Building Legacy

Building Legacy

Building legacy is essential to ensuring the lasting values are translated to the next generation. To honor its founders, Kemmons and Dorothy Wilson, the Foundation runs programs that were created to share the founders’ shared love of community service, their Christian faith, and their commitment to higher education. The programs are designed to inform those who participate in them about the family history and values and ultimately inspire those to incorporate those values in meaningful ways in their lives.

Living the Legacy

One of the programs built to promote the legacy of giving is the Living the Legacy series where family members are highlighted for their efforts to positively impact the city through service, volunteerism, or personal philanthropy.  We are proud to have several generations of family members committed to giving back so we want acknowledge some of the tremendous gifts and efforts that have taken place this year.


Bob Wilson was our first guest speaker at KWFF’s 2017 Living the Legacy Luncheon.  Bob shared with the family about his work at Wilson Air Center and his time volunteering for Veterans Airlift CommandWilson Air was opened in 1996 in Memphis, TN and has expanded to Houston, Charlotte, and Chattanooga offering stellar customer service at each FBO locations.  

The VAC provides free air transportation to post 9/11 combat wounded and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes through a national network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots. It was a wonderful luncheon learning about the ways that Bob Wilson has served the Memphis community and beyond throughout his life.

Leadership 2


Our second Living the Legacy luncheon was hosted in the fall of 2017 at Memphis Delta Preparatory Charter School. The luncheon introduced KWFF's board and Wilson family members to the organizations and leadership that define KWFF's EDUCATION CONTINUUM; a 5 year investment in student success in the 38106 zipcode.  Mike McKenna, Founding School Leader for Memphis Delta Prep; Rob Hughes, Vice President of Development for Porter Leath, and Mark Sturgis, Executive Director for Seeding Success introduced predictors of student success and the support systems, inside and outside the classroom, that are vital to help children succeed cradle to career.

Memphis Delta Prep

The Dorothy and Kemmons Wilson Speaker Series 2017


This year, the Dorothy and Kemmons Wilson Speaker Series brought in guest speaker, John O’Leary as the twelfth speaker in our series. Our speaker series was hosted Christ United Methodist Church. The luncheon was catered by Hog Wild Catering to just over 300 guests.  Each guest was given a copy of John O’Leary’s book On Fire and a Sweet LaLa’s Bakery cookie. He inspired the crowd with his story of perseverance after his entire body was burned in an accidental garage fire. His official website summarized his influence exquisitely, “John O'Leary teaches us that regardless of our challenges, we can be living boldly, navigate adversity, and reveal a brighter vision for what’s possible.”

The Dorothy and Kemmons Wilson Speaker Series was established in 2005 in an effort to honor the legacy of faith shown by Kemmons and Dorothy Wilson at Christ United Methodist Church.  Kemmons Wilson is the founder of Holiday Inns.  All five of their children were raised in the church and Kemmons and Dorothy exemplified faithful stewardship throughout their lives.  The Speaker Series is a gift from the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation to the city of Memphis whereby a well-known Christian speaker brings a message of hope and inspires people in their own walk of faith.

We are proud to list the speakers we have brought to the city: Tommy Spaulding (2016), Gary Chapman (2015), Dennis Rainey (2014), Jim Stovall (2013), Tony Evans (2012), Tim Keller (2011), John MacArthur (2010), Tony Campolo (2009), Tony Dungy (2008), John Maxwell (2007) and Max Lucado (2006).

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Wilson Scholars

The Kemmons Wilson Scholarship Program awards partial scholarship to students attending Christian Brothers University (CBU), Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS), Rhodes College, and University of Memphis Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management.  At CBU, KWFF supports students in the science department in honor of Marguerite Cooper’s long tenure at CBU as a biology professor. At MTS, we support their pursuit of faith. At Rhodes College, we support students committed to community service and servant leadership.  At the University of Memphis, we support students in the KW School of Hospitality. At our annual scholarship reception, the Board of Directors learns more about each of the Wilson scholar's individual academic achievements, goals, and passions.

In 2017, KWFF sponsored 19 scholarships:

  • 5 students at Christian Brothers University

  • 4 students at Memphis Theological Seminary

  • 8 students at the University of Memphis School of Hospitality and Resort Management

  • 2 students at Rhodes College

The Wilson Society

Under the direction of our Director of Programs, Lee Morris, the Wilson Society has grown from 30 members in 2003 to almost 250 in 2017. These students planned, executed, and delivered over 100 community projects in Memphis this year. KWFF partners with BRIDGES, Volunteer Odyssey, and L.I.T.E. Memphis to provide additional leadership training throughout the school year to selected student leaders. In August, BRIDGES led the Wilson Society’s kick off fall conference; we had over 50 students attend this training session. These students were given a chance to critically analyze the problems facing Memphis and how to work to improve our community.

In 2017, the Wilson Society:

  • Marked its 18th year in local area schools
  • Reached over 250 students
  • Established societies at Briarcrest, Hutchison, MUS, St. George’s, and ECS
  • Ran over 100 student coordinated community projects
  • Gifted an additional $1,500 to student projects that are providing systemic change in Memphis

Wilson Society Impact Grant Opportunity

This year, KWFF created a Impact Grant opportunity that allowed students to apply for additional funding for their projects. This process gave the students an opportunity to learn how non-profit organizations apply for grants, interview with Foundation boards, and receive funding for projects. Students from the Wilson Society schools submitted applications. The panel of judges awarded three grants. Hutchison seniors, Monica Fleck and Kaia Starks, were awarded $1,000 for their project Feed my Flock that will help distribute food in the Binghampton neighborhood with food insecurities. Briarcrest students, Alex Green, Parker Green and Devin Simmons, created Instant Replay, a project that will collect donated high school sports equipment, refurbish, and then redistribute the equipment to the Lester Prep school in Binghampton. They were awarded $300 to jumpstart this program. ECS student, Ellie Forrester, was awarded $250 to expand the Best Buddies program at her school.

Hardy Farrow with LITE, worked with students at the fall leadership workshop and will continue to help students develop a timeline for completion and expansion of their projects.

Believe in God and obey the Ten Commandments.
Kemmons Wilson