An Honors College to Honor the Home State (Kentucky)

  • Local Projects
  • 2015

Tom Lewis got his graduate degree at UNC Chapel Hill. He lived nearly all his adult life—and made his fortune as a homebuilder—in Arizona. But in 2015 he donated $23 million to the University of Kentucky (its largest gift ever), so a new honors college could be created on campus. Asked why, Lewis invoked the kind of personal connection that drives much voluntary giving. His aim, he said, was to “honor the history of our family in Kentucky.” It turns out all 16 of his great-grandparents were Kentuckians. He spent his own childhood there as well, a seventh-generation resident of the state.

Lewis’s gift allowed the university to build a new hall where top students can reside, hire a dean and ten new staff members, and create special curricula that will challenge their most intellectually serious enrollees. By attracting more of the state’s very brightest students to remain in Kentucky for their education, Lewis said he hoped more of them would end up living in the state and “contribute to its growth and prosperity.”