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Richmond executive, veteran donates $5 million gift to Virginia War Memorial foundation

RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Thursday that the Virginia War Memorial Foundation received a $5 million gift from a retired Richmond business executive.

The gift, given by C. Kenneth Wright, is the largest ever individual or corporate donation to the memorial and its non-porfit foundation, according to Virginia officials.

“Mr. C. Kenneth Wright proudly served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II before returning home to Richmond to begin his business career. On behalf of all Virginians, I want to thank him for his service to our country and for his generosity with this gift,” said Governor Northam at a special ceremony attended by Wright, his family and his friends. “This contribution will allow us to continue sharing the stories of service and sacrifice of the more than 12,000 Virginians honored at the Virginia War Memorial for generations to come.”

The contribution will financially back an addition to the memorial, which will be called the C. Kenneth Wright Pavilion. The money will also help support educational programs, exhibits and other projects at the memorial.

Gov. Ralph Northam with Kenneth Wright and the Virginia War Memorial Foundation

“The new Pavilion will include a new Medal of Honor gallery, a distance learning studio, a veterans art gallery, a research library, a 350-seat lecture hall and administrative offices,” said Rear Admiral John Hekman, Executive Director of the Virginia War Memorial Foundation. “Ken Wright’s gift will help the Foundation strengthen our endowment while we continue our $2 million Capital Campaign to raise additional funds committed to the current construction and expansion at the Memorial and for our ongoing educational and patriotic programs.”

Wright has been an active philanthropist in the Richmond area for many years, before and after selling a successful rental car business in 1999. His late wife Dianna was also a big contributor to their contributions.

The gifts given by the Wrights include helping support the expansion of the Downtown Richmond YMCA, $40 million in donations to Virginia Commonwealth University and the establishment of the Wright Scholarships, which helps Richmond high school students who want to pursue higher education.

“All of us associated with the Virginia War Memorial Foundation are grateful that Kenneth Wright has chosen the Memorial to be the recipient of his continued generosity,” Cogbill said. “It is fitting that his name will be forever associated with the Virginia War Memorial as thousands come to visit the C. Kenneth Wright Pavilion.”

Dedicated in 1956, the memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the Global War on Terrorism.

The Virginia War Memorial is a division within the Virginia Department of Veteran Services.