William R. Kenan Jr.
William Rand Kenan Jr. was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on April 30, 1872. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1894. At UNC, Kenan was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
He started his career by establishing plants for acetylene production in the United States, Australia and Germany. In 1896, he worked for Union Carbide (now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company) in Niagara Falls, New York.
Between 1899 and 1900, he helped develop Florida's east coast with oilman Henry Flagler. This included the construction of the Florida East Coast Railway and the Florida East Coast Hotel Company, including the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.
In 1901, Flagler married Kenan's sister, Mary Lily Kenan. In 1904, he married Alice Pomroy, whom he had met at Flagler's home. After Flagler's death in 1913, Mary Lily and Flagler's surviving two sisters inherited his estate. In 1917, Mary Lily died and Kenan inherited most of Flagler's estate.
He moved to Lockport, New York, his wife Alice's hometown, and ran the Western Block Company, the largest maker of block and tackle in the United States. He maintained Randleigh Farm, a model dairy farm for research with Jersey cattle. He spent the rest of his life writing and donating resources to philanthropic endeavors.
Death and legacy
Kenan died in 1965. In 1986, the Kenan Center was founded at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It houses the Kenan Institute for the Study of Private Enterprise as well as the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and William R. Kenan Jr. Fund. Moreover, he provided the funds for Kenan Memorial Stadium and it is named in honor of his parents. The Kenan–Flagler Business School at UNC is named for him and his sister, Mary Kenan Flagler. Eighty-five endowed professorships at colleges and universities in the United States are named for him.
- History of Randleigh Farm, Lockport, New York (six volumes, 1947)
- Incidents by the Way (autobiography, 1946-1958)