A Family Legacy of Philanthropy

Front Row (from left to right): Meredith Holmes, Tom Kenan and Heather Brown. Back Row (from left to right): Ethan Hefner and Dean Paul Lunn.

Studying abroad in the Galapagos Islands, NC State University student Heather Brown explored the biology of local fish, invertebrates, marine iguanas, sea lions and many species in between.

She learned firsthand how researchers use the latest computer-based methods to build identifications for individual sea turtle based on patterns and facial markings. Then, along with other tagging and tracking systems, photos taken by tourists and local residents can provide information about the turtles’ travels, habits and health.

From data collection programs to environmental challenges facing animals, the faculty-led trip proved eye-opening for Brown, now in her fourth year at the College of Veterinary Medicine. It solidified her interest in exotic animal medicine and sparked a new passion for international medicine – and it’s just one of many opportunities made possible by private financial support.

Pursuing an animal-related career has been a longtime goal for Brown. Receiving CVM’s William R. Kenan Jr. Memorial Scholarship enabled her to find her niche.

Brown has been able to shadow veterinary professionals through the college’s Exotic Animal Medicine Service – which cares for parrots, hamsters, lizards or most any pet that isn’t a cat or dog – and participate in wet-lab work with alpacas. But during the first two years of vet school, working a job unrelated to her career goals limited her ability to seek the kinds of experiences that helped focus her future on small animal medicine with an emphasis on avian and exotic pets.

“Getting the Kenan Scholarship lowered my financial stress and allowed me to spend more time investigating different areas of veterinary medicine,” said Brown, who grew up in Hickory and earned her NC State undergraduate degree in animal science with a minor in nutrition. She chose CVM largely because of its affordability as an in-state option. “It was an added bonus that it’s an amazing school with incredible faculty.”

The 2015-16 Kenan Scholars also included Ethan Hefner, Meredith Holmes and Deborah Yannessa. The scholarship endowment provides renewable tuition awards based on merit and need, with additional grants available for educational travel and extracurricular opportunities. Established in 1985 by the Randleigh Foundation Trust, it is one of several efforts at the university strongly supported by the Kenan family, which has a deep and broad record of philanthropy throughout the state.

Being a Kenan Scholar made a big impact on Hefner’s ability to shape and meet his goals, too. The scholarship allowed the Newton native to focus on his studies while participating in unpaid but important educational experiences, and he was grateful to have more flexibility in his job search because of lower tuition debt.

Hefner, who earned his veterinary degree in May, was able to complete an externship that led directly to his current yearlong internship with an equine referral practice in Littleton, Colorado. The position should lay a strong foundation for career interests in surgery and radiology.

“This internship provides excellent mentorship and opens the opportunity for a residency upon completion,” Hefner said. “Attending NCSU CVM was the best experience of my life. Veterinary school is a huge financial investment for students, and having the support of a scholarship donor was a great gift and encouragement.

“Meeting with my donor, Mr. Kenan, was a phenomenal experience. I am grateful for his belief
In, and support of, the college and my education.”

Broad Support of NC State

“Mr. Kenan” is Tom Kenan – former chairman of the board of Kenan Transport Co., president of the Thomas S. Kenan III Foundation and a director or trustee for several other foundations with family ties that include the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

“Working with scholarship winners is probably the most satisfying thing I get to be a part of,” Kenan said. “I really enjoy getting to know the students. They’re always terrific – the best and brightest. I try to stay in touch.”

Honored as a 2013 Watauga Medalist for his volunteer, advocacy and financial contributions on behalf of NC State, Kenan, a resident of Chapel Hill, is a former director of the NC Veterinary Medical Foundation and a member of the university’s W. J. Peele Lifetime Giving Society.

I think NC State is just doing great. The work that has been going on here for animals, disease control and research that can be used in human medicine, too, is incredible. I’m pleased to support it. And the College of Veterinary Medicine makes a huge positive impact on our state, as well.”
– Tom Kenan

Over the years, Kenan and his family have been generous to NC State, supporting the William Rand Kenan Jr. Library of Veterinary Medicine, Frank Hawkins Kenan Professorship of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (named for his father), University Faculty Scholars Program, William R. Kenan Jr. Fellowship in Chemistry and William R. Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science.

They have gifted other areas, as well, including Kenan’s personal support of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design, JC Raulston Arboretum and more. He’s excited about the Randleigh Heritage Museum, scheduled to open in the next three to six months and part of a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences facility that the family has supported.

Tom’s great-uncle, William R. Kenan Jr. (1872-1965), was an accomplished chemical engineering graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with many professional interests.

“And he was a great philanthropist,” Kenan said.

A Legacy of Philanthropy

Among William Kenan’s passions were the scientific study of animal husbandry, cattle diseases and development of a cleaner milk supply.

In the 1920s, he established Randleigh Farm in Lockport, New York. Visitors there enjoyed watching cows being milked and learning about the dairy industry while they bought glass-bottled milk, cream and the like. Kenan’s estate left NC State the farm and a large endowment to benefit agricultural education.

Randleigh was sold and re-created on 400 acres outside Raleigh, with a few dozen of Kenan’s 400 Jersey cows moved south to establish a more modern environment for students and faculty. After the region’s growth complicated access, the university closed the farm, moved the cattle to the Dairy Education Unit off Lake Wheeler Road and eventually sold the land.

Proceeds renovated and continue to support the College of Veterinary Medicine’s library. The funds also benefited a new milking center and other improvements at the university’s Dairy Farm at Lake Wheeler – part of a state-of–the-art, interdisciplinary and integrated teaching, research and enterprise system that addresses every aspect of the dairy commodity from cows to consumers.

The new Randleigh Heritage Museum, based in a replica early-1900s barn at the Lake Wheeler Road facility, will educate families about dairy farming and agriculture “then and now.”

“Children will be able to learn a lot – and buy some great NC State (Howling Cow) ice cream,” Tom Kenan said.

Continuing his family’s tradition of NC State philanthropy is gratifying, he said, especially in the wake of increases in tuition and decreases in public funding for education.

“I think the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have great, wonderful deans, and they work well together, which is very important,” Kenan said of the areas tied most directly to Randleigh Farm. “And (Chancellor) Randy Woodson is terrific. I’m excited for the university‘s future.”

Brown hopes all donors realize that their generosity elevates education.

“Getting a scholarship can open the doors for life-changing opportunities,” she said. “As a student with a massive amount of tuition debt, it is really hard to justify spending more money to go to a conference or an externship, or to do a study abroad or service trip. But those things are vital to seeing the world beyond a desk full of papers.

“They are chances to network with inspirational people in our field and keep us excited about the opportunities in our profession. Every little bit of giving helps.”