FAU Wilkes Honors College Receives $1 Million Donation to Endow the Kenan Social Engagement Program


by Lynda F. Rysavy | Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College met the “Kenan Challenge,” raising $1 million to match a $1 million gift from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. This gift creates a permanent endowment for the Kenan Social Engagement Program, which provides scholarships and seed funding to Wilkes Honors College students who learn about social entrepreneurship and write business plans to start their ventures. The program is designed to educate students in the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship; help them develop plans for addressing a pressing social need and assist them in partnering with nonprofit organizations. 

“We are proud of the Kenan Social Engagement Program,” said Douglas Zinn, executive director of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. “We look forward to following the extraordinary student-leaders in the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, as they create social ventures that will impact the community and leave a legacy.”

Since 2012, more than 100 students participated in the program, volunteering 2,000 hours of academic service learning with community partners such as El Sol, Easterseals Florida, Palm Beach County Food Bank, and The Lord’s Place. Kenan scholars receive a $1,000 scholarship per semester, and start-up funding for their ventures.  Each year, up to four Kenan scholars have a chance to compete for $10,000 in start-up funding for a promising business plan.  

“The greatest measure of success and impact of the program is evidenced in the trajectories of these impressive young people and their commitment to giving back to the community as they enter their professional careers,” said Tim Steigenga, Ph.D., co-director of the Kenan Social Engagement Scholarship Program and interim dean at the Wilkes Honors College. “We are particularly grateful to not only the Kenan Trust but also the many local foundations and donors who helped us meet this challenge and expand the impact of the program.”

The Kenan Social Engagement Program is part of the larger platform of leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship outlined in FAU’s strategic plan. Several students from the program have competed in the Business Plan Competition and entered into FAU’s Tech Runway to incubate their social ventures.


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