Ann Lewallen Spencer 50

(Editor’s Note: The GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal citations, such as this one, are read to the audience at the Annual Alumni Luncheon and then presented as a keepsake to the recipients.)

Distinguished Service Medal Citation

Ann Lewallen Spencer ’50

Ann Spencer recently picked up the phone and placed an urgent call. She was a little nervous, and she had to know if everything was going to be all right. Were we going to be OK? she asked. Did he know how serious this was, how special this situation was?

To see her today, you may have no idea that Ann has just been through a serious illness. Anyway, it was while she was still recovering that she placed this phone call. It was not to her doctor, but to a trusted Carolina friend. Under the weather or not, she had to have the lowdown on the new chancellor. And if the chancellor had known how close a watch Ann Spencer keeps over her alma mater, he probably would have called her himself.

Will everything be all right? As long as there are even a handful of people who share Ann’s lifelong devotion to her University, the answer is an unqualified “yes.” Her record of official service is long and distinguished, but to really know her you have to dig a little deeper.

The real Ann Spencer is found in a handwritten note to Alumni Secretary Clarence Whitefield ’44 that includes the check for a life membership she coaxed from a friend, the names of three others she’s “getting close on,” and the lament that she didn’t have much luck with a couple of others but will work on them some more when she has time. The unheralded Ann Spencer is in another note, from Clarence, thanking her for buying the homecoming dance decorations, arranging the tables herself, and staying afterward to clean up. The true Carolina blue Ann Spencer chaired her class reunion and then, in the weeks leading to her 50th this weekend, summoned her sorority sisters to the reunion and  apologized for not being able to do more.

She grew up in Winston-Salem and came to Chapel Hill at a time when a woman who wanted to take business courses was practically unheard of. She had a notion to work with her father in the family business making Goody’s Headache Powders. It would take a while, and she probably had a lot more perseverance than patience. But after 42 years spent raising a family, Ann arrived at the head of the table–president and chief executive officer of the business. At an age when most people are retiring, she saw Goody’s through some of its biggest challenges.

Her energy, loyalty and enthusiasm are almost legendary. She once chartered a bus and directed it to make stops at various points in North Carolina until she had all her grandchildren on board, and off they went on vacation. No one who knows her would be surprised to see her doing the same thing for alumni on a football Saturday.

Ann has touched down everywhere, it seems. She has used her fund raising talents to  further cancer and diabetes research at the University, get the Smith Center built and Kenan Stadium expanded, and helped pharmacy students with research and travel funds. She established a scholarship in the College of Arts and Sciences.

She has headed the Chancellor’s Club. She has served on the National Development Council, the Board of Visitors, and the boards of the General Alumni Association, the Educational Foundation, the UNC Medical Foundation, and the Executive Seminar Series in the Humanities. She is a recipient of the William Richardson Davie Award.

Ann got involved with Carolina’s libraries during the Bicentennial celebration, and she is one of the best friends they ever had. Michelle Fletcher, director of development for the Academic Affairs libraries, said, “She responded to an appeal for the library when most people weren’t even thinking about the library.” When she’s not giving directly of herself, she’s making sure others do their part; a gathering at her home harvested the largest single bequest the libraries have received.

There is a line she wrote many years ago to which she has been steadfast: “You know you can call on me any time if you think I can be of help.” Ann, how well we know that you can, and will. And by the way, the email address is A-N-N-I-E-U-N-C.

Never, says her good friend Tom Lambeth ’57, take her soft heart lightly. “If the enemy were on the outskirts of Carrboro,” he said, “I am satisfied they could not get to the Old Well without dealing with Ann first.”