Mission & History


Fundamental to our belief in a free society is an economic system described as “free enterprise” which is dependent upon individual initiative. This encompasses social and ethical standards derived from this system and embodied in a democratic society.

The Kenan Institute fosters mutual understanding between members of the private sector, the academic community, and their government, and encourages cooperative efforts among these groups.

The Kenan Institute serves as a national center for scholarly research, joint exploration of issues, and course development with the principal theme of preservation, encouragement, and understanding of private enterprise.


The Kenan Institute is part of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and draws on the School’s administrative and faculty resources. The Institute works in conjunction with affiliated centers to provide an ongoing forum for information and interaction between business, academia, and government.

It offers a number of programs, conferences, and seminars which bring together the business and academic communities at both the state and national levels. The Institute involves scholars and executives from across the nation who can work effectively together for the good of the free enterprise system.

Through its education and research activities, the Institute provides practical solutions to problems faced by society and fosters an appreciation of private enterprise in other academic fields from which future generations of business, academic, and government leaders will emerge.


Board of Governors Approves Establishment of the Institute

"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.1983

William R. Kenan Jr. Fund is Established

"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

Institute Programs

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 founders1986

Kenan Center Dedicated

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).1987


Institute becomes home to the Institute of American Entrepreneurs' Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame.1988

John D. Kasarda Named Director

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.1990

Citibank International Fellows Program

Citibank International Fellows Program funded, laying groundwork for the Institute's Asia presence that eventually develops into Kenan Institute Asia. Also, the institute begins $1 million Federal Aviation Administration study of airport logistics facilities.1991

Urban Enterprise Corps & U.S.-Thailand Development Partnership

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.1993

Kenan Institute Asia

Kenan Institute Asia forms from the U.S.-Thailand Development Partnership1994

Urban Investment Strategies Center

The Institute's Urban Investment Strategies Center opens with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, J. P. Morgan Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank. Also, 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.1996

Center for Logistics and Digital Strategy

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. Also, 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.1997

Kenan Institute Asia

Kenan Institute Asia begins Accelerating Economic Recovery in Asia (AERA) Program with $18 million USAID funding.1999

MBA Enterprise Corps

MBA Enterprise Corps concludes successful decade as an institute program with over 600 corps members; merges with Washington, D.C.-based Citizens Democracy Corps2000

Center for Air Commerce

Center for Air Commerce Studies is launched.2001

Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative

Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative receives major funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.2004

Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative

Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative, a joint effort of the institute and Kenan Institute Asia, begins with major funding from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Trust.2005


The Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise launches NCGrowth with funding provided by the Federal Economic Development Administration. NCGrowth’s mission is to support businesses in creating good jobs and to help communities create equitable opportunities for their people. 2012

Joseph DeSimone

Professor DeSimone named director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, part of UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School. 2012

Technology Commercialization Carolina

The Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise launches Technology Commercialization Carolina (TCC) which supports North Carolina innovators and inventors through commercialization and entrepreneurship training, early-stage venture launch support and funding. 2015

Greg Brown

Gregory W. Brown named director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. Brown is a professor of finance and a Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Scholar at UNC Kenan-Flagler.2015

"I believe that all the freedoms we enjoy are related to free enterprise. If you neglect that, we'll lose the others."

Frank Hawkins Kenan