C. Kenneth Wright

C. Kenneth Wright

A longtime businessman and philanthropist, C. Kenneth Wright helped build today’s Virginia Commonwealth University through his significant contributions.

As a young man, Wright washed cars for a local automobile rental business. After serving in World War II in the United States Army Air Forces, he purchased the local Richmond franchise Avis Car Rental. Wright eventually expanded the business to 14 locations across Virginia, Maryland and Delaware until selling it 45 later.

Wright dedicated the rest of his life to service and philanthropy. He became a trustee of the VCU College of Engineering Foundation and the College of Engineering Industrial Advisory Council and made many generous donations to VCU. In 2011, eight years before his death, Wright received an honorary doctorate from the university he supported for many years.


C. Kenneth Wright, together with his wife, Diane, contributed more than $50 million to VCU. In 1999, Wright donated the building that had been the headquarters of his business; that building now houses VCU’s Brandcenter. Other contributions include the Dianne Harris Wright Professorship for Gynecologic Oncology Research and a cardiology scholars endowment within the School of Medicine. Wright also helped develop the Eugene P. Trani Scholars Program, which honors the former VCU president and provides support to exceptional undergraduate applicants, and he created the Wright Engineering Access Scholarship Program, a flagship scholarship program to provide need- and merit-based awards to College of Engineering students.

Wright also made a $10.5 million gift to the School of Engineering Foundation that was recognized in the naming of the microelectronics lab as the C. Kenneth and Dianne Harris Wright Virginia Microelectronics Center. The C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Foundation made a $16 million gift to name the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research, which fosters collaborative science and healthcare research among VCU investigators and students. That gift established six C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chairs in Clinical and Translational Research and the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Physician-Scientist Scholars program. The C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research is renowned nationally for turning groundbreaking science into lifesaving care.

“[Wright] understood better than most how much VCU means to Virginia,” President Rao said. “He left an indelible mark on our university and our health system and, most importantly, on those we serve together. We are forever grateful for his legacy of service and his vision for a better human experience for everyone. He was so much like our students: creative, focused, optimistic, inclusive, hard-working, determined, and always committed to the highest standards. We will miss him dearly."