“The Kenan Institute has been really useful with the research project that we’ve done to help me bridge the gap between my technical background, which was predominately engineering and analytical type work with not much of a business focus, and the business world,” Kelly said. “[The Kenan Institute] closed the gap between the real world and the class room, giving me experience which I’ve leveraged into a full time opportunity post-MBA.”

Upon graduating with his MBA next month, Kelly will take on the role of market analyst at Imperial Oil Limited, a Canadian petroleum company.

To learn more about student opportunities with the Kenan Institute and its affiliated centers, please contact Kenan Scholars Program Director Kim Allen at