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Flagler receives $1 million Kenan Trust challenge grant

Apr 2, 2012
by Laura Smith

Grant helps to launch college’s 50th anniversary campaign

Supporting its long-standing relationship with Flagler College, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust made a commitment of $1 million to help launch Flagler’s 50th Anniversary Campaign. The gift, which is earmarked for endowment, must be matched equally by other donors. In 2018, the college will celebrate its first half century.

President William T. Abare Jr. expressed appreciation for this gift, noting that “the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust has demonstrated long-standing support for higher education
and for Flagler.

“This gift from the Kenan Trust will assist us greatly in our efforts to ensure that our students continue to receive a high-quality education at Flagler, that they receive needed financial aid to assist them in paying their college costs, and that they are afforded opportunities to enrich their educational experience,” he said.

The announcement, made at the fall meeting of the Board of Trustees, generated immediate and enthusiastic support from the trustees, several of whom pledged gifts toward the match.

A gift to the 50th Anniversary Campaign that is designated to the Annual Fund, to a capital project such as the restoration of the Solarium or renovation of the Flagler College Auditorium, or to establish a new endowed fund, will qualify as part of the College’s match. This challenge must be met by June 1, 2012.

William R. Kenan Jr. was a scientist, mathematician and inventor involved in the discovery of calcium carbide and its use in the production of acetylene gas. Shortly before his 30th birthday, his oldest sister Mary Lily Kenan married Henry M. Flagler, and Flagler tapped his new brother-in-law to help run the Flagler System of hotels, railroads, steamship lines and land development. Kenan, and many of his family members, lived at the Hotel Ponce de Leon for several months each year, a practice that spanned more than half a century.

Kenan served as president of the Flagler System until his death in 1965. In 1962, he appointed his great-nephew, Lawrence Lewis Jr., to serve as his assistant. Upon Kenan’s passing, Lewis became the president of the Flagler System. Lewis, with his sister Mary Lily Flagler “Molly” Lewis Wiley, helped found Flagler College, which opened in the fall of 1968. The former Hotel Ponce de Leon became the centerpiece of the Flagler campus.

The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust was established in 1966, primarily to support education and excellence in teaching. The Trust has supported Flagler College throughout the institution’s history with gifts for capital projects and endowed scholarships for students. Capital projects include the construction of Kenan Hall, Lewis House, the Proctor Library and the Molly Wiley Art Building.

For information on how to help meet the Kenan Trust Challenge Grant, contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 904-819-6437 or visit

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