Kenan Trust Gift Leads to $5.5 Million to Hire Junior Faculty

Carolina has received a $5 million gift from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust to support the recruitment of outstanding young faculty. The gift also has spurred a $500,000 commitment from an anonymous donor for the same purpose, said Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86.

Thorp told the Board of Trustees this week that the gifts make a strategic move possible to bring the best junior faculty to the University. Just as important, he said, the gifts help signal how important junior faculty will be to American higher education and the nation’s livelihood in the years ahead.

“The economic downturn has created an extraordinary opportunity to attract the best faculty to Chapel Hill,” Thorp said. “Furthermore, the slower faculty hiring in the last two years has endangered the job prospects for young scholars around the country. The most promising young faculty need the chance to inspire the bright young students flooding into college.

“These gifts will enable us to do that here at UNC, but it’s equally critical that institutions around the country make similar commitments. We must all create opportunities for junior faculty to avoid creating a lost generation of promising Ph.D.s. Carolina is proud to call on other institutions to emphasize hiring at the junior level in this economy.”

Unlike most gifts of this size, the $5 million and $500,000 will be expendable rather than go into an endowment. That means the University can use the funds immediately for more hires. Carolina plans to offer competitive three-year packages to 18 junior faculty members — 14 in the College of Arts and Sciences, where most undergraduate education occurs, two in Kenan-Flagler Business School and one each in the schools of education and nursing.

After three years, as the economy improves, the University plans to support the positions permanently.

“Thanks to the innovative structure of these gifts, their impact will be immediate and widespread,” Thorp said. “What’s more, the timing couldn’t be better. The funds position us to hire outstanding young faculty at a time when economic circumstances would otherwise make that difficult. We aim for these faculty to make their careers in Chapel Hill, and that means students at every level will benefit for years to come.”

Thorp praised the Kenan Trust’s vision in making the gift.

“No university in this nation has a better friend than the Kenan Trust,” he said. “The trust has strengthened every aspect of our campus, from the performing arts to endowed professorships to science facilities to outreach programs to executive education to merit scholarships to stadium renovations.

“We’re tremendously grateful for this latest show of support. The trust understands our needs and the needs of higher education.”

Richard Krasno, executive director of the Kenan Trust, said: “This gift signals the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust’s recognition that current economic conditions seriously threaten the quality of higher education in the United States. As we have a significant investment in The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we wish to help assure that the excellence achieved there and the momentum generated by the new leadership continue without interruption. We hope this grant will provide inspiration and optimism to the administrators, faculty, staff and students who are so dedicated to this great University.”

The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust was created in 1965 from the estate of alumnus William R. Kenan Jr. (class of 1894). The trust and related Kenan entities and family members were the single largest donor to UNC’s last major fundraising drive, the Carolina First Campaign, committing nearly $70 million.

The Kenan family’s ties to the University date to 1790, when James Kenan, a member of the University’s first Board of Trustees, contributed $50 to the construction of Old East, the first state University building in the nation. A member of the N.C. General Assembly, James Kenan helped draft and pass the University’s charter.

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