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Tom Kenan ’59 (center) with (from left) Robert Baynard, Lawrence Gray ’86, Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts and Vice Chancellor for Development Mike Andreasen.
Tom Kenan ’59 (center) with (from left) Robert Baynard, Lawrence Gray ’86, Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts and Vice Chancellor for Development Mike Andreasen.

Honoring a lifetime of service and generosity that has impacted thousands of students and faculty, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill presented Thomas S. “Tom” Kenan III ’59 with the Lux Libertas Philanthropy Award. Kenan is the first recipient of the new award, which is the University’s highest honor in recognition of exceptional service in private philanthropy. 

The award was given to Kenan on March 3 before the annual recital of the Kenan Music Scholars, a scholarship program that was created by a founding gift from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, of which Tom Kenan is a trustee.

“Both personally and through his leadership at the Kenan Charitable Trust, Tom has built a legacy of giving that is remarkable for its scope and because it is based upon the idea of fostering a lasting partnership,” said Mike Andreasen, vice chancellor for development at UNC-Chapel Hill. “It’s a partnership that identifies and meets not just the important needs of a university, but also of the surrounding state and even the world.”

Established this year, the Lux Libertas Philanthropy Award honors those who have supported Carolina in the drive to improve lives, communities and society by teaching the next generation of leaders. Their commitment enables Carolina, through its founding principles of light and liberty, to follow on its bold course of leading change to improve society and help solve the world’s greatest problems.

In his decades of involvement and leadership at Carolina, Kenan has served the University in many capacities, including on the Board of Visitors, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board, the Council of Bicentennial Advisors, the UNC Kenan-Flagler Board of Advisors, and the Ackland Art Museum’s National Advisory Board.

Kenan is also a longtime benefactor of intellectual and artistic programs at Carolina. His wide-ranging support of the University includes significant gifts to Carolina Performing Arts, the Ackland Art Museum, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, and many initiatives and programs focused on arts and humanities within the UNC College of Arts and Sciences.

Emerita professor and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Terry Rhodes ’78 served as chair of the department of music from 2009 to 2012, soon after the Kenan Music Scholars Program was launched.

“As a professor, as an administrator, and as a proud Carolina parent, I have seen the many ways that Tom Kenan’s generosity has strengthened this University,” Rhodes said. “His vision and leadership have benefitted virtually every corner of our campus, and I am so delighted that he is the first recipient of this important award.”

In addition to the Lux Libertas Philanthropy Award, Kenan has received numerous honors for his service to the University and its community through the years. These include the William Richardson Davie Award, the General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Medal and induction into the Order of the Golden Fleece. In 2006, Carolina awarded him with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

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