The history of the Kenan Foundation Asia dates back to a chance encounter during the 1920s, when King Prajadhipok of Thailand and Charles Grey, a member of the prosperous Kenan family met at a gift shop near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. With their long history of philanthropy and public service, the Kenan family has been active in Thailand ever since.

Kenan was established in 1996 as an independent, locally registered organization with the belief that long-term development can best be achieved through free enterprise mechanisms, boundary-spanning partnerships, and practical expertise. With former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun serving as founding chairperson, Kenan began by fostering development partnerships between U.S. and Thai organizations.

Today, Kenan is a thriving organization employing over 60 full-time staff at our offices in Bangkok, Thailand and Hanoi, Vietnam. While Kenan’s focus has shifted over the years, in response to Southeast Asia’s transformations, as well as natural and economic disasters, Kenan maintains the same commitment to empowering people with the knowledge, technology and skills necessary for a better future. Currently, Kenan is partnering with a wide variety of organizations, including the Thailand Ministry of Education, the Thailand Ministry of Science and Technology, USAID, the US Department of State, Boeing, the Citi Foundation, and Meta (Facebook), to achieve its vision.

Our History

Our History 1
May 24, 1901
Early Beginnings

Early Beginnings

In 1901 Mary Lily Kenan married Henry M. Flagler, the co-founder and guiding force behind the great Standard Oil Company. The Kenan family had originally migrated from Ireland to North Carolina in 1730, where they became strong supporters of education, and helped to found The University of North

May 24, 1920


The history of the Kenan Foundation Asia dates back to a chance encounter during the 1920s, when King Prajadhipok of Thailand and Charles Grey, a member of the Kenan family, met in a gift shop in Arizona. The Kenan family has been active in Thailand ever since.

May 24, 1990
Origins: U.S. – Thailand Development Partnership

Origins: U.S. – Thailand Development Partnership

Kenan’s founding was a response to Thailand’s incredible development as a market-based economy between 1970 and 1990. Rapid growth changed Thailand’s view of itself from an under-developed country in need of outside assistance to one not only capable of helping itself, but able to assist its neighbors as well. This

May 24, 1993


USAID’s interest in leaving behind, as part of its legacy, a sustainable, non-profit organization to help with the next phase of development work led to the design of a USAID-funded project called the US- Thailand Development Partnership (US-TDP). KIPE, Chulalongkorn University, and the Brooker Group, a Thai consulting company, won

May 24, 1996
Kenan Foundation Asia Established

Kenan Foundation Asia Established

Kenan is established in 1996 with the support of the Thai Government, USAID, the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

May 24, 1997


Khun Anand agreed to serve as the founding chairman and helped recruit a high-level Thai and American board of trustees. Representing the two governments were Mr. William Itoh, the US Ambassador to Thailand, and Mr. Pichet Soontornpipit, director-general of Thailand’s Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation. Kenan began

May 24, 1998


One of Kenan’s first major initiatives, the American Corporations for Thailand (ACT) was a multiyear program in which Kenan worked with American companies to retrain people left unemployed by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis

Kenan implements its first regional project introducing American environmental technology to Vietnam.

October 5, 2000


Kenan was selected by USAID to manage a program of economic recovery and reform called the Accelerating Economic Recovery in Asia (AERA).

Kenan begins offering corporate social responsibility trainings and related services to companies operating in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) region.

May 24, 2004


Kenan begins implementing the Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative a comprehensive five-year plan designed to promote sustainable tourism and entrepreneurship to areas affected by the 2004 tsunami.

Kenan begins work on STEM Education with funding from Merck Pharmaceutical with the INSTEP project. Citibank and Kenan start working

May 24, 2008


TRAI implements entrepreneurship initiatives for young people in Phang-nga Province to encourage them to start their own businesses.

USAID awards Kenan a major grant to conduct cross-border public health work in all the countries of the GMS.

May 24, 2011


Kenan partners with the Thai Office of Small and Medium Enterprise Promotion to assist at high-level policy discussions held for Asia-Pacific economies.
Kenan works with the UN Democracy Fund to implement the Laos Encouraging and Applying Democracy in Lao PDR.
Kenan begins working with the Thai government to implement its

October 5, 2012


Kenan registers to open an office in Hanoi, Vietnam providing a second base for expanded regional operations.

October 5, 2015
21st century skills


Kenan partners with Chevron to launch the Chevron Enjoy Science Project, a US $30 million, 5-year public-private partnership to strengthen Thailand’s competitiveness and innovation by improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and technical vocational education and training (TVET) across the country.

February 27, 2016


2016 marks 20 years since Kenan Foundation Asia was founded by a group of leading Thai and American visionaries with extensive experience in the private, public, and academic sectors.

February 27, 2017
Asian female worker


Kenan, with funding from the US Department of State, begins work with CSOs, trade unions, and factory management to improve awareness and application of international labor standards with industrial zones in Vietnam.

February 27, 2018
7.14.i Students learn about the importance of STEM in their everyday lives at a STEM caravan activity in Samut Prakan Province. 1


Kenan surpassed a new beneficiary milestone – reaching more than 1,000,000 people in a single, 12-month period.

February 27, 2019
healthy aging communities learning 1


Kenan completes the Pfizer Healthy Aging Society project, a three-year initiative that built the capacity of 230 community health volunteers who became change agents that promoted mental, physical, and financial wellbeing to thousands of seniors and pre-seniors in disadvantaged communities of Ubon Ratchatani and Bangkok.

December 30, 2020
teacher training


Kenan moves it programming online in response to the global COVID pandemic.