A Home at Last

From the University Report (published by the GAA 1970-94)

Too long we have been too large a family without a home.

This charming old building next to the Carolina Inn has been good to us. It harbors surprises, like parquet floors and enchanting dormer windows. It has kept us close to the Rathskeller and Sutton’s and the Old Well and the library. We have been strengthened and preserved through climbing itc many steps dozens of times a day — just look at the spry 81-year-old, former Alumni Secretary Spike Saunders. The Association has developed and matured here.

But for our growing Alumni family of 160,000, this building could never be a permanent home. It rooms were designed as bedroom and parlors for the Carolina Inn Apartments, as many alumni still remember it — and the closets which once held students’ letter sweaters and saddle oxfords now are stuffed with filing cabinets and office supplies. There are precious few places to park. There is nowhere for members of the family to gather, no place for our seminars, reunions, receptions and other programs. Even our board of directors must go elsewhere to meet.

Carolina, the oldest state university in the land, has a long, proud tradition of enduring support from her alumni family. I am delighted to report that that family will soon have a suitable, permanent home.

After many years of sustained effort by Association leaders, former GAA President Ralph Strayhorn announced at a meeting of past GAA presidents and later to an assemblage of 450 people at our Annual Alumni Luncheon, that the Association has received the necessary approvals, site and architectual plans for a magnificent new Alumni Center.

It will be located on South Campus next to the Kenan Center which is now under construction, overlooking the new Student Activities Center. It will be three stories tall (with an elevator) and 43,000 square feet big. It will include a lounge, a board room, a library, a great hall, and a private dining club where alumni, faculty, and staff can enjoy a relaxed meal. Your Association’s administrative staff will at last have adequate space. And for Chapel Hill a first: there will be plenty of nearby parking!

The days are soon gone when we must neglect needed expansion in programs and staff because there just isn’t room. For the first time Carolina alumni will have a place to bring sons and daughters, and their friends, for an orientation to the campus, to look up old classmates in a Yackety Yack to find a quiet spot for reflection, and to make new friends.

Your Association now cosponsors 16 evening and weekend seminars which this year involved over 700 alumni. Another 100 alumni participated in our summer Vacation College programs. Each spring we bring back 1,200 to 1,500 alumni for their class reunions where they remember their Carolina days, renew friendships, and learn about their University as it is today. Each fall we invite our 121 alumni chapter presidents to campus for an intense workshop designed to help them become more effective, better informed, and better prepared to work on behalf of their local alumni.

The Association’s Officers and Board of Directors with its committees (Executive, Membership, Budget, Finance and Investments, Awards, Nominations, Programs, Athletic Advisory, Publications, Tours, and Long Range Planning) meet quarterly here in Chapel Hill to set policy and direct the affairs of our Association. Every fall we entertain hundreds of alumni at homecoming activities and social gatherings during football season. Alumni parents bring their entering freshmen to a reception we sponsor on that exciting first day at Carolina. Our student alumni association — the Order of the Bell Tower — has its own activities and programs to involve tomorrow’s alumni — today’s students.

Of course. not all of our responsibilities take place in full public view. Our alumni records department maintains current addresses, telephone numbers, business and biographical information for all 160,000 living alumni and maintains historical archives on over 25,000 deceased alumni. Each year we make approximately 26,000 address changes and nearly 60,000 other records changes. We publish the Carolina Alumni Review and the University Report newspaper for our readers’ enrichment and enjoyment.

As the Association addresses new challenges, including the need to help the University in student recruitment, legislative representation, and development. it becomes critical as President Strayhorn told those assembled at the Annual Alumni Luncheon that “our Association have a headquarters for its activities worthy of our organization.” UNC President William C. Friday, an early and strong supporter of the new Alumni Center, believes in it as a facility for the entire “University family” — one that brings everyone together. And Chancellor Christopher Fordham says that the Alumni Center “will lead to enhanced alumni involvement and support.”

The Alumni Center will be a gift to Carolina for the University’s bicentennial celebration which will begin in 1989. Construction costs are expected to come to $7 million, to be raised from alumni and friends of the University.

Our alumni are also trustees of the University. While University faculty and administrators will come and go, our alumni family will be here with an enduring, often emotional commitment to their alma mater. It is fitting that at long last we will have a home in Chapel Hill.

(This column first appeared in the summer Carolina Alumni Review magazine, also published by the General Alumni Association.)

Yours at Carolina,

Doug signature




Douglas S. Dibbert ’70