UNCSA receives $5 million gift to expand Kenan Excellence Scholars program

UNCSA has received a pledge of $5 million in scholarship support from the Chapel Hill, N.C.- based William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.

The gift will expand support for Kenan Excellence Scholars, a program initiated in 2005, by increasing the number of student scholarships awarded from 12 to 20 annually. The Kenan Excellence Scholars program provides in-state tuition, fees, and room and board for four years of study at UNCSA, with a focus on first-generation and minority students.

The trustees of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust made this gift, which will support the UNCSA comprehensive campaign, in honor of the transformative work completed by Lindsay Bierman, who has served as chancellor of UNCSA since August 2014. Bierman will step down July 31 to become CEO of UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina on August 12.

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman has been honored with a $5 million gift to UNCSA

The Kenan Trust's $5 million gift is made in honor of the transformative work of Chancellor Lindsay Bierman.

“I am deeply moved and honored by this extraordinary contribution to our campaign, and proud of the impact it will have on generations of young artists,” said Bierman. “The Kenan Trust’s steadfast support for UNCSA has unleashed remarkable talent, launched countless strategic initiatives and upheld the highest standards of artistic excellence. Such strong vision and generosity will drive the university’s continued growth and transformation well into the future.” 

Tom Kenan, Kenan Trust trustee and emeritus member of the UNCSA Board of Trustees shared, “The trustees of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust and I are delighted to support the expansion of this important program, helping increase access for even more young artists to the top tier training offered by UNCSA.”

Kenan said, “This gift also honors the superb work of Chancellor Lindsay Bierman during his tenure. His vision and leadership have been successful in elevating the reputation and prestige of the university on national and international levels.”

Thomas R. Kenan III

UNCSA Trustee Emeritus Thomas R. Kenan III said the $5 million gift will help "increase access for even more young artists to the top tier training offered by UNCSA.”

Since its inception, the Kenan Excellence Scholarship has produced numerous alumni who have embarked on remarkable careers in the arts. One of the program’s first graduates, Joshua Conyers (Music ’10), just completed a residency in the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Conyers made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2018 and has been hailed by The New York Times as having “a sonorous baritone” that “wheedled and seduced.”

Kenan Excellence Scholarship alumna Vera Herbert (Film ’11) began her career on the MTV series “Awkward” while still a student at UNCSA. She remained on the series for three years, working her way from intern to writer, and went on to create pilots for NBC, FOX, and the CW. She is currently a writer and supervising producer for the hit NBC series “This is Us,” which has been nominated for 10 Emmy awards and earned Herbert a Writers Guild Award.

“The Kenan Excellence Scholarship Program is one of UNCSA’s highest student honors,” said Edward J. Lewis III, Vice Chancellor for Advancement at UNCSA. “Student scholarships are a central pillar of our comprehensive campaign and this gift is a significant step toward reaching our fundraising goal.”

Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA—the institution’s first comprehensive campaign in decades—will enter its public phase this fall and has already seen extraordinary support from individuals and organizations close to the university, including the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.

“We are thrilled that the Kenan Trust has made the decision to support our campaign efforts in this way,” said Ralph Womble, campaign co-chair and chair of the UNCSA Board of Trustees. “The Kenan Excellence Scholarship expands access, encourages diversity, and fuels the emerging artists who will shape the future of human expression. We are grateful that the Trust has decided to deepen its support for this outstanding program.”

The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust’s pledge will be fully paid by 2021, and UNCSA hopes to begin expanding the scholarship as early as Fall 2019.

Contact Media Relations

June 26, 2019