Class Ring Stories and Memories

“… with this ring, no matter your location, no matter your age, you’ll always…always be able to do something that alumnus Thomas Wolfe once wrote one could never do.  To this place, you can always, if not physically, then most certainly in head and heart, you can always come home.  Just “Hark the Sound” and you’re back where you left adolescence behind, where you confronted challenge, conjured dreams and where you lived like there was no tomorrow. … With this ring—for the rest of your days, welcome home.”  

– Freddie Kiger ’74 (’77 MAT)

Gaye Orsini ’83
My class ring is the ladies’ classic rectangular black onyx set in gold with the UNC crest engraved in the stone. I wore it every day until I got married. One day several years ago, my daughter, Anna, was raiding my jewelry box for something to wear and she thought the ring was “really cool.” She became the new owner of that ring when she enrolled at Carolina in the fall of 2008.

Willie Shoemaker ’60
“In 1982 while on a fishing trip on Harker’s Island, NC, I lost my UNC Class Ring in 8-10 feet of water at low tide and with temperatures in mid 40s. I finally convinced Jack McCann, the owner of Calico Jack’s Marina (where we were staying), to let me hire him to make the dive the next day. He found my ring on his second pass!”

Hal Tarleton ’71
Nearly 40 years after I walked from South Campus to the old post office on Franklin Street to pick up my class ring, I still wear it every day. It’s far more valuable than the $62 I paid for the COD shipment. I had lost my high school class ring, so I’ve been much more guarded about my UNC ring. The only times the ring spent any extended time off my finger was the four months I spent in Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in 1972, when I entrusted the ring to my wife’s keeping…

James McDonald ’64
“My class ring flew all over the world with me during my Air Force career. The British were always amazed that US officers all wore one…”

Don Martin ’66
“I still have my class ring, and I still wear it. I even took it with me to Vietnam 1969-1970. I think that I have sent it back to Balfour at least twice for resizing, and to replace broken stones. I use to like to wear it on my left hand, but I had the good fortune to marry my wife-Elizabeth in 1999, so I had to switch.

Robert Hughes ’64
…several years ago I got a call from the University. The person asked me my name and if I was in the class of ’64. She then gave me the name of someone in Glen Lennox who wanted to talk with me. I called them and found out the husband had a metal detector and liked to use it in the neighborhood looking for unusual items. He had been searching about 20 feet out from the front door of 86 Hamilton Road when he detected something. He dug down about six or seven inches & found my ring! It was in perfect shape. We met shortly thereafter and they returned my ring, over 40 years later!

James Martin ’57
I wore my class ring proudly until I was married in 1960. The class ring was retired for a wedding band. I have my ring in glass display case with other treasures on a shelf in our den.

Thomas Morgan ’81
A friend and fellow UNC alumnus had a great comment I would like to share. He said that there are those who wear the t-shirt (a fan) and those who wear the ring (an alumnus), and he counted us as fortunate to be able to do both proudly.

Doyne Allison ’73
“My class ring resides in a jewelry box in the top drawer of my dresser, its size 10 interior unable to fit over a finger expanded to size 13. At Carolina it served as a “pre-engagement” ring for the young lady who has been my wife for over 35 years (Jill Miller Allison, ’75). At that time we used hardened wax to reduce its size for the purpose.”

Sandra Drew ’71
…On Christmas Eve 1995, three Bosnian boys had brought the ring to the American Embassy in Sarajevo and given it to the guard. That is all I know about the journey of the ring from the inferno on Mt. Ignam in August until it arrived at my home that cold January day. Since that time it goes with me whenever I need strength. High school graduations, a wedding, funerals, the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord, the dedication of the Memorial with his name at Carolina. During its journey home his ring lost the inlaid silver NC that was set in the stone and it still bears the tarnish from the fire. Whenever I wear it on the ribbon around my neck I remember our time at Carolina, Nelson’s loyalty to his family and his country and I think about those three boys who somehow knew what the ring meant to me.

Bill Self ’57
I wore my Carolina ring proudly until one cold night at the State Fair. We had taken our three year old daughter to the fair for the first time and discovered the ring missing when we got home. Over a year later we got a phone call from a gentleman stating he had found the ring in the sawdust and had traced it to me through the University. What a wonderful surprise! It is still worn with pride.

Daniel Monday ’05
“I bought my class ring during my junior year, so I actually had it for a good length of time while still in school. It was a gift from my father. I get compliments on it often, as I still wear it today. I put it on every day with the same Tar Heel Pride I had when I stood there in Kenan Stadium during commencement and reflected on the great years at Carolina.”

Lynn Hecht ’81
…I graduated Dec. 1981. The basketball team won the National Championship the next semester. I was working at Harrison’s Restaurant that night and was thrown into the crowd when I got off work. My ring was covered in light blue paint. It took years for all the paint to come clean. Of course, I didn’t try very hard to clean it. It was a good reminder of that glorious night!

Terry Boles ’72
“In February I saw the article about the official class ring in the Alumni Review and showed the picture to my wife. She immediately said, “Let me get it for you for Valentines.” I was thinking about it and then found out about the ability to send in the signet ring and get the new one for only $125.00. That sealed the deal and I ordered. My ring arrived yesterday and it is great. I really like the look and design. Now, for the first time in over 35 years, I am wearing my Carolina ring.”

Rick Smith ’68
I wore my 1968 ring proudly for over 20 years until I dropped in on a concrete bathroom floor and chipped the Carolina Blue stone. About a dozen years ago, with the advent of the Internet, I contacted Balfour to replace the stone. I also returned my first cousin’s identical ring, which he had not worn in years, for cleaning. When the rings, which looked new, were returned he was delighted to know that the only charge was for shipping.

Rebecca Jones ’71
“When I first moved to Asheville in 1977, I had the pleasure of teaching with someone who became a lifelong friend. My class ring was passed on to her daughter when she graduated 35 years after me.”

Julia Balance ’78
I had always looked forward to handing my class ring over to a daughter. Now the time has come and it is no longer in my jewelry box. It was the simple black onyx ladies ring with the seal on the stone…

Angela Blair ’92
“I still wear it daily and continue to get compliments on the beautiful blue stone.”

Meredith Bryson ’08
Wearing mine today, as I often do. I get so many compliments on the black onyx style – a staple for women’s rings in the South.

Lance Dunlap ’11
I don’t sleep, shower, or exercise with my ring on, but every morning when I wake up, I pick it up off my night stand and slip it on. Just putting it on each morning puts me in a really good mood (great way to start my day). I’m reminded of all the work, friends, and good times I had at UNC. Being the first person from my family to go college, it really does make me proud that I’m now able to say I graduated from a top of the line school such as UNC and show others my ring. It’s kind of like carrying your diploma around with you. I’ve always been a big UNC fan and it was my dream school, so now having a UNC class ring is a dream come true. Not having it the past couple months, I often feel like I’m missing an article of clothing. I’ve tried wearing my high school ring some, but it’s just not the same. My UNC class ring is special, and I’m looking forward to either having a replacement ring or locating my original ring.

Laurie Evans Hayes ’84
I was too poor to buy one in college, or even after, for that matter. My sweet husband bought me one 15 years after I graduated. I wear it all the time.

Jason Kyle Manuel ’07
There’s a powerful sense of pride when I wear my class ring. No matter where I am or who I’m with, everyone knows I’m a Tar Heel, and there’s no better feeling than that.

Julie Sydnor Peterman ’93
Most comments on my UNC ring are about how unique it is.

Danielle Hoffman ’08  
I still wear mine on my right hand. It rarely comes off.