Mission & History
The Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise develops and promotes innovative, market-based solutions to vital economic issues.
With the belief that private enterprise is the cornerstone of a prosperous and free society, the institute fosters the entrepreneurial spirit to stimulate economic prosperity and improve the lives of people in North Carolina, across the country and around the world.
Established in 1985 by Frank Hawkins Kenan, the institute offers a number of programs, conferences and seminars which bring together high-profile business leaders, academic researchers and policymakers.
The institute is supported through generous annual funding by the William R. Kenan Jr. Fund, public and private sector grants, corporate sponsorship, individual donations and event fees.
William R. Kenan Jr. Fund is EstablishedThe 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. 1983
Institute CommissionedThe University of North Carolina Board of Governors formally approves establishment of the institute within the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Commerce, which is today Kenan-Flagler Business School. The board names Prof. Rollie Tillman Jr., UNC vice chancellor for university relations and business marketing professor, as the institute’s founding director. The first Kenan Institute Board of Trustees meeting is held.1985
John D. Kasarda Named DirectorJohn D. Kasarda, professor and chair of the department of sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill, is named institute director; Prof. Rollie Tillman becomes chairman of the board of trustees. In his 22-year tenure as institute director, Kasarda helps to attract more than $90 million in grants, contracts and gifts for 400 research and outreach projects.1990
Kenan-Flagler Business School
U.S.-Thailand Development PartnershipThe U.S.-Thailand Development Partnership in Bangkok is formed. The partnership, backed by a $10 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, supports private enterprise development in Thailand and develops UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School programs in the region.1993
Urban Investment Strategies Center
Kenan Institute AsiaThe Kenan Institute Asia is officially formed with an $11.65 million endowment from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Royal Thai Government and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.1996
Center for Entrepreneurial StudiesAs part of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s commitment to developing transformative entrepreneurial leaders, the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies is established.1997
Center for Sustainable Enterprise
UNC Tax CenterThe UNC Tax Center is established to build bridges between tax scholars, policymakers and practitioners, and to prepare the next generation of tax professors.2001
Carolina Entrepreneurial InitiativeThe Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative is established with a $3.5 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, paving the way for the establishment of UNC-Chapel Hill’s nationally recognized undergraduate entrepreneurship program.2004
Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows
Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies EstablishedThe Leonard. W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies is established to create a community of real estate practitioners engaged in lifelong learning and career development.2007
Family Enterprise CenterThe Family Enterprise Center is launched to prepare the next generation of family business leaders to develop, grow, and maintain entrepreneurial, sustainable family enterprises.2009
Joseph DeSimoneJoseph DeSimone, Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill, and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at NC State and of Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill, is named director of the Kenan Institute.2012
Kenan ScholarsThe Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows program expands to include undergraduate business students, and changes its name to the Kenan Scholars Program.2016
Director’s CouncilThe Kenan Institute Director’s Council is established to provide a forum for leading corporate executives, academic researchers and policymakers to work together on formulating actionable, research-based ideas that leverage private enterprise to improve the lives of people around the world.2017
Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Conference
North Carolina Investment ForumThe inaugural event convenes a highly select group of state policymakers and private capital investors who back North Carolina-based companies to discuss how the public and private sector can work together to bolster the state’s economy. Working groups are charged with developing actionable ideas, and convene regularly post-forum to report on their progress and discuss next steps.2017
Black Communities Conference
"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