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Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation Makes Significant Gift to U of M

For release: July 11, 2013
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901-678-2843

A new commitment, totaling nearly $3 million to the University of Memphis, marks another milestone in the historic support of the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation and the Kemmons Wilson Companies. The gift further enhances the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management with immediate-use funds for new student and faculty programs and will provide future endowment for the school. The gift also supports the transition of the Wilson School to an independent academic unit at University with accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA).

“We are deeply grateful to the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation trustees – Spence, Bob, Kem Jr., Betty and Carole – for making this commitment to the Empowering the Dream Centennial Campaign and their continuing investment in the school that bears their father’s name,” said Dr. Shirley Raines, who retired as University of Memphis president June 30. “Kem Wilson Jr. has provided consistent leadership to the school and the University as chairman of the Wilson School’s Board of Advisors and, along with his wife Norma, served as a member of the Centennial Campaign Cabinet. The Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management will continue to grow in scope and stature as it moves to independence, thanks to this generous and lasting gift.”  

In 1999, Kemmons Wilson, founder of the Holiday Inn brand, contributed an unprecedented $15 million to establish the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management and the award-winning University Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center, located on the U of M campus. The school, which opened in 2002, offers a degree in hospitality business with an emphasis on experiential learning through quality internships with strong community partners.  

“The school continues to grow and offer degree programs to create new partnerships with the hospitality industry as it expands the existing relationship with InterContinental Hotels Group through the IHG Academy. This program provides internship experience and training for students to enhance their prospects for future employment, especially with such IHG branded hotels as Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and others,” said Kem Wilson Jr. “The greater Memphis community benefits from our new support by increasing access and career paths for traditional and non-traditional students. We have enjoyed President Raines’ leadership and appreciate her confidence in our plans for the growth of the school.”

U of M Provost David Rudd added, “The Kemmons Wilson School has the potential to be one of the University’s shining stars. Steeped in a rich tradition of hospitality, Memphis – the birthplace of Holiday Inn brands – should be a leader in hospitality education. The Wilson School can be that leader. I look forward to the challenge of fulfilling the goals that the Wilson Family and other stakeholders have for the school, and I applaud their investment in its future.”

Lauren Wilson Young, executive director of the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation, said, “Our family has consistently invested in the school since its inception, and we have provided scholarships for high-ability students since 2007 through the creation of the Wilson Scholars program. We are proud of the graduates of that program and expect more students to benefit from the new support committed by our trustees.”

The Kemmons Wilson School is under the direction of Dr. Radesh Palakurthi, who was hired in 2012. He previously held positions in programs at Drexel University, Oklahoma State, San Jose State and the University of North Texas.

Support for students and faculty were key priorities in the University’s Empowering the Dream Centennial Campaign, which raised $256 million before concluding June 30.

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