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.



The Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation hosted the 13th Dorothy and Kemmons Wilson Speaker Series featuring Bob Goff, two-time New York Times Best-Selling Author of both Love Does and Everybody Always. Bob delivered an entertaining yet poignant message of how to live a life of pure, unconditional, and action-oriented love.

"Loving people doesn’t mean we need to control their conduct. There’s a big difference between the two. Loving people means caring without an agenda. As soon as we have an agenda, it’s not love anymore. It’s acting like you care to get someone to do what you want or what you think God wants them to do. Do less of that, and people will see a lot less of you and more of Jesus.” -Bob Goff

The Dorothy and Kemmons Wilson Speaker Series was established is 2005 to honor the legacy of faith shown by Kemmons and Dorothy Wilson at Christ Church. Kemmons Wilson is the founder of Holiday Inn. All 5 of their children were raised in the Church and Kemmons and Dorothy exemplified faithful stewardship throughout their life’s. 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:


  • John O’leary (2017)
  • 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)
  • Max Lucado (2006)




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.




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. After researching many high-impact organizations in Memphis, the 2019 NexGen Award was presented to Memphis Athletic Ministries because of their mission to coach, grow, and lead the youth of Memphis by helping them discover their identity in Christ and their purpose in the community.




Under the direction of our Director of Programs, Lee Morris, the Wilson Society has grown from 30 members in 2003 to over 300 members in 2019. These students planned, executed, and delivered  100+ community projects, providing over 2,000 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


A person has to take risks to achieve.

Kemmons Wilson