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.

Wilson Scholars

In 2018, The Kemmons Wilson Scholarship Program awarded 19 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.


Wilson Scholars Highlight: Where are they Now?

In 2015, outstanding Wilson Scholar Mary Ryall graduated with honors from Christian Brothers University, with a B.S. in Natural Science. 3 years later, we ask Mary to update KWFF on her accomplishments and goals in this next chapter of her life.

" ...I am currently the librarian at Shrine School which is a K-12 school for medically fragile students who have multiple disabilities. Outside of work, I am an active member of my church, Christ United Methodist Church."

"..Being a part of the Honors Program gave me a group that I could be a part of and feel connected with my peers. I was also incredibly fortunate to receive generous scholarships that allowed me to graduate from college debt-free."

"...I am currently attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where I will graduate in May 2019 with my Masters of Information Sciences and my initial Tennessee teaching license."

Success stories like Mary's are a fundamental reason why they Kemmons Wilson Family serves the community. Thank you, Mary, for your hard work. We look forward to seeing you grow and thrive in your career and throughout your life!


Next Generation, or NexGen, was created in 2014 for rising 6th graders through 12th graders who are members of the Wilson family. Through foundation programming, the members come together to learn about the history of the family foundation, the Wilson Family legacy, principles of philanthropy, and explore their individual passions for service and giving. 

They work through group decision making and problem solving tactics to provide nominal monetary support annually for a local non-profit organization. The group researches and presents their findings on organizations that aligned with their passions and values. NexGen proudly awarded the 2018 NexGrant to Carpentar Art Garden

The Wilson Society

Under the direction of our Director of Programs, Lee Morris, the Wilson Society has grown from 30 members in 2003 to over 500 members in 2018. These students planned, executed, and delivered  100+ community projects, providing over 1,700 service hours to the Memphis community 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 2018, the Wilson Society:

  • Marked its 19th year in local area schools
  • Reached over 500 students
  • Extended reach to Douglass and East High School via our Impact Grant
  • Gifted an additional $6,000 to student projects that are providing systemic change in Memphis

Wilson Society Impact Grant Opportunity

KWFF provides an annual Impact Grant opportunity that allows Wilson Society students to apply for additional funding to expand the impact of their community service projects. Applicants pitch their project ideas to a panel of judges composed of KWFF Staff Members and other community volunteers.

The 2018 Impact Grant was awarded to Stephen Morris and Max Phleben from Evangelical Christian Schools for their Model UN & Youth in Government project. Their project's vision is to start civic engagement initiatives in schools that do not currently offer Model UN or YIG programming to their students. Max and Stephen invited 4 students from East Highschool and 4 students from Douglass high school to train for the Model UN and YIG statewide competitions. The students from East and Douglass, now ambassadors of the programs, plan to formally establish the programs at their respective schools. 

It is not how much you have but how much you enjoy that makes happiness.
Kemmons Wilson