To honor its founders, Kemmons and Dorothy Wilson, the Foundation is committed to preserving the family history by capturing documents, photos and stories of the family members in community service and connecting with each other. The foundation is also committed to advancing the legacy into the community through special programs where the family story can be told and the family values can be translated. The Foundation created several programs in order 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.
These special programs are led by Lee Morris, Director of Programs, and include:
- The Wilson Society
- The Dorothy and Kemmons Wilson Speaker Series
- Wilson Scholars
- Next Generation
- Living the Legacy Luncheons
The Wilson Society
The Wilson Society was founded in 2005 as a second semester Senior engagement program at Memphis University School by Eddie Batey. After much discussion, the KWFF Board opted to expand the program to the three high schools where the grandchildren of Kemmons and Dorothy attended: Briarcrest, Hutchison and MUS. To date, over 300 students are a part of the Wilson Society and in 2014, the Wilson Society incorporated St. George's Independent School.
The Wilson Society challenges students to discover his or her leadership skills in the areas of service. Students work in small groups at their schools but they also work together across campuses to solve real issues in our community. Projects range in interest and include focusing on conservation (recycling, planting trees), mentoring in after school program, hosting prom night for students with special needs, and renovating spaces for nonprofits.
Students are encouraged to focus on creating sustainable programming and often bring along freshmen and sophomores so when seniors graduate, the programs still continue. Each fall there is a kick-off conference where all schools come together for a half day of training. In the spring, the students showcase the projects and volunteer efforts they made across the year in a celebration service at the Wilson Chapel at Christ United Methodist Church.
KWFF has utilized a partnership with BRIDGES to offer ongoing leadership training for some students across the year. In addition, Hardy Farrow, who established a social entrepreneurship curriculum called L.I.T.E (Let's Innovate Through Education), has worked with our students to foster their ideas on entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Dorothy and Kemmons Wilson Speaker Series
The Dorothy and Kemmons Wilson Speaker Series is designed to honor the legacy of faith established by Dorothy and Kemmons in their church home at Christ United Methodist Church. Annually since 2005, a nationally known Christian speaker has been invited to share a message of hope and love to those attending. The series entails a leadership luncheon where community leaders and friends are invited to hear a motivational message to inspire their work. This year we hosted John O'Leary. Previous speakers include Tommy Spaulding, Max Lucado, John Maxwell, Tony Campolo, Tony Dungy, Jim Stovall, Dennis Rainey, and Gary Chapman.
Wilson Scholars, or, 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 School of Hospitality and Resort Management. Students are selected by the school through a process determined and agreed upon by the foundation. The foundation recognizes this honor of being selected through an annual reception and chooses to engage with the students throughout their educational career.
Next Generation was created in 2014 for rising 6th graders who are members of the Wilson family. Under the direction of Lee Morris, the members come together to learn about the history of the family and family foundation, principles of philanthropy, and explore their passions for service and giving to others. It is also important to translate the family values in hopes to recruit new family leaders from this fourth generation to manage the foundation activities in the future.
Current members include:
- Olivia Wilson
- Susan Morris
- Spence Wilson, III
- Madison Morris
- Stuart Young, II
- Eliot Morris
- Gaines Snider
- Ava Wilson
Living the Legacy
Living the Legacy Luncheons were created to celebrate and educate the family about the many efforts Wilson family members make to improve the community. Not only did Kemmons and Dorothy create a strong legacy to build upon, but individual family members are making his or her own mark in the city with gifts of leadership and vision. These luncheons are designed to celebrate the talent of the family and expose family and friends to the good work taking place.
Family members featured to date include:
- Dr. Bill West and the establishment of the West Cancer Center
- Allison Wilson and the work of Wilson Animal Rescue
- McLean Wilson and the scope of the Crosstown Project
- Lauren and Tommy Young and Sweet LaLa's Bakery
- Tate Wilson and the Education Landscape of Memphis