WASHINGTON – Philanthropists Kenneth and Kathryn Chenault have donated $2 million to Howard University in memory of their longtime friend and mentor, the late Vernon Jordan, to support an endowed chair at the School of Law. The gift for the Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Esq., Endowed Chair will be made to support the recruitment, teaching, research, service and other activities of the professor.
“Ken and Kathryn have been loyal friends of Vernon Jordan for decades,” said Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick. “The value of that relationship is manifested here in this generous gift to the Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Esq., Endowed Chair. This gift will allow students and faculty to continue to benefit and grow in the likeness of Mr. Jordan. The shared values of Mr. Jordan and the Chenaults will also be embraced and celebrated through the endowed chair.”
“We are thankful to the Chenaults for this gift to the Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Esq., Endowed Chair,” said Danielle Holley-Walker, dean of the Howard University School of Law. “Mr. Jordan’s love of the law school, lifetime of public service, and commitment to racial justice are an inspiration to our students, faculty and alumni. With this generous donation, Howard Law graduates will uphold his legacy of excellence in their own lives and careers.”
Jordan (J.D. ’60) died in 2021 at 85. He had a storied career as a civil rights activist. As a lawyer, his firm sued to desegregate the University of Georgia. Later, Jordan worked with the NAACP, Southern Regional Council, Voter Education Project, United Negro College Fund and National Urban League. He also was an adviser to President Bill Clinton.
As a pioneering and influential business figure, Jordan championed and mentored Black senior executives, including Ken Chenault, who served as chairman and CEO of American Express from 2001-2018. Jordan was the longest-serving independent board director in the company’s history.
Currently, Ken Chenault is chairman and managing director of the venture capital firm General Catalyst. Kathryn Chenault is a patron of the arts and an advocate for equitable education and health care. A former practicing attorney, Kathryn Chenault serves on many boards that reflect her deep commitment to community and civic service. Together, their philanthropic commitments are a reflection of their dedication to social justice, education, and making a lasting positive impact on society.
“Vernon’s education at Howard law was a catalyst for his extraordinary success in life,” said Ken Chenault. “It gave him the knowledge to harness the law for social justice and the confidence to thrive in the business world, where he was a mentor and champion to many, and a dear, supportive friend to Kathy and me. We are honored to make this gift to Howard law so the Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Esq., Endowed Chair may continue his legacy of excellence.”
Both of Ken Chenault’s parents were Howard alumni and Commencement speakers who finished first in their classes, Anne Chenault from the School of Dental Hygiene and Hortenius Chenault from the School of Dentistry. Kathryn’s mother, Elaine Hancock, and her stepfather, Victor Hancock, also were Howard alumni, and Victor was a top graduate from the School of Dentistry. Kathryn’s grandfather, Albert Cassell, a noted Black architect, designed several buildings on campus, including the historic Founders Library.
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.