Wayne State alumni duo share parallel life of service

Carolyn Kenner (back, middle) and Regina Jones (front, center) prepare giveaways in March 2024 with Corporation for Artistic Development (CAD) helpers Kelvin Lundy, Earl Kenner, Pastor Gerald Ervin, and City of Highland Park Recreation Director Sue Norander.

While Carolyn Kenner ’81 and Regina Jones ’95 may not have met until well after their Wayne State University days, the duo’s parallel paths of volunteerism and shared love of the arts all but guaranteed their meeting and collaboration in the community.

Kenner remembers WSU as a place where she felt free to come and go as she pleased. This freedom was contrary to her early education which she remembers as strict and rigid. It also afforded her the opportunity to transition her “gift of creativity” into a career, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in drawing and worked as a professional artist until her career was cut short due to a work-related injury.

Carolyn Kenner

Kenner has been a lifelong volunteer sharing her time and talent with local church groups, the City of Detroit Youth Services, Henry Ford Pastoral Care group and myriad others. Carolyn’s passion for serving her community eventually led her to the Corporation for Artistic Development (CAD) where she and her husband, Earl, serve as Community Representative Directors and Disability Programs and Relations Representatives.

For her part, Jones remembers receiving a “wealth of help and support” from Wayne State professors who challenged and inspired her to direct and produce several of her own works.

Jones’ college experience catapulted her to positions in off-Broadway productions, including “Selma,” as well as numerous performances on and off screen. Over her lifetime, Jones has worked in banking and for the State of Michigan. But she said she’s always come back to the arts as a place of healing and helping others.

Kenner and Jones’ university education was not limited to the arts, they said, as both remember learning about other cultures during their time at WSU.

Kenner, who grew up in a predominantly Black neighborhood especially appreciated WSU’s “multicultural environment that was so different” from that of her childhood.

“When learning about other cultures, you come to understand that everyone requires the same things — love and care,” Kenner said. “We should all be loving each other.”

Regina Jones

Jones, who earned a dual degree in film and television production and African studies, agreed with Kenner’s sentiments. "Learning about other cultures helped me to understand my own culture,” she said.

At an early age, Jones began writing songs and plays, which she would direct and produce with other children in her neighborhood. Her youthful love of theatre never faded. Indeed, it became a healing tool for her and those she strives to help.

In 1982, Jones was inspired by traumatic life events and compassion for others to initiate the Corporation for Artistic Development. CAD has many outreaches, she said, but much of what they do is inspired by the arts. It’s also where the passions of both women come together.

Kenner, whose volunteerism, and genuine concern for improving her community was introduced to CAD in 2022. “When I heard about all of the wonderful thing’s CAD was doing, I was hooked,” Kenner said.

Since then, Jones has come to depend on Kenner’s many skills and gifts to organize events. In addition to using their love of the arts to transform the lives of others, the duo works diligently to provide opportunity and outlets for expression for veterans, aged out foster care youth, disabled and senior citizens by involving them in the arts to improve their lives and communities.

CAD staff recently met with Wayne State’s CHAMPS 360 program, a campus-based support program serving undergraduate-level students that have spent time in foster care.

“Regina and the Corporation for Artistic Development are doing phenomenal work,” said Pura Strong, CHAMPS 360 Success Coach, “and are a beacon of light for youth with involvement in the child welfare system.”

← Back to listing