The recent Commencement and Alumni Reunion Weekend brought great excitement but also some sadness.
Graduation at Carolina is always a special time for graduates, their families, and the faculty. Hopefully, each student left Chapel Hill with happy memories, a sense of significant achievement, and the knowledge that their education has only begun.
For Chris and Barbara Fordham, it was their last Commencement as our Chancellor and the University’s First Lady. For nearly six years, my wife, Debbie, and I had the honor and pleasure of working with them.
While we marvel at and are grateful for their many accomplishments, we are particularly thankful that they have shared with Carolina alumni their passion and devotion to the history, values, and traditions of our great University.
At the spring meeting of the Association’s Board of Directors, long-time Trustee, former Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and incoming GAA President-Elect Thomas W. Lambeth ’57 paid tribute to the Fordhams on behalf of Carolina’s alumni. I share Tom’s remarks with our readers, knowing that each reader will find his or her own way to say “thank you” to these two special people and servants of our University.
Tom’s remarks were as follows:
“Fellow alumni, I have the pleasant assignment of doing tonight for all of us what each of you would want to do if we had that much time. I am up here to say thank you to Chris and Barbara Fordham on behalf of all of you out there and on behalf of those who share with us membership in the Alumni Association.
“For most of us our memories of Carolina are largely memories of people, of friends, teammates, teachers, colleagues. History’s memory of this University is one of people also — of those who through service here have added to the human legacy which is the source of the special richness of spirit found here.
“For almost eight years Chris Fordham has held the chancellorship and served well that tradition of leadership.
“It has been a time of extraordinary success in fundraising and that is a tribute to his commitment to finding the resources to make a great University even better.
“But there is a kind of success that is the truer measure of his leadership and that I suspect ranks higher with Chris than all the dollars together. That is his success in maintaining the University’s integrity as a place where learning is paramount.
“His passion for education is one of the two characteristics that first come to mind when thinking about Chris. And that passion has led him to advocate for a strong role for the University in encouraging better education beyond the campus. His efforts on behalf of programs that reach out to the classrooms of North Carolina’s public schools, for example, are in the best of University traditions of serving the people to whom it belongs.
“The second characteristic is his extraordinary sense of fairness demonstrated throughout his relationships with colleagues and students and trustees and most of all with the people of the state. It is not easy to be fair always and it doesn’t make everybody happy but it is right and it is Chris. And perhaps we should remind ourselves from time to time that what this enterprise is about is the education of young men and women and that they are learning how to live as well as how to learn . In such an enterprise it is good to have leaders whose example is worthy of imitation, who make real through their lives those values that civilized people hold high. We have that in Chris Fordham.
“And with Chris we got an extra dividend. We got Barbara. She is a warm person, she is optimistic, she knows how to laugh and understands why people cry and most of all she is genuine. She is also the greatest Tar Heel cheerleader since Kay Kyser. It is good that she isn’t going very far away because we’ll never make the Final Four without her. We could not be grateful for Chris without being grateful for Barbara because they are such a team.
“The University did not begin with the Fordhams and it will not end without them. They join a line of outstanding leadership that stretches behind them and which we realize goes on in the fine couple that succeeds them. Yet their place in that line is secure. They have earned it by the special talents they possess and by their loyalty to institution and to values that are worthy of preservation. They have helped make Carolina great without ever forgetting that to be great it must also be good.
“Chris and Barbara, we are your admiring colleagues in this endeavor but tonight we are most of all your proud and grateful friends.”
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70