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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

The Kenan Fund

Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham with Henry Morrison Flagler (1830-1913)

Bingham’s fortune came from her marriage in 1901 to oilman Henry Flagler, John D. Rockefeller’s partner in Standard Oil. When Flagler died in 1913, he left her most of his one-hundred-million-dollar fortune. With the Kenan professorships and increased state funding during the 1920s, President Harry Chase embarked on a campaign to expand campus offerings and attract a high-caliber faculty. He added departments and schools, including sociology, music, and social work, and awarded faculty members Howard Odum, J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, and R. D. W. Connor with Kenan professorships. During the financial crisis of the Depression, the Kenan fund proved crucial for the university’s survival. The university also used it for faculty pensions and sabbaticals.